Once again it was just outstanding and brilliant to be out in the bush this past month. The nightlife was excellent and we were very fortunate to see a lot of porcupines, genets, civets and even a few honey badgers. We also had wonderful sightings of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and loads of general game. A pack of wild dogs were very generous to us, as we had them hunting and moving through our area for a number of days. We also had a few wonderful sightings of a cheetah that moved through the area. The day temperatures were in the mid-thirties, with an average maximum temperature of 32°C. The humidity was very high, but we had no rain this month. The trees and grass are slowly but surely changing colour from green to a pale brown and yellow. Although they are no longer green, they still contain a lot of nutrients for the animals.
Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel
What great sightings we had with our beautiful leopards this month. Salayexe is still looking great and moving all over her territory, even sometimes venturing further than her own territory. She is moving more eastwards into Shadow’s territory, more south through a part of Moya’s territory and also west into her daughter, Nsele’s, territory. It will be interesting to see how things will unfold in the next few months, if she is pregnant. Shadow is also moving a lot more on her western boundary, but that might be due to Salayexe, who is moving around on her western boundary. Shadow’s cub is looking great and we had a few lovely sightings of him this month when mom made kills. He is much more relaxed when she is there with him and when he is busy feeding on a kill. Things are really looking good for Shadow, as this might be the first cub that she can raise to independence. Thandi was also seen a few times this month, but this time only with one cub. It looks like she lost the other cub. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that she can raise the remaining cub. Unfortunately the cub that was killed looks to be the more adventurous one. This is normally the case with the majority of cubs that get killed. Being the adventurous one also exposes you to more danger…
Moya was also seen a few times this month, moving through the area and patrolling her boundaries. Moya is not one of the biggest female leopards around. In fact, she is just a little bigger than the twins, Thandi and Shadow. Moya’s mother, Nyaleti, was an above average female and her father, Tyson, was an enormous male leopard. Nsele was seen a few times this month and we are viewing her more and more these days. Her two cubs are getting big and it will not be too long before she needs to kick them out and have new babies. Kwatile was also seen a few times and she is looking really healthy and in good shape. She is leaving her cub alone more often and for longer periods of time. I think when she kicks her cub out the cub will be fine, because Kwatile is a great mother. We managed to see Kurula again this month and the old lady is looking great. She is also moving all over the area, whilst scent marking. It might be that she is advertising again, trying to get another male to mate with her. She could also just be expanding her empire. Lamula was seen a lot more this month than in previous months. He was seen scent marking all over and doing his territorial calling while moving through. The next day we had Tingana and Anderson close to the area where Lamula was calling and scent marking. It was only a few days later when Lamula walked straight into Anderson at one of the main water holes, Big Dam. Anderson quickly showed Lamula who the new boss in the area is, but Lamula did not back off. After the standoff Lamula was back scent marking and calling to say that he was still in the area. This territorial calling might work in his favour as it is sure to attract both Tingana and Anderson. Luring them both to the area, might cause a stand-off between the two of them. Who knows what will follow then? Anderson is pushing further east into Tingana’s territory. Tingana and Anderson are both looking great and they are in their prime. It will be a match that I do not want to miss. Mvula is also looking great and he still tolerates all the young males in his territory, but the question remains, how long before he’s had enough?
Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs
We had great lion sightings again this month. The two young Styx pride lionesses are still moving around in their old territory and strangely enough they are scent marking as they are going along. The big question is now, are these two young ladies looking to reclaim their old territory? If this is the case and they want to take back this area, there is only one problem: they are outnumbered. The Nkuhuma pride is a strong pride and a force to be reckoned with, so it will not be a push-over for the young females. The one thing that is great for the young Styx females is that the Nkuhuma pride is still spending the majority of their time in the northern and middle part of their own territory. The two young Styx females are spending a lot of their time with the two Big Matimba male lions. The Nkuhuma pride definitely has their eyes set on the Styx pride’s old territory, so only time will tell. The battle for supremacy has begun between the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the original Tsalala pride. There is a definite change in the lion dynamics in our area and it is so interesting to see it unfold. Although these two prides are related, there is no love lost between them. The Breakaway pride was in the shadows of their mothers for a long time. It looks like they just had enough, wanting the spotlight for themselves. We had both these prides close to our lodge one evening. That night we heard an explosion of lions roaring and growling and it sounded as if the bush came to a complete standstill as all the other night-time sounds abruptly stopped. The lions were chasing each other over our open area in front of the lodge and it was difficult to spot which lions belonged to which pride. Upon closer inspection that evening we found the Breakaway pride with three of the Majingi male lions resting close to our lodge. We soon realized that the Tsalala females were the ones that got chased south by the Breakaway pride. The Tsalala females are still looking great, but they are much older than the younger and stronger Breakaway females. Both these female prides are very healthy. The cubs are getting bigger and bigger by the day. It is always great to have them in our area. The Majingi males are still looking powerful, but their ageing bodies are full of battle scars, each telling a different story. Although they are ten years old this year, they still have enough strength in them to fend off any rival males.
Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché
Buffaloes and more buffaloes. This was the sightings we had for the month. The herds moved in and out of our area for the entire month. With the bush taking on a wintery look, these herds do not move too far away from the big water holes and they will frequently move between favourite feeding places. When they move around a lot, it spreads the grazing impact over a wider area than if they stayed in one area. When buffaloes feed, they move around very slowly. They will normally drink water in the mornings and in the evenings and rest during the hottest time of the day. The majority of the females already gave birth and there are loads of healthy calves within the breading herds. We also had our trusty dagga boys moving to the main water holes to enjoy a cool and refreshing mud wallow. Our guests were once again entertained by these big boys in the water on the open area in front of the lodge.
Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs
We had awesome elephant sightings this month, so much so that we had tears of joy in our eyes. We had such a great sighting the one morning when we came across a herd of about twenty elephants all huddled up together. When we moved closer for a better look it became clear that they did not want us that close as they were very vocal. As we got back to the road the herd calmed down and it looked like they planned to move towards the road. We knew that there was something going on in the middle of the many grey bodies, but we did not know what… So we waited for them to reveal what they were hiding. After what felt like forever, a female came out of the bush towards the road. We immediately saw the female with a piece of afterbirth still attached to her backside and then the tiny baby came stumbling out of the thicket following its mother, aunty and older siblings. The newborn calf could hardly walk, let alone keep up with the rest of the herd, but mum and the older siblings were always around making sure that the newest addition to their family felt safe. That small baby did not go ten minutes without any one of the other elephants touching and reassuring it. It was great to see how gentle these big animals can be when it comes to a small baby. They truly are gentle giants.
This month was filled with great sightings, but there was one that stood out from the rest. This was when a cheetah had a standoff with a female leopard. It was awesome to see how the cheetah stood its ground, although it was no match for the leopard. We do not see cheetah and leopard in the same area very often as their habitats hugely differ, therefore, watching these two cats staring each other down was truly amazing.
Did you know?
Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest cat.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
Wild photo of the month by Paul, Sue, Mark, and Kirsty Johnstone, Brisbane, Australia
The shortest month of the year came and went in the blink of an eye. We had loads of wonderful game drive sightings, celebrated many staff birthdays and on the 14th of February our guests were treated to a romantic Valentine’s Dinner. We experienced some strange weather patterns as well. We had very hot, humid days, warm, windy days and ended the month with some chilly, rainy days. It is noticeable during the evenings that the season is now slowly changing. The warm humid nights are being replaced by cooler, breezier temperatures. We can also notice the sunrise and sunset times changing a little more every day, as we slowly move towards autumn.
Red-billed oxpeckers by Morné Fouché
We all know that February is the month of love, because we celebrate the ever so special Valentine’s Day. This year, we decided to spoil our guests with a romantic dinner by candlelight and roses. Elizmari did a wonderful job decorating the tables and we had a true Valentine’s atmosphere in the air. To all the guests who joined us over this period, I hope you enjoyed your evening with us.
