During the first half of June we had quite a number of cold fronts that passed through the area. But thankfully cold fronts are very active and move fast, lasting only two or three days. The majority of the other days were very warm and pleasant though. On the 22nd of this month, we had the longest night and shortest day of the year – signalling the turn of the seasons. After the 22nd the days start to grow longer and the nights shorter. Soon we will be celebrating springtime once again! But for now the bush is still brown and dry. This type of vegetation is good for game viewing – making it easier to spot different animals because the bush is less dense than in summertime. Our guests were treated to some amazing sightings this month. One of these being when they saw mating leopards with a kill in the tree and wild dogs chasing impalas through this same leopard sighting. We also had one of the Majingilane males mating with one of the young Tsalala females on our open area. Most of the time, if not interrupted by a sudden takeover by a new coalition of males, mating will take place during this time of the year. Most of your big cats will carry their young anything between two to three months. So in about three months’ time, when the litter is due, it will be spring. Spring brings new life in the form of grass and leaves – hearty meals for herbivores. As they mostly have their babies during this time of the year, it also means ample food supplies for the predators. So with plenty of food around, predators and their cubs won’t go hungry. Another example of the circle of life.
We usually have guests from all over the world staying at our lodge. It’s always great to learn about the different countries and each nation’s unique customs and way of living. The percentage of South African guests that usually visit Elephant Plains is normally less than our overseas visitors, but during June we received a lot of South African guests. As we run a winter’s special each year from May to September, it makes us quite affordable for the local market. We are proud to be able to call ourselves one of the most affordable lodges in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. We also decided to keep the same rates from 2012 to 2013 and I think this decision will be welcomed by all our guests.
We would like to welcome a new staff member, Marle Erasmus, to the team. She is a young, dynamic lady with a bubbly personality. She has completed her EcoTraining course and is in love with the bush and its animals. She was working at a lodge just outside Nelspruit, but it seems as though that was not quite deep enough into the bush for her! If you have a love for the bush running through your veins, it’s hard to live in the city. She told us that she wanted to be at a place far removed from anything city related. Well she has come to the right place and we are glad that she decided to join our team. She will be handling all of the accounting and she will also be responsible for reservations when Tersia goes on leave.
Our snap cam took some great photos this month. We placed it in a tree at the hyena den that is on our property and later also at Leeukuil, a waterhole close to the lodge. It is quite fascinating to see how alive the bush can be – even if you’re not right there to witness it yourself. The pictures that we got from the den are unbelievable. The hyena pups are adorable. Their coats are still pitch black. For the first three months hyena youngsters are black, slowly changing colours as they start to get older. These pups are also very playful, running around and looking for all the attention they can possibly get – they definitely have more energy than the older hyenas. It was also interesting to watch the movement at the den site. There is always something happening, no matter what time of day or night. When you look at their normal behaviour around a carcass, you usually see them as being vicious and savage, with no regard for one another. When you get to see how caring the clan is towards these youngsters, it takes your breath away and opens up a whole new world in the life of hyenas. We also got some nice photos of our resident hippo at Leeukuil, while out of the water during the day – I will also share one of these with you.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love, laughter and lots of happiness. May your future hold many more! At the lodge we also celebrated a few birthdays. Atasja Woest celebrated her birthday on the 3rd. As head Spa therapist, she is the lady who will take that last bit of tension and stress out of your body, making sure that our African Health Spa is a worthwhile visit when on holiday at Elephant Plains. Richard Davis celebrated his birthday on the 28th. Richard is one of our rangers who will share his love and knowledge of the bush with you during game drives. Franscois Rosslee, one of our junior rangers, turned 21 on the 29th. When he started working here, he was fresh out of EcoTraining. In the two years at the lodge he has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge, watching and learning from the other rangers. In order to be able to legally handle a firearm and get a P.D.P. you have to be aged 21. Through hard work and determination Franscois has now earned the opportunity to be able to guide at Elephant Plains and we believe that his guiding will be a big asset to the lodge. So from now on when you visit the lodge, you might have him as your ranger. We wish him all the best and hope that he has lots of fun guiding in one of the best wildlife areas in the world.
Chocolate is a favourite among most guests from all over the world and therefore Chef Roxanne has decided to share her special Chocolate Tart with us.
300g dark chocolate
315 ml castor sugar
100g cocoa powder
3 pears (¼ pear per person)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 cup smooth cottage cheese
½ cup castor sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
For the crème fresh, mix all the ingredients together.
