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!
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!