This month we welcomed a new face to the kitchen. Henk Human joined our team as a junior chef on the 26th and is already part of the family. He has a great passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. He has already blown us away with his creativity and fresh ideas. Welcome to the team Henk, I am sure you are going to spend many happy days at EP, while spoiling us with your delicious meals.
Trapcam photo – Giraffes
The last few months, we have been very fortunate to capture some amazing wildlife on the trapcam. This month was no exception. The trapcam was placed at Kraaines, which is just west of our airstrip. Many animals will graze around the airstrip and then head to Kraaines for a drink before moving on again. This month we captured some giraffe at the water. These tall horses are spectacular animals with their extra-long legs and necks. Luckily, the camera was placed just at the correct height to capture a complete picture. You can just imagine how far they have to bend down to get to the water.
February is a very busy birthday month at the lodge. Five of our staff members celebrated their birthdays this month. We started the month with our head ranger, Morné, who celebrated his birthday on the 1st. I am sure all of you are already familiar with him, reading his monthly Ranger’s Reports. On the 2nd, our trusty tracker, Derrick celebrated his birthday. Derrick has been part of our team for a few years now and he enjoys sharing stories of his childhood with us. Another gentleman who celebrated his birthday was Dion, on the 4th. Dion is not only a very passionate gardener, but also very good with general maintenance around the lodge and he even knows his way around the tractor! Marlet celebrated her birthday on the 24th. Although we do not see her every day as we used to, now that she is based in Nelspruit with the children, she still visits the lodge as often as she can and is still very involved with the day to day running of the lodge. The last one for the month was another tracker, Thomas, whose birthday was on the 27th. This is his first birthday as part of the Elephant Plains team and I am sure it was a special one. Happy birthday to all of you! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during February, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
Each month our chefs spoil us with delicious new recipes from the EP kitchen. This month is no exception, with a delicious Haddock and Dill Quiche by chef Reimond. This is one of my personal favourites on our lunch menus. Served with a garden salad and a fresh bread roll, it makes a perfect light meal.
Haddock & Dill Quiche
Haddock & Dill Quiche
1 Roll Puff Pastry
½ Cup Smoked Haddock
1 Cup Full Cream Milk
½ Cup Cream
1 Tbsp Chopped Onion
1 Tsp Crushed garlic
2 Tsp Fresh Dill (lightly Chopped)
Pinch Salt and Pepper
Sauté the onions and the garlic in a sauce pan until the onions turn translucent. Roughly chop the smoked haddock and add it to the sauce pan and gently fry the haddock with the onions and the garlic. Take the sauce pan of the heat and stir through the fresh dill.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper until well combined. As soon as the haddock mixture has cooled down, pour the egg mixture over the haddock and set aside.
Prepare your baking dish by lining the bottom with a thin layer of puff pastry. Pour the haddock mixture over the puff pastry and place into the oven at 150°C. Bake the quiche for 15-20 minutes, or until it feels firm.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
This month was jam-packed and full of action! All the animals made sure that we were really sitting on the edge of our seats. We were very lucky the one day on drive to see two massive heavyweights battling it out. Two hippo bulls were fighting for the ultimate prize: a big watering hole with loads of female hippos in it. We had a few lovely wild dog sightings again this month, as they moved through the area. Our resident hyena clan has two new pups and that brings the total pups to a staggering total of nine. If all of these pups survive, this specific clan will have close to 20 members and then the other predators will have to be on their toes. We had a few hot days with very high humidity. Other days had a massive cloud build up, only to disappear again. We did not have a lot of rain and you can notice it by looking at the grass and trees, as they are beginning to struggle in this heat. The average maximum temperature this month was 31°C, with 44mm of rain.
