Happy New Year to all! I know I already whished our readers a joyous 2013, but it sounds so good, I will say it again. Hope that everyone’s year will be a very prosperous one, filled with good fortune, happiness and excellent health. The year started off on a very hot note. We had temperatures ranging from 52 °C in the sun, to 45 °C in the shade. Because it was so hot and there were no clouds around whatsoever, we knew that we were in desperate need of some rain. We all heard that we were going to have a massive drought this year as we had been receiving very good rains for the past five years. Then on the morning of the 19th it started raining and it did not stop until the morning of the 21st! We had a re-enactment of last year all over again, but this time, it was not as bad. Last year a cyclone caused the vast amounts of rain, but this year it was only a low pressure system that moved down from the north. With the water table still high from last year, the seepage started quick and we are still seeing water flowing from the ground. The rivers came down with a speed. Normally after a few hours their levels drops quickly, but not this time. The level of the river continued to rise higher and higher and at six o’clock on the first afternoon the dry Manyeleti riverbed was a raging monster, flowing around seventy meters wide and in some places four to five meters deep.
With the water rising by the minute, we had to get four of our guests out. The water was too high for a normal vehicle to cross, so we had to make a plan. We sent our tractor with a trailer, driven by Braam and accompanied by Willie, through the crossing. All the guests sat on the trailer as if they were riding a horse into battle. With the massive weight of the tractor the current did not move it even an inch. Thankfully friends from Simbambili lodge were waiting on the other side to get our guests to the gate where a transfer was waiting for them. In the end, it all worked out. Our guests got to the airport in time to catch their flights back home and I am sure that they had quite a few exciting stories to share back home.
After a sigh of relief for getting the guests through the river safely, we thought everything would go smooth for the rest of the day. Before the guests went over in the tractor, I had sent Dawie and Richard to the Gowrie Gate to fetch the week’s deliveries as no trucks were allowed into the reserve with the roads already in a sensitive state. Going to the gate, the water was not high at all. But on their way back, the water was too high to cross back to EP. We sent them to leave the Land Cruiser they were driving at Simbambili lodge and get on the tractor to come back across as we had just used it to get the guests across. By the time all had been sorted it was too late – nothing was going to now get through the raging waters. Staring at one another on either side of the river, I felt quite helpless, now being 4 staff members short. I wanted to cry big old crocodile tears, but refused to add to the water level of the river. We had no choice but to send them to go wait it out at Simbambili lodge for a few hours till the river dropped. Well, it didn’t. The river was so big that we only managed to get the guys back to lodge the following afternoon and they had to spend the night at Simbambili lodge. I would like to thank Simbambili for their hospitality and looking after our guys. That’s what good neighbours are there for.
We were fortunate not to have any guests checking in or out on the Sunday. So we sat it out, hoping for the rain to stop and eventually it did. It always does. The river started to drop and things were looking good to get the next day’s guests out. But by late the afternoon it started to rain again and not long after this the river was back to its old self. The rain continued through the night. Monday morning our open area looked like a lake, with water everywhere. Luckily all our guests were fantastic, which made decisions very easy. In one hour they all agreed to fly out by helicopter and two hours later all seven guests were at their destinations. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank you all for being so great and understanding.
Besides the few days of drama with the rain, the month was very a good one. We’ve been busy, which is always good as it keeps us all out of trouble. A bit of sad news is that Willie and Atasja Woest will be working their final month with us. We wish them all the best with their future. As they are planning to start a family in the near future, they have opted to move to a lodge that is situated closer to town and school. Good luck guys!
We have decided to change our entrance gate to the lodge. Because the area handles a lot of traffic, especially during check-out and check-ins, we have decided to add another gate and therefore have an entrance and exit area from the main lodge. I believe that this would relieve the congestion of vehicles on busy days. It will also add a new, fresh look to the reception area, which of course, is the first impression of Elephant Plains!
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! This month we only had one staff member celebrating his birthday. Hemet celebrated his birthday on the 1st of January .He is our fill in guy, being a qualified tracker as well as a grounds man. If one of our trackers are sick or on extended leave, he joins the rangers on game drives. But most of the time you will find him creating artistic designs in the gardens around lodge.
