What a wonderful month it has been! We had our first official summer rain and the bush is looking lovely! The days were pleasant overall, with some reaching temperatures of up to 42°C. We also had a few thunder showers. The total rainfall for the month was 108mm, with an average maximum temperature of 28 °C. With all the nice rain that we had this month, the bush transformed from being a pale, dull colour to bright-green overnight. After the first rains, the bushveld suddenly came alive with all kinds of little critters in different shapes and sizes. All the upcoming king and queen termites of the different colonies left their original colonies to start new ones. We also welcomed back the dung beetles. This is the time of year that they are out and about, doing what they do best – which is rolling dung balls, of course. All the different frog species have also reappeared. We have been seeing a number of foam nesting frog nests at some of the waterholes. We were once again blessed with the presence of wild dogs that came in and out of our traversing area and even stayed here for a few days. After the one wild dog pack moved out of the area, we had a few days and then to our surprise, a different pack of wild dogs moved into our area and also stayed here for a number of days. It was lovely to spend time with these amazing animals.
Leopard sightings were unbelievable and full of excitement. Nzele, the young female leopard, was seen regularly during the past month and we were privileged to watch her mate with the Anderson male. We are unsure whether Nzele lost her cubs and if she did, what exactly happened to the little ones. Although all the evidence points in that direction, it might still be that she learnt a few lessons from her mother. Salayexe once mated with Tingana whilst she had cubs safely in the den site, in order to throw him off. Maybe this is the same in Nzele’s case, but only time will tell. Talking about Salayexe, she was once again seen mating with Tingana. It might be that she did not conceive the first time around. When a female loses her cubs, it sometimes happen that she first goes into a false oestrus cycle in order to establish which males are moving around in the area. Kwatile was seen mating with Mvula, the big male leopard from the east. This female leopard has failed to raise a single cub to adulthood thus far. We are keeping our fingers crossed that, if she falls pregnant now, she would have more luck raising her next litter. We also had a few days with Thandi and her little cub, which by the way is not so little anymore! The cub is really getting big and is very relaxed with the vehicles. There was a lot of excitement with Tingana, our resident male, as the Anderson male came looking for him. Anderson is the big, young male that had a standoff with Tingana a few months ago. Tingana dominated him then. His return shows that Anderson grew in confidence, as he came into Tingana’s territory, scent marking over his scent and even making kills in his area. On one occasion these two heavyweights moved around in close proximity, without knowing each other’s whereabouts. At this stage I think that Tingana is still the dominant male. We saw both males again later on, a mere 80 meters from each other. Tingana started his territorial calling, not aware that the Anderson male was close by. After this, Anderson kept a very low profile and quickly moved away. Lamula is doing very well, looking healthy and well fed.
Our lion sightings were just out of this world! At last, the long wait is over and we saw the two Tsalala pride females and their four small cubs! The cubs are just too cute. They are little busy bodies, being very adventurous and moving around, all over the show. We were also very fortunate to have the four Breakaway females and their nine cubs in our area. They made two kills; a zebra and waterbuck. These four females have become really good hunters and mothers as they were taught by the best, namely BB. The Styx pride is also looking healthy and doing great. The Nkuhuma male is spending a lot more time with the Styx pride these days. He also had a fight with the young sub-adult males of the pride. This fight caused the older lionesses and the sub-adults to split up. At this stage the two older lionesses and the Nkuhuma male are joined up and the four siblings are on their own. It’s just a matter of time before the Nkuhuma male lion will have a run-in, either with the Majingi, or the Matimba males. The four Majingi male lions are still doing their rounds through their big territory. They are in pristine condition. We had a lovely sighting of two of the Majingi males and the four Breakaway lionesses on our southern boundary. It might be that the one female with no cubs is coming into oestrus. These four males have big competition from both the western and northern sides of their area. We also saw two of the Selati male lions on our western boundary. They actually came into our area and started scent marking in the Majingi males’ territory. The Matimba males are also pushing more south, straight into the northern part of the Majingi male lions’ territory. The stage is set and this might be the fight of the century, if these big boys were to meet. We’ll have to wait and see.
It is difficult to describe how magnificent the buffalo sightings were this month! After the last big herd left our area, we thought that it would be a while before seeing them again. But hey, the best was yet to come! We saw a few splinter groups after the big herd moved away. The herds are basically starting to split up into smaller groups, as there is abundant food at the moment. The majority of the females in the herds are now pregnant. We had a big herd of about 300 buffaloes that came to drink water on our open area. After almost all of the buffaloes quenched their thirst, we got a glimpse of the very first newborn buffalo calf. This little one must have been a few days old and really struggled to keep up with its mother and the rest of the herd. The last thing that a female with a small newborn wants to do is lag behind, as this will make them easy targets for hungry lions. It will not be much longer before more females start giving birth. Cows will normally try and give birth during the rainy season, when food and water sources are abundant. We also saw various bachelor herds that stayed behind in the area after the breeding herds moved through.
