Rangers Report November 2017

Rangers Report

November 2017

 

Nkuhuma cubs - Morné Fouché

Nkuhuma cubs - Morné Fouché

Finally, the long wait is over and the first babies of the season started arriving during November. The first impalas arrived between 10 and 13 November. November is the start of the rainy season and that directly translates into baby season. The majority of the animals will normally give birth during the wet season, when water and food is more abundant. The vegetation is getting really dense and searching for food is a thing of the past. The average maximum temperature was 30°C and we received a very welcome 74mm of rain. Game viewing was absolutely incredible. We were spoiled, not only with the quality of different sightings, but also with quantity. This month we had two different pangolins on our traversing area. This was once again so amazing to see, as the one pangolin was spotted a few hundred meters from our lodge. The wild dogs were also out in their numbers and they made sure we got some great sightings. The Elephant Plains hyena den have a brand-new puppy! What an amazing little creature. We are really spoiled with this hyena den on our property, especially due to this fact that it has been very active for more than a year now.

Leopard

There is still a lot of uncertainty with regards to the territory of the late Salayexe. Both Tiyani and the young Ingrid Dam female are still occupying the same area and they still scent mark the same areas as well. Both these females are fairly young and have a lot of life lessons to learn. It will be nice if both of them can share this available territory.

Tiyani is still getting bigger and she is showing some strong features. She also looks very healthy and this is definitely due to her successful hunting routine. It is always a treat to see this young cat. She was often spotted, moving through the area and scent marking as she went along. The area that Tiyani is scent marking and claiming is quite big for a young female. The possibility is evident that she might need to downscale a little to something smaller.

The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also seen a few times this month. This young female is a little older than Tiyani, but they are similar in size. Both of them can hear the distinct territorial call of the other, but chooses not to engage in any territorial disputes. Unfortunately, a territorial dispute is bound to happen somewhere in the near future.

Nsele was not seen too often this month. When we did see her, she had a belly that almost dragged on the ground. It would be so awesome if she is pregnant and we could see new bundles of fluff soon. This is not impossible, as her daughter from her previous litter is almost two years old now. We saw her older daughter a few times as well this month and she is a really stunning cat.

The young Hosana is growing up really fast and he is becoming a beautiful and bulky leopard, due to his excellent hunting skills. He still has no urge to move away, in search of his own little territory. Unfortunately, there will come a time when he would have to leave, as he will be forced out. But for now, he is still loving life around the area.

There is a new male on the block and he is moving around in the south-eastern corner of Tingana’s territory. He looks like a confident, focused and strong male, who wants to make his mark in the area. He is not that relaxed with the vehicles, but he will get there. At this stage he is smack bang in the middle, between Tingana and Anderson. Talk about being between stuck in between a rock and a hard place!

Mvula was also seen this month and he is still looking good. Mvula is still moving all over the show, as he has Tingana to the east and then Anderson to the south of him. So far it is still looking good and he is avoiding the younger, stronger males. The big question is just for how long he would be able to keep up this Houdini act.

Anderson was very low on the radar this month. During the times we did see him, he was still on a mission, patrolling his territory. He is spending a lot of his time in the southern and western parts of his territory. It might be because there is some new competition coming into the area, or he might just be busy expanding his territory.

Male giraffe by Morné Fouché

Elephants and a leopard drinking water by Morné Fouché

 

Lion

The lion sightings were absolutely brilliant this month. We were very fortunate with the different lion prides in the area. There was also a lot of excitement with these beautiful cats.

The Nkuhuma pride stole the spotlight during November. The Amber eyes female has suckle marks. It is still unclear how many cubs she has, as she was only spotted in a thick dry riverbed. It will be so awesome if we could see the cubs and find out how many there are. The young female with the two older cubs is spending a lot of time with the Amber eyes female at the den site. Fingers crossed that she will keep the new babies safe for the next few months or so, before she re-joins the pride. The young female with the two older cubs are also doing well. The two cubs are growing up really fast and they are keeping their mother on her toes. The other females with the bigger cubs are also looking good and they are eating really well. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this pride.

The Styx pride was also seen a few times during the month. They are looking great and all the cubs are very healthy. It is always great to see this pride. As they are the oldest pride in the Sabi Sand, I will always have a soft spot for them. They’ve had a really tough time the last couple of years, as they were not able to raise a single cub to adulthood. So far, the three adult lionesses are doing really well for themselves. As long as they can eat well, they will stay healthy. It is good for the pride to have one, or even all four, of the Birmingham males accompanying them, to keep them safe.