To serve, put a small amount of crème fresh on a side plate, place the chocolate tart on top of this, put a spoonful of crème fresh on top of the chocolate tart and place the pear on top of that. Garnish with chocolate sauce and a sprig of mint, if desired.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
April was, once again, another very productive month at the lodge. We finished the general maintenance on all the thatch roofs and also made a few changes to our bar and lounge area. We blocked the lodge out for two days and in this time we had to break down the old fireplace in the lounge, build in a new gas fireplace, plaster the wall and repaint the whole lounge. While we were at it, we also repainted the dining room, as well as the wine cellar. Whew! It might sound impossible, but we did it! Of course, we had the help of a very special team of builders, who worked tirelessly to get the job done in the allocated time. Thanks Quartz Construction, you did a great job! I must say that the end result was worth it all. The rooms look brand new and we are happy with how it turned out.
Although we are in the midst of autumn, moving into winter time, the surrounding bush is still lush and green. This is good as it means that there will be enough food to keep the animals through the winter. The dams are still quite full, so the animals won’t have a problem with food or water during the next few months. Because the grass is still too green, we haven’t been able to burn firebreaks around the lodge yet. We will have to wait for it to dry out some more in order to be able to burn sufficient breaks.
Early morning and evening game drives are starting to get a bit chilly, but we have adjusted game drive times accordingly. We also supply guests with blankets on the vehicles and later on in the season we will also start using the hot water bottles to warm the game drives up. During the middle of the day temperatures are wonderfully mild though. Some guests say that it’s so warm that it feels like summertime and a lot of our overseas visitors use the ample amount of sunlight to relax next to the swimming pools.
We have decided to change from Land Rover game viewers to Toyota Landcruiser game viewers. We now have a total of five game viewers in our fleet, with the last one being converted in Nelspruit at the moment.The basic reason for making the change was the fact that the Landcruiser is a bit longer and wider than the Land Rovers, creating more space and comfort for our guests on the vehicles.
We have decided to add a Trapcam photo of the month to our reports. The Trapcam is strategically placed in the bush, or at a waterhole and each month we will see which interesting photo we can share with you! This month we caught a big buffalo bull walking around inside Leeukuil, while drinking water during the middle of the day.
The month of May is synonymous with the Indaba Tourism Show in Durban. This year the show will take place from 12-15 May. We are excited to go down to Durban, meet with all the role players in our industry and to establish some new contacts as well. Like last year, Etienne, Marlet, myself and Tersia will be there. Our stall number is DEC2E04, so if you are at Indaba 2012 and you do not already have an appointment with one of us, please feel free to drop in at any time. To everyone travelling to Indaba, have a safe journey and we are looking forward to seeing you there!
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! At the lodge we also celebrated a few birthdays. Simon celebrated his birthday on the 1st of the month. He is one of the gardeners, who work hard to make the gardens look stunning. Etienne celebrated his big day on the 13th of this month. Etienne is the owner, who loves this lodge more than anything. Janine celebrated her birthday on the 18th. She is the lady who works front of house. She will be the friendly face you first meet when you arrive at Elephant Plains.
We often have guests with special dietary requirements staying at the lodge. But we never let a food allergy stand in the way of a delicious dessert! Chef Roxanne shares a mouth-watering recipe for guests with special gluten free dietary requirements this month.
Gluten Free Biscuit Base
Cream the butter and the sugar together, add the flour and mix together into a dough. Roll in golf ball sized rolls and then press onto a greased baking tray like you would normally do with biscuits. Bake at 180?C for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Mix the above ingredient together and set aside. Crush the biscuits that were baked earlier. Mix together with 50ml melted butter. Press into a standard Cheesecake form, pour in the Cheesecake mixture and place in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours, or until set. Decorate with fresh berries and sugar lace.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
March turned out to be a busy month around the lodge! We had a lot of guests in camp and the game viewing was out of this world. On the maintenance side, we are continuing work on the thatch roofs around camp. With the vast amounts of rain we had this year, some of the roofs got slightly damaged. The idea is to maintain them regularly, rather than to end up having to redo them completely at a later stage. Everything else has been running smooth around camp, to a point where I decided to do some game drives for a few days. Because we have a high occupancy, our rangers spend most of their six weeks work cycle doing two game drives per day. I always think it’s nice to give one of them off for a few days and this also gives me a chance to reconnect with the bush. In their “off” time they then help out with general maintenance, bush clearing etc. It was great to get into the bush and to see the wild dogs, lions and my favourite leopard, Salayexe. She is still as pretty as always and was seen mating yet again with Tingana. He is massive for his age. I would go as far as to say that he might be even bigger than Tyson, but it is really difficult to say when they’re not standing right next to each other. And that we do not want! We have been seeing two packs of wild dogs, one pack of two and one pack of nine. It is crazy to see them running around, hunting anything that crosses their path. The pack of two struggle a bit more and are not as successful as the pack of nine. But we did see them taking down an impala right in front of our vehicle!
