Rangers Report December 2015

It is difficult to think that the year 2015 has come to an end. It feels like yesterday that we greeted the year with open arms. With 2016 around the corner, we can’t wait for all the new adventures and challenges awaiting us in the new year. When you look back at the past year and think about all the great times we had, you come to realize how blessed we were to be out in the bush and to be a part of this year. December was very good to us and once again we had great sighting and perfect weather. There were days that were scorching hot, but overall it was nice to be out. We also had a few wonderful lightning storms. The average maximum temperature for the month was 34 ⁰C, with 34mm of rain. We were very fortunate to see the wild dogs again, while they moved in and out of our area. We had two different packs moving through the area at the same time, but luckily they managed to avoid each other. The impala, wildebeest and warthog babies gave us some spectacular sightings. It is so great to see all of these babies moving around with their mothers. The nightlife was also a great treat and we were very fortunate to see an elusive pangolin one afternoon. What a wonderful way to end off the last chapter of the year 2015.

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

The leopard sightings were again out of this world. Salayexe and her little cub have spoiled us rotten with unbelievable sightings during most days of the month. Salayexe is doing very well to keep the little one alive and well fed. The little cub is so relaxed with the vehicles and her confidence level is building more and more. She is so relaxed that she would lay down in the shade of the vehicle and stalk the trackers. It will be great if this little playful female can make it to independence and set up a territory in this area. Kwatile was also seen a few times this month. Great news with this beautiful female is that she has cubs at the moment. We saw her the one hot afternoon resting on the cool sand in one of the dry riverbeds. She was so uncomfortable and could not seem to get a nice spot to rest. Upon closer inspection we realized that her tummy was moving and it was not from breathing! We were so exited and a week later we saw her again with suckle marks. We do not know how many cubs there are yet. It is going to be great when she brings them out for the first time. Tsakani, Kwatile’s independent daughter, was also out and about. Although we did not see her as much as we wanted, it was still special to see her. She is looking good and is still moving around in Kwatile’s territory, as this is an area that she knows well and is comfortable with. It is great to see all these young females moving around here. Hopefully they will settle down in the area. Shadow was also seen again this month and she still lives up to her name. It seems like the only time we have a great sighting of her is when she has a kill. The rest of the time she just disappears into the bush. Moya gave us a surprise visit again this month, but only because she was looking for the Anderson male. We see more and more of the Ximpalapala female, as she is expanding her territory more north. At this stage she is pushing the younger and smaller Moya more south, while slowly taking over her territory. The only problem that Ximpalapala has at this point in time is that Salayexe is moving more south, so it is only a question of time before these two females meet. Tingana was also seen a few times this last month. Tingana is still looking great and on top of his game. Anderson is still dominating this area while forcing Tingana more east. With Tingana going more east, he is forcing Mvula more east as well, while claiming more of Mvula’s territory. Anderson has grown into an enormous beast and has no real competition in this area.

Lion

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

Lion sightings were really up and down this last month, but overall we had a lot of great sightings. The Styx pride females were all seen mating with the Birmingham males during the month. One of the females had suckle marks, but she still mated with the males. This might be due to the fact that the males killed the cubs, or the fact that she is trying to confuse the males and keep them away from the cubs. It is a good sign that all the females have mated with them, so hopefully we will have new cubs in the new year. We saw one of the Nkuhuma females also mating with one of the males, but that was short lived. Five members of the Tsalala pride also gave us a surprise visit this month. The tailless female and the four sub-adults once again had a standoff with our resident hyena clan the one morning. The Tsalala pride stumbled upon Tsakani, the young female leopard, with a kill in the tree. The lions stole the kill and then the hyenas arrived on the scene. The tailless female stopped feeding and walked up to the hyenas to face them front on. The ten hyenas did not know what to do with this and they were very cautious. After the meal was finished the lions moved on, with the hyenas following to make sure they left. After the lions and hyenas moved on, Tsakani climbed down the tree and ran into the opposite direction. The Tsalala pride’s visit was also very short-lived, as they moved out of our area after the hyenas kept on harassing them. The Birmingham male lions have been all over the area, as they were scent marking their new territory. These five males are really in good shape and their manes are getting bigger day by day. My only concern with these males is that they are splitting up a lot more than what they should. Several times now we have seen only one or two together, with no sign of the others. This might be a problem when they meet other males, as they do not have the strength of a coalition. These males are spending a lot of their time in the eastern parts of our traversing area, hardly moving into the western side. It will not be too long before they get more confident and start venturing more westwards into Majingi territory.

Buffaloes

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

What fantastic buffalo sightings we had this month. There were buffaloes almost around every corner and road. We had a few wonderfully big herds that came through our area and stayed around for a few days at a time. The one afternoon we had two different big herds and a small herd in our area. The big herds move all over and do not stay in one area for very long. As food is getting scarcer it forces the big herds to move around much more during the day and night, in order to try and get enough food and water. We have also seen so many male groups staying close to the waterholes. The dagga boys you will always find around the waterholes or mud wallows. Being ruminants, they will fill their stomachs with grass during the morning and during the hottest time of the day they will chew on the cud.

