The Big 5 highlight of the week was to have Salayexe, the female leopard, and her cub with a bushbuck kill in a tree right in front of our Leopard Luxury Suite.
Monday, 22 April 2013
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Friday, 26 April 2013
Saturday, 27 April 2013
Sunday, 28 April 2013
The Big 5 highlight of the week was to have one of the Majingi male lions and two lionesses of the Tsalala pride resting at Big Dam.
Monday, 15 April 2013
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Thursday, 18 April 2013
Friday, 19 April 2013
Saturday, 20 April 2013
(26ºC, 50mm rain)
Sunday, 21 April 2013
The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the Styx lion pride stalking and killing a juvenile waterbuck just west of Chitwa Chitwa airstrip
Monday, 8 April 2013
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Friday, 12 April 2013
Saturday, 13 April 2013
Sunday, 14 April 2013
I think I can safely say that the summer’s heat is over and that autumn is arriving. It’s strange how it never feels as though the seasons are changing, until one day you realize that it’s already dark by six o’clock in the evening. On drive in the mornings, the rangers always wear short sleeves during summertime and then out of the blue one morning, it’s pretty cold. The vegetation is still green though and we’ve had loads of wonderful sightings. We are already seeing a lot more elephants drinking in front of camp as all the pools of water in the bush have dried up, forcing the animals to use the waterholes now. So life is just that little bit easier, as on game drive the rangers often find animals at, or at least close, to the waterholes. With the cats, however, there is still a lot of tracking involved, because on most days the big cats enjoy resting in very dense vegetation. The art of tracking is amazing. There have been times when I tracked with our trackers and I truly got blown away by the manner in which they are able to continue following tracks, especially if they go through thick vegetation or over very hard ground. For the untrained eye it’s very hard to spot the track, but as for our guys, well it’s another story. You see them take their foot and mark the back of the track and move on, until you start thinking there is no way we are going to find this animal… All of a sudden you’ll get the hand signal to stop, and right there in front of your eyes would be the animal you have been following. Mind blowing indeed!
A lot of guests always ask what time of the year is not too busy for us. To tell you the truth, we don’t really have a low season. We are always running at a fairly high occupancy, regardless of it being summer or winter. Being a 24 bed camp is a very comfortable number of guests to have. Having such a small amount of people, you get to interact with everyone. Guests are not just a number that come and go and are forgotten. We’ve had guests that have returned from last being with us in 2005 and I still remember them. That’s what makes a small camp great! All the guests were very happy with the sightings that they got to view this month. Salayexe and her cub had a few kills right next door to the camp. The one Breakaway Tsalala lioness has been seen moving around the front of the rooms in the dry river bed. We suspect that she is hiding her newborn cub in the lush thickets of the dry river bed. So our guests are spending a lot of time on their viewing decks, trying to get a glimpse of them.
We’ve welcomed Devon Becker as our new ranger this month. He is doing very well and has quickly learned all the game drive roads in our traversing area. The truth is that learning the roads in our traversing area can be quite tricky. There are no high mountains to use as a land marks. But after a few drives you start getting used to some of the main roads in the reserve. A ranger needs at least 20 drives to get used to the roads, so you can’t just give a ranger a map and guests and say “enjoy!” What also helps is the fact that our trackers know the roads very well, so even if a new ranger still forgets the name of a certain road, his tracker would be able to help him out. A funny story a few years ago with one of the other lodges in the north, was that the new ranger drove together with a new tracker so they were still unsure of all the roads. They found a leopard on their first game drive, and it was indeed the first leopard that this ranger ever saw in the wild. Being super excited seeing his first leopard and being the one who found it, he screamed over the radio that he had found a leopard. We all thought this to be great news and asked if we could join his leopard sighting. Well! He had absolutely no idea where he was, so this made life a little interesting. We all had a good chuckle and went out not to find animals, but to find the lost ranger with his amazing leopard sighting. We did find him after a short time later and enjoyed a great sighting. The best part of it all was that the ranger did not feel embarrassed about his situation, he was just very proud as he found one of Africa’s most beautiful cats. I sat and watched his excitement and it reminded all of us in the sighting why we love being in the bush so much.
Dawie is now doing game drives permanently at Elephant Plains and he has already received a lot of compliments. Dawie has been with us for just over two and a half years now, and in that time he went on game drives with the other rangers, plus did a lot of work on the roads. Doing road maintenance means that you literally get to know the roads like the back of your hand. Mostly when we are doing road clearing, it involves cutting overhanging branches that end up brushing up against the side of the vehicle. You walk up and down all the roads for days on end. So by the time you are finished with the maintenance, you know exactly where every rock and special tree on that road is.