The Tsalala pride was also seen a few times this month. Unfortunately, this pride still doesn’t have any pride males to keep them safe from other males. The responsibility all comes down to the adult females to keep the rest of the pride safe. It looks like the two fifteen-year-old sisters are back together, but there are a few pride members missing. The one young female of the Tsalala pride was mating with one of the Birmingham males this month. It is great to see that this young female is mating with the Birmingham male. All that needs to happen now is for the Birmingham boys to expand their empire more south, into the Tsalala prides territory. This is most probably what will happen within the next year.

The four Birmingham males are also looking very healthy. They have really turned into beautiful big male lions. They are getting more and more confident and moving further and further south, while scent marking and roaring. With the aging Majingi males to the west, it will not be too long before the Birmingham males will expand their territory further west.

Young Ingrid's dam female by Morné Fouché

Young Ingrid's dam female by Morné Fouché

 

Buffalo

More and more bachelor herds are making their way back to our area. This has a lot to do with the awesome rain we’ve received during the month. It is great to see the waterholes that were bone dry a month ago, finally three quarters full again. Mud wallows are an essential part of the day to day living of a buffalo’s life during the summer months. The buffalo bulls love to roll in the mud, as it is cool and soothing and also helps them to get rid of some of the parasites that might be stuck on them. We are still hopeful that the females and their calves are not too far away. Hopefully they would soon make their way into our area as well. This time of the year there should already be a few females with very small calves. Buffalo cows have a gestation period of between eleven and twelve months. This is the longest gestation period in the bovine family. Despite a long gestation and the ability of the calve to be able to stand within the first ten minutes after birth, they can’t keep up with the rest of the herd. Mothers that give birth within the herds rest period, are usually left behind by the herd when they move on to feed. This will force the mother to go into hiding with the calve, until it is strong enough to move along with the herd.

Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché

Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché

 

Elephant

The elephant sightings were just incredible this month. Normally the elephants will embark on their yearly journey to the Kruger National Park this time of the year. This year it was different and we had so many elephant herds moving through the area. One noticeable thing is that there are a lot more family units than in previous years. This certainly has to do with the amount of rain we’ve recently had, which totally transformed the bush. These family units will normally consist of an old female and her offspring, as well as their offspring. These herds consist of only about ten to fifteen animals. These family units will again join forces with the rest of their family during the winter, when they rely on the matriarch of the herd to find food for them. Leadership and experience play such a crucial role in the social structure of elephants.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was to see a new, tiny hyena cub at the hyena den. He was so small that he had a hard time getting up to the entrance of the den. His mother was very relaxed with us being there and her focus was only on the little cub. Mum was lying on the slope just next to the entrance of the den and the cub walked with very wobbly legs towards mum. The slope turned out to be quite a challenge for the inexperienced walker, as he tripped and rolled down the slope, all the way to the bottom. Mum just looked on in shocked disbelieve at his clumsiness, as baby ended up all the way at the bottom of the mound.

Did you know?

Spotted hyena cubs are born with their eyes open.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report November 2017

  Finally, the long wait is over and the first babies of the season started arriving during November. The first impalas arrived between 10 and 13 November. November is the start of the rainy season and that directly translates into baby season. The majority of the...

Rangers Report June 2017

It is hard to imagine that we are half way through the year, when it still feels like we celebrated new year’s yesterday. I now know why people always say that time flies when you are having fun! The winter is finally here and we had a few very crisp mornings and some...

Rangers Report May 2017

With the impala rutting season in full swing, there is no shortage in the action department. Broken horns, bloody faces and puncture wounds on their bodies are only a few signs of the fights this month. These bloody battles can even be heard late at night, as the...

Rangers Report April 2017

April was another exciting month to be out in the bush. The rutting season started and the Impala males were quite busy sizing each other up. At this stage, we have not seen a lot of full-blown fights yet. I think that the males will really start battling it out next...

Rangers Report March 2017

It was yet another spectacular month to be out in the bush. The sightings were action packed and full of surprises. The general game like zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and so much more came out to play and provided some really memorable sightings! We...

