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 month, when the rutting season is in full swing. We experienced our first proper cold front during April. There is a definite change in the weather. The early mornings and late afternoons are getting really chilly, as the sun disappears behind the horizon. We have put the blankets back onto the vehicles to help relieve the cooler mornings and late afternoons. The average maximum temperature was 30°C, with 41mm of rain. We were very fortunate to see a pack of 14 wild dogs, as well as the pack of three who moved though our area for a few days. Game viewing was just incredible and we saw a lot of action out in the bush.

Leopards

During the past month, these beautiful spotted cats made sure that we worked hard for great sightings. That said, the overall sightings were both unbelievable and mind blowing.

We finally found Tiyani, after she was absent from the area for a few weeks. She was seen scent marking all over our southern boundary. The area where she was seen, belongs to her cousin Moya, so the question that remains to be answered is where is Moya? At this stage, it will be great to see Tiyani getting a territory for herself, but this area might not be the best for her at this stage.

Salayexe is still moving all over the area, scent marking her territory and making sure that none of the young ladies try and take a part of her area. Salayexe is still a formidable force to be reckoned with and if any female would dare to challenge her they must know one thing, she will not go down without a fight. This old lady is still looking very healthy and eating really well.

Nsele and her cub were also seen a lot this month and they are both looking great. The majority of the times we saw them, they were apart from each other. This is mum’s way of letting the young female know that she needs to start hunting in order to survive. The young female tried catching various things, but it did not work out for her. She soon realised there are no specific skills needed to catch a tortoise, but you need to have skills to open the meal. Birds, giant land snails and mongoose were all very high on the list of potential preys, but not very high in the “ample food” category. This is a good learning curve for the young female and hopefully she can learn from her mistakes.

Thandi and her cub were also seen a lot this month. This young male is looking really great and he is lucky to have a great mother like Thandi, to provide him with food. With him growing fast and getting bigger by the day, Thandi needs to hunt more often.

Hosana and Xongile are also looking great and they are very healthy. These two young leopards have the ability to hunt and kill something on their own, as they have shown us so many times before. The area they are hanging around in has nice and dense vegetation, with a lot of waterholes and loads of antelope.

The Ingrid Dam female was also seen a few times this month and it is great to see that she is still hanging around the area. She also had a tough time with Salayexe, moving all over the area and letting her know who the boss really is. The young Ingrid Dam female has moved into an area once occupied by Kwatile. After the death of Kwatile that piece of her old territory became a no man’s land. This is great for the young female, as she does not have to fight another female for a territory at this stage.

It is so far, all good with the male leopards in the area and both Tingana and Anderson are not expanding at the moment. Both these males were low on the radar this month.

Lions

Elephant bull by Louis LiversageThe lion sightings were absolutely great. We were very fortunate to see lions on a regular basis. The lion dynamics are currently very interesting and there are loads of changes bound to happen. Like everything else, change is not always a bad thing. I think everyone will surely agree with me when I say that the last few months were very interesting, regarding the different lion prides in the area.

The Styx pride is still doing great and the six cubs are looking very healthy at the moment. The three ladies are doing a great job hunting and providing food for the rest of the pride. The four youngest cubs are also eating meat and they are such a joy to watch, as they fight each other for a piece of meat. The four little ones still do not know where the boundaries are regarding dad’s personal space. It is great to watch these cubs interacting with the rest of the pride. Fingers crossed that all six cubs can survive and that the pride will grow and become stronger.

The Nkuhuma pride is doing very well for themselves and they are still very healthy. We were again very fortunate to have them stay in our area for quite some time. I might be mistaken, but it looks like the milk glands of one of the females are swollen. This will be great for the pride if she is pregnant and the pride can grow with a few more members. All five females are looking very healthy and well fed. The six cubs are also looking healthy as they always have something to eat, thanks to their mothers. The Nkuhuma pride is busy expanding their territory, as we saw them in front of our lodge with a few impala kills. After finishing the kills, they moved back north, scent marking as they went along. Due to the absence of the Tsalala pride, the area around our lodge became neglected and up for grabs. There are definitely interesting times awaiting us in the near future.

