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!
You can smell it: Spring is in the air! During the early mornings, the air that you breathe has a fresh, moist feel to it. The light is turning a softer shade and the bird songs one can hear in the mornings are becoming more and more frequent as the build-up to Spring starts in earnest. The calls of the Greater Honeyguide, a sure sign of the changing of the seasons, are heard on a daily basis now. Some people know it as the bird that calls Victor. The Greater Honeyguide sits in the canopies of trees, continuously calling “Victoooor…Victoooor”. Other calls that can be heard now are the calls of the Chin-Spot Batis. These birds sound as if they are saying: “…three blind mice”. So we are entertained by all these magnificent bird calls from the trees surrounding the lodge. The trees are now also shaking off their last brown leaves, making space for the new, brightly green ones. Yes, Spring is in the air!
During August I was back in the saddle doing game drives for about two weeks. Being out in the bush this time of the year is great, as you can really experience nature at its best. We had huge amounts of elephants surrounding the lodge, and more than one day during which the total individuals in the different breeding herds that crossed the open area in front of the lodge, amounted to over 150 elephants! Guests can enjoy these sightings from the comfort of their Luxury Suite viewing decks, or one of the swimming pool decks –just another way to experience Africa! We got to see some more of Salayexe’s cubs this month. These furry bundles are about 8 weeks old now, have deep blue eyes and are mom’s pride and joy. This morning she even paraded them in front of our open area, to the delight of many a guest! As soon as they are a bit older, we will start habituating them to the vehicles, but at this stage, with the sightings being a one vehicle log, they are happy and do not seem bothered by our presence at all.
As mentioned a few months ago, we have been placing a trap cam around waterholes and some game paths. We have always sat down and tried to predict where we would get the best pictures, or where we might try and catch one of the cats in action. We did not come right for the first few months. We got pictures of everything else, but never a cat. Well I am glad to say that we managed to nail it this month! There is a marsh area just north of camp that has a lot of action in and around it. We call it Bushcamp open area. We were hoping to get some great pictures of the two Saddle Billed Storks that nest there. We never got any decent photos of the storks, but at last we got some photos of Salayexe, going about her routine. This area is not far away from her current den site and she passes through often. She did not go right up to the water’s edge to drink, but came close enough to be photographed. For next month we’ll try to get a lion. The Tsalalas did pass through this same area during the month, but unfortunately on the edge, too far from where the camera was situated. It might not be this month or next month, but be assured that we will get you that picture!
We’ve received a few requests by our readers and Facebook fans to supply an electronic map, with which they would be better able to see the area we traverse, as well as the movement of the animals. For this reason we will add one of our electronic maps to our website during the next month. This map, however, only includes EP, Simbambili, Arathusa Private as well as Arathusa Safari Lodge (these four farms are collectively known as the Arathusa Block). On the map you will be able to see Simbambili at the top, EP on the left, Arathusa Safari lodge on the right and Arathusa Private at the bottom. This is not an all-inclusive map of all the properties we traverse, but only of our own farm as well as our direct neighbours. What should be interesting is that most roads, areas and waterholes are named, so you would have a very good idea of the movements of animals, as well as the areas we normally view them. As soon as the map has been loaded unto our website, I would let you know.
We have also decided to add functionality to the Big 5 Blog by adding this weekly sightings update blog to this existing newsletter mailing list. Therefore you will get an alert as soon as we’ve posted the blog on Mondays.
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. Hildah celebrated her birthday on the 8th of the month. She has been cleaning rooms at the lodge for the past 11 years, always with a smile on her face. On the 9th Dorris celebrated her birthday. She is one of the ladies that work in scullery, as well as main lodge. With a big responsibility, she always does a great job. On the 12th Jeaneth celebrated her birthday. If you’ve ever been to EP, you will know Jeaneth, as she is one of our friendly waiting staff. On the 14th Precious celebrated her birthday. She has also been with us for a number of years, mainly looking after the Rondavels. Pieter celebrated his 20th birthday on the 18th of August. He is one of the junior rangers who are helping out around the lodge. And last but not least, Marlé, our newest member of staff. She celebrated her birthday on the 28th. I believe that by now she has settled in nicely and I think she will spend many more birthdays with us here in the bush.