Francois was out on the roads for most of the month, sorting out the areas that still needed to be fixed after the heavy rains in January. We also brought a TLB in to help dig up gravel and fix damaged mitre drains. We have started throwing gravel on the surface of our roads. Gravel holds moisture better and does not wash away as easily. At this stage we are trying to resurface our driveway and some of the game drive roads that have a lot of traffic on them. It is a timely process though. First the gravel needs to be dug up, and then it needs to be transported to the various roads. Afterwards, it needs to be flattened and then we need to spray it with water and roll it in order to compact it. But the end result is looking great and you could see the difference when we received a quick 70mm of rain the other night. Once again, regular maintenance is the answer. Never underestimate the power of water, though! It is shocking to see the amount of ground that it can pick up and wash away. In most afternoon showers, tons of soil gets transported from one area to another. Take for example the January floods. The river beds had dropped in depth over the past few years and a lot of them were overgrown. Now, after the floods, the riverbed has risen in some places by as much three meters and most of the overgrown vegetation has also washed away. Driving in riverbeds while off-roading is still a no go at this stage as the sand is too uneven and there are still massive pools of water in various parts of the riverbeds.
We are waiting for the veld to dry our sufficiently in order to be able to burn firebreaks around the lodge. Because of all the rain we received this year, the vegetation and fuel load is extremely high, making veld fires a greater risk. We will be burning an area to the east of lodge and burning a fire break around the camp. Not on the open area, but mostly on the western side. For people that are not too sure how a firebreak works, I will give you a little more detail. The idea is to burn a section or strip of about 60 meters on the perimeter of you property or around your house or lodge. Burning fire breaks should be done early in the dry season as it’s easier to manage and chances of creating a runaway fire is a lot less. Firebreaks form a protection boundary around your property. If there is a runaway fire somewhere in the bush, the chances of it reaching your property is a lot less as this break also helps easing the fire’s strength as well as speed. For this project we have a whole fire fighting kit and as soon as the grass is sufficiently dry, we will have the go-ahead. Another interesting factor is the other things you need to consider while planning for an ideal day to burn firebreaks. Not only do you need enough manpower, but wind, temperature and even sightings in that surrounding area all play a major role.
On behalf of the Elephant Plains team, we would like to wish the following staff members a happy birth day. We hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May there be many more!
Yoldah celebrated her birthday on the 6th of March. She is the cheerful lady who works magic, being responsible for the entire lodge’s laundry.
Clement celebrated his birthday on the 23rd. He is one of our trackers, always a pleasure to be around, with his knowledge and sense of humour.
Etienne junior celebrated his birthday on the 26th. He is the little man that runs around the lodge – acting as if he’s in charge!
Louis celebrated his birthday on the 28th. Louis has come a far way at EP, from carrying bags during check-in and check-out when he started out as a junior ranger, to being one of the favourite rangers on drive. His laughter can be heard everywhere in camp.
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
I now had you over to Chef Roxanne for a delicious dessert recipe.
Dissolve the gelatine in hot water.
Combine the cream, castor sugar and yoghurt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until smooth and warm.
Add the gelatine and stir until mixed. Do not over-heat, or the yoghurt will curdle.
Remove from the heat.
Pour into eight glasses, cover and refrigerate for about 6 hours, until nicely set.
Boil all the ingredients together until a sauce consistency is reached, blend together and leave to cool.
Place the Panna Cotta onto a plate and then garnish with the Berry Coulis. One can also garnish with fresh mint leaves and Chocolate Cigars.
Serve and enjoy!
I truly hope that it is safe to say that everything is back to normal after last month’s floods. There are still some of the roads that have water seeping through the ground, but it is nothing compared to last month, though! For those people who are not too sure how water seepage works, I will explain in a bit of detail. If one looks at the topography of the landscape, you will see that the earth’s surface does not always appear flat. The landscape has high and lower areas. Now underneath all the soil you find bedrock. So when you get close to 600 millimetres in two days, like we did in January, the water quickly seeps through the sandy, aerated soil, hitting the bedrock and then seeping downhill towards the lower areas where the soil is not so aerated. So what happens when the clay-based, non-aerated soil receives too much water? The water starts pushing up until it reaches the surface, leaving certain areas so wet that one can barely walk there. The seepage in our area has now been going on for more than a month, so that means there is still a huge amount of groundwater underneath our feet.
