Wow! The end of the year has come and gone. I truly hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year’s, filled with love and lots of laughter! On behalf of all the staff at Elephant Plains, I would like to wish you a fantastic 2014, with lots of happiness and good fortune. The saying goes “end it with a bang” and that’s exactly what we did. The year 2013 did end with a massive bang, with game viewing being off the charts. Our guests were spoiled with amazing sightings, including different lion prides, cheetahs, wild dogs and mating leopards… But not just one pair of mating leopards, some of our guests saw three different pairs mating. Rangers often work for years without seeing mating leopards and we got to see three different mating pairs in a just over a week’s time. What a privilege. We also had the wild dogs around the water hole in front of camp once again and a kill just behind our lodge one night. I truly hope that they will now stay around so that they can den somewhere within our traversing area. That would be so amazing. To top off a great month of game viewing, our guests got to see a very relaxed pangolin, feeding in the open. Normally a ranger would only ever get to see pangolins once or twice in their career. Imagine what a special sighting this was. Not only seeing a pangolin, but also being able to watch him move around while foraging.
With all the rain, the vegetation has turned into a wall of greenery. The grass is long, the water holes are full and as a result, all the animals are in a great condition. With the baby boom we had last month, there are hundreds of little ones running around the bush, which in itself makes for great game viewing.
The lodge itself is also looking good. During winter time we water the grass to keep all the gardens up to standard. But in summer, all the goodness contained in the rain water just makes such a big difference, so the gardens are looking extra lovely. The longest day and shortest night has come to pass on the 22nd of this month, meaning that we now slowly start the countdown back towards the shortest day and the longest night in June. But there are still lots of long summer days left to enjoy and we have plenty of fun to look forward to.
Christmas day started off overcast and cool, but by nine the sun came out in full force. The day itself was amazing. Our guests had a relaxed day around the pool, with Walter pouring cocktails for them. Although the humidity was very high during afternoon drive, it was the first Christmas in years that it did not rain. Christmas dinner was a festive affair. Tersia was in charge of the decorations and the whole area was transformed into a lovely pallet of reds, whites and silver. Chef Annika made sure that the dinner was a highlight of the evening and her mini Christmas cakes were to die for. I am sure that all the guests that spent Christmas with us would agree. For New Year’s, Lanette was responsible for the decorations. Candles and fairy lights created a lovely ambiance. The braai menu was delicious and our guests celebrated until well after midnight!
During December, we welcomed a new member of staff. Amanda Truter joined our team and will be doing accounts, as well as relief reservations. With her bright, bubbly personality she has settled right in and we hope that she will enjoy working with us. I sometimes wonder if wanting to work in the African bush is in your DNA… Some of our staff members have been working out here for more than thirteen years, with no urge to return to city life. Yet there are some that would not be able to stay in the bush for more than a week. Some people need to feed off of the rush of a city, or as they call it, the “buzz”. But for bush people, the only buzz that we enjoy isn’t man made. It’s the roar of a lion on a cold winter’s night, the excited begging ritual of the spotted hyena and the low, deep grunts of a leopard on your lawn at one ‘o clock in the morning. No matter how many times you hear these night time sounds, they will always give you goose bumps, confirming why you belong out here and not over there. So it just goes to show, whether it’s in our DNA or not, we all have our differences in life and that’s what makes life just that much more interesting.
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! To have your birthday close to Christmas must be great and hopefully you all received gifts twice this month! We had two birthdays this month, one being the youngest staff member at the lodge. Who am I talking about? Well, Martin Swart of course. He is really a sweet little guy and when he’s around us in the office, he always has a smile on his face. The big man celebrated his first birthday on the 11th of December and we were treated to a Jack Russell birthday cake. On the 24th Linah celebrated her birthday. She is one of the cleaning ladies who make sure that the rooms are spotlessly clean and what a great job she does! I hope both of you had fantastic birthdays.
This month’s trap cam picture was taken at Kraaines, one of the waterholes just west of our airstrip. In the early hours of the morning, we normally find some of the herbivores resting on the airstrip next to this waterhole, as they would often spend the night on the airstrip. Because the airstrip is a large open area, it is a safe haven for these animals. Sleeping in an open area, the animals have a 360° view of their surrounds and would be able to see when a predator tries to sneak up to them from the tree line. Once the predator has been spotted, they would all sound the alarm, alerting each other of the predator. So this month’s photo is of some impalas and zebras coming off the airstrip to have their first drink of water after the long night.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for her delicious recipe of the month. These cupcakes are evil, as it’s really hard to stop eating them once you’ve started. I know that a lot of guests have asked for this recipe, so here it is.