Elephant

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

The elephant sightings were quiet at times, but the sightings we had was again out of this world. We had a few herds with a lot of youngsters, both big and small. We have seen two or three big males moving around, following the breeding herds. We were very lucky the one afternoon at one of the big watering holes as three different breeding herds came to quench their thirst. There was a lot of trumpeting and rumbling going on as these herds greeted each other. The massive count of just over a hundred elephants finished their greetings and moved away from the waterhole. The elephants are also causing havoc amongst the trees, as they uproot the trees to get to the root system. The big females will push over the trees to get to the leaves on top of the tree and also for the babies to get to the leaves. If they manage to uproot the whole tree and eat all the roots, then the tree will unfortunately die. Sometimes it does happen that the tree still has some roots firmly intact in the ground. When this happens, it will grow parallel to the ground, which would be great for smaller mix feeders like kudu and impala.

Special sighting

Once again we were very fortunate to see a pangolin this month. This pangolin was so relaxed with the vehicles. He was going about his business of foraging for termites and then he decided to walk into the open and what a show it gave us! It is always so great to see one of these very elusive animals on drive.

Did you know?

Although a pangolin has a very reptile like appearance with its scaly body, it is actually a mammal.

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Manager’s Report October 2015

Wild photo of the month by Trevor and Julie Legg

Wild photo of the month by Trevor and Julie Legg

Wow! What happened to the year!? It feels like it was only yesterday that 2015 started and now we only have two months to go before the end of the year. I guess you can say “time flies when you’re having fun!” There is always lots of fun to be had in the bush.

Southern ground hornbill silouette by Neil Coetzer

Southern ground hornbill silouette by Neil Coetzer

We had a little bit of rain during the month and the bush began transforming to its summer colours. Bright flowers are also starting to bloom on some of the trees. We had some very hot days during October and more rain will be very welcome, as it is almost time for baby season in the bush. During the next month, we will start to see newborn impala, wildebeest and zebra around every corner, as there are loads of expecting females, just waiting for the perfect time to introduce their precious little miracles to the African bush.

Female giraffe by Louis Liversage

Female giraffe by Louis Liversage

The lodge is looking amazing as the Bougainvillea’s are in bloom. The trees have bright green leaves and the gardens overall have taken on a fresh, summer look. With summer here, we also see a lot more caterpillars, butterflies, insects and reptile species around the lodge. One reptile species that we see more often now than a few weeks ago, would be snakes. I was very fortunate to see a Zambezi Garter snake one morning on my way to the Luxury Suites. While walking on the pathway, I came across a beautiful black and white snake. At only about 15cm long, his beautiful little body had me in awe! At first, we were unsure of the species, as it is not a common snake to our area. Our trusty snake guide pushed us in the right direction. What an amazing sighting. We learned that this little snake is non-venomous, not very common to our area and mostly moves around during the night. They will avoid contact with humans and hardly ever become aggressive.

Young Tsalala pride male lion by Neil Coetzer

Young Tsalala pride male lion by Neil Coetzer

The open area in front of the lodge has transformed into an elephant sanctuary! It feels like every day, 10 minutes after we beat the drum for lunch, the herds in our area start making their way towards the waterhole in front of the lodge. Our guests have been overwhelmed with their peace and grace, as they move past. Some just stop for a quick drink, while others submerge themselves in the fresh water to fight off the heat. With our resident hippo also in the water, there are some days where the two species do not get along very well, as Mr Hippo is not very open to sharing his waterhole. I have seen him chasing zebra and impala all around the waterhole, before grumpily moving off into the bush.

We had three staff birthdays at the lodge this month. A big happy birthday goes out to Tannie Margie, who celebrated her birthday on the 6th of this month. On the 8th Khanyisile celebrated her birthday. Khani is the short, friendly waiter, keeping our guests entertained during meals. The 10th day of the 10th month was a very special day for Hendrik, who celebrated his birthday on this day. Hendrik is our own DIY maintenance man, keeping the lodge and surrounds in tip-top condition. I do hope that you all got spoiled on the day, and hope that you will celebrate many more joyful birthdays at Elephant Plains. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during October, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.

This month we said goodbye to one of our staff, head chef Reimond. Reimond decided to make his way southwards, towards Citrusdal, a small town in the Cape area. We wish him all the best and I am sure he will have many joyful days in his new kitchen. We have a new head chef joining our team during November and we are all waiting to welcome him to our team.

This month, sous chef Henk is sharing a traditional South African recipe. The ever favourite Jan Ellis pudding. I still remember this warm baked pudding as a little girl in my grandmother’s kitchen. It is similar to Malva pudding, but this one has an interesting twist.

