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.
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.
We 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.
The 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
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!
Last 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!
250 ml Boiling water
125 ml Butter – cut into blocks
2 ml Salt
4 Large Eggs
500 ml Fresh cream
75 ml Icing sugar
1 ml Vanilla
300 ml Icing sugar
75 ml cocoa
15 ml soft butter
30 ml water
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