African sunset by Jonathan Vogel
Again the leopard sightings were just out of this world. Salayexe was out and about a few times this month, moving all over her territory to mark her boundaries. Salayexe is now ten years old, but she is still looking like a six year old female; very healthy and looking great. It would be great if Salayexe can have another litter soon. It is not that she is a bad mother – she has just experienced extremely bad luck with raising her cubs. We saw Kurula a few times as well and she was her old self again. Kwatile was seen mating with Tingana for four consecutive days. It will be interesting to see when she would mate with Mvula again, because he is the dominant male in her territory. The fact that she is mating again is a sign that she will soon break the bond with her cub. Shadow and her little cub are both looking great and very healthy. The little one looks like a little male cub as his footprints are almost the same size as his mother’s. The little one is getting bigger and more relaxed with the vehicles, moving around them in the sightings. With this little cub the habituation process is taking longer than normal, but it is understandable if you look at his mother, who is also not the most relaxed with the vehicles. Nzele is looking great and she is now really a beautiful leopard, just like her grandmother was. Her cubs are still not relaxed with the vehicles when on their own, but when mom is present it does not take long before they settle down. We were very fortunate to view Lamula again a few times this month. Although it was short lived we spent some quality time with him. He is such an awesome leopard and it is a shame that he is getting pressured by Tingana and Anderson. Anderson is looking good and more relaxed with the vehicles, but when he had enough he disappears in the absolute thickets. We struck it lucky when we found him in a tree with a newborn buffalo calve right next to him. We had him there for two days while feasting on his big prize. Tingana was seen a lot this month. He is still holding onto his territory. Anderson is scent marking well into Tingana’s territory and then Tingana will come along and return the favor. It will not be too long before these two will meet again and who knows what will happen then… Mvula is still a beast and looking great, when he walks down the road you can see the confidence in his stride.
Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché
All the lions were very generous, showering us with some unbelievable lion sightings. The Breakaway pride once again came into our area and stayed a day or two. The youngsters are getting bigger and they are almost just as big as their mothers now. It is so nice to see that all nine cubs are still alive and well. These four females have really done well and they can be proud of themselves for this achievement. I for one can’t wait for this pride to have their next litter of cubs. Can you imagine 20+ lions walking down the road towards you – our first super pride…? Saying that there are always a few things that you need to keep in mind, like a pride takeover or a run-in with another pride. But as the bush have showed us many times before, nothing is impossible. We had a wonderful surprise visit from the Tsalala pride the one day. It is great to see the young sub-adult have settled in nicely with her mother and aunt. The two older ladies are also looking great, considering that they are 13 years old this year. I think that the sub-adult is a great asset to the pride, as she has a lot to bring to the table. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in heart. The four youngsters are also looking great and growing fast. I hope that they will all survive and that the pride can further expand. We also had the Nkuhuma pride that moved through the area. Time is running out for the young male in the pride. He is starting to show interest in the females of the pride and for that his father will not tolerate him for much longer. The Birmingham males are looking stunning and their manes are slowly getting bigger and also changing color. The pale blond color is changing to a dark brown-to-black color. They were also following one of the breeding herds of buffalo around in our area and eventually the one night they killed a small calve. These boys had a run-in with other males the one evening. We are unsure who the other males were, as we did not see them. The one morning we found tracks for a few big males and then we found three of the young males. One of the three had fresh bite and claw marks on his back and fresh blood stained his tawny colored fur. Luckily there were no serious injuries. Tracks for the other males went up north again. It looks like when they get split up, they move north and regroup again. The two Matimba male lions are also looking good and going strong. They were seen walking around with the two young Styx females again this month. If the young Styx females do fall pregnant and the Matimba’s are the fathers, they would have to move back into their old territory so they can be close to the males. The Majingi’s also come through every now and again but more to make sure that the Birmingham males are not causing havoc in their territory. They have their work cut out for them as the five young guns have no interest in leaving this area.
African wild dog by Louis Liversage
We had some of the best buffalo sightings yet this month. We were so lucky to have three different buffalo herds that were moving in and out of the area at the same time. We saw a few females with newborn calves of maybe a day old at most and their mothers were very nervous with these youngsters. It was interesting to see how all the pregnant females walked at the back of the herd. One way to see if the females are pregnant is to look at their bellies. They will have very low hanging belies and would be lagging behind the rest of the herd. When pregnant females lag behind, they become easy prey to lions. The pregnant females who were walking at the back of the herd were accompanied by a few big males though. With all the buffalo herds moving through the area, the young Birmingham male lions thought it was heaven! This time of the year all the predators will be waiting for that exact opportunity to strike a herd, when they least expect. We had quite a few new dagga boys that hang around a few of the scattered mud wallows. These males were pushed out by the new dominant males within the herds.
Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché
What a wonderful treat we had with our elephant sightings, being even better than last month. We had a few big groups that came through the area, followed by a big male or two. We did not see a lot of big elephant bulls this last month, but this might be due to the females that have small calves at the moment. Every herd that we saw has calves aged between six months to two years and older. The elephant herds that we saw were always moving and feeding as they went along. Elephants normally gain a lot of body reserves during the rainy season, when there is a high nutritional value in the food they consume. They will then loose body condition again during the dry season when nutritional value in the food is low. The elephant’s large body enables them to withstand nutritional stresses. Death due to starvation does sometimes occur, but elephants are capable of traveling long distances in search of food and water. Breeding herds are limited in a way, as they can only go as fast and as far as the smallest calves’ capabilities.
The special sighting this month was to see two hippo bulls in a battle for dominance. The fight happened between an older and younger bull, both living in the same dam. At one stage the older and more dominant male managed to lift his younger challenger out of the water with his head and neck. Battered and bruised, the two males called it a day and returned to opposite ends of the water hole. Although both males sustained deep cuts and wounds, they will live to tell the story another day. It is only when you witness such an awesome spectacle that you realize how strong and dangerous these animals really are.
Did you know?
Besides whales and dolphins, the hippo is the only African mammal that mates in the water.
Hope to see you all out on game drive soon!
The moment you turn 30, sometimes even before that, ageing signs start to appear in the form of wrinkles. Pollution, together with sun damage, a lack of the correct daily vitamin supplements, as well as the excessive use of cosmetics all contributes to wrinkle formation. Although there is no full proof recipe to get rid of wrinkles, there are quite a few natural options that could lessen their appearance. Instead of trying out those anti- wrinkle creams, why don’t you use your own homemade mask? Here I will share my favourite options with you:
Egg & Yoghurt Mask
Combine egg white and yoghurt as a natural de-wrinkler
Eggs are a powerhouse, filled of proteins, vitamins and fatty acids that can help to nourish, firm and tighten your skin naturally, easing fine lines – especially your laugh lines. Mix one tablespoon of plain yogurt to one egg white and apply it to your whole face twice a week for a firmer, brilliant skin.
Honey also helps sagging skin, but one of its most useful properties is its ability to hydrate and anti-oxidize your skin. Honey is also naturally antibacterial, so it will help treat and also prevent acne. You can use any honey, straight from the jar. Moisture your skin with a splash of water before you apply your mask, rub it onto your clean skin and leave on for about 10 minutes.
Use cucumber juice to plump out wrinkles
Cucumber can also be used to tighten loose and saggy skin. Just look at the effect of cold cucumber slices over your eyes in order to reduce puffiness… It is one of the best natural skin toners with a reviving and restoring impact. Press a cucumber through a strainer to get all its healthy juices, apply all over your face and let it dry out. You can use cucumber juice on a daily basis.
Papaya & Banana Mask
For those frown lines on your forehead, you can make a purée of papaya and banana. Papaya is loaded with enzymes such as papain, while a banana is rich in vitamins that will help in revitalizing your skin. Both fruit pulps are an excellent antidote for premature ageing. So the sooner you start with this mask, the better! Mash the two fruits together into a nice paste and gently spread onto your face and neck. Relax for 15 minutes and rinse off with water. Remember to always pat your skin dry with a clean towel.
Avocado and honey make two excellent masks
The last product that everyone has in and even sometimes around the house is Avocado. Avocado is a wonderfully versatile fruit as it reduces the appearance of wrinkles, while pampering your skin back to its natural health. Apply the mashed pulp just before you step into the bath. Your skin will glow with radiance and vitality afterwards.
I hope these home-made mask recipes will help you, not only in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, but also in feeling radiant and full of confidence.