Elephant sightings were down from the drastic spike during the last few months, during which herd after herd were seen, almost around every corner during game drive. But the sightings we had were still very good. The reason why the elephant sightings went down a little bit might be because of the good rains. The fact that we are approaching that time of the year when the elephants are slowly moving towards the Mopani forests situated in the Kruger Park, might also be a contributing factor. Still, we had some very good sightings of smaller family units ranging between ten to fifteen elephants per herd. With all the food and water available, the bigger herds have started splitting up into smaller units, much the same as with the buffalo herds. We also had a few nice sized bulls moving through the area, following the scent of the female herds. There were also a lot of young males moving around on their own. This is not uncommon, as they are pushed out of the herds from the age of between 12-17 years.
This would have to be seeing the two Tsalala lionesses and their four little cubs. It was really lovely to see these newest additions. They were joined by one of the Majingi male lions, just to complete the pride.
Did you know?
The heart of an elephant weighs between 20-30 kilograms and beats an estimated 25-30 times per minute.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see Salayexe, the female leopard, resting in a tree north of Horseshoe West!
Monday, 4 November 2013
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Friday, 8 November 2013
Saturday, 9 November 2013
Sunday, 10 November 2013
Just when we thought we could pack away our warm clothes, we got hit with a massive cold front. It is no surprise that one can always make conversation about the weather – there is always something to say about it! We had temperatures of 43°C the one day and it plummeted to 14°C the next, while raining. Oh, what lovely rain we had! I am glad that the rain we received did not come with aggressive lightning, though. On the Friday night the temperature was still 32°C at 23:00, with a very warm wind behind it. Should we have received a lightning strike under these circumstances, we would have had our hands full. But all ran smoothly and the clouds moved over from the south like a thief in the night. It started raining softly at 02:00 in the morning without a rumble of thunder, or flash of lightning. Soft rain is a lot better than a cloud burst. At least we know that all the rain we received settled nicely into the ground, injecting fresh moisture into all the plant roots. With a cloud burst, the rain pours down rapidly and ends up running off. This is known as sheet wash, with very little water seeping into the ground. The three days of drizzle we received definitely kick-started the vegetation! I always try to remind myself to carefully watch the vegetation each day, trying to spot the exact moment when it starts turning green. But time and again after the first summer rains you wake up one morning, finding that the bush has transformed overnight from the dull brown colour, into a lively tapestry of green! Nature is truly amazing.
Our rangers did their Advanced Rifle Handling assessment this month. Every two years, we get an evaluator that comes to the lodge to examine the shooting capability of our rangers and trackers. Let me tell you, these guys can shoot! It’s not easy at all. The first part of the shoot is very basic and you have fifteen seconds to complete it. You are blindfolded and have to load five rounds from the pouch on your belt into the magazine of the rifle without dropping any rounds. Once you’ve completed this you have to unload the rounds from the magazine and place them back into your belt pouch, again without dropping them. Should you drop a round, you would fail the exercise. Then comes the grouping at 15 meters. On your own time, you need to fire three shots at one target that has a circumference of 7cm. Next comes the 15, 10 and 5 meter groupings where you have 11 seconds to shoot once at each of the targets, attempting to hit them all in the bull. After this exercise come the harder ones. At a 10 meter target, you are given three rounds in the magazine and three in your pouch. The trick is that one of the rounds in the rifle is a dummy. So while shooting the three rounds at the 10 meter target, you will at some stage hit the dummy round. You then need to eject the dummy round as quickly as possible. Once all the rounds are finished, you then need to reload the three rounds from your pouch and fire a fourth shot at the target, ending the exercise. The second last exercise is to shoot at two buffalo targets, having to hit the brain. You have a target at 12 meters and one at 8 meters. The brain is as big as a lady’s fist. Even if your round skims the line, it will not count. This is quite tricky when you have the clock running against you. The last exercise is a target of a lion on a sled that is pulled towards you at high speed. You have to give a whole list of commands to your “guests”, shout at the lion, then drop to one knee and shoot a brain shot. Once that has happened, you have to keep group control and investigate the target. Only once you know your target / lion is dead and you have made your rifle safe, can you call out to end the exercise. I am proud to say that our guides did really well!