Line a muffin tray with cupcake cups. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then mix all the wet ingredients and then combine the two mixtures. Divide the mixture into the cupcake cups, and bake for 15-20mins, until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool.
Bring all the ingredients to the boil until it starts to thicken slightly. It should be a dark, caramel colour. It will take around 15 – 20mins. Beat the 1 ½ cups of cream until stiff, and then spoon half of the sauce into this and beat until it is all incorporated. Keep the other half of the caramel sauce for garnishing later on. The caramel cream should be stiff.
Beat the butter for around 2 mins, then add the icing, and beat until combined, adding a little milk at a time and add the vanilla. Spoon into a piping bag.
Using an apple corer, make a hole in each cupcake and fill the cavities with the caramel cream. Then pipe the icing over the top, covering the hole that was made. Use the extra sauce to drizzle over the top of the cupcakes.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month and for the year 2013. We are looking forward to a brilliant 2014. Have a good one!
Wow! What happened to the year? At first we were counting down the days till we would receive our first cold winter spell. Then before you know it, the winter season has come and gone at lightning speed. Now summer is in full swing! You need to come and see for yourself how beautiful the area looks after all the rains we have received. Every day now you can see the vegetation becoming denser. Everything is brilliantly green, with bright flowers starting to bloom on some of the trees. With summertime, all the babies arrive. It seems to happen overnight! Most of the impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and warthogs have little ones running around with them. All the attention seems to be set on the herbivores and their young. One can just drive a few hundred meters from camp and be entertained for hours on end. I was on drive again for a few days this past month and as always it was brilliant to be driving and to see all the new animals. To see baby animals take their first stand, or run for the first time is priceless. The funniest is to see a red billed oxpecker land on a baby herbivore for the first time – they get such a fright that they take off like a rocket! They have no idea yet why this feathered animal would land on their head and that it is actually a friend, only wanting to help rid them from all the parasites. The one morning drive my guests and I were almost lucky enough to see an impala giving birth, but she slowly walked into the tree line and disappeared to give birth in privacy. Some of our rangers were luckier, though. They saw a zebra giving birth on our open area in front of the lodge! Guests sometimes think that we see such amazing sightings every day. Well, we do get to see amazing sightings, but some of these sightings, like a zebra giving birth, we might only get to see once a year, or sometimes once in our lifetime. Most of the time it’s about being lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. What a privilege.
Once a year we have a lady that comes and inspects the lodge. You might ask who and why? Well, Lisa Dunn is from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa and her task is to come and check that our service and facilities are all up to standard and to find out what our plans for the new year might be. As most of you would know, Elephant Plains Game Lodge is a four star game lodge. I am proud to say that she did a thorough inspection of the lodge, from top to bottom and was very happy with what she saw. She mentioned that the lodge was very well kept and that the gardens were also looking great. There is a lot of planning and hard work that goes into the upkeep of a lodge, but we always do our best and it really makes you proud when someone notices this hard work. We are excited about a few minor changes that we are planning to make during next year. You will need to come and see for yourself what these changes are!
We will be seeing a new face around the lodge next month. Lanette van den Merwe has been appointed as our new Spa therapist, as we will be saying goodbye to Eve Viet. Eve has decided to go and work on a yacht out at sea and to travel the world. We wish her all the best with her new adventure! Lanette is from Johannesburg, but she wants to place her roots back into the African bush, where she loves to work and we are sure that she will learn to love Elephant Plains as much as we all do. We have also said goodbye to Marlé Erasmus who has decided to go back to Nelspruit where she can work closer to her family and friends. We are still looking for a lady to replace her and hopefully by next month we would have found the right person to take on the position for relief receptionist and accounting.
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! We had only one staff member who celebrated her birthday this month. Feitah Mathebula has been working at Elephant Plains for the past nine years. She started as a cleaner, who then later took on the role of looking after Etienne Jnr. Now that he is all grown up, she is babysitting Martin. With her kind soul and big smile, she is helping to raise the kids at EP. We hope you had a wonderful day. May there be many more!
This month we placed the snap cam at Rampan. We got a nice photo of two small baboons in a tree and a hippo in the water.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda Van Heerden for her mouth watering recipe of the month. It is a Cranberry and Pecan Nut salad, ideal for those hot summer days under the African sun.
(serves 6 side servings)
Wholegrain Mustard Dressing
Bring the orange juice to the boil and pour over the cranberries. Set aside to cool down. Cut the pecan nuts into threes. Arrange the lettuce onto a platter. Then sprinkle the rehydrated cranberries and pecan nuts over this. Make the dressing by mixing the wholegrain mustard, olive oil and vinegar. Pour over the salad. Serve and enjoy!
Well! That’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
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!
Spring is in the air and with that came some amazing sightings! It is almost as if the bush has awoken after a deep winter sleep. The rangers found a hyena den with the cutest pups as occupants. They are full of energy and entertain our guests for hours on end. We also had a male cheetah that spent nearly three weeks moving around our traversing area. At first we thought that he might just end up staying because he was continuously seen over such an extended period, but sadly he moved on again. Cheetahs need very large open areas to be able to reach top speeds of ± 90km/h. In our area, the vegetation is very dense and more ideal for leopards, so we don’t have resident female cheetahs. There are some females that move through our area as their home ranges, but they always move back to their core territories after a while. We also had a great wild dog sighting this month! Those of you who regularly watch the Africam webcam might have seen this. They came down to drink water at the waterhole in front of the lodge on the afternoon of the 19th. Now normally they run up and down, only spending a few seconds in one area, but as they got to the water they slammed on breaks and spent some time, drinking and playing around. I was at the lodge and when I heard over my handheld radio that the dogs were drinking water, I ran to the viewing deck to go and see these very special endangered animals playing around right in front of our camp. What a wonderful sighting! I was also able to be back in the saddle doing game drives for a few days this past month. We had some amazing sightings and it was great to be able to see all the new animals in the area.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Tersia and Morné on being Mr and Mrs Fouché. I was privileged enough to be part of their big day as Morné’s best man. Everything was perfect: the weather, the venue, the ceremony and reception. Seeing that Morné did not even for a second consider running for the hills, made me realize that Tersia means the world to him. He stood proud and tall and could not wait for his beautiful bride to walk down the aisle. The look on a groom’s face when he sees his bride walking down the aisle is priceless; with a sparkle in the eyes and a slightly nervous smile. I was only the best man, yet Tersia took my breath away. She looked like a princess from a fairy tale story and I can’t imagine how Morné felt when he saw her for the first time. From all of us at Elephant Plains, we hope you both have an amazing life’s journey and many happy years together.
It was a very sad day when we heard about the passing of Gogi, the Styx female. For those of you who are not sure who this great lioness was, she was the lead female of the Styx pride. When I first started at Elephant Plains nearly eight years ago, she was only second in charge of the Styx pride. She was still in her prime and strong minded. As time went by the old lead female passed on and Gogi was quick to take over this roll. The survival of the Styx pride is due to this brave lioness. Pride numbers dropped from eight to four females when the Mapogo males took over and ended up taking the lives of nearly forty lions; females, cubs and males. She had a no nonsense attitude towards all the other prides, neither males nor females intimidated her. With the two turn over coalitions that happened during the past five years, the Styx pride nearly vanished all together, but one brave hearted lioness was not going to let this happen. She stood her ground and the pride came to have great respect for her. They did exactly what she expected of them. After a while they became one of the more successful prides in the area and even managed to raise three cubs: two males and one female. Just as the pride started to take shape, Gogi also started getting old. She was estimated to be around 17 years old, which is a good, long life for a female lion in the wild. Sadly one night she curled up behind Gowrie Dam wall and fell asleep, never to wake up again. Legends make history, and that was Gogi – a legend who survived the joys and hardships of the harsh African bush. Her life story will be told around camp fires in the Sabi Sand by rangers for many years to come.
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! We had three staff members who celebrated their birthdays this month. On the 5th Linky celebrated her big day. She, however, is not at lodge for the next few months as she is resting at home, waiting for her little bundle of joy to be born. We all wish her the best of luck! Sophia celebrated her birthday on the 11th. She is one of the cooks that work in the kitchen, helping to prepare the meals. Onnie celebrated her big day on the 16th. As a waiter, she is one of the friendly faces that you will see around meal times. I do hope that you all had fantastic birthdays!