The Birmingham males are definitely in the prime of their lives now and they are looking very healthy. They still split up from time to time, but have spent a lot more time together this month than previously. One thing that we noticed is that when they do split up, one will go to the Styx pride and two will go to the Nkuhuma pride, the remaining one will float between the two prides.

Buffalo

African harrier hawk by Louis LiversageThe buffalo sightings are starting to pick up quite a bit. There are more and more evidence of herds moving into our area at night, but by the next day they have already left the area. This is strange behaviour for these bulk grazers, as there is so much grass in the area. There must be another reason. We were very fortunate to see a herd of about 200 buffaloes which moved through the area. This was again short lived, as the herd moved out of our traversing area the following day. We soon realised that we are not the only ones to get all excited when the herds move into the area. Every time a herd or a few dagga boys move into the area the lions are on their spoor. This was the reason why the buffaloes did not stay for very long before moving on again. This is a battle that has been going on for years between lions and buffaloes, this is the battle for survival.

Elephants

Elephant eye by Morné FouchéWe once again had such a great time with these big heavyweights in our area. There were really loads of herds to choose from and we did not need to go very far from the lodge itself. Out of all the herds that we saw this month moving through our area, we only saw two really small babies of a few months old. There are a lot of the big females who are far pregnant at the moment. All the herds spend a lot of their time feasting on the last bit of the green grass in the area. In the next few months one will notice a lot more damage to the trees, as this will be the main food source for the elephants. In the summer season the elephant’s diet consists of 98% grass and in the winter, it is 90% trees. There were also many big bulls moving through the area. These big males were all in full musth and really grumpy. This made viewing the herds really interesting. It is always such an experience to see these big animals feeding and interacting with each other.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was when we saw a mother porcupine with her two very small babies on drive the one evening. Unfortunately, we did not manage to get a single photo of the babies, but still, it was amazing to see them.

Did you know?

Another name for a herd of elephants is a memory of elephants. Quite an apt description of spending time with these gentle giants of the African bush.

See you out on the game drive soon.
Morné Fouché

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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 back at work and others at school. I wish everyone the best for 2017!

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

At the lodge, we are busy as always. January was a very hot month overall and the rain we received was indeed a huge relief. We expected some action with the river, as we had good rains during the month. And yes, the Manyeleti river was flowing once again! I assume the areas outside had a bit more rain than we did, as the catchment area is situated outside the reserve. Nevertheless, the water levels weren’t very high and by the afternoon it had almost completely dried up. We still have some puddles of water in the river and the bush is quickly transforming. One can almost hear the grass growing after the rain! Another sound we cannot miss after the rain is the frog choir, which is active every evening. Toads and frogs off all different shapes, sizes and colours bundle together, making the most interesting sounds.

A small bachelor herd of buffaloes by Morné Fouché

A small bachelor herd of buffaloes by Morné Fouché

Our maintenance team was also up and down on the roads, open areas and flood plains this month. Hendrik and his team gave the roads some special attention, slashing the grass on and around the roads. After the roads, they also slashed the grass on the flood plains in front of the lodge and the open areas on our property. These wide, open areas are a favourite amongst herbivores.

We also had a very special visitor at the lodge this month. Lisa Dunn, grading inspector from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa spend a night with us on the 10th of January. Establishments are graded on a yearly basis, in order to renew their star grading. I am proud to announce that our grading has been approved and we are proudly wearing our 4 stars for another year!

Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

This month, instead of a trapcam picture, I would like to share a picture of a daily occurrence we sometimes take for granted. One always see pictures of the most amazing African Sunsets. A beautiful natural canvas with intense hues of orange, to deep reds. I was amazed one afternoon by the warm yellow and deep purple-blue blanket that covered the lodge. It was almost as if the sky and clouds were fired up by millions of candles hidden amongst the clouds! I was out on the floodplains in front of the Manyeleti Honeymoon suite when this truly amazing sunset reminded me how blessed we are to live in the bush. What made the moment truly breath-taking, was that on the opposite side, a rainbow made its way into the slow fading light. What an incredible way to end off the day!

