Spring is in the air and with that came some amazing sightings! It is almost as if the bush has awoken after a deep winter sleep. The rangers found a hyena den with the cutest pups as occupants. They are full of energy and entertain our guests for hours on end. We also had a male cheetah that spent nearly three weeks moving around our traversing area. At first we thought that he might just end up staying because he was continuously seen over such an extended period, but sadly he moved on again. Cheetahs need very large open areas to be able to reach top speeds of ± 90km/h. In our area, the vegetation is very dense and more ideal for leopards, so we don’t have resident female cheetahs. There are some females that move through our area as their home ranges, but they always move back to their core territories after a while. We also had a great wild dog sighting this month! Those of you who regularly watch the Africam webcam might have seen this. They came down to drink water at the waterhole in front of the lodge on the afternoon of the 19th. Now normally they run up and down, only spending a few seconds in one area, but as they got to the water they slammed on breaks and spent some time, drinking and playing around. I was at the lodge and when I heard over my handheld radio that the dogs were drinking water, I ran to the viewing deck to go and see these very special endangered animals playing around right in front of our camp. What a wonderful sighting! I was also able to be back in the saddle doing game drives for a few days this past month. We had some amazing sightings and it was great to be able to see all the new animals in the area.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Tersia and Morné on being Mr and Mrs Fouché. I was privileged enough to be part of their big day as Morné’s best man. Everything was perfect: the weather, the venue, the ceremony and reception. Seeing that Morné did not even for a second consider running for the hills, made me realize that Tersia means the world to him. He stood proud and tall and could not wait for his beautiful bride to walk down the aisle. The look on a groom’s face when he sees his bride walking down the aisle is priceless; with a sparkle in the eyes and a slightly nervous smile. I was only the best man, yet Tersia took my breath away. She looked like a princess from a fairy tale story and I can’t imagine how Morné felt when he saw her for the first time. From all of us at Elephant Plains, we hope you both have an amazing life’s journey and many happy years together.
It was a very sad day when we heard about the passing of Gogi, the Styx female. For those of you who are not sure who this great lioness was, she was the lead female of the Styx pride. When I first started at Elephant Plains nearly eight years ago, she was only second in charge of the Styx pride. She was still in her prime and strong minded. As time went by the old lead female passed on and Gogi was quick to take over this roll. The survival of the Styx pride is due to this brave lioness. Pride numbers dropped from eight to four females when the Mapogo males took over and ended up taking the lives of nearly forty lions; females, cubs and males. She had a no nonsense attitude towards all the other prides, neither males nor females intimidated her. With the two turn over coalitions that happened during the past five years, the Styx pride nearly vanished all together, but one brave hearted lioness was not going to let this happen. She stood her ground and the pride came to have great respect for her. They did exactly what she expected of them. After a while they became one of the more successful prides in the area and even managed to raise three cubs: two males and one female. Just as the pride started to take shape, Gogi also started getting old. She was estimated to be around 17 years old, which is a good, long life for a female lion in the wild. Sadly one night she curled up behind Gowrie Dam wall and fell asleep, never to wake up again. Legends make history, and that was Gogi – a legend who survived the joys and hardships of the harsh African bush. Her life story will be told around camp fires in the Sabi Sand by rangers for many years to come.
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days! We had three staff members who celebrated their birthdays this month. On the 5th Linky celebrated her big day. She, however, is not at lodge for the next few months as she is resting at home, waiting for her little bundle of joy to be born. We all wish her the best of luck! Sophia celebrated her birthday on the 11th. She is one of the cooks that work in the kitchen, helping to prepare the meals. Onnie celebrated her big day on the 16th. As a waiter, she is one of the friendly faces that you will see around meal times. I do hope that you all had fantastic birthdays!
The webcam provided cyber safari goers with some excellent sightings this month. It is truly amazing to see what walks around at all hours of the night and what sort of curiosity animals have towards the camera. Sadly all the night pictures are not of good enough quality to post, but we can normally tell what animals they are. We’ve had porcupines with babies, honey badgers, and white tailed mongoose. We even managed to capture a hyena dragging its leftovers back to a den sight for her little ones to feed on. The Africam alerts on Facebook have also been very helpful, making it easier for enthusiasts who cannot watch the cam 24/7 to quickly log in the moment there is some action. The trap cam that we set up in the bush also yielded some nice photographs for the month. This month, Salayexe was caught on camera while patrolling her territory.