Rangers Report January 2017

What an awesome way to kick off the new year! The day temperatures were like a roller coaster with a few cold days followed by a few hot days. We were once again blessed with wonderful rain this month. This gave all the plants a massive boost. We had 144mm of rain,...

Manager’s Report November 2017

The final countdown has arrived… just one more month until we welcome the new year. With the bush now once again wearing its bright summer colours, we are looking forward to an eventful summer! Game viewing has been amazing and with all the new babies that were born...

Manager’s Report June 2017

Note from the webmaster: We've been working on upgrading the Big 5 Blog the past few months, and for this reason we have not been able to publish our regular manager- and ranger reports. We apologise for this but hope that you will enjoy the flood of news that has...

Manager’s Report May 2017

Winter has arrived and the bush is wearing its winter attire once again! We have the blankets and hot water bottles back on the game drive vehicles and game viewing has been spectacular! The trees and grass are not as lush anymore, which gives you a better view of all...

Manager’s Report April 2017

Wild photo of the month by Paul, Sue and Mark Johnstone April was another perfect month at the lodge. The bush and surrounds have changed a bit after the rain we had. The trees and grass transformed from a pale brown, to green overnight. One can still see that we are...

Manager’s Report March 2017

Wild photo of the month by Alan and Gaynor Castle, UK We are already through the first quarter of the year and the days just keep coming! March is the month where you first notice the season changing but with the high rainfall we had, the bush is not yet transforming...

Manager’s Report January 2017

Like I always say: “time flies when you’re having fun!   It feels like just a few days ago, that we had our New Year’s dinner and we are already going into the second month of 2017. By now, I am sure most people are back home after the festive season. Some might be...

Big 5 Sightings 20 to 26 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the mating lions Monday, 20 November 2017 (34ºC) Tiyani, the female leopard resting on Ximungwe Road All the Nkuhuma pride of lions resting on Rhulani Road A breeding herd of about ten elephants feeding on Rhulani Road...

Big 5 Sightings 13 to 19 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see Tiyani, the female leopard in a tree with her Bushbuck kill just outside our camp in front of one of the rooms. Monday, 13 November 2017 (26ºC) A breeding herd of about twenty elephants feeding at Rhino Midden Road Two...

Big 5 Sightings 06 to 13 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see Hosana, the male leopard, feeding on an impala kill on Little Gowrie/Hoffman’s Cutline Monday, 6 November 2017 (38ºC) Hosana, the male leopard, hunting impalas at Baboon Pan One Birmingham male lion resting north of Wessels...

Big 5 Sightings 30 October to 05 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the Nkuhuma lion pride having a stand off with a buffalo bull at Picanini Utah Pan Monday, 30 October 2017 (29ºC, 2mm) A pack of eight wild dogs resting on Sawmill Road A breeding herd of about ten elephants feeding on Ekiso...

Big 5 Sightings 16 to 22 October 2017

The highlight of the week was to see the elusive pangolin!  Pangolin sightings are not very common in our area and therefore these sightings are very special! Monday, 16 October 2017 (36ºC) Two Birmingham male lions, five lionesses and nine cubs of the Nkuhuma pride...

Big 5 Sightings 09 to 15 October 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was the two male cheetah’s who came to surprise us on Gowrie Main. Monday, 9 October 2017 (29ºC, 28mm rain) Tiyani, the female leopard, moving east from EP airstrip A breeding herd of about twenty elephants feeding on Leopard Drift...

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Manager’s Report November 2017

Manager’s Report

November 2017
Wild photo of the month - Salayexe and cub by Paul, Sue and Mark Johnstone

Wild photo of the month - Salayexe and cub by Paul, Sue and Mark Johnstone

The final countdown has arrived… just one more month until we welcome the new year. With the bush now once again wearing its bright summer colours, we are looking forward to an eventful summer! Game viewing has been amazing and with all the new babies that were born during this month, there was never a dull moment. We also ended the month with a few very welcome cool days and rain. The forecast going into December shows some very hot days. If you are visiting us during the next few weeks, please be sure to pack your hat and sunscreen. Each year November, we have a “birding day” at the lodge where our staff members form a team to compete against our next-door neighbours, Arathusa Private Lodge. This has become a yearly tradition, with the winning team being awarded a birding trophy. This is always great fun! The competition does not have a lot of rules and the main goal is to identify as many different bird species as possible, between 05:00am and 07:00pm. So, between these hours, if you see or hear it, you can claim it! Last year, Elephant Plains won the competition. This year, we were unfortunately defeated by 4 species, but we accepted our second place with great pride. With the birding trophy displayed in our reception area, we are already looking forward to next year, when we can hopefully once again engrave our own name on the plaque, as the 2018 winners.
Male giraffe by Morné Fouché