We celebrated only two birthdays at the lodge this month. First, starting the year in full celebration, was our waiter Happy who celebrated his birthday on the 1st. Then, just before we approached the end of January, on the 21st, our barman Victor celebrated his birthday. Both these young, vibrant men are seen daily in and around the bar and dining area, ensuring that our guests are served with a smile. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during January, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.

Our recipe for the month is a mouth watering one! Chef Juandré bakes the most amazing fresh breads every day. One of them is the Bacon and Blue Cheese bread for our lunch buffet. If you are a bread lover, serve this with a spread of butter and you will experience heaven on earth! If you prefer a basic country loaf, just give the bacon and blue cheese a skip.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Loaf

Bacon and Blue Cheese Loaf

Bacon and Blue Cheese Loaf

Ingredients

450g Cake flour
30g Granulated sugar
15g Salt
7g Instant dry yeast
250ml Water
75g Blue Cheese
100g Bacon, chopped and fried
Flour to dust

Method

Mix the flour, sugar and yeast in a bowl.
Add the water.
Add the bacon and blue cheese
Mix until soft, smooth and elastic.
Prove in a bowl covered with plastic until double in size.
Portion the dough and shape out in loafs, place on a greased tray and dust with flour.
Prove until double in size.
Bake at 240⁰C for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
Turn out to cool.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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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, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C. We also had a few unbelievable sightings this month. We had the privilege to spend some quality time with the Sands wild dog pack and also the Breakaway Investec pack. It is always a treat to see these endangered predators move through our area. The excitement did not stop there, as we were very fortunate to see two cheetah brothers moving through the area as well.

Leopard

Tiyani is looking great and very healthy. This young female got a very rude awakening by her mother, Salayexe. The once unbreakable bond between mother and daughter is for sure something from the past. The one day Tiyani followed the call that she knew so well – the call of her mother, only to be chased up a tree and growled at! Tiyani tried everything, but she received no compassion from Salayexe, who was sitting at the base of the tree. Salayexe made it very clear that it was time for Tiyani to move on. Tiyani found some relieve and peace in the north-eastern side of Salayexe’s territory. Time will tell if she will move further east, or decide to stay in the area. Salayexe is doing just fine and she was scent marking all over the show. Salayexe is now twelve years old, but she still has a few years left to raise more cubs and defend her territory. The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also out and about this month. Once again, she was moving around in Salayexe’s territory. She is definitely like Houdini, because every time that Salayexe moves through her territory this young female disappears, making it very difficult for Salayexe to find her. This young female is such a treat to watch and she is a truly beautiful leopard. I really hope that she would stay in our area. Kurula and her two cubs are also doing great. The male cub is definitely the more adventurous one of the two. His sister is also great with the vehicles around her, but she is still a little shy. It is a true show to watch these three cats playing together. Fingers crossed that she will raise these two cubs to independence.  Shadow was also seen this month, but she was very illusive. She is looking great and very healthy, though. Word is that she gave birth, but we do not know where and to how many cubs. I certainly can’t wait to see them for the first time! Nsele was also seen a few times this month. She was alone the majority of the time but her daughter is still doing well. Being a year old now, it is common for Nsele to leave her alone for longer periods – forcing her to start practicing her own hunting techniques. The big boys were all over the show again this month and missed each other the whole time. Tingana is still patrolling his territory’s western boundary, as Anderson is looking to expand. Tingana is a big leopard but not as big as Anderson, so it will be interesting to see what will happen in the near future. Tingana is also expanding more east, so I think he knows what is coming. Anderson, the brut, is still expanding into Tingana’s territory and he is constantly moving more east, claiming a big chunk of Tingana’s territory. If Anderson succeeds in taking over the western part of Tingana’s territory, Shadow’s new cubs would be at risk.