I now hand you over to our head chef, Linda Van Heerden, for her mouth-watering Stuffed Trout recipe. This dish is served as a plated option at the lodge and is a definite must if you are given the option whist staying with us.
Cut the head, tail and fins off the trout so that you are left with the two fillets still joined. Set aside. Heat the butter in a pan, fry off the garlic and thyme. Add the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Fill the cavity of the fish with the bread mixture and bake for +- 15 mins in an oven preheated to 180°C.
For the sauce:
Mix all the ingredients together.
Add a lemon wedge, some Tartar Sauce.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that is all from my side this month. Have a good one!
The year 2012 has come and gone, almost like a ghost in the night. Overall, I must say that it turned out to be another great year at Elephant Plains! The first month started a bit hectic due to the floods we had, but from February onwards it was full steam ahead. The end of the year is a time of mixed emotions – out with the old and in with the new. Every year Elephant Plains gets new ideas and views on how to better the lodge and services we offer. So I am looking forward to seeing what new endeavours the year 2013 has in store for us.
This year we had Janine set up the dining room for the main Christmas dinner and the place was decorated in a lovely white and gold theme. For those readers in the northern hemisphere who traditionally enjoy a white Christmas, I hope you had a nice, cold day that included some snow. As for us out here in the bush…Well, what can I say? Our temperatures soared to around 40°C, with a very high humidity. Steaming, to say the least! Janine mixed some lovely cocktails for the guests and they enjoyed the refreshing, ice cold drinks to end off the warm day. Linda’s menu was delicious and included duck, gammon and lamb. Everyone was talking, laughing, and enjoying this merry Christmas dinner. For our New Year’s celebrations, Atasja was responsible for the decorations. It was a joyous theme with a lovely barbeque and our guests celebrated well past midnight! Thanks to everyone who made sure that these two special occasions were indeed memorable to all our guests.
Last month, I mentioned how great it is to stand in an open area and be amazed at the show that a lightning storm can provide. Well, this month started off with a literal bang and when I say bang, I mean a very big bang! We had a lighting strike and after a few minutes we started to smell smoke. Seconds later smoke was visible around the lodge and my heart relocated itself from my chest into my left foot. The closer I got to one of our luxury rooms, the more the smoke seemed to thicken. After doing a thorough check around camp, we came to the conclusion that the fire was thankfully not in camp. We then started seeing flames on the open area. The lightning had struck a Leadwood tree. Strangest of all was that it wasn’t even the tallest tree in the area. The lightning ran down the side of the tree, igniting the surrounding grass. With the grass being very moist, it made a lot of smoke whilst burning. This made the fire appear worse than what it actually was. In no time we were in fire fighting mode. Deploying staff close to the fire and starting to spray water, we were fighting fire in the middle of summer – something I thought would never happen. After a whole twenty minutes, we had extinguished the fire. We all looked at one another and started laughing as this was totally bizarre. The area that got burned was about 20 square meters. It was interesting to see how the tree got struck and how the lightning had exploded the bark off in a perfect line. We returned to camp with a newfound knowledge that apparently lightning does not always strike the highest point…
We would like to congratulate Etienne and Marlet Swart with the birth of their second son, Martin. He was born on the 11th of December at 09h25. He weighed 3.77 kg and was 56cm tall. He is a strong and healthy little man. I must say, his brother is very excited about this new arrival. Little Martin will have to grow up very fast – learning how to kick a ball, or go into a serious battle with a plastic sword, in order to keep up with his older brother.
We welcomed our new Maintenance Manager, Braam Byleveld, who joined the Elephant Plains team on the 17th. We hope that he will enjoy working here. So for those of you that will be staying with us in the near future, if you see a very muscular young gentleman walking around camp, carrying some tools, it will be Braam on his way to sort out any maintenance that might have come about.
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, joyful days! At lodge there was only the one birthday this month. Linah celebrated her special day on the 24th. She is a very down-to-earth lady who takes her work as cleaner very seriously. I must say, what a day to have your birthday – one day before Christmas. This means two consecutive days of receiving presents. I am sure if feels like a double Christmas, or Birthday!
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda Van Heerden, with her mouth-watering chicken Mirabelle recipe. This chicken recipe will make you very popular among friends and family. And this is what the festive season is all about, friends and family showing their love for one another.