Last month we still had to fetch our guests at the Gowrie Gate, because only 4X4 vehicles could handle the crossing. Since then it has dried out sufficiently so that we could place sand bags in the crossing. This stabilized the ground so that our guests could get their own vehicles through. Our supply trucks are still not allowed to enter as they are too heavy to get through the crossing. So at this stage we still have to collect our supplies on the fence line. It has been a tiring start to the year, but by the grace of God, we have been able to handle every single problem that has come our way. As I am writing this report, Cyclone Irena is on its way to Mozambique. We will have to wait and see if we get affected and to which extend. But boy, oh boy, I can tell you one thing: cyclone season is not for the faint hearted!
I am glad to report that our Africam web cam is up and running again. For the first few weeks after the flood we could not get onto the open area. When the box was at last accessible, most of the equipment was found to be damaged. This meant that all the software had to be taken out, moved to Nelspruit, be tested and replaced. But with a lot of hard work from John and Ryan the web cam is up and running once again!
During the past month I had the privilege of working with the Sabi Sand in darting a young female elephant. She was seen during game drive, with a piece of wire around her foot. We are not sure as to where she might have picked this up as breeding herds travel far and wide, from Kruger National Park to Mozambique to the Manyeleti Game Reserve and then back to us. Luckily we managed to tranquilize the female while she was on our airstrip. It all sounds easy, but believe me, it’s not. We had to get a helicopter so the vet could fly over the herd and dart the elephant from the air. Veterinarian, dr. Pieter Rodgers, removed the wire from her front left leg. Luckily the wire had not cut too deeply into her flesh, making it a quick and easy process to remove. The vet just sprayed some disinfectant on the leg and injected her for the pain and swelling, as well as possible infection. Once all was done he asked us to move a bit back, and injected her in the ear to wake her up. Within seconds she was up and started moving south. Later that same day she joined up with her herd. A job well done. Thanks guys!
I would like to congratulate all our members of staff who celebrated their birthdays this month. Morné (head ranger) celebrated his birthday on the 1st. Connie (tracker) and Jeanette (waiter) celebrated theirs on the 11th and 12th respectively. We hope you all had a great day. May you have many more happy birthdays here at Elephant Plains! A special happy birthday goes out to Marlet Swart, who celebrated her birthday on the 24th. We all hope you had a fantastic day. Thanks for being so good to all of us at the lodge.
I now hand you over to Chef Roxanne who shares a special Roast Tomato, Eggplant and Chevin Salad
4 Eggplants, Sliced Into 2cm Slices
Salt to salt the slices of eggplant
Salt And Pepper
10 Tomatoes, quartered
Salt And Pepper
3 sprigs Rosemary
3 sprigs Thyme
2 Rolls of Chevin Cheese
50ml freshly chopped Basil
30ml Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sprinkle the salt over the sliced eggplant and then leave for 15 minutes.
Rinse the eggplant very carefully and then place it on a roasting tray with the oil, salt and pepper.
Roast until golden and cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Place the tomatoes and other ingredients on a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Toss the tomatoes and eggplant together in a bowl and place on a serving platter/ salad bowl.
Crumble over the Chevin cheese.
Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and pour over the salad.
Serve and enjoy with a crisp glass of Chardonnay during a hot summer’s afternoon!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
As most of you would be aware by now, the Limpopo and Mpumalanga regions in South Africa were flooded during January. There was extensive damage in most parts of the Kruger National Park and alas, we at Elephant Plains could not avoid the water masses! Most of the region was declared a disaster area. I am glad to report though, that in comparison with some of our neighbours and friends, we were lucky and came away from this drama rather lightly affected. None of our guests were ever in any danger and thanks to all the staff working together (as the amazing team that we are known for) the crisis was quickly averted! I dedicate my report this month to the 2012 floods.
Here are a collection of images from the Flood. Please note that some photos were taken with a mobile phone.
There’s a saying that goes: “Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true!” Well, that’s exactly what happened during January. We were hoping for a lot of rain and boy oh boy, did we receive just that! On Tuesday, the 17th of January at two ‘o clock the afternoon, we got our first taste of cyclone Dando, which hit Mozambique earlier. At first we thought it was the rain we were hoping for so badly. But we were wrong. This was more than just your average rainstorm. The skies had opened up! It rained nonstop for the next forty-eight hours. During this time we received an excess of 520 millimetres. As the rain gage at the lodge (which can hold 100 millimetres at a time) kept overflowing, we are unsure exactly how much rain we had. To put it in perspective: the average yearly rainfall for the area is estimated at roughly 650 millimetres. Instead of receiving 650mm over a period of 365 days, we received a little less than that in just two days!