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days!
With this month’s Trapcam photo, we were lucky to catch a lovely herd of buffaloes, while drinking water at Bushcamp East. We first tried something different by placing the camera facing down Bushcamp East Road. In the past we’ve had some lovely footage of animals patrolling the area, while walking along the road. You would be surprised as to how many animals walk the roads to travel from point A to point B. Most times, your territorial animals walk on roads, as they make great boundaries. Other animals walk on roads as there are no trees or obstacles in their way. We once had Salayexe and her previous cub caught on camera like this. But our luck was out this time around! Murphy’s Law: all we had were hundreds of photos of game drives vehicles driving past, so we quickly repositioned the camera so that it faced the water and voilà! A lovely breeding herd of buffaloes.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for her delicious recipe of the month.
Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the nuts. Mash the bananas and add these and the carrots to the flour mixture. Beat the eggs into the oil and add to the dry ingredients, making sure to beat well. Pour the mixture into a greased Bundt cake tin. Bake at 180 °C, for about 20-30 minutes until the mixture is cooked and a testing needle comes out clean. Allow to sit in the tin for 5 minutes and turn it out onto a cooling rack.
Cream the butter and icing together, then add the cream cheese and vanilla. Spoon the icing onto the carrot cake and garnish with pecan nuts.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the two Tsalala female lions with their four young cubs.
Monday, 28 October 2013
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
(32ºC, 40mm rain)
Thursday, 31 October 2013
Friday, 01 November 2013
(33ºC, 6mm rain)
Saturday, 02 November 2013
Sunday, 03 November 2013
Learning to embrace a more natural lifestyle and living a healthier life is as simple as getting back to the basics. In a crazy, fast-paced world, it is vital to balance your life with as much nature, passion and healing as possible. Efforts to “go green” are being put into motion on a constant basis, but some people want more than that. If you are looking to return to a simpler way of living, consider moving beyond green and “going natural.” Here we offer some basic steps that will help you on your way to leading a beautifully simplistic and more natural life.
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR EARTHY SIDE
This means getting outside! Get your hands dirty. Walk barefoot. Plan a long hike. In order to really get in touch with nature, you have to get rid of the “unnatural” in your life, even if only for one afternoon a week. Head out to the woods, a farm, a beach, or a mountain and just BE. No books, no magazines and of course no on/off button. This mental “slow down” is a huge investment you can make in yourself. You need to connect with Mother Nature as much as possible in order to stay grounded and at peace with yourself.
MAKE GOOD FOOD CHOICES
The food that we choose to eat affects more than just our bodies. The lives of the farmers and workers who produce the food, the soil and water that grow the food and the plant, animal and microbial life of the farm are all affected. When we prioritize high quality, sustainably produced ingredients, we are showing our respect for the Earth and its resources. When we choose to buy products in season, particularly from local producers, we honor the cycle of the seasons and the people who nurture our food. Try shopping at your local farmer’s market or food co-op. If you live in a place that doesn’t have easy access to local foods, try planting a small garden with some of your favorite herbs or vegetables. You might be surprised to find how much more connected you feel to the natural world while preparing a fresh tomato salad, made from sun ripe tomatoes you just plucked.
CHOOSE NATURAL WAYS TO CLEAN YOUR BODY AND HOME
Our bodies absorb things internally and externally. The chemicals that we come into contact with can seep into our bodies through our skin, making it vitally important to carefully consider the products you use in your home. It is amazing how much cleaning can be accomplished with simple products like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. You might also be interested in caring for your body with things like almond oil or coconut oil, which are nourishing to the body, without containing additives or chemicals. You can add essential oils to both body and surface cleaners to make your home and yourself smell fantastic.
DEVELOP YOUR SPIRITUAL SIDE
Learning to be aware of your thoughts and actions help maintain a healthy attitude and a sense of truthfulness to your spirit. Pursuing passions in your spare time, especially ones that are physical or involve the arts will balance your mental, physical and spiritual sides – and keep your body in harmony with your thoughts. Be open, be truthful and learn to focus on doing what really makes you feel good!
STAY HOME MORE
This may seem like a weird item for our Natural Lifestyle list…but it doesn’t get much simpler or more natural than this. Stay home more. You’ll save money, your vehicles will last longer…and joy of joys…you may not feel so worn out all the time! When you spend more time at home, you’ll find that you are more rested and more relaxed…naturally.
And when you feel the need to get away, choose Elephant Plains Game Lodge. A place where you will become more in touch with nature through wonderful game viewing and bush walks. And while you’re here, come and have a relaxing treatment at the African Health Spa!