6 Chicken Breasts
1 ½ tsp. Garlic
2 tbsp. Dried Oregano
¼ cup Vinegar
¼ cup Olive Oil
½ cup Prunes, pitted
8 large Olives, stoned and cut in half
¼ cup Capers, with some of the preserved juice
3 Bay Leaves
¼ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup White Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the Garlic, Oregano, Vinegar, Olive Oil, Prunes, Olives, Capers, Bay Leaves, Salt and Pepper.
Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade. Cover and let it marinade for several hours, or overnight in a refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer and spoon the marinade over evenly. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken and pour the white wine into the dish. Bake until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
What a month we had! The game viewing was once again brilliant with wild dogs fighting hyenas and leopards, as well as wild dogs killing three juvenile impala in one sighting. As mentioned last month, the juvenile impalas were on their way with the female impalas walking around with huge tummies. Well, they have finally arrived and the predators are not missing out on the opportunity to grab an easy meal! It is sad to see a youngster get caught, but that is the way it goes in the African bush. Guests have been returning from their game drives all exited, with every drive revealing something new and exhilarating. As I always say, even though it is an early start in the mornings, one should never miss a game drive while here! It is an almost certain guarantee that you would regret having stayed behind to sleep in, once the vehicles return and guests start sharing their stories. The beauty of being in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin is that we are open to the Kruger National Park. This gives the animals free roaming between Kruger and us, giving us the opportunity to view a greater variety of animals on a daily basis.
We had a huge storm the one day. It was one of those storms that took about three days to build up. The humidity was extremely high and the atmospheric pressure felt as if it could push you into the ground. With these storms comes lightning. And when I say lightning, I mean the kind of lightning where the skies light up every few seconds, with lightning bolts splitting into various different sections. Even once it started raining I found myself wet to the bone and staring at the sky, yet still enjoying the lightning show from the heavens. When one looks at the sort of power behind a lightning storm, it raises the hair on your arms. And only then do you realize how small you are in this world. Scientists say that one bolt of lightning can provide the whole of Johannesburg with enough electricity to last a year. They have tried on numerous occasions to capture this power from above. Unfortunately on all attempts the power is so great that it explodes any device that is man-made in an attempt to harness the electrical bolt. Maybe one day we will succeed in capturing and utilizing it. Otherwise it might just be one of nature’s powers that should not be tampered with.
This time every year, the lodge gets graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa in order to renew our membership with this prestigious grading body. They were once again very happy with our product and renewed our Four Star status for another year. They mentioned that we are a very high standard Four Star and that the whole lodge and facilities are really well maintained. Seeing that our aim is to be the best possible Four Star lodge, while still being affordable and not lose our laid back family feel, we are delighted with the feedback we received.
As time moves on, so do some people. We said goodbye to Franscois Rosslee this month. If you have been to the lodge in the last couple of weeks you might have had the opportunity to go on game drive with him. Franscois was one of our junior rangers. These guys have already finished their basic ranger qualifications, but still need to log hours for bushwalks and they also need to be 21 in order to get their PDP’s. While working at the lodge they gain experience on the day to day running of the lodge and also have the opportunity to join our qualified rangers on drives and bushwalks in order to gain more knowledge and expertise. Once qualified, they can either choose to stay on at the lodge and if a ranger’s position opens up they will be considered. They could also apply for a permanent position with another lodge. Franscois decided to do some more courses with a reputable safari company and then to work for them for two years. We wish him all the best with his future as we are sure that he would make a great ranger! Moving up in the ranks at EP is another Junior Ranger, Dawie Jacobs. Since middle November Dawie had the chance to also start driving guests and he grabbed the opportunity firmly with both hands, not only impressing guests with his knowledge and skill, but also making a good impression on us. May he enjoy many more game drives as a guide at EP!
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 two staff members who celebrated their birthdays this month. On the 15th Alfred celebrated his birthday. He is one of our cooks in the kitchen. He is a kind old soul that always has a friendly word. No matter what you ask him, he will do the task with a big smile on his face. Feitah celebrated her birthday on the 23rd of the month. She is the lady who looks after little Etienne. She is a very hard worker who has her hands full with the very energetic man she is looking after. It’s always a laugh when you see the little man running around, with Feitah hot on his heels.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef Linda Van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month. This dish is for anyone who loves fish. It’s an Alfresco Line Fish (King Clip). I’m not a big fish eater myself and still, I love this dish every time I have it.