I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for a mouth-watering Cinnamon Rolls recipe.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one.
Summer is here to stay! Even though the first of September officially signals the start of spring, the past few weeks made me think that we skipped that season and jumped right into summer. We had a lot of hot days, with temperatures that went into the high thirties! The average maximum temperature for September was 30°C and we had our first summer rains, with 19 millimetres measured. With all these hot days, we also experienced a few cool, windy, cloudy days in between. We can also see the bush changing, as there are new green leaves and flowers appearing on some of the trees. When driving on the higher areas of the reserve, you can see the bright green colours of the leaves and also some beautiful, yellow flowers of the Knobthorn trees. It’s not going to be long before the pale, yellow grass is replaced by the beautiful green, luscious grass of summer. The game viewing did not hold back this month and we were spoiled once again. We were very fortunate to spend some time with a male cheetah and the hyena den entertained us for hours on end. There are five pups from three different litters and it was such a treat to see them all playing around the den.
There was a lot of excitement with our spotted friends during the past month. Salayexe is still doing well and looking very healthy. I was fortunate to follow her while hunting; from stalking, to where she killed the bushbuck right next to our vehicle. What a sighting! If everything goes accordingly to plan, both Salayexe and Shadow should be giving birth during the next month or two. We can’t wait to see these little furry bundles. Shadow was seen more often during the month, but she still avoids us if she does not want to be seen, living up to her name. We’ve noticed that Shadow is looking at expanding her territory a little bit more east, into her mother’s most western boundary. We saw Moya a few times, but without the cubs, which is understandable as the little ones are very young. We still have our fingers crossed that she will come and show them to us, which should now only be a matter of time. Kwatile was also out and about this last month, but was not seen that often. She is still scent marking a lot and she was very vocal during the times we did see her. Nsele was also seen a few times. She is a beautiful cat and as she is getting older, she is starting to look more and more like her father, Tyson. It was good to see that she is still lactating. As she has suckle marks, it proves that she still has her cubs. Xivambalana and Wabayiza, the two young males in the east, are getting bigger and bolder as they are starting to scent mark in their father’s territory. I think their time is slowly coming to an end before Mvula chases them out to go and look for their own territories. Mvula was really quiet this month. He spent most of his time in the northern parts of his territory, which is out of our traversing area. Lamula was once again all over the show and is also looking to expand his territory more north and also west into Tingana’s territory. These two big males have met a few times in the past and believe me, there are more battles on the way. Tingana lived up to his name this last month. He was very shy and whenever he was spotted, he’d move out of the open and into the thickets. This big brut was in another fight. We are still unsure who his opponent was, as we only saw a few new cuts and scars on his face.
It was a very sad time for the Styx pride as the old lady, Gogi, which means grandmother, passed away. She had a good run these past 17 years, but we could see that her age was catching up with her this past month. She started leaving the pride on a regular basis. She most probably knew her time was near and that she was holding the rest of the pride back. She was a great legend and a worrier and will be dearly missed. The rest of the Styx pride is still looking good and feeding well. The two young males are growing up very fast and they are looking gorgeous, with their manes growing larger by the day. They are almost three years old now. Time is running out before they would have to leave the pride. We also had the older Tsalala lionesses around our lodge this month, together with one of the Majingi male lions. To our surprise, the sub-adult Tsalala lioness joined up with her mother and aunt and the Majingi male did nothing to her. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they will now accept her. If she could stay with the pride, the two older ladies would only benefit as the youngster could take her grandmother’s place and help with hunting etc. This just shows how the circle of life continues. When BB was still around, they did not want to accept her and now all of a sudden she seems to have found a safe haven. We have not seen the new members of the Tsalala pride, but we know there are four cubs and we can’t wait for their first visit. As for the four Breakaway Tsalala lionesses and the nine cubs, we haven’t seen them very often this month. Hopefully, during the next few months, this young pride will grace us with their presence more often. The Nkuhuma male lion was also seen a few times this month, moving around a lot. We also saw him feasting on a wildebeest kill. Being a young male, nomadic and alone, he has to try and avoid the big Matimba male lions of the north and also the big Majingi male lions of the south. Speaking of which, we were very fortunate to see some of the Majingi males, although we never saw all four of them together. Each time we saw them, it was one male with females, or two of them walking together. This might be due to the size of their territory. With such a big territory, they need to scent mark regularly, making sure that there are no intruders. Therefore splitting up becomes necessary.