Male giraffe by Morné Fouché

This month we started a big maintenance project at the lodge, behind the scenes and a few feet above the ground… We are giving our thatched roofs a little makeover. What does this all include, one would ask. Well, think of it as going to the hair salon for a cut, colour and blow-dry. As thatch roofs age over the years, the top layers of grass start to rot and they take on a pale, black appearance. Sometimes a roof can also develop a small leak, due to our resident vervet monkeys sometimes pulling out blades of grass, while playing on their self-discovered jungle gyms. Firstly, a special brush is used to remove all the rotten pieces and straighten the grass back into place. Just like brushing your hair. On some of the places, bundles of grass are also replaced where needed, to cover the thinning spots. Lastly, the edges are neatly pushed back into place, leaving the roof looking brand new. It is quite amazing to see the contractors in action. What a big difference a good brush can make! We are done with the main lodge area and the majority of the rooms. Just a few more strokes and all the roofs will be good as new again.
Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

With the active hyena den on our property, it is hard to resist the temptation to spy on them. The trapcam was placed at the den and in a very short period of just 4 days, the memory card was completely filled up with 2700 pictures. We now have a very good idea of what their daily activities are: eat, play, sleep, repeat. This month we had only one birthday at the lodge. Helen celebrated her special day on the 29th. Helen is part of our lovely team of housekeepers, keeping our lodge in tip top condition. Happy birthday Helen, I am sure there will be many more to come! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during November, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter! This month, sous chef Yolandi, shares a mouth-watering recipe. Red Velvet Cupcakes are perfect for that special afternoon tea with family and friends.
Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ingredients

160 ml Cake flour 100 ml Castor sugar 1.25 ml Salt 5 ml Cocoa 1.25 ml Bicarbonate of Soda 100 ml Sunflower oil 60 ml Buttermilk 1 Egg 15 ml Red food colouring 1.25 ml White vinegar 1.25 ml Vanilla 

Icing

50 g Soft butter 60 g Cream cheese 250 ml Icing sugar 2.25 ml Lemon juice/ a little squeeze of a lemon to taste and/or 2.5ml vanilla

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Prepare your muffin tin by lining each hollow with a paper case. In a bowl, sieve together the dry ingredients (flour, castor sugar, salt, cocoa and bicarb) and set aside. In another larger bowl, mix all the wet ingredients (oil, buttermilk, eggs, food colouring, vinegar and vanilla). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine. Spoon into your cupcake cases, filling each to 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. In the meantime, prepare your icing by beating the butter and cream cheese together with a wooden spoon until well combined (about 3 minutes).   Gradually add the icing sugar, beating all the while, until it forms a smooth icing.  Adjust the consistency by adding a little more icing sugar if required. Then add the lemon juice and/or the vanilla to taste. Makes 6 Large Cupcakes. Serve and enjoy! As our next report will only be sent out in early January, I would like to wish each and every one of our readers a joyful Christmas and only the best for 2018. Whether you have a holiday planned, or are just relaxing at home with the family, do make the best of every second and travel safe! All the best till next month Tersia Fouché

Manager’s Report November 2017

The final countdown has arrived… just one more month until we welcome the new year. With the bush now once again wearing its bright summer colours, we are looking forward to an eventful summer! Game viewing has been amazing and with all the new babies that were born...

Manager’s Report June 2017

Note from the webmaster: We've been working on upgrading the Big 5 Blog the past few months, and for this reason we have not been able to publish our regular manager- and ranger reports. We apologise for this but hope that you will enjoy the flood of news that has...

Manager’s Report May 2017

Winter has arrived and the bush is wearing its winter attire once again! We have the blankets and hot water bottles back on the game drive vehicles and game viewing has been spectacular! The trees and grass are not as lush anymore, which gives you a better view of all...

Manager’s Report April 2017

Wild photo of the month by Paul, Sue and Mark Johnstone April was another perfect month at the lodge. The bush and surrounds have changed a bit after the rain we had. The trees and grass transformed from a pale brown, to green overnight. One can still see that we are...