Four portions Line Fish of your choice
Whisk melted butter and flour together, on medium heat.
Add milk and tomato soup powder.
Cook until flour taste is no longer present.
Add Parsley and seasoning to sauce.
Place fish in an oven dish and cover with sauce.
Sprinkle spring onion and bread on top.
Bake in the oven at 180°C for 30 min.
Serve and enjoy!
Our December report will only be sent out in January. Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May you have a joyful festive season!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
Welcome to the land of the green! Photosynthesis and precipitation are wonderful combinations that cause the vegetation to transform from brown to green. The Sabi Sand Wildtuin currently looks like something you read about in fantasy books. The impala females are bursting at the seams. They are due to give birth any day now. During this time of the year they are very weary, with a few extra kilograms added to their slender bodies which tend to slow them down a bit. I love impalas, but unfortunately, because of their abundance in the bush, they quickly get swept under the rug when there are larger, more well-known animals around to view. Entering this time of the year, they do get far more attention, especially the moment their lambs start arriving. They are the sweetest things under the African sun. As they are all being born around the same time, they grow up being the same age and size. Playful is not even the right word to describe these youngsters when they start running around and playing with one another. I can sit and watch them for hours, whilst they bounce and jump around with the odd collision as they run into each other. It’s very entertaining!
As the days march on towards the end of the year, they are gradually warming up. Some days have been nearing 40 °C. For the people in the northern hemisphere, the heat is currently averaging around 104 ° Fahrenheit. So if you need to work on your tan, then Elephant Plains might just be the ideal place to do that. Whether you choose to bask in the African sun in the privacy of your luxury suite sun deck, or to share the rays with fellow guests around the main swimming pools, the choice is yours! Add to that some animals coming to the waterhole to quench their thirst, while you are lying next to the pool, watching them. What about Walter, our barman, taking your drinks order at the same time? It doesn’t get any better than this… Just remember the sunscreen!
We called in the Back Actor to help us out with a bit of work that needed to be done on the property. The pan west of the airstrip had filled up with mud over the past seven years, mainly caused by sheet wash erosion. The pan was not holding much water, leaving it empty early into the dry season. So we removed the excess mud that had washed in. This mud that was removed from the pan was placed on the existing wall, to reinforce it. Kraaines is now looking great and brand new, waiting to be filled to the brim with some hard summer rains.
On the funny side of things, we had some of our ranger’s do a bit of catfish wrestling this month. In front of our African Health Spa, there has been a massive pool of water since the floods at the beginning of the year. But with the summer heat this pool started to rapidly dry up. Inside the pool was some massive catfish that got trapped there when the water subsided after the floods. So before all the water dried up, the guys started operation “save the catfish”. Picture this: a bunch of guys splashing around in a very muddy pool, trying to feel for slimy catfish bodies. The thought process was that they were not that big and would therefore be easy to catch, but to our surprise, most of them were four feet in length. We would obviously like to think of ourselves as rugged rangers. Well, not whilst wading around in muddy water, having slimy fish brush up against us! I must say that there were some very high pitched sounds coming from the guys. It’s the funniest thing under the sun seeing our rugged rangers covered with mud and slime from head to toe, splashing around like youngsters at a foam party, whilst trying to save and relocate these odd looking fish. With a happy ending I am glad to report that we managed to relocate 16 catfish from this pool. Because Kraaines, just west of the airstrip, has been fixed, we could not think of a better place to relocate the catfish to and they seem very happy with this arrangement.
As mentioned in last month’s report, our head chef Roxanne decided to move on and purchased a coffee shop in Dullstroom. Linda has now taken over the role as head chef. After a lot of interviews with some very promising candidates, we managed to pull a gem from the big rock we were chipping at. Our new chef is called Annika Fourie. She is 22 years old and originates from an area not too far from here, called Burgersfort. We are looking forward to welcoming Annike to the Elephant Plains family and we hope that she would have a long and successful career with us!
