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!
During wintertime, the bush takes on a mystical appearance, with dry trees standing like skeletons in the misty mornings. Although the early morning drives are chilly, this sight is enough to get you out of bed! As the natural waterholes dry up during the winter, the desperate need for water drives bigger animals to take on greater journeys in search of this liquid gold, because without water nothing can survive in the harsh African bush. As the months march on, we are seeing more breeding herds of elephants quenching their thirst at the waterhole in front of lodge. So if you view our web cam often, then keep an eye out for all the elephant herds moving in and around the waterhole. There have been sightings of large buffalo breeding herds in our traversing area. As it becomes dryer the herds merge, forming larger herds numbering up to 1000 animals. These herds can sometimes be viewed on our webcam as well and what a sight this is! Africam has requested that we link our Facebook Page with them, so whenever there is a sighting on our webcam, an alert would appear on our page. So if you can’t sit and watch the webcam the whole day, just keep an eye on our Facebook Page and you will see the moment there is some action at the waterhole.
Being winter, most travellers from the northern hemisphere are not keen on leaving their summer to take a trip down south. We therefore run winter specials and also welcome a lot of South Africans (who traditionally view winter time as bushveld safari time) to the lodge. Our guests were treated with a bumper month regarding sightings!
I was very sad when the call came over the radio to say that my all-time favourite leopard’s cub had been killed by hyenas. Salayexe is a strong girl though and I hope that her next attempt at cubs will reap its rewards. I am very sorry for her, as the cub was close to a year old. Normally after a year, the odds at survival drastically rise. But sometimes, nature has another plan… It was also unfortunate that Shadow’s cubs were both lost as well. Mvula, the male leopard, presumably killed them as they weren’t his cubs. He was seen mating with Shadow a few days ago, so it is evident that he is trying to further establish himself in the area. And so the circle of life continues.
This month the Sabi Sand, with donations from a few of the lodges and also some of our guests, organised that more rhino horns were treated in an anti-poaching effort. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our guests that made sponsors to this project. We appreciate your help and support in our fight against rhino poaching. With this round of treatments, the guys in the helicopter struggled for a while to find rhino, as the vegetation is very dense up in the north. After getting the rangers from some of the lodges to go out with vehicles to track from the ground, they found our good old faithful Londoz and he was one of the many rhinos that were treated. We were so glad when he was spotted! He has been the dominant bull in the area for as long as I can remember. To all the guests that have stayed with us, you will certainly remember him as he is quite an impressive rhino. The vet mentioned that he might be a good 28 years old and could weigh close to 2400kg. Rhinos can live up to 40 years, depending on the area they are living in. We are all glad that Londoz was found on the day and that his horns were treated, as he is very close to all our hearts. Elephant Plains’ main goal was to sponsor his treatment, but if he was not found on the day any other rhino could have been treated with our donations. I for one don’t want to one day show my children a picture of a rhino, or some statue of one in a museum. I would prefer the real thing! We still have many more rhinos to treat in this anti-poaching initiative and we will keep you updated on when the next infusions would take place.
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 joyful days! We had three staff members who celebrated their birthdays this month. On the 4th Fanotti celebrated his birthday. Fan has an amazingly soft nature and always has a smile on his face. Fan is Louis’tracker and the two of them make a great team. On the 7th Remember celebrated his birthday. Remember is one of our waiters. He will always place a smile on your face with his stories and most of our guests who have been served by him will remember him.J On the 26th Dudu celebrated her big day. Now most times you would not get to see Dudu, who works in the scullery. She is, however, very hard working and merrily washes the dishes, always with a smile on her face. We hope you guys all had a great day and thanks for your hard work and commitment to the lodge.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda Van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month, Mushroom & Sage tart.
(Makes 10 side servings)
Cut the butter and the sage into flour, if there are bits of butter in the mixture that are half the size of a pea, that’s ok. Add 6 tbsp of ice cold water and mix, making sure not to overwork the dough. It will resemble fine bread crumbs. If you press a bit between your fingers and it holds, then it’s right. Place into a zip lock bag and press into a ball. Allow to rest for 40 mins in the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and remove the dough from the bag and gently roll out until it covers the entire tart pan. Press gently into the pan, trim the excess and allow to rest in the fridge for a further 15 mins. Always make sure that the dough is as cold as possible.
Brown the mushrooms and set aside, fry the onions and thyme in the same pan over a lower heat to caramelize, +- 20min-30min.
Layer all the ingredients into the pie base as follows: onions, mushrooms and then the cream, with salt and pepper over the top of this and then finish with the bread crumbs over this. Bake for about 35min-40mins, until the crust is golden brown.