Manager’s Report March 2017

Wild photo of the month by Alan and Gaynor Castle, UK We are already through the first quarter of the year and the days just keep coming! March is the month where you first notice the season changing but with the high rainfall we had, the bush is not yet transforming...

Manager’s Report January 2017

Like I always say: “time flies when you’re having fun!   It feels like just a few days ago, that we had our New Year’s dinner and we are already going into the second month of 2017. By now, I am sure most people are back home after the festive season. Some might be...

Rangers Report November 2017

  Finally, the long wait is over and the first babies of the season started arriving during November. The first impalas arrived between 10 and 13 November. November is the start of the rainy season and that directly translates into baby season. The majority of the...

Rangers Report June 2017

It is hard to imagine that we are half way through the year, when it still feels like we celebrated new year’s yesterday. I now know why people always say that time flies when you are having fun! The winter is finally here and we had a few very crisp mornings and some...

Rangers Report May 2017

With the impala rutting season in full swing, there is no shortage in the action department. Broken horns, bloody faces and puncture wounds on their bodies are only a few signs of the fights this month. These bloody battles can even be heard late at night, as the...

Rangers Report April 2017

April was another exciting month to be out in the bush. The rutting season started and the Impala males were quite busy sizing each other up. At this stage, we have not seen a lot of full-blown fights yet. I think that the males will really start battling it out next...

Rangers Report March 2017

It was yet another spectacular month to be out in the bush. The sightings were action packed and full of surprises. The general game like zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and so much more came out to play and provided some really memorable sightings! We...

Rangers Report January 2017

What an awesome way to kick off the new year! The day temperatures were like a roller coaster with a few cold days followed by a few hot days. We were once again blessed with wonderful rain this month. This gave all the plants a massive boost. We had 144mm of rain,...

Big 5 Sightings 20 to 26 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the mating lions Monday, 20 November 2017 (34ºC) Tiyani, the female leopard resting on Ximungwe Road All the Nkuhuma pride of lions resting on Rhulani Road A breeding herd of about ten elephants feeding on Rhulani Road...

Big 5 Sightings 13 to 19 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see Tiyani, the female leopard in a tree with her Bushbuck kill just outside our camp in front of one of the rooms. Monday, 13 November 2017 (26ºC) A breeding herd of about twenty elephants feeding at Rhino Midden Road Two...

Big 5 Sightings 06 to 13 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see Hosana, the male leopard, feeding on an impala kill on Little Gowrie/Hoffman’s Cutline Monday, 6 November 2017 (38ºC) Hosana, the male leopard, hunting impalas at Baboon Pan One Birmingham male lion resting north of Wessels...

Big 5 Sightings 30 October to 05 November 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was to see the Nkuhuma lion pride having a stand off with a buffalo bull at Picanini Utah Pan Monday, 30 October 2017 (29ºC, 2mm) A pack of eight wild dogs resting on Sawmill Road A breeding herd of about ten elephants feeding on Ekiso...

Big 5 Sightings 16 to 22 October 2017

The highlight of the week was to see the elusive pangolin!  Pangolin sightings are not very common in our area and therefore these sightings are very special! Monday, 16 October 2017 (36ºC) Two Birmingham male lions, five lionesses and nine cubs of the Nkuhuma pride...

Big 5 Sightings 09 to 15 October 2017

The Big 5 highlight of the week was the two male cheetah’s who came to surprise us on Gowrie Main. Monday, 9 October 2017 (29ºC, 28mm rain) Tiyani, the female leopard, moving east from EP airstrip A breeding herd of about twenty elephants feeding on Leopard Drift...

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Rangers Report June 2017

It is hard to imagine that we are half way through the year, when it still feels like we celebrated new year’s yesterday. I now know why people always say that time flies when you are having fun! The winter is finally here and we had a few very crisp mornings and some chilly evenings.

The sightings were absolutely out of this world and we’ve had so many wonderful sightings. We were very fortunate to tee the wild dogs on a regular basis. Their den is just outside our traversing area and they move through our area on a regular basis to hunt. They will move though the area almost every 2-3 days, in search of food. Unfortunately, they do not stay very long, as they need to go and feed the alpha female, who is patiently waiting at the den. Zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, nyala and so much more were also out in their numbers. The night life was also out and about and we saw a lot of porcupines, civets, genets and even a pangolin.