I was back in the saddle doing game drives for a few days this month. All I can say is that it rocked! On the morning of the 25th, Connie and I found Salayexe sleeping in a small tree overhanging the eastern bank of the dry Manyeleti riverbed. And guess what was lying behind her? Oh yes, it was her cub! As we stopped to watch them, the cub jumped up and started to play around. After a while Salayexe joined in with the playful game of running up and down trees, sometimes even falling out of a tree. Oh my word, the sighting was out of this world. And the best part was that there was not one vehicle close by, which meant that I had the whole sighting to myself. In the fourteen years that I’ve been guiding in the bush, I can truly say that this was one of the five best sightings I’ve ever had. Salayexe and her cub once again reminded me why I love the African bush and being here in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin so much. She made my morning, she made my week, heck she even made my year! She will always remain my favourite leopard. I truly do hope that the cub will reach adulthood. Just seeing how aware it’s of their surroundings, makes me sure that it would.
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! At the lodge itself, we surprisingly didn’t have any birthdays. There is, however, a very special lady whose birthday was celebrated on the 6th. Margie Swart, one of the owners, celebrated her birthday this month. We don’t get to see her very often as she lives in the Free State area, only making the journey to the lodge about once or twice a year. We hope that her day was an unforgettable one and that she will be fortunate enough to see many more years filled with love and laughter!
I now hand you over to our new Head Chef, Linda Van Heerden, for the delicious recipe of the month. If I read through this recipe I see it as an ideal salad to be served next to your swimming pool on a hot summer’s day!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
Just when we thought that winter was over, we got hit by a last cold front. Why we always choose to ignore the weather man, I do not know… He did warn us not to pack away all our warm winter’s clothes, but like every other year we ignored his warnings and had to unpack again! After the cold front we had three days of intense heat, followed by four days of very early rains. We don’t normally have such early rains, but we are not complaining at all as now all the dust have been washed away and the vegetation has received a kick-start into summer. The last time we had such early rains during the month of September was in 2007. This first rain snuck in like a ghost in the darkness. Normally these first storms are violent, with strong winds and the most amazing electrical thunderstorms. But not this year. The first of this rainy season’s 45 millimetres fell in a soft, noiseless drizzle.
We decided to do a bit of maintenance burning this month. The Wetpatch section just east of the lodge had not been burnt for many years. The amount of fuel load that was lying around started to become a bit of a concern, because a runaway fire on a windy day could pose a threat to the entire lodge. So on the 12th of September we burned an area of just under 200 hectares. The old plant matter burned very well. Two days after the burn the heavens opened, injecting fresh water into the charred earth. Four days after the rains the entire eastern section was transformed into a brilliant green mass as new shoots started growing out of the black earth. Because it was such a successful burn, the entire area can now go for a number of years before it is burned again. Thank you to everyone that helped us with this project.
The new summer menus are up and running. I must say that we’ve had wonderful feedback so far. Not only do the new menus look good, they also taste delicious! Because we have changed the menus entirely, I felt the need to taste every single item on the menu – leaving me with no choice but to adjust a notch or two on my belt after the first two weeks.
This month we say good bye to Chef Roxanne, who will be moving to Dullstroom to open a coffee shop. We wish her all the best with this new endeavour! We are looking forward to seeing Chef Linda develop and grow even further with these added responsibilities. I know that she will do great and I am looking forward to working side by side with her.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays during this lovely month of spring, we hope that you had a fantastic day filled with love, happiness and laughter. May your future hold many more! At the lodge we also celebrated a few birthdays. Linky, who works in the Rondavels, celebrated her birthday on the 5th. Meriam, who works in the Luxury section, celebrated her birthday on the 11th. Saphia, one of the cooks, celebrated her birthday on the 11th. Last but not least, Onnie, one of our waiting staff, celebrated the day of her birth on the 16th of September.
For the recipe of the month, we chose some delicious Deconstructed Lemon Tarts. This is an all time favourite with a modern twist. The recipe makes 24 individual servings, or one big tart.
250ml lemon juice
200 g sugar
224 g soft butter
250 g white chocolate
320 g whole eggs
240 g egg white
480 g white sugar
100 g of cold butter
100 g of white sugar
200 g of white flour
To make the lemon cream
To make the crumble
To make the Italian Meringue
To assemble, place a small amount of lemon cream on the bottom of the serving dish of your choice, sprinkle on the crumble, then pipe on some of the meringue. Serve chilled and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!