Some of our rangers did their Advanced Rifle Shooting this month. The entire exercise is very nerve racking, yet exciting at the same time. It consists of having to load your rifle with five rounds then unload the rifle, blind folded. You then shoot a target on your own time at fifteen meters. The following drill is to shoot one shot in the bull’s eye at fifteen meters, then ten and lastly at five meters. Then it starts to get difficult, you do a whole lot of speed shooting. The shooting part is fine; it’s remembering the whole sequence that you need to perform that makes it tricky. Then the last shoot is a picture of a life sized lion dragged on wheels to simulate a real charge down by a lion. It is very difficult, but as long as you think through the whole charge quickly in your head you should do fine. It is important to be confident with your shooting, as you might need this skill anytime when out in the bush.
On the 27th of this month we had the privilege to be part of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin’s anti-poaching initiative. The Sabi Sand, in an effort to fight the high incidence rate of rhino poaching in South Africa, has decided to make use of the services of the Rhino Rescue Project. The rhino’s horn is treated by infusing it with a compound made up of depot ectoparasiticides and inedible dye. This contaminates the horn and makes it useless for ornamental and medicinal use. The treatment, however, has no adverse effects on the rhino itself. The rhino was treated on Elephant Plains and we got to witness the process, which was an amazing experience. Etienne and Marlet Swart have decided to sponsor another treatment as these are entirely dependent on fundraising. The Elephant Plains rangers have also decided to take initiative in holding a fund raiser between themselves and other rangers in our area, in order to sponsor another rhino. This is a project very close to our hearts and we would like to do everything in our power to ensure the future of our beautiful rhinos. If any of our readers are interested to join the initiative by sponsoring funds for the future of rhinos at Elephant Plains Game Lodge, as well as the rest of the Sabi Sand, please feel free to contact Marlet Swart for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To all our guests that celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more joyful days! We had a busy month with all the birthdays at lodge. Yoldah celebrated her big day on the 6th. You will rarely see Yoldah as she is hard at work in the laundry. She manages the laundry, with the help of her four best friends, the Speed Queen machines. She is a very delightful person that always has a smile on her face. I take my hat off to her for the amount of laundry she does on a daily basis. Sidness had her birthday on the 23rd. She works at Etienne and Marlet’s house and also helps look after the very energetic little man, Etienne junior. Clement, one of our trackers, also celebrated his birthday on the 23rd. Just goes to show you how time flies, Etienne junior turned five on the 26th. The little man is starting to grow up very fast indeed. Last but not least Louis celebrated his birthday on the 28th of this month. I am very proud of Louis. He started at the lodge as a junior ranger and five years later he is our new assistant Head Ranger. He has come a very long way in the past few years. Well done Louis! Just shows you what hard work and determination can achieve.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda Van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month.
This month’s recipe is an Herbed Cucumber Salad, a fresh addition to any meal.
Makes 8 side servings
Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Combine the cucumber and onion, drizzle with the yogurt mixture. Toss to coat. Arrange on a serving platter and serve cold.
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
Those of you who joined us on game drive and followed our weekly sightings this last month will agree with me that March was action packed with surprises almost around every corner. With all the excitement we also had some misfortune in the cheetah family. We were very fortunate to see the cheetah mother and her 3 cubs coming into our area and staying here for a long time. She moved out of the area, only to return after a day, but this time with only two cubs. It is unknown what happened to the third little cub. We also had a pack of 17 wild dogs that came into the area. Overall, sightings were really over the top and it was a real pleasure to be out in the bush. We can feel that the seasons are changing as the mornings are much cooler and still dark when we leave for the morning safari. Day temperatures are still nice, but as soon as the sun disappears behind the horizon it gets a bit chilly. The average maximum temperature for the month was 29°C and we had a total of 22 millimetres rain.
Leopard sightings were just great this month. Salayexe and her little cub are doing fine and they are always a treat to view. The cub is really free spirited and full of surprises. It is almost as if you are watching a suspense movie, you don’t know what she will do next. Every inch of Salayexe’s territory is her playground and she thinks that all the animals inside of it are there for her to play with. Salayexe is really struggling to keep up with the liveliness off her daughter and all the games that she plays. I’ve also noticed that when Salayexe’s had enough of her cub and want some alone time, she will become a bit hostile towards the little one. Being so young and outgoing like she is, she wants to turn everything into a game. When two cubs are born and one dies the mother automatically needs to take over the entertainment role of the dead cub when it comes to play time! Shadow, on the other hand, was quiet at times but the times we did see her she and the two cubs were just priceless. The one cub is really getting used to the game drive vehicles around it and growing more in confidence as she stalks the vehicles in play. The other sibling is still very cautious and watches our every move and always sits close or even sometimes behind her mother. Some reinsurance in the form of a head rub or gentle face wash by mum lets her know everything is all right and that we pose no threat whatsoever. It’s common to find a very adventurous cub and a shy one born in the same litter.