Leopard

The leopard dynamics in the area are still changing. There is a lot of changes happening amongst the males and females in the area. Salayexe is still expanding her empire and moving all over the show. It was really hard to find and follow her, as she was on the move the whole time. The only time that she was sitting still was when she had a kill. There are two young ladies still moving around in Salayexe’s territory and that is Nchila and Tiyani. Although these two ladies are family of Salayexe, there is no love lost between them. Salayexe will not tolerate any other female in her territory, even if it is family. Nsele was seen only once this month, without her daughter. Nsele is looking great and she is very healthy. I think it is not going to be too long before she will have a new litter of cubs. Moya and her cub have really surprised us, as they moved into the area on a regular basis. It is great to see these two beautiful cats moving in the area. Both are super relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. I just hope that she will stay clear of her aunt, Salayexe. Shadow and her cub were also seen this month with an impala kill. The cub is still very shy, taking after mom, and does not like a lot of vehicle movement around her. It will still take a while before the cub will become more relaxed with the vehicles. Although these two cats are so elusive, they are still very beautiful. Nchila is becoming a really beautiful cat. She still hasn’t found a territory of her own yet, but she is still looking around and weighing up her options. Nchila had another run in with her grandmother, Salayexe, and this time it was serious. Salayexe did not pack out any tea and cookies, as she made sure Nchila understood who the boss of the area is. We will have to wait and see where this young cat will end up. Tiyani has moved back into her mother, Salayexe’s, territory. Like a naughty teenager she does not respect the boundaries and rules. Once again, these two cats had another fight and like all the other times Salayexe came out on top again. Tiyani is really oblivious to the danger that she is in as she continues to stay in mom’s territory. Tingana is still spending the majority of his time on the eastern part of his territory, which is understandable. Overall Tingana is very healthy and in great shape. It is only time before Tingana and Anderson will meet again. Anderson is still expanding his territory more east, taking more and more of Tingana’s territory on the western side. This male is still looking absolutely fantastic. Although he has been more like a ghost this last month, we still had some great sightings of him.

Lion

Female elephant by Morné FouchéWe had such great sightings of these big cats this month. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. There is a lot of changes about to happen in the near future regarding the lion prides in our area. We were so fortunate to see the tailless female and her two cubs for the first time. It was such a wonderful surprise when the call echoed over the radio about the tailless female and her group having been spotted. Unfortunately, they did not stay very long before moving south again, out of our traversing area. Her twin sister and her group have spent a lot of their time in our traversing area. This might be due to the continuous changes of the lion dynamics between the male lions in the southern part of the park. With all these changes happening, it might cause the Tsalala females to move back north. The Tsalala pride is looking absolutely great and the 15-year-old twins are doing a great job in keeping the rest of the pride safe. The Styx pride is also looking great and we also saw them a few times this month. They were also seen deep in Tsalala territory. This pride is eating really well and the cubs always have full bellies. The Styx females killed two aardvarks the one evening, so you can just imagine the mixed emotions from the guides and guests when we saw this. Unfortunately, lions do not have a certain food criteria, as anything will do to feed themselves and the cubs. It is good to see that the Birmingham males are still spending a lot of their time with this pride. The Nkuhuma pride is also looking great and very healthy. We were so fortunate to see this pride so often this month. This pride has spent so much time around our lodge area and even more south than that. The pride has moved all the way to our southern boundary, which is very far into the Tsalala territory. It really looks like this pride wants to expand their territory more south, but with the Tsalala pride moving back north, we will have to see what happens. The 4 Birmingham brothers are also moving more and more south and west. They are slowly moving into old Majingi territory, but doing so very cautiously, as they were chased out a few times by the Majingi males. Everything is connected in some way and if the Birmingham males take over this area, it will mean that the Tsalala pride will be in the line of fire. At this stage, the only thing that we can do is wait and see how this story will unfold.

Buffalo

The Tsalala pride feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil CoetzerThe buffalo sightings were not that great this month, as there is still no sign of the big herds. We have seen a small group of about 20-50 individuals making a quick appearance before moving on again. It is always great to see a herd of buffaloes and it doesn’t matter if it is big or small. Buffalo herds will always vary in size, this is due to the area and food and water supplies. Once again, the old dagga boys came to our rescue this month. It was still a challenge to find them, before the lions. As soon as buffaloes realize that lions are on their trail, they quickly disappear again. Unfortunately for the buffaloes, the majority of the lion prides in the area specialize in hunting buffaloes.