Pear Baked Jan Ellis Pudding

Ingredients

Pear Baked Jan Ellis Pudding

Pear Baked Jan Ellis Pudding

375ml Self Raising Flour
2 Eggs
2 Tbsp Apricot Jam
2/4 Cup Milk
2/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Softened Butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
5 Pears Peeled and Cut into slices

Dissolve the baking soda in the milk.  Mix all the other ingredients together, then add the milk and mix well until smooth. Place the cut pears in the baking dish. Pour the mixture on top of the pears and bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C or until a skewer comes out clean.

For the Syrup

1/2 Cup Boiling Water
1/2 Cup Cream
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Grated Orange Zest
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

Caramelize the sugar in a pan and temper with cream to form caramel. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer. Pour over the bakes pudding and serve with custard.

Serves 6

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Rangers Report October 2015

What a great month, with spectacular game viewing opportunities October was. We have some great news about our resident hyena clan. They have five new pups in the den and all of them are still black in color. It is great to see that this clan is moving up and breeding well. It might not be very long before we see a clan of between 20-30 hyenas moving through the area, making them the new apex predators. We were also fortunate to see a pack of wild dogs that moved through our area, staying around for a few days. The nightlife was once again out of this world and we saw honey badgers, civets, genets, porcupines and bush babies. We had a few wonderfully hot days and some spectacular sunsets, due to the cloud build-up. We also had some rain, but not a lot. The drought in South Africa is also affecting us. The total for the month was 17mm, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C.

Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer

Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

The leopard sightings were all memorable this month. Salayexe and her little female cub are looking great. They provided us with some really great photographic opportunities. The little one is now 6 months old and a real busy body. We followed the two cats the one afternoon, and let me tell you, Salayexe has her work cut out for her. The cub stalked and chased her mother up and down trees and all over the show. When mum has had enough of all these fun and games, she quickly lets the cub know by hissing or growling at her, or even by sitting on her. The cub is now at that very adventurous age where everything looks like food, or something to play with. She was already seen stalking a few elephants, giraffe’s, buffalo bulls and plenty more. It is so great to see the little one growing up and getting so relaxed with the vehicles. We also saw Kurula a few times this month and she was mating with Tingana for the full 4 days, twice during the month. Kurula is really looking good and I hope that she will have another litter of cubs early next year. As a leopard female gets older, one tends to think it is easier to raise a litter of cubs, but in fact, it becomes more difficult. Next year she is turning 12 and she is currently the oldest female in our traversing area. Hopefully she has got her mother’s genes and also reaches the age of 19 years. Shadow was seen a few times this month, but not very often.

After her mother mated with Tingana, she also started mating with him for a full 4 days. Shadow is looking great and very healthy indeed as she still makes kills on a regular basis and eating well. Kwatile is still a stunning cat and she is looking great. This 8 year old female is still expanding her territory. Her boundaries border the boundary of the twins, Shadow and Thandi. Out of the three females, Kwatile is the biggest and the most confident. She’s had standoffs with Shadow and Thandi before and the outcome was the same, the twins moved away. Tsakani, the young female, was also seen this month, moving around in both Salayexe and Moya’s territories. She is such a beautiful cat and very relaxed with the vehicles around her. At this stage, she does not have a territory yet and moves around in the outskirts of mom’s territory, also exploring further west. Nsele was also out and about, patrolling her boundaries. She was out patrolling when she got the familiar and unmistakable scent of her mother. Her mother does not always play by the rules, as she was far into Nsele’s territory. It was not long before Nsele caught up with her mother and the heat was on. Salayexe is still too strong for Nsele and quickly chased her up into a tree, showing her who’s still the boss between them. Anderson is also moving very far, while expanding his area. He was seen with Salayexe and the cub a few times on kills, without ever harming the cub, which is wonderful. Tingana is looking great and also expanding east and pushing Mvula out further east. We do not see Mvula that often any longer, as his moved his territory closer to the Kruger National Park.

Lions

Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage

Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage

We had such awesome lion sightings. The lion dynamics are still changing, causing havoc and confusion. This time, it is not only from the Birmingham males, but also the two Matimba male lions, that came to join the party. It looks like the two Matimba males are thinking of setting up territory south-east of their old territory. These two males are also moving more northwards into our traversing area, which is very dangerous for them, as this is still Majingi male territory. Within this new territory there are two prides: the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the Tsalala pride. The Matimba males have caused some havoc with these two prides, as we have seen the two prides split into two or three groups.

The Tsalala pride has even moved out of their territory, into the territory of the Nkuhuma pride for a few days. The Tsalala pride spent a lot more time with us in the north than before and this can be due to the presence of the Matimba males. The Breakaway Tsalala/Mhangeni pride moved more towards the western part of the reserve. It will just be a matter of time before the Majingi males realize that there are two new males in their territory. The Birmingham males are also expanding their territory and getting more confident as they go along. They are moving more west, into the Majingi territory and this might be the build-up to the fight of the century. The Birmingham males came into the area the one night, roaring and making sure all the other males were aware that they mean business. Once again the Majingi males responded to the roars of the younger males. We heard the loud roars of the Majingