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!
Manager’s Report July 2013
With the longest night and the shortest day that passed in June already, we now ever so slowly lean towards springtime. With it comes the “four seasons in one day” with some mornings being misty and rainy, followed by strong winds. The moment the sun comes out from behind the clouds it is pleasantly warm, until late in the afternoons when the cold sets in yet again. But as each day moves into the next, the smile on my face broadens as we are clearly nearing spring and following that, summertime. Spring just makes the earth seem brand new; with new grass, leaves and newborn animals all around. In my opinion spring should be our New Year, as it symbolises a fresh, new start and the beginning of new life. The one benefit of winter is that the vegetation is flat and brittle, making life easier for the rangers and trackers, having to spot animals far off into the bush. Sightings wise, this month was off the records, as guests got to see lions on a few different kills, mating lions and mating leopards. They even saw leopards making kills while in the process of mating. But Morné can share more about this in his report. We had a lot of return guests this month, joining us for a second, third or even fourth time. We would like to thank you for supporting the lodge time and again. We hope that we will still see a lot more of you in the near future!
With the rainy season approaching, we brought in Patrick the TLB driver. He is fantastic at operating his machine. I am sure that if you were to ask him to do back flips with it, he would surely oblige! With most of the roads still in a good condition and only a few needed some TLC from the TLB. We cleaned out some of the mitre drains alongside the roads, repaired some of the humps and also filled some sections of road that had washed away. For six days we pushed as hard as we could to get everything done and then it started to rain, a whole 11 mm of soft winter rain. The next day I had a big smile on my face as I could take out the tractor and thumper to compact the sections of road that we had filled. Usually we need to take the water bowser to spray the roads first, but because Mother Nature had sorted that part out the previous day, so it wasn’t necessary. All the roads are now looking great. Bring on the rainy season, our roads are ready! We also got the TLB to also do a small amount of work on the waterhole in front of the Africam. We did not make the waterhole bigger, but just removed some of the soil that washed into it after the floods we had last year. We worked on the southern and eastern sides. Because the flood water moved over the entire waterhole, all the soil settled inside, leaving little space for actual water and causing it to dry up quickly. During this time of the year we have a lot of thirsty elephants that can quickly drain the entire waterhole in one go. The work that was done should ensure that more animals can utilize this precious source of water.
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 actually had a double barrel birthday on the 24th, being Linda and Dawie’s combined birthday. Linda, who I am sure you will recognise from all her monthly recipes, is our Head Chef. She is responsible for overseeing all the lovely meals at lodge. Dawie started at Elephant Plains as a junior ranger for two years. For the past eight months he has been thriving as a fulltime ranger. He is doing a fantastic job as ranger and one can clearly see the passion he has for the African bush. I hope you all had great birthdays, filled with lots of laughter and fun.
Marlet Swart wrote: “As it is a bit awkward for Wayne to congratulate himself on his birthday this month, I would like to add a big congratulations from all of us at EP! Wayne joined us in 2005. He worked himself up through the ranks from Ranger to Head Ranger and in 2011 we appointed him as General Manager. Wayne is one of the most hardworking guys I know. You will always find him walking through the lodge, checking up on this or that, or otherwise, fiddling with maintenance himself. No job is below him and through his work ethic and commitment to the lodge he has won a deep-earned respect and love from all his work colleagues. I daresay that he loves the lodge as much as Etienne and I do. We wish him a wonderful year. May he celebrate many more birthdays with us!”.
We have some more good news to share this month. Louis and Janine got engaged! As you know, Louis is one of our rangers and Janine is the friendly face you will see at reception. We would like to congratulate them on this great news and wish them the best for a very bright and happy future together.
Over the past few months we have been getting some great pictures of animals on the trap cam. As mentioned in last month’s report, the animals are now using the larger waterholes more often as most of the smaller pans have dried up. This leaves the larger waterholes with more traffic around them during the early mornings and late afternoons, allowing us to capture some great pictures of animals coming to quench their thirst. We get photos of a large selection of general game and this month I chose a photo of a herd of elephants, with their reflection in the water.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month. This month’s recipe is a traditional, sweet old favourite for South Africans.
(Makes 12 portions)
Cream the butter and the sugar together until the sugar is incorporated. Add the eggs and beat well. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter mix and beat until the dough comes together. Press into a well greased baking dish. Bake for approximately 2 minutes before resting it.
Heat the 750ml milk together with the butter and vanilla essence. Mix the corn flour and cake flour with the remaining milk. Mix the egg yolk and the sugar together. Once the milk is heated, mix the flour mixture into it. Then slowly add the warm mixture into the egg yolks, making sure not to curdle the eggs. Put the milk mixture back onto the stove, and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. The mixture will become thick. Remove from the heat and whisk the egg white to soft peaks. Gently fold this into the warm custard. Pour into the crust and bake at 160C for 30minutes. It will brown slightly on top and be a little wobbly in the middle. Remove to the fridge to set for 4 hours. Decorate with strawberries and sugar work.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!