Elephant

Tiyani stalking a baby rhino by Dawie JacobsWe once again had very memorable elephant sightings this month. These big heavyweights are moving all over the area. Elephants do not have a fixed territory like lions or leopards, but rather a home range. The breeding herds that we saw this month was only between 10-20 individuals. We saw a few different herds quenching their thirst in front of our lodge. It is great to see all the babies in the herds, which mean that the herds are doing well and that they are healthy. There were not a lot of big bulls in the area this month, but we still had our fair share of big elephant bull sightings. One big elephant bull really stood out from the rest of the bulls we saw. We were very fortunate to see the bull on more than one occasion. His body size was absolutely mind blowing and although he did not have very big tusks, he was still a giant amongst giants.

Special sighting

This month’s special sighting was to see a young pangolin on drive. What made it even more special was that we saw him on four different occasions. Pangolins are very secretive animals and they are mostly nocturnal as well. This young male walked around in day time and he was so relaxed with the vehicles. It was so nice to see him so many times in this month, let’s hope we can continue this lucky streak in July.

Did you know?

Pangolins are the only mammals in the world, covered in scales.

See you out on the game drive soon.
Morné Fouché

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Manager’s Report June 2017

Note from the webmaster: We’ve been working on upgrading the Big 5 Blog the past few months, and for this reason we have not been able to publish our regular manager- and ranger reports. We apologise for this but hope that you will enjoy the flood of news that has reached you the past two days, as we catch up with all the outstanding newsletters.

And so we have reached the halfway mark for 2017! Hot summer days are something of the past and we are enjoying crisp winter temperatures! This month, we placed the patio heaters back into the boma and guests are also enjoying the blankets and hot water bottles on game drives. Temperatures have been dropping day by day and we are now in the full swing of winter.

Although the bush can get very dry and pale during the winter months, there is a rainbow of colours around the lodge. The bougainvillea bushes and aloes are in bloom. The gardens are painted with strokes and blotches of orange, pink, red and yellow. The aloe flowers also attract the most amazing birdlife, making them just a little more special.

Plains zebra by Morné Fouché

This month we started a new maintenance project at the lodge. Our old bar is getting a makeover. The structure as it stands today was built in 1993. This building used to be the original bar and dining area. Nowadays the old bar acts as the games room, where guests can relax and enjoy a game of foosball, table tennis or pool. Hendrik and his maintenance team have already made loads of progress. The floor and walls have been stripped and covered with a fresh layer of paint. Old lights have been revamped for an authentic look and are shining a bright new light. Watch this space! Our fresh new look, with a few exciting additions, is coming in July…

In order to be a qualified guide at Elephant Plains, the guides need to pass an advanced rifle handling assessment. This is known as ARH in our industry. The qualification is valid for three years. This month, Morné and Louis and Dawie Lombard reached the line where it was once again time for them to renew their ARH qualification. This assessment is made out of multiple range, speed and accuracy shooting. It consists of a simulating hippo charge, accuracy and timed shots on two different buffalo targets and general aiming skills. Morné, Louis and Dawie all passed their assessments with flying colours. The examiner was very impressed with their shooting skills. Congratulations guys! To fire that many accurate shots does not lie in everyone’s barrel!

Trapcam photoLast month, our trapcam was back at our resident hyena den, just west of our airstrip. I am now convinced that their favourite early morning activity is to lie around in the shade, doing as little as possible. What happens at night is another story, though. Busy bodies move around the den from dusk to dawn. The biggest count we’ve had at the den is 28 individuals and the range from old, to young, to very small black pups.

Staff birthdays were few and far apart at the lodge this month. We celebrated only two birthdays during June. Remember celebrated his birthday on the 7th. Those of you who have visited the lodge recently would know him as the bubbly personality at front of house, assisting during check-ins. We are so proud of him. He started off as a waiter, then a barman and now he is a real busy body in our reception, keeping all the ladies on their toes. On the 26th Dudu celebrated her birthday. Dudu is part of our housekeeping team and also makes a big difference in the scullery, never missing a spot on a plate or glass. I hope you both had wonderful birthdays. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during June, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter.

I am very excited to announce that we will soon introduce our new menus. The chefs are hard at work, mixing and matching several options to get just the correct dishes paired and in place. So far, so good. With some final touches and adjustments to make, our new menus will soon be complete. Watch this space.