At two o’clock the Wednesday morning I got cold shivers whilst standing on our African Health Spa deck. What was happening in front of my eyes was out of this world. During my seven years at Elephant Plains I have seen the dry Manyeleti riverbed flow with water a few times. But nothing could prepare me for this. I had never seen so much water in my entire life! What was supposed to be our open area was now a dam of water as far as the eye could see. Our waterhole with the Africam was invisible, engulfed by a raging mass of water. Everything was under water and here and there you could see some tree tops. The water levels kept rising by the minute and at three ‘o clock when the water was a mere two meters under the Spa deck, I made the call that we should go and open the bar/lounge area and start making coffee for the guests that we were going to evacuate out of the luxury suites. On my way to go and wake the first guests, I gave the water level one more glance and saw that it had stopped rising. We decided to hold off the evacuation and started a night watch for the remainder of the evening. The staff took turns monitoring the water levels to make sure that it didn’t start rising again. At first light we did damage control in and around the camp. It was a nightmare. There was so much water all around us. The roads around the camp were completely flooded and the dry Manyeleti riverbed that you cross on the fence line was a raging river of about 400 metres wide. The first thing we needed to do was to organise evacuation from the lodge for our guests who needed to catch international flights later that day. Luckily we found a lone ranger of the sky. His name is Phillip and he came to our rescue as he agreed to evacuate our guests with his helicopter. They were taken to Hazyview and as far as we know everyone reached their destinations safely from there. I would like to thank him for his time and efforts; you will go down as a hero in the Elephant Plains book of history! Once these guests were out, we went to the river crossings to try and fix them, but there was no chance. The water was still too high to attempt anything and the last thing I wanted was to risk one of our staff members being washed away by the raging water. At four ‘o clock the afternoon, we had our second attempt at getting to work on the river crossings, but we just ended up getting stuck the whole time. We just managed to get the last vehicle out of the mud when the next lot of rain started pouring down. In no time at all, due to the fact that the ground was already so saturated, the water levels started rising again!
It no time the rivers were back to their monstrous levels and my stomach was tied in a knot. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but tree tops and water. By the next morning the rain had stopped. We were now able to really assess the damage. One of our rondavels got flooded by the huge amounts of water streaming from the car park. But the staff quickly jumped in, the furniture was pulled out and we began the clean-up. We were able to save the furniture and the room looks as good as new today. Luckily none of the furniture was permanently damaged. With one disaster sorted out, we went to the fence line crossing, only to see that half of the road was completely washed away. We tried to use a TLB to fix it, but it just kept getting stuck. Whist having no joy over here, I received bad news from lodge. Our wine cellar was filling up with water! Can you imagine that? The seepage through the ground was so great that it was flowing under the bar area, pushing the water up through the wall sockets, as well as a crack that had formed in the floor. The water just kept on pushing up, filling the cellar ankle deep. As an end result we had to knock a hole in the wall to let the water drain out… By Thursday we had managed to get the fence line crossing “crossable” for four wheel drive vehicles. The crossing has not stopped our guests from getting to the lodge, though. They now need to park their cars at the Gowrie Gate and are fetched from there with a game drive vehicle.
On a positive note the flooding showed us that our roads were luckily up to standard. During the first two days, when everything was flooded we obviously could not do any game drives, but as soon as the water levels went down sufficiently we could drive on the roads again. We needed to fix a few mitre drains that was washed away, but all in all our roads were not damaged badly. This just goes to show how important regular maintenance is. The bush is still too wet to attempt off-roading, but our sightings have been good and therefore we do not need to risk getting stuck in order to see the animals. Our dams also held up amazingly well and although one or two walls were slightly damaged, none of them broke.
The other positive factor is how absolutely stunning the bush is looking at the moment. We are surrounded by a wall of greenery. The grass is so tall that the lodge is almost invisible from the outside. The animals are all in a great condition because of the abundance of food and water.
You would have noticed that the Africam is currently down. All the equipment was flooded and John is coming through to the lodge to install new technology in the next week or two.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful staff members for all their hard work during the floods. Everyone jumped in and helped where they could. It is good to know you’ve got so many loyal staff that has each other’s backs and we emerged out of this crisis with a feeling of camaraderie. Thanks guys, this is the stuff the Elephant Plains team is made of!
On a more delicious note, Chef Linda shares another mouth-watering recipe with you this month. These Lamb Pies are to die for and a definite favourite of mine. It went down well during the cold, rainy weather.
Fry off the onions with the spices until translucent, then add the lamb cubes and brown. Add the sauces and simmer until cooked, season to taste.
Cut rounds out of the puff pastry and place into a greased muffin pan. Add the lamb mixture and bake until the pastry is a golden colour. Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!