Lion

Giant platted lizard by Louis Liversage

Giant platted lizard by Louis Liversage

All the lion prides and males were out to play this month! The Styx pride was seen a few times, accompanied by one of the Birmingham males. It is always good to have a big male present, in order to protect the cubs from danger. These three females are looking great and the cubs are very healthy. The Styx pride is moving all over the show and even into Tsalala pride territory. This sudden change might be due to the Birmingham males looking to expand their territory. The Tsalala 5 pride consist of the tailless female and the four youngsters. This pride is still sticking together at the moment, but I do not think it will be for much longer. The tailless female and the young female in the group are roaring every now and again… Who knows? They might be calling the big males… Unfortunately for the young males, their time to leave is closing in. The first two years of a young male lion’s life is the most crucial, as it is a struggle for survival. The Birmingham males are looking to expand their territory more west. The only problem is that this area still belongs to the Majingi male lions. Although the Majingi males do not patrol this part so frequently, they would not hesitate to fight with anyone who dared to try and take it from them. The Birmingham males are looking great and in good shape. They are, however, not ready for the Majingi males. One good thing is that they are walking together more than what they used to. The Majingi males made yet another turn in our area as the Birmingham males started calling in Majingi territory. Only two of the Majingi males came into the area to take on three of the four Birmingham males. Two was enough, as it was the two big boys, Black Mane and Smudge. The Birmingham males got a very rude awakening as the roars of the two Majingi males echoed through the trees next to them. The Birmingham males wasted no time and made a hasty retreat, leaving their fresh buffalo kill. The Majingi males chased these young males for kilometres before they went back to claim the free meal.

Buffalo

Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer

Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer

What a treat it was to spend some more quality time with the big buffalo herds in the area. There was no shortage of buffaloes this month. We are still waiting for the first calves to arrive. There are a few females that are pregnant and the clock is ticking. There are also a few of the females within the herds, still showing no signs of pregnancy. This might be due to the drought we experienced last year. When one of the herds moved into our area, they did not just move through the area like during previous months. We sometimes had two or three herds, feasting on the lush green grass for a few days before moving on. There are still bachelor herds in the area, accompanied by a few old dagga boys. With all the lion activity in the area we noticed that the majority of the old males have joined the bachelor herds for safety.

Elephant

Tsalala pride lioness feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil Coetzer

Tsalala pride lioness feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil Coetzer

The elephant sightings were also great, considering that we had a rather quiet start. At the beginning of the month we did not see too many different herds on drive. That being said, we still had a few mind-blowing sightings with the big and small herds in the area. Towards the end of the month we started seeing more and more elephants moving back to our area. With the number of trees pushed into the roads and pieces of branches scattered all over the area, we soon realised that our gentle giants indeed returned. There was one herd with a small calf, that stayed close to the lodge for the whole month. There are plenty of marula trees around our lodge, so they did not have to go very far, especially with the new-born. There were a few big males in musth, following the herds in the area. Two of the males really stood out and they had impressive tusks to go with their massive body size. These two big boys met one day, as they were following the scent of a female in oestrous. That was a sight to see – two big males battling it out for mating rights.

Special sighting

Once again there were many great sightings, but as always, there was only one that stood out. To actually see males of a species fighting for supremacy must be one of the ultimate sighting. The two elephant bulls were minding their own business whilst following the scent of the elephant cow in oestrus, when suddenly, they spotted each other. There was no greeting ceremony, or love lost between these two males. It was all down to business! They had the same body size and also the same sized tusks. It was an equal fight. Both tried from all angles to outwit his opponent, but neither succeeded. They even tried brute force, but once again, they were equally strong! The female group was also very close to them – keeping a watchful eye on both. The males started braking branches and they even pushed over some big trees in order to impress the ladies. This carried on for more than an hour, as these two males tried to battle it out for the female. After a while we decided to leave the two at peace – until today I am not sure who won the battle…

Did you know?