Kurula was again very elusive this month as we haven’t seen her or the little cubs once this month, but we are confident that she will bring them out one of these days. The old lady, Ntima, was seen once or twice, but without any cubs. The little cubs are still very young and tucked away safely in a hidden den. It won’t be too long before the little cubs will start eating meat and Ntima will move them around to a new location, or to kills. Kwatile came for a surprise visit and what a surprise it was as we saw that she also has suckle marks. This is really good news for us and we keep our fingers crossed that she will this time successfully raise her new litter. Moya, the youngest of the territorial female leopards in our area has no cubs yet as far as we know, but we hope that this year will be a wonderful year for her. Tingana, our dominant male leopard, was seen a lot this month while marking his boundaries. Tingana has got his work cut out for him as the young male that came in from the west of his territory is expanding more east and Lamula in the southeast is expanding more northwest into Tingana’s territory. It’s only a matter of time before Tingana catches up with these two newcomers to defend his title and ultimately his cubs. Mvula is also expanding his territory more south and that caused Lamula to move more west. Mvula was very quiet this month and we didn’t see him a lot. Lamula was also under the radar and we saw him just a few times this month. Lamula is looking really good at this stage. He is getting bigger and putting on a lot of weight. It’s not going to be too long before he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Three of the four breakaway Tsalala females have been keeping a low profile this month. The one female with the cub/s stayed around our lodge for the whole month. We think that her den is very close to the lodge, somewhere in the thickets on the banks of the dry river bed that runs past our lodge. She will come out of the dense vegetation in the late afternoons to hunt and then return in the early mornings. She is looking good and feeding well as she killed a juvenile giraffe the one day and fed well for a few days, before the hyenas chased her off her kill. When she is by herself, hyenas can easily chase her off a kill, but when they are in a pride it will take a lot of hyenas to chase them off. We are unsure about the amount of cubs as more than one was heard while we were tracking one day. We have, however, not seen them yet. Pregnant females will normally leave the safety of the pride to go and give birth in a safe area, only to return to the pride when the cubs are about 8 weeks old. When she gives birth the whole game plan changes. She will have to hunt alone and that calls for a different hunting strategy because, unlike leopards that are solitary hunters and are used to hunting alone, lions are pride animals. The pride works as a team to bring down prey and feed together. Being alone she now has to depend on herself for food and taking care of her little ones. Lions are unbelievable animals and can adapt to any situation that presents itself. Hopefully it’s not too long before she will take the cubs back to introduce them to the rest of the pride. BB and her older daughters also came into our area, accompanied by three of the Majingi male lions. BB will be 15 years old this year and she’s still looking very good for her age. When you look at this old worrier, with her face and body covered in battle scars that each tell an exciting yet painful story, you can’t help to think of what she’s been through. BB’s daughters are looking superb and seeing them with the male lions gives us hope that in the next few months they might also have more cubs. We had two Nkuhuma lionesses and three of their cubs, joined by two of the six Matimba male lions, on a zebra kill in the area. They stayed in the area for about two days then moved north back into the core of their territory. The Styx pride is looking very healthy and better than ever. The four sub adults are over two years of age and it’s normally this time of their lives when they join in on hunts to learn the skillful art of successful hunting. The Majingi males are also looking good, but the only problem that I see is that they are splitting up too often and this leaves them very vulnerable and open for an attack by a group of younger males. Just look at what happened to the Mapogo coalition when they decided to split up.
We are still waiting for the big herds to pass through our area. We had tracks of a very nice sized herd that came into the area during the night, but moved out of the area again the very next morning. We are still full of hope that it will change when food gets scarcer and the big herds need to move further in search of more food. We had a few old dagga boys cooling down in the water or rolling in the mud. They will also roll in the mud to get the mud on them to rid their bodies from any unwanted tics, parasites and flies. The mud also helps the buffalo to keep cool in the hot African sun. We were lucky to see a bachelor herd consisting of dominant and sub dominant males. They usually leave their herd when mating is done in order to work on their condition. When mating season starts again, they go back to the herds to claim their females and their right to mate again.
There has been no shortage of elephant this month with medium sized herds, ranging between 30-40 animals and smaller herds of about 5-10 animals. These are trailed by a few big bulls in musth, with only one intention. When males go into musth their body undergoes a chemical transformation where high testosterone levels are released throughout the body. With this whole transformation going on in the bodies of these bulls their temperament also changes and they can get more aggressive and irritable, sometimes even charging the vehicles. It is always better to rather avoid these really bad-tempered heavyweights. During this time of the year, the smaller herds are slowly but surely starting to join forces to form a bigger herd. In the winter months you might find a few herds of maybe a hundred animals. In these herds there are quite a few little ones and it is so special to view them as they are full of surprises, like all young animals tend to be. It’s so funny watching these little rascals opening their ears and then charging at the vehicles, followed with a loud trumpet. The moment they realize that they’re all alone, they quickly turn around, running towards the safety of their mothers.
The special sighting of the month was to see a pack of 17 wild dogs working as a team in hunting impalas. Six hyenas came in to try and steal the kill. All the wild dogs launched a full-on attack on the hyenas. The hyenas did their best, but there were just too many wild dogs and the hyenas came off second best.
Did you know?
A pack of wild dogs are led by an alpha pair.