The webcam provided cyber safari goers with some excellent sightings this month. It is truly amazing to see what walks around at all hours of the night and what sort of curiosity animals have towards the camera. Sadly all the night pictures are not of good enough quality to post, but we can normally tell what animals they are. We’ve had porcupines with babies, honey badgers, and white tailed mongoose. We even managed to capture a hyena dragging its leftovers back to a den sight for her little ones to feed on. The Africam alerts on Facebook have also been very helpful, making it easier for enthusiasts who cannot watch the cam 24/7 to quickly log in the moment there is some action. The trap cam that we set up in the bush also yielded some nice photographs for the month. This month, Salayexe was caught on camera while patrolling her territory.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for a mouth-watering Cinnamon Rolls recipe.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one.
Warm, hot, very hot! We are starting to feel the warmth of spring and summer nearing, although most of the country is still experiencing very cold weather. Some of the trees have already sprouted brand new buds, pushing their way through the branches to cover the trees with a whole new fashionable wardrobe for the season. It’s a lovely time of the year, with all the trees showing off their bright new colours, trying to out-compete one another with flashing pinks, reds, yellows and purples. After all, the tree with the brightest colours attracts the most attention from insects and birds. The morning air is amazing to breathe in. It has this moist, fresh feel, unlike the dry dusty air of winter. We also had an early thunder storm. It was very strange to have a thunder storm at the end of the winter. Normally they only start in October. The new sound that has come with the rain is the sound of the Classes Cuckoo, meaning that spring is just around the corner! Slowly, but surely, we are going to see the summer migrant birds making their long journey back to spend the warm summer months with us. The last of the summer migrants would be the Woodlands Kingfisher. The moment you hear the very long, loud call of the Woodlands, you know its summer!
We would like to wish Morné and Tersia all the best for next month. Their wedding day has finally arrived and they will tie the knot on the 14th of September.They have been doing hours of planning for this special day. As they met at the lodge four years ago when Tersia started working here, this is an extra special celebration for us! I am truly happy for them and wish them both a lovely future, filled with lots of love and laughter.
A big congratulation goes out to Pieter who passed his Trails Guide exam at the end of last month. As rangers make their way up the ladder, they need to first pass all their theory exams. Pieter has done these and would now be proceeding to the practical exams. Most people are under the impression that the theory part of being a guide is always more difficult. That’s where they are usually wrong. During a theory exam you have the chance to sit in the exam room and have a few minutes to think about how exactly you would walk your way out of a pride of lions. During practical exams, you are now out in the field and get evaluated on your exact modus operandi while walking into and out of a lion sighting. No more clicking your pen, thinking of a good answer. You only have a few seconds to react, ensuring that you get yourself and your guests out of a very dangerous situation. Ideally, when you are out in the bush with guests, you would try and use all the elements in your favourby using cover, wind, sound and the sun to view an animal, leaving without it ever knowing that you were there. When walking in Big 5 areas like EP, you always need to carry a rifle with you. The first mind-set that you should have is to walk as if you don’t have a weapon. This would make you far more aware of your surroundings.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day. May your future hold many more happy and joyful years! At the lodge we celebrated a lot of birthdays. Hilda, one of our housekeepers, who has worked at the lodge for years, celebrated her birthday on the 8th. Next, on the 9th came Dorris, who cleans the main lodge and also works in the scullery. Jeanette, one of our waiters, who is always gladly serving our guests, celebrated her birthday on the 12th. Precious, who also works as a housekeeper, turned 30 on the 14th. A special birthday this month was that of Pieter, who celebrated his 21st birthday. For a junior ranger this birthday opens up a whole new world of possibilities, as he can now apply for his Public Driver’s Permit and Firearm Competency Certificate. Braam, our maintenance manager, also celebrated his 21st birthday. Marlé, who works in accounts and reservations, celebrated her birthday on the 28th. Thanks for all your hard work, guys! May you spend many more birthdays here with us.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month.
This month we share one of our vegetarian dishes with you. This mouth-watering Chickpea Curry is a favourite with our vegetarian guests!
(2 full serving / 4 side servings)
Fry the onion together with the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry powder and Turmeric, for 5 minutes in order for the flavours to develop. Add a little water if the mixture becomes too dry. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, honey and vegetable stock. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from side this month. Have a good one!