A leopard cub will stay with its mother till the age of 18 to 24 months. After that, the mother will kick will kick him / her out of her territory.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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Manager’s Report December 2016

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 and just before we said our last goodbyes to 2016, we received a heavy downpour of rain. This was our first heavy rains for the season and we welcomed it with open arms. After the rain, we were entertained each night by a choir of frogs singing the most amazing songs around the ponds and fountains. The sounds they make are so powerful that some of our guests were looking for a radio playing the sounds!

Two Tsalala male lions by Louis Liversage

Two Tsalala male lions by Louis Liversage

On the 25th and 31st, the staff did a wonderful job decorating the dining room for Christmas and New Year’s dinner. Guests were welcomed to the festivities 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 buffet. Thank you to each and every guest who chose our lodge to celebrate these specials days. A special thank you to all our staff members who gave their absolute best during the holiday 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 back 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 reservations@elephantplains.co.za.

Elephant herd by Louis Liversage

Elephant herd by Louis Liversage

Our trapcam caught a pair of White Face Whistling ducks. Now that we have plenty of water puddles after the rain, these beautiful birds are all over, looking for seeds and other plant foods. Their diet also consists of insects and small aquatic animals, which explain why they are so common around the waterholes and long grass.

This month we celebrated only one birthday at the lodge. Little Martin Swart celebrated his 4th birthday on the 11th. Martin is a busy body, but can melt your heart with his friendly smile. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during December, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!

Trapcam photo 

Trapcam photo

We also welcomed a new staff member to our team. Tshepiso Matlou joined us in the beginning of December as Spa Therapist. She became part of our little family the day she arrived. With her soft-spoken personality and friendly smile, it is difficult to look her over. If you are planning a trip to Elephant Plains, be sure to book a relaxing massage at our African Health Spa.

With new staff members and birthday celebrations, we went all out this month and also celebrated the opening of Little Rock Guesthouse in Jongensfontein. After four months of intensive planning, renovations, changes, maintenance repairs and staff recruitment, the first guests were welcomed on 8 December 2016. Little Rock is truly a little piece of heaven on the Garden Route. Located right where sea and land meet, you cannot help but relax and clear your mind. I spent three weeks with the new team; working on day to day operations, training and getting new systems in place to ensure our guests have the time of their lives. Although the guesthouse is a completely different setup as the lodge, it all came as second nature. The new website is currently being designed and will be launched soon. Although Little Rock is still in the beginning stages, we have received plenty of compliments and had loads of positive feedback. Please go and like our Facebook page. There you will also be able to see a few photos of this awesome new endeavour. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we certainly have big plans for 2017. Watch this space!

Our recipe of the month will definitely knock you off your feet! Thank you to chef Juandré, for sharing this amazing Cheesecake Brownie recipe with us. This decadent piece of happiness was on our New Years Eve dinner menu. I cannot imagine a better dessert to end a year with!

Cheesecake Brownie

Brownies

Cheesecake Brownie

Cheesecake Brownie

2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Melted Butter
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
1/2 Cup Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a square pan or line with foil and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine melted butter, cocoa and sugar. Stir until fully dissolved.

Add the eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and stir until well combined.

Stir in flour and salt until the flour is fully combined. Be careful not to over mix.

Spread the mixture in the pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Be careful not to over bake. Set aside and continue with the cheesecake mixture.

Cheesecake Layer

2 Cups Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

Add sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Spread the cheesecake layer over the brownie base.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for 1 hour and then refrigerate at least 3 hours. You can finish off the brownies with any topping of your choice, we used crushed chocolate chip biscuits.

Cut, serve and enjoy!