The buffalo sightings were great and it was very special to have another big breeding herd move through our area. We were very fortunate to spend time with these big herds during the last few months. Bulk grazers, like the buffalo, are always on the move to get enough food for the entire herd. There were a few small calves in the herd and a lot of the females have very round bellies, which indicate that they are heavily pregnant. The gestation period for the buffaloes is 11 months. They will always try and give birth during the wet season, when food sources are generous. In my last report I mentioned that the big dominant and sub-dominant buffalo bulls left the breeding herds to fatten up and get ready for the next mating season. Well, we started seeing less bachelor herds this month, so chances are good that they are busy making their way back to the breeding herds. We still saw a big male group, but it only consisted of the old dagga boys.
We once again had the privilege of spending time with quite a few breeding herds. Some were big and some were small, but all of them were feasting on the newly sprouted growth on the trees. One of the breeding herds we saw had a tiny baby, estimated to be a couple of weeks old. This particular herd stayed in our area for a number of days. When there is a very small elephant calf, the herd will not travel long distances, as the baby would not be able to keep up with them. At this young age he would still tire easily. It was so special to spend some time with them, especially watching the little one trying to figure out how to use its trunk and what it is really designed for. Watching mom, he would try to mimic her in everything she does. This is also how they learn what to eat and how to get it. There were a few times when mom had to gently use her trunk and move the little one out of the way, so that she could carry on feeding. The little calf was all over the show, enjoying the attention he got from all the herd members and trying to play with everyone. After running around and playing with the other herd members, he would always return to mom to quench his thirst. When a breeding herd has a few small babies, everyone looks after them. The older siblings would take turns with babysitting duty until mom has finished eating.
Tingana, our dominant male leopard, killed a female impala and hoisted it into a big marula tree next to the road, to keep it safe from other predators. At least, that’s what he thought… After having a good feast, he left the kill in the tree and came down to rest on the ground. After a while one of the Majingi male lions came walking down the road, straight towards Tingana and his kill. Luckily for Tingana, the wind changed direction and he got the scent of the male lion sneaking closer. Like a rocket he ran for cover before the big male lion could get hold of him. The Majingi male did not even attempt to run after him as he was too preoccupied with the kill in the tree. He circled the tree a few times and then, without warning, took a massive jump and started climbing towards the kill. The funniest part was watching him, inching forward on his belly on an extremely thin branch, while pushing himself forward with his hind legs. He looked very unsure of himself. After getting the kill he had to do this process all over again, but this time backwards and with the impala in his mouth. He made it three quarters down the tree when he suddenly lost his footing and came crashing down head first, burying his nose in the ground. We could not contain ourselves after this sight and were laughing so much! This whole process took about 25-30 minutes and it must be one of my highlights at Elephant Plains thus far. It just shows that where there is a will, there is a way! Now that is what I call working hard for your food, even if you did not catch it yourself.
Did you know?
The Cape porcupine is the largest rodent in the Southern African sub-region.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the four Breakaway female lions with their 9 cubs playing in the Manyelei River at Our Father’s Crossing
Monday, 30 September 2013
Tuesday, 01 October 2013
Wednesday, 02 October 2013
Thursday, 03 October 2013
Friday, 04 October 2013
Saturday, 05 October 2013
Sunday, 06 October 2013
Stretch marks (known as Stria in dermatology) are a form of scarring on the skin. Stretch marks appear as linear streaks on parts of the skin that has been overstretched. They begin as flat, red lines and over time they appear as slightly depressed, white or silvery streaks. Stretch marks occur in the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin. The elastic fibers of the dermis are damaged, accompanied by inflammation, which results in the forming of scars.