This month, head chef Mia, shares a recipe for some deliciously Éclairs. Be careful when baking these, you might just over-indulge!

Éclair

Ingredients

Éclair250 ml Boiling water
125 ml Butter – cut into blocks
250ml Flour
2 ml Salt
4 Large Eggs

Cream Filling

500 ml Fresh cream
75 ml Icing sugar
1 ml Vanilla

Chocolate Topping

300 ml Icing sugar
75 ml cocoa
15 ml soft butter
30 ml water

Method

Put the water and butter in a pot and bring to the boil.
Add the flour to the water mixture.
Stir until the dough forms a ball. Remove from the heat and mix for 1 minute.
Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix after each addition.
Pipe the dough onto a well greased baking pan. Leave some space in between for the éclairs to expand.
Bake at 220°C for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
Prick each éclair when it comes out of the oven, let it cool.
Whisk the cream until soft peaks, add the icing sugar and vanilla. Fill each éclair with the cream mixture.
For the chocolate topping, sieve the icing sugar and cocoa together. Add the butter and boiling water until the correct consistency.
Spoon mixture over the éclairs, serve and enjoy!

Makes about 30 small eclairs.

Serve and enjoy! 

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report May 2017

Winter has arrived and the bush is wearing its winter attire once again! We have the blankets and hot water bottles back on the game drive vehicles and game viewing has been spectacular! The trees and grass are not as lush anymore, which gives you a better view of all the amazing wildlife living around us. We’ve had a wonderful month at the lodge with guests from all over the world. If you have some last minute safari plans, be sure to contact our reservations office for some last minute availability during our winter special rates. Come and enjoy an evening around the fire in the boma with us and witness the most beautiful night sky Africa has to offer!

Elephant bulls playing by Morné Fouché

In the middle of May Etienne, Marlet, Anel and I once again took on the journey to Durban, to attend the annual Tourism Indaba. Our stand, tastefully decorated in crisp white and wicker, drew a lot of attention and we received loads of compliments. Thank you to each and every one who visited our stand. We met with loads of our well-known agents, but also got to meet a few new and upcoming ones. I am sure we will have many more years of good business relations with all of them.

Trapcam photo With winter creeping up upon us, we see more and more activity at our waterholes. This month, the trapcam was placed on the road next to Leeukuil pan. There was a lot of traffic on this specific road during the time we had the camera up. We captured this beautiful waterbuck bull, gracefully moving towards the pan.

We welcomed a new but somewhat familiar face at the lodge this month. Dawie Lombard joined our ranger team just before the month said its last goodbyes. Dawie actually gained some practical experience at Elephant Plains in 2009 as a young student guide, fresh out of EcoTraining. It’s great having him back at the lodge and almost feels as if he never left, but just went on a very, very long holiday. Welcome back Dawie!

Dwarf Mongoose by Morné FouchéAs always, we had some staff birthdays to celebrate. I celebrated my birthday on the 3rd and just the following day, Oom Etienne Swart had his special day. Although Oom Etienne lives in the Free State, his birthday is still special to us. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays in May, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter!

Our recipe for the month is a creamy chicken sensation. These chicken phyllo cups are very easy and great for lunch. If you prefer to make a big pie instead of the single portions, just line a big pie dish and fill with the creamy chicken.

Creamy Chicken Phyllo Cups

Ingredients

Creamy Chicken Phyllo Cups1Kg Chicken breasts, cut to small pieces
Salt and pepper
Garlic & Herb spice
1 cup Frozen peas
1/2 cup Chopped spring onions
1 Roll Phyllo pastry
Melted butter to brush

Method

Fry chopped spring onions in oil till soft. Add the chicken and fry till cooked but not dry. Add the frozen peas and fry till soft.
Spice with salt, pepper and Garlic & herb spices.
Make a basic white sauce, about 500ml, and add to the chicken.

To make the Phyllo cups

Cut Phyllo pastry in 10cm x 10 cm squares. Layer 3 sheets on top of each other. Place the pastry squares in a muffin pan and brush the sides with melted butter. Bake for about 5 minutes at 180°C till the sides are brown. Set aside to cool down.

Once cooled, fill the phyllo cups with the chicken mixture.

Makes 12 individual portions

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month.
Tersia Fouché

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