Makes 16 brownies…

My wish for each and everyone for 2017 is a year filled with peace and happiness. Let’s grab 2017 by the horns!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Rangers Report December 2016

Sadly, we have reached the end of yet another spectacular year. It is hard to believe that this will be my last report for the year 2016. Looking back at this year, one is so grateful for all the people we have met and also the great friendships that followed. Back to the sightings, I think we saved the best month for last, as our sightings was just out of this world! It feels like the bush suddenly came alive as the songs of the frogs, birds and crickets filled the warm summers nights. The first baby warthogs and wildebeest were seen at the end of the month. It is wonderful to see all these juveniles on drive every day. Our resident hyena clan is still doing really well and the old lady is still in charge. You don’t always realize how fortunate you are to have a resident clan with an active den on your property. We also saw two male cheetahs this month while moving through the area. We were spoiled by the eighteen wild dogs of the Sands Pack, that also moved through the area. The weather was great overall, but we had a few really hot days that was over 40°C. We were very fortunate with the rain, as we had 132mm of rain for the month, with an average maximum temperature of 33°C.

Leopard

We saw so many leopards this month and the quality of the sightings were unbelievable. It looks like Salayexe finally broke the bond between her and her daughter, Tiyani. Tiyani is not the same overly relaxed, spontaneous little cat who we came to know and love since she and her mother went their separate ways. We have seen little Tiyani a few times this month moving around the area. It will be interesting to see if Tiyani will take over the middle part of her mother’s territory. By taking over the piece of territory Tiyani has a better chance of survival. Here she will be hidden from the bigger females. Tiyani had her very first standoff with an intruder this month. The one evening she found the young Ingrid Dam female in her area and she did not hesitate for a second. She charged in and chased after the intruder. The Ingrid Dam female ran up a big tree and stayed up there until Tiyani was satisfied and left. It was great to see that Tiyani would be able to defend her territory.

Salayexe was seen a few times but not like before. She was a bit under the radar. Salayexe is looking great and she and Moya had a standoff over a kill the one day. The first thing I noticed was that Moya did not back down and she was ready to fight. She soon realized that it was not worth the fight and that she could make another kill. This was a wise decision from Moya, as she has small cubs safely hidden in a den somewhere who she needs to care for.

Nsele and her cub were also seen a few times and I must say that the little girl is growing up very fast. Nsele is doing really well in finding food for the two of them and they are looking very healthy. We were very fortunate to see the two of them a few times this month.

We saw Kurula a few times this month. A really strange thing though, she was mating with Tingana and both her cubs are still alive and well. The two cubs are doing really well and they are looking very healthy. Kurula is a really good mother. Fingers crossed that she will raise the cubs to independence.

Shadow, at almost ten years old, is still doing great. I am not 100% sure, but it looks like she might be pregnant. She has been extra illusive and seems to easily get irritated with the vehicles. She also has a very low hanging belly. All these signs let me believe that her and Tingana’s mating was successful. If this is true it will be great for her and for us when the new bundles of fluff arrive next year.

The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also out and about in the area. She was seen a few times around our lodge, resting and making kills. She is such a great female and very relaxed with us.

This month it was Tingana’s time to mate, as he and Kurula mated this month. Tingana is moving over long distances at the moment. He will be here the one day and the next day he will be on the other side of his territory. I think the reason why he patrols so much is that he knows it is just a matter of time before he will bump into Anderson. One thing that I learned during my time in the bush is that you never underestimate a small male leopard. Just look what havoc Mafufunyane caused under the males when he was still alive. He was a small leopard with an enormously big heart.

Anderson is still moving all over the area expanding his empire. The only real threat to him is Tingana and I think he will try to catch Tingana off-guard.

Lion

Nkuhuma the female lion by Louis Liversage

Nkuhuma the female lion by Louis Liversage

Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. The time spent with these big cats was just unbelievable.

This month we had a surprise visit from the four breakaway Tsalala lionesses and their twelve cubs. It was great to see them again after such a long time! They came in and out of our area a few times this month. This pride is one of the biggest prides we have at the moment in the reserve. We are not sure how many of the cubs are male and female yet. The pride’s new territory is more in the south-western part of the reserve, far out of our traversing. Their visit was short lived and they returned to their familiar territory. It was great to see them and hopefully they will come and visit again soon.