Stretch marks are caused by rapid and excessive increase in body mass and also during pregnancy, when the belly expands. They may also be influenced by excessive use of steroids, body building and hormonal changes, associated with puberty and hormone replacement therapy. Genetics can also play a role in the occurrence stretch marks
Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body, but are most likely to emerge where larger amounts of fat are stored such as the abdomen, breasts, upper arms, back, thighs, hips and buttocks.
When stretch marks show up, it is best to treat them as early as possible – when they are still red or purple. Once stretch marks have passed to the later stages (where they become white or silvery), they are much more challenging to treat.
It is vital to moisturize! Skin becomes more pliable and supple and therefore better able to stretch, when it is hydrated. Moisturize 3 to 4 times a day with products that contain cocoa or shea butter.
There are many products that claim to repair stretch marks, but only a few of them work effectively.
Here is a list of products that are available for stretch marks:
• Glycolic acid: Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. It works on stretch marks by boosting collagen production.
• Wheat germ oil: Research has shown that wheat germ oil helps improve stretch marks in their early phase.
• Vitamin C: Certain formulations of vitamin C may increase collagen production and may help during the early stages of stretch marks. For the most effective results, combine with glycolic acid. Vitamin C supplements may also be effective.
Other treatments available to improve the appearance of existing stretch marks include laser treatments and dermabrasion. But as with all things, prevention is better than cure, so keep your skin moisturized and try to avoid excessive weight gain.
I hope that you have found this article informative. Look out for next month’s article: pigmentation.
The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the Styx lion pride resting on Gowrie Main.
Monday, 23 September 2013
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Friday, 27 September 2013
Saturday, 28 September 2013
Sunday, 29 September 2013
(20ºC, 14 mm rain)
In South Africa the sun is shining a little longer every day, telling you that it’s time to get ready for summer holidays, activities with family and friends and of course, swimsuit season. Some of us have gained a few extra kilograms over the winter; we’ve gotten out of shape, maybe lost our summer tan. Here are some useful tips that you can follow to look and feel great this season.
Yes, that means EXERCISE! We all have busy schedules, but just 40 minutes 2-3 times a week, alternating between cardio and weights are enough to stay fit and healthy. You don’t have to spend money on a gym membership or personal trainer. Walking/running around the block, swimming, or even gardening are just as effective, and don’t cost a cent! Not only does exercise help control your weight, it also improves your mood, boosts energy levels and combats health conditions and diseases.
That’s what it says. Diets can actually slow down your metabolism, which in turn will cause you to gain even more weight. When you lose weight by dieting alone, you also lose muscle mass. Instead, eat at least five to six small, healthy meals a day and include a lot of fibre in your diet. This will help your body burn fat most efficiently.
Drinking water helps flush your system and as a bonus, it gets rid of excess salt and water weight, which keeps you from feeling bloated. Drink water regularly to avoid being dehydrated, as this can sap your energy levels, making you feel tired and dizzy.
Make sure to exfoliate regularly. Exfoliating gets rid of dead, rough skin cells- leaving your skin feeling soft and glowing! Make sure to stay moisturized – as summer weather can dry your skin, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun. Wear sunscreen everyday! A broad-spectrum SPF 15-30 is fine on a regular day. Apply to ALL areas that will be exposed to the sun and re-apply every 2 hours, or after a swim. Tan responsibly! Avoid the sun during peak hours (10am-2pm). Apply a moisturizer every time after sun tanning- this will keep your skin soft and your tan will also last longer.
Repeated exposure to elements during the summer months can dry and damage your hair and its colour. Take precautions before you head outdoors- hats are great for offering protection and they can be fashionable as well. Hair needs to be treated more gently during the summer. Consider switching to a moisturizing, overall gentle shampoo. Give your hair a break from blowouts and embrace summer’s casual braids, ponytails and buns.
Whatever you choose to do this summer season, REMEMBER to look after your body and to have fun!!!