Wild photo of the month
Wild photo of the month by Eleanor and Peter Craighead, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
December was a great month to end the year. We had lovely animal sightings, shared happiness and laughter over the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s and just before we said our last goodbyes to 2014, we received a heavy downpour of rain. This was our first heavy rains for the season and we welcomed it with open arms.
Breeding herd of buffaloes drinking water by Louis Liversage
The rain we received was just enough to turn the dry Manyeleti River into a shallow stream. At the beginning, we were a bit concerned when flood warnings were issued. Luckily, the weather cleared up just in time and the river did not pick up. I was definitely not looking forward to enter 2015 with a flood! After the rain, we were entertained by a choir of frogs singing the most amazing songs each night around the ponds and fountains at the lodge. The sounds they make are so powerful and insistent, that some of our guests were looking for a recorder playing the sounds.
Matimba male lion by Morné Fouché
During the last few months, I dropped hints on where we have been improving and renovating around the lodge. I am happy to say that our dining room now has a brand new look with fresh paint, renovated tables and a new set of very comfortable chairs. This transformation was completed just in time to complement our new menu’s, which were also introduced this month. The chefs did a wonderful job preparing all the new, fresh summer dishes. Setting new menus is always a tricky task. A lot of thought and consideration goes into each and every dish. Our new menus are packed with a wide selection of crunchy summer salads, freshly baked breads and light meaty dishes. We have already received loads of compliments from guests and requests for recipes as well.
On the 25th and 31st, Janine and Louise did a wonderful job decorating the dining room for Christmas and New Year’s dinner. Guests were welcomed with a refreshing cocktail and the chefs once again went over the top with a wide selection of meats, salads and an “oh so heavenly” dessert buffets. Thank you to each and every guest who chose our lodge to celebrate these specials days and a special thank you to each and every staff member who gave their 100% during the festive season. We truly appreciate it! For those of you who travelled during the festive season, near or far, I hope you had a wonderful time and a safe journey home.
During December we also had a lot of children in camp. Elephant Plains is one of only a few child friendly lodges in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin and we enjoy having the younger generation with us. If you would like to treat your family to an African bush experience, be sure to contact our reservations team for availability and rates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trapcam photo – small herd of elephants drinking
Our trapcam caught a small herd of elephants drinking whilst a buffalo was cooling down in the water at Leeukuil.With the lovely rain we had, there are many water options available to the animals and the bush is bursting with life.
This month we celebrated only two birthdays at the lodge. First up was little Martin Swart who celebrated his 2nd birthday on the 11th. Martin is a busy body, but can melt your heart with his friendly smile. Frank celebrated his birthday just two days before Christmas. I am sure the 23rd was a special day for him as well. Frank is one of our cooks,who always has new, innovative ideas up his sleeve. I hope both of you enjoyed your special days! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during December, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.
Our recipe of the month will definitely knock you off your feet! Thank you chef Reimond, for sharing this amazing Spaghetti Tower recipe with us. With something so quick and easy to make, you will never have an excuse not to spoil your guests with a tasty starter, or to use it as a vegetarian option.
(Makes 1 serving)
1 Tbsp. Sundried Tomatoes (Finely Chopped)
1 tsp. Pistachio Nuts (Finely Chopped)
1 ½ tsp Basil Pesto
¼ Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Tsp. Crushed Garlic
Pinch Black pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
5 Drops Lemon Juice
5 Drops Tabasco (Red Pepper Sauce)
Heat a pot of water over a high heat until the water starts to boil. Add some salt to the water to flavour the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and allow to cook for +- 10 minutes. While the spaghetti is busy cooking, chop the sundried tomatoes and the pistachio nuts into a fine crumb. In a pestle and mortar, crush together all the ingredients for the dressing until it becomes a very fine liquid. Remove the spaghetti from the pot, drain and rinse under hot water. Place the Spaghetti in a bowl and mix the basil pesto through the spaghetti thoroughly. Place the pesto onto a serving plate and garnish with the finely chopped pistachio nuts and sundried tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over the spaghetti and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top just before serving.
Serve and enjoy!
My wish for each and everyone for 2015 is a year full of peace and happiness. Let’s grab 2015 by the horns!
All the best till next month