Wild dogs feeding

by Alan Castle, UK (Elephant Plains Guest)

I truly hope that it is safe to say that everything is back to normal after last month’s floods.  There are still some of the roads that have water seeping through the ground, but it is nothing compared to last month, though! For those people who are not too sure how water seepage works, I will explain in a bit of detail. If one looks at the topography of the landscape, you will see that the earth’s surface does not always appear flat. The landscape has high and lower areas. Now underneath all the soil you find bedrock. So when you get close to 600 millimetres in two days, like we did in January, the water quickly seeps through the sandy, aerated soil, hitting the bedrock and then seeping downhill towards the lower areas where the soil is not so aerated. So what happens when the clay-based, non-aerated soil receives too much water? The water starts pushing up until it reaches the surface, leaving certain areas so wet that one can barely walk there. The seepage in our area has now been going on for more than a month, so that means there is still a huge amount of groundwater underneath our feet. 

Last month we still had to fetch our guests at the Gowrie Gate, because only 4X4 vehicles could handle the crossing. Since then it has dried out sufficiently so that we could place sand bags in the crossing. This stabilized the ground so that our guests could get their own vehicles through. Our supply trucks are still not allowed to enter as they are too heavy to get through the crossing. So at this stage we still have to collect our supplies on the fence line. It has been a tiring start to the year, but by the grace of God, we have been able to handle every single problem that has come our way. As I am writing this report, Cyclone Irena is on its way to Mozambique. We will have to wait and see if we get affected and to which extend. But boy, oh boy, I can tell you one thing: cyclone season is not for the faint hearted!

I am glad to report that our Africam web cam is up and running again. For the first few weeks after the flood we could not get onto the open area. When the box was at last accessible, most of the equipment was found to be damaged.  This meant that all the software had to be taken out, moved to Nelspruit, be tested and replaced. But with a lot of hard work from John and Ryan the web cam is up and running once again!

The snare that was removed from the elephant cow on EP airstrip

The snare that was removed from the elephant cow on EP airstrip. Photo by Wayne Dovey

During the past month I had the privilege of working with the Sabi Sand in darting a young female elephant. She was seen during game drive, with a piece of wire around her foot.  We are not sure as to where she might have picked this up as breeding herds travel far and wide, from Kruger National Park to Mozambique to the Manyeleti Game Reserve and then back to us. Luckily we managed to tranquilize the female while she was on our airstrip. It all sounds easy, but believe me, it’s not. We had to get a helicopter so the vet could fly over the herd and dart the elephant from the air. Veterinarian, dr. Pieter Rodgers, removed the wire from her front left leg. Luckily the wire had not cut too deeply into her flesh, making it a quick and easy process to remove. The vet just sprayed some disinfectant on the leg and injected her for the pain and swelling, as well as possible infection. Once all was done he asked us to move a bit back, and injected her in the ear to wake her up. Within seconds she was up and started moving south. Later that same day she joined up with her herd. A job well done. Thanks guys!

I would like to congratulate all our members of staff who celebrated their birthdays this month. Morné (head ranger) celebrated his birthday on the 1st. Connie (tracker) and Jeanette (waiter) celebrated theirs on the 11th and 12th respectively. We hope you all had a great day. May you have many more happy birthdays here at Elephant Plains! A special happy birthday goes out to Marlet Swart, who celebrated her birthday on the 24th. We all hope you had a fantastic day. Thanks for being so good to all of us at the lodge.

I now hand you over to Chef Roxanne who shares a special Roast Tomato, Eggplant and Chevin Salad

Roast Tomato, Eggplant and Chevin Salad

Roast Tomato, Eggplant and Chevin Salad

Roast Tomato, Eggplant and Chevin Salad

4 Eggplants, Sliced Into 2cm Slices
Salt to salt the slices of eggplant
30ml Oil
Salt And Pepper 

10 Tomatoes, quartered
30ml Oil
Salt And Pepper
3 sprigs Rosemary
3 sprigs Thyme
15ml Garlic

2 Rolls of Chevin Cheese

Basil Vinaigrette:
50ml freshly chopped Basil
30ml Dijon Mustard
30ml Vinegar
90ml Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sprinkle the salt over the sliced eggplant and then leave for 15 minutes.
Rinse the eggplant very carefully and then place it on a roasting tray with the oil, salt and pepper.
Roast until golden and cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Place the tomatoes and other ingredients on a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Toss the tomatoes and eggplant together in a bowl and place on a serving platter/ salad bowl.
Crumble over the Chevin cheese.

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and pour over the salad.

Serve and enjoy with a crisp glass of Chardonnay during a hot summer’s afternoon! 

Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!

Wayne Dovey