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!
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.
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!
As 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
1Kg 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
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.
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 heading into winter, but the fresh green colours out in the bush were a huge relieve. At one stage, I was getting a bit depressed with the winter look that came too soon. Game viewing was magical and we had many groups at the lodge. They enjoyed the daily sightings.
African wild dogs by Louis Liversage
Now that winter is creeping up on us, we have changed our daily schedule at the lodge. We have moved our morning game drives 30min later, now departing at 06:00 and the afternoon drives depart 30min later, at 15:30. With daylight changes, we need to also change our schedule to ensure the best possible game viewing experience for all our guests. The morning game drives start off quite chilly, but then heats up towards the end of the morning drive and the afternoon drives are the direct opposite. You do not feel the need for a jacket at first, but just as the sun sets behind the mountains, a warm fleecy jacket is more than welcome! For those who will be visiting the lodge in the next month or two, please remember to pack those scarves and gloves. Should you not have space, you can also buy them from our winter stocked Curio Shop!
It is that time of year again, show time! April and May are two very busy months in the tourism calendar. The World Travel Market took place 19 to 21 April in Cape Town and our lodge was again represented by our marketing representative, Samantha Chatham at her Somewhere South stand. Soon Etienne, Marlet, Anel and myself will travel to Durban, to attend the annual tourism show, Indaba, on the 16th, 17th & 18th of May. The show is held at the International Convention Centre in Durban and we are very excited to present our wonderful product once again. During our time there, we make the most of every second, to meet up with all the familiar faces in the industry. We enjoy spending some face to face time with our agents and to also get to know new and upcoming agents and tour operators. If you are attending Indaba this year, feel free to visit our stand at any time, ICCG02. Hope to see you there!
This month the trapcam was placed at Bushcamp Pan. We caught this small tower of giraffe one afternoon. They are often sighted on our driveway towards the lodge. The young ones can get very curious sometimes. It almost looks like this one spotted the camera and posed for a family portrait with its mother.
We also had some birthdays at the lodge this month. On the 3rd Simon celebrated his birthday. He is one of the gardeners who keeps the lodge surroundings in tip-top condition and assists with general day to day maintenance. On the 13th, Etienne had his big day. The love and pride Etienne has for the lodge is bigger than anything I have ever seen. He is an inspiration to all of us and a wonderful boss to work for! Short on his heels was Janine, who celebrated her birthday on the 18th. Janine is well known in our reservation department. Then, last but not least, Joyce celebrated her birthday on the 30th. Joyce is one of our cleaners who makes sure that her rooms are always comfortable and cleaned to perfection. Happy Birthday to all of you! I hope you had wonderful birthdays and may you enjoy many more at Elephant Plains! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during April, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
As we are slowly moving into winter, the recipe for this month is perfect for any occasion. Should you need something quick to add to an afternoon tea, or are planning a dinner,Vinegar pudding will never let you down. Although the name sounds a bit strange, you will be pleasantly surprised!
210 g Flour
100 g Butter
20 ml Apricot jam
200 g Sugar
250 ml Milk
5 ml Bicarbonate of soda
For the Sauce
250 ml Water
200 g Sugar
50 ml White vinegar
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Mix together the flour, sugar, butter and bicarbonate of soda.
In a separate bowl, beat together milk, apricot jam and eggs.
Lastly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture.
Keep the dough aside and finish the following sauce:
Bring to boil in saucepan the water, sugar and vinegar.
Pour sauce in an ovenproof deep dish. Pour the dough into the sauce and bake in the preheated oven, for about 45 minutes or until light brown in colour.
Serve with warm custard.
Makes one large or 12 individual puddings.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
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 sound of males rutting and the clash of horns echoes through the night. The sightings were just out of this world and we were again so fortunate to see the African wild dogs this month. We also had great interaction between the wild dogs and the hyenas that kept us on the edge of our seats. The night life is just getting better and better as the temperature is changing. With the winter chill upon us the African civet, genet, porcupine and even caracal was out and about and they start much earlier in the evenings to look for food. The average maximum temperature for the month was 29°C and we had 13mm of rain.
If one would ask me to describe the leopard sightings this month in one word, it would be spectacular.
Salayexe was seen a lot this month and she expanded her empire even more this month. She has the biggest territory of all the females in the Northern Sabi Sand Wildtuin. Salayexe is all over the show as she tries to patrol her enormous territory. At this stage, there is no another female in the area strong enough to challenge her for territory.
Tiyani, was seen a few times this month moving back and forth into her mother’s territory. She is growing in confidence and moving more into Shadow’s territory as well. Tiyani killed an impala male the one day and hoisted the kill into a big marula tree. The impala male would normally feed her for a few days, but it did not happen this way. The smell of a fresh kill was picked up by her mother and she homed in towards the kill. Salayexe made sure Tiyani knows who is the boss and who the kill belongs to. After Salayexe had her fill she came down the tree and moved on again. Tiyani was pushed more south into Moya’s territory. Tiyani is a survivor and a fighter, so I am sure that we will see her again in the near future.