Remove the tart from the pan, set onto a platter or plate and chill.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
As always, winter time has provided our guests with great game viewing. There have been leopards in and around camp, lions on the airstrip, elephants feeding all around camp, wild dogs, buffalo… You name the species and it spent time around the lodge. We’ve been doing very well and were quite busy the last month, which is always great as it keeps us on our toes and out of mischief! In the eight years that I have been working here, there has only been a total of ten days that we had no guests in camp. Floods had been responsible for most of the days that we had to close our doors. Having guests in camp every day keeps the place alive and filled with energy. Having no guests feels quite terrible. You start to feel lost and routine falls a bit to the wayside. Luckily we’ve never been closed for more than two days at a time. The Sabi Sand has started work on the low water bridge on the fence line and I hope that this will make a big difference to the condition of our access road when the rainy season sets in again later in the year.
There have been some wicked cold fronts that have come through the Lowveld this month with the temperatures being quite cold at times. Even when we were in Durban we experienced cold weather. It was a bit disappointing as there was still a thought in the back of my mind to go and have a swim in the sea. I did not even make it onto the beach as it was so cold.
As mentioned in the last news letter, Etienne, Marlet, Tersia and I went down to Durban for the yearly tourism Indaba. Concerning the success of the show, I would go as far to say that it was the best Indaba I have attended. The first day it rained nonstop and I felt sorry for the guys that had outside displays, but we still had a good amount of agents that came to visit our stand. We were greeted by sunshine on the Sunday morning and saw agents and different role players in the industry for most of the day. Monday was a very productive day with more meetings, keeping us busy the whole day long. Although most agents return home on Monday afternoon, we still saw a fair amount of role players on Tuesday morning. All in all, we are very happy with the results. We got to say hi to some of our old agents, who have been supporting us through the years and at the same time we must have seen a good 15 new agents who are very excited about our product and would like to start using our lodge from now on. From our side, we would like to thank everyone who came to see us at our stand. We are looking forward to working with all of you for many more years to come.
Back at the lodge the one morning was full of excitement when Salayexe decided to take her bush buck kill up a tree right in front of Leopard Suite. How funny is that? A leopard with a kill at the Leopard Suite! Later in the day she went and fetched her cub to come and enjoy the meal that she had caught for her. The kill was unfortunately dropped and she relocated it just a bit more east into one of the other trees. Exciting times indeed! In camp itself, we’ve had a lot of animals that over the years have become very relaxed with people walking around camp. With the movement of people, strange smells and buildings, most predators will not want to come into camp. The resident bushbuck, nyala and even the odd impala all enjoy the safety of the lodge grounds. Except when Salayexe is around, that is.
We have been building a new laundry for the past few months. Being out in the African bush, things tend to take a little longer then what they normally would in the city. But I am very happy to say that the new laundry is now 100% complete and working like a dream. It is double the size of the original laundry and we are very happy with the end product!
We have been placing our snap cam up next to roads the past two months, now you would think that setting the camera up at a water hole would get the most action, but not necessarily. We got quite a number of great pictures of many different animals moving on the roads. We will share two photos with you this month. The one is of an elephant bull walking down the road. The other is of Salayexe surprising Dawie and Louis with a visit, just after they mounted the snap cam! Any animal that is territorial would walk the roads and sent mark their territory. Other animals enjoy walking the roads as there is no vegetation to try and squeeze through, no grass in the eyes, no stepping on thorns. Last month we got the picture of Salayexe and her cub along with plenty of hyenas moving up and down the road. This month we tried to set the camera up looking down the road as opposed to be on the side of the road.
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 a small handful of staff that celebrated their birthdays this month. On the 3rd Tersia celebrated her birthday. Tersia is the friendly lady in charge of reservations. So when you contact the lodge, you will usually be communicating with her. I must say, to keep track of all the bookings that she receives and to keep them all in order and updated is very impressive. Then on the 4th Oom Etienne celebrated his birthday. We don’t get to see him much, but do hope that he had a great day. Last but not least for the month is Phillip who celebrated his special day on the 5th. He is one of the guys who make sure the gardens stay in pristine condition. The rest of his day is normally spent fishing with little Etienne. I do hope that everyone had a very special day and I hope that you all have many more happy days to come.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda Van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month. For all of you that love cakes, well, you’re in for a treat with this one.
Mix the dry ingredients and then mix the wet ingredients separately. Combine the 2 mixtures. Line muffin trays with cupcake cups, spoon the batter into these and bake until the cupcakes are done. It will take approximately 15-20mins.
Cream the softened butter, add the icing sugar and mix, add the cooled coffee. Continue beating until the mixture is pale and fluffy looking. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with the pecan nuts and some edible glitter. Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!