The Tailless female and the four sub adult males and female of the Tsalala pride was also seen a few times this month. It is great to see that the tailless female has re-joined the four youngsters again. After she re-joined the youngsters it was as if the confidence levels of the youngsters raised a few bars. The almost fifteen-year old tailless female is doing a great job in teaching these youngsters the art of hunting. One thing that I have noticed is that the Tsalala pride never have more than three adult females within the pride. If there are more females in the group, they are pushed out to form a new pride. So, interesting times are waiting for the young female. Will they make an exception to the rule, or will she be exiled together with her brothers?

The Styx pride is also doing great and they were seen a few times this month. The old lady with her two cubs were a little bit under the radar and we did not see the cubs that often. The two cubs are still looking good and getting bigger and bigger by the day. The three lionesses are also doing really well when it comes to hunting for the group.

It was so great to have the Nkuhuma pride with us for almost the whole month. These ladies had a few buffalo kills in the area. This is one of the most successful lion prides in the area when it comes to hunting big buffaloes. These five ladies are really looking great and they are in really good condition. The six cubs are also looking good and they are well fed. It would be great for the pride if these youngsters can survive to adulthood.

The Birmingham males was also out and about this month. We were fortunate to have them on our property once or twice. They are looking great and are in good condition. They were roaring a few times announcing their presence in the area. All this was short lived, as the roars of the Birmingham males caught the attention of another formidable force. We were woken by the loud roars of lions the one morning. On drive, we found three of the Majingilane male lions on two buffalo kills in our traversing area. They stayed here for a few days before moving on again. In those few days, the Birmingham males did not call once. They also did not come back to the western part of their territory again. This tells me that they know that the four Majingilane males are still the big shots in this area. This was not the last we saw of these big males, as we found them again a few days later, on yet another buffalo kill close to our lodge. Although the Majingi males are almost twelve years old, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

It was a treat to see all the different prides and to spend some quality time with the Birmingham’s and the Majingilane males this month.

Buffalo

Styx cubs by Louis Liversage

Styx cubs by Louis Liversage

The buffalo sightings were just unbelievable this month. More and more big buffalo herds are moving into our traversing area. This is a great sight to see, as these big bulk grazers are fattening up with the succulent green grass after the rain. Unfortunately for these herds, they are being targeted by the lion prides in our area. The Tsalala pride, Breakaway pride and Nkuhuma pride were all picking them off one by one. The Majingi males also had their fair share. The younger buffaloes in the herds are fattening up much quicker than the older buffaloes. Now that the herds are finally coming through, the dagga boys have disappeared a little bit. The dagga boys were always around the water holes and mud wallows, but now there are seemingly less. We did, however, a few bachelor herds again this month moving, between the waterholes in the area.

Elephant

Two male hippos fighting by Louis Liversage

Two male hippos fighting by Louis Liversage

With all these waterfilled mud wallows in the area one will always find a lone bull or elephant herd playing in the mud. This in a way makes a great opportunity for us to view these wonderful animals in their natural state. The small babies are really enjoying the wallows and water puddles in the road after the rain. It is like all the elephants have kicked up a gear, playing more than normally. I am glad to see that there is still a lot of herds in our area. Unfortunately, there will come a time that the majority of the herds will move towards the Mopani tree forests within the Kruger National Park. This is normally just for a month or two and then the herds return to our area. There were no big males this month, just a few younger males. I must say that the small bachelor herds are in abundance. These young males were seen a lot, while they followed the big herds. This is a sign that their mothers have just recently kicked them out of the herds and that they are not ready to let go yet.

Special sighting

One morning drive we heard the loud sound of hippo’s fighting in Big Dam. On arrival, we saw that it was two males locked in a territorial dispute. These two males were not playing around and none of them wanted to back off. But like always, there can only be one winner. The loser was immediately exiled from Big Dam and had to find another water source for himself. When two male hippo’s fight they fight for a reason. They fight for dominance, females, feeding grounds and their own waterholes or rivers.

Did you know?

The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek “hippos,” meaning horse. These animals were once called “river horses.” But the hippo is more closely related to the pig than the horse.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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