A big congratulations also goes out to Etienne and Marlet. It is confirmed that the newest arrival to the Elephant Plains family will be another boy. His name will be Martin Swart, named after Marlet’s dad. Everyone at the lodge is very excited and we are eager to meet him when he arrives in December.
I now hand you over to Chef Roxanne, for another mouth-watering, sweet-tooth recipe of the month.
100 g white sugar
75 ml water
625 ml cream
50 ml white sugar
10 ml vanilla essence
3 egg yolks
Garnish with a fresh strawberry and some mint sprigs. Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!
During the month of July we experienced a few cold days, but nothing compared to the rest of South Africa, where snow fell in quite a few areas across the country. Despite the cold weather, we still had amazing sightings to share with our guests. It wasn’t only the big and hairy animals that provided excellent sightings, though! We had more than one amazing sighting that involved our feathered friends this month… The first one was a Dark Chanting Goshawk that swooped down and caught a Grey Lourie, whilst in flight. Watching the speed and agility with which the Goshawk hit the Lourie out of the air was one for the record books. This was indeed a rare sighting and one that would be remembered for many years to come. The other really interesting sighting was of a Slender Mongoose, running around the airstrip looking for something in particular to feed on. At last it found its victim – a Crowned Lapwing chick that the mongoose quickly popped into its mouth. After a few seconds the chick’s mother flew down and crashed so hard into the mongoose that he dropped the chick and hurried away into the bush. There’s an important lesson to learn here: never mess with a mother and her baby, no matter what the species might be!
As mentioned last month, Salayexe gave birth underneath a deck at one of the neighbouring lodges. But after a few days we saw her walking over our open area, with what at first appeared to be a mongoose in her mouth. At a stage she carefully placed the object on the ground to catch her breath. What was thought to be a dead mongoose started moving and we realised that she was actually carrying one of her cubs! She carefully picked the cub up again and moved through the riverbed. To our amazement, she chose yet another deck to shelter the cubs – this time the viewing deck of the camp situated right next to our swimming pool, close to the Rondavels. Because this privately owned camp doesn’t always have guests, it is an ideal, quiet place where no predator will hassle neither her, nor the cubs. Predators move their cubs around a few times during the first few months. This is to prevent other predators from finding the cubs and killing them to minimize future competition. What made her situation worse was that the father of the cubs, Tingana, was hanging around in the area, mating with every possible female in the north. This has drawn the females closer to Salayexe, creating a lot of stress for her. If these females were to find the cubs, they would quickly kill them. On the 23rd of July our guides saw Salayexe and two cubs close to Kudu Drift. This new den site was closed and we will give the cubs some time to grow stronger before we will begin viewing them again.
Maintenance around the lodge and surrounding bush is an on-going project and we have started to clear some overhanging branches on our traversing roads. It is a hard job that takes a lot of pounding on your wrists and arms. But needless to say, it’s great to get out and spend the day in the bush, getting a great workout whilst enjoying the surrounding nature. We are trimming the overhanging branches now, because the moment that the first rains start, branches will shoot out in every direction. So keeping them in check now is better than waiting for them to grow even more during summer.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays during the month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love, happiness and laughter. May your future hold many more! This month we had a lot of birthdays at the lodge. Phissy celebrated her birthday on the 22nd. She is one of the cleaning ladies, working hard in the luxury suite section in order to make sure that your room is always spotless and fresh. Chef Linda celebrated her birthday on the 24th. From our recipe of the month, you will see that she can cook up quite a storm! Dawie also celebrated his birthday on the 24th. He is one of our junior rangers, who will be able to start guiding one of these days as he has just turned 21. Willie celebrated his birthday on the 25th. Willie is an amazing guide. I am sure that any guests, who’ve had the opportunity to go on game drive with him, would agree. Last but not least, I celebrated my birthday on the 29th.
I now hand you over to Chef Linda, who shares a special bread recipe with us.
Caramelized Onion & Pesto Bread
2 caramelized onions
Place all the ingredients into a sauce pan and sweat until translucent.
Mix all the dry ingredients together, pour in the wet ingredients, mix to form bread dough and leave to raise. Roll out the bread dough, spread the pesto and sprinkle over the caramelized onions. Roll up, place the dough into a well-greased loaf tin and leave to rise until double in size. Bake for 60 minutes and golden brown, or until the bread makes a hollow sound when tapped.
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!