The young Ingrid Dam female was also seen a few times this month moving around. She is still in the area that belonged to the late Kwatile. It is always great to see this young female moving all over the show. It will be awesome if she can settle down in that area.
Nchila was also seen a few times this month. This is a beautiful female and it is great to have her back in the area. The only problem here is that she is currently in her grandmother’s territory. As we all know too well, Salayexe does not like any intruders in her territory, even if it is family. Like Ingrid Dam and Tiyani, Nchila is also looking for a place to call home and being 3 years old now she will start looking for a male soon. The other problem is that her father, Anderson is still the dominant male in this area so things might still change.
Nsele and her cub was also seen a few times in the area and both are looking great. The cub has grown so much in size and in confidence. She is a great cat to view and a real poser for the camera, with so much confidence. Moya and her cub was also seen this month in our area. She was seen moving and sniffing around her aunt, Salayexe’s, territory. Moya has a territory on the southern boundary of Salayexe’s territory. Moya and her cub are looking great and it was our first time to see the cub. Thandi and Thamba was also seen a few times this month. Thamba has turned into a wonderful cat with a great personality. Thandi has done a tremendously good job in raising this cub and it looks like he might make it to adulthood.
Shadow and her cub was also seen this month. She has been moving the cub around a lot this month, to and away from kills. The cub is still very shy, but if you just wait a while you will be rewarded with an awesome sighting.
Hosana was also seen a few times this month and he is doing well for himself. We saw him with a big male impala kill in a tree. This just shows that he’s got the ability to hunt for himself. One good thing is that the area which he moves around in does not have a resident hyena clan to steal his food.
Tingana was also seen often this month. He spends the majority of his time in the centre of his territory and did not move very far west which was very confusing for us at first. After we saw Anderson scent marking all over the western part of Tingana’s territory, it made sense.
Anderson is expanding again and has already taken a big chunk of Tingana’s territory to the west. This big brut of a male has decided he wants more. With Anderson pushing more east poor Shadow also needs to go more east as the life of her cub is now hanging in the balance.
We had a big surprise this month, as half of the Tsalala pride came to visit us in our area. They did not stay for very long before they crossed out of our traversing area again to the core of their territory. This was great to see them again as they do not usually venture this far up because they do not have any pride males anymore. Fingers crossed that the little ones who were sired by the Matimba males will make it to adulthood. This will be difficult, but these females have showed us that it is possible to raise cubs to independence without a pride male.
The Styx pride is doing really well and the cubs are growing up very fast. The three females are looking absolutely great and doing really well in supporting the cubs and feeding them. It is great to see that the cubs are doing well and if all goes well the pride might grow with another four females. One good thing is that the Birmingham males are very involved with the Styx pride.
The Nkuhuma pride is looking great and it is a pleasure to view them. The female with the amber eyes is far pregnant and we cannot wait to see the new bundles of fluff. The rest of the cubs also look very healthy and they are growing really fast. The Nkuhuma females are moving more and more west and south, looking to expand their territory. This will be great for them and for us if they take over this area around our lodge.
The Birmingham males are also expanding and they are also moving more west and south with the Nkuhuma pride. Finally, they have started moving around again as a unit. Maybe just for now, as they are expanding their territory. Let’s hope that they will succeed in taking over this area that once belonged to the mighty Majingi males.
The buffalo sightings were absolutely great. We had a big breeding herd of about sixty individuals moving in and out of our area. They came into the area but did not stay for very long before they moved on again. This is common for herds, whether it is big or small. They all have one thing in common and that is finding enough food for all of them. Luckily for us we had a small bachelor group of buffalo bulls who stayed around our area. Once again this was short lived as the Nkuhuma pride tracked them down and killed one. This send the other males running and crossing out of our area for good. One would think that these guys are too big to be taken down by anything, but lions are the apex predators of the bush.
The elephants are back in their numbers and we had a great time with these gentle giants. Evidence of these big animals are scattered all over the roads. As the grass is getting dryer and less palatable for the elephants, they turn their attention more towards the trees and shrubs. For their big bodies, elephants consume a lot of vegetation each day. We had a few big males in the area as well this month. These big boys had one thing on their mind: finding the female groups to mate. We also saw a few younger males that were recently pushed out of their family groups. These young males will sometimes join forces with other young males, who were also pushed out of their herds by their mothers.
One crisp evening we were on our way back to the lodge after a wonderful drive. We came around a corner and there it was, a juvenile caracal! It did not give us any chance to get a picture before it went straight into the tall grass disappearing into the darkness.
Did you know?
Elephants have a really large appetite and can spend up to eighteen hours a day feeding.
See you out on the game drive soon.
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.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
We 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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
450g Cake flour
30g Granulated sugar
7g Instant dry yeast
75g Blue Cheese
100g Bacon, chopped and fried
Flour to dust
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 240â°C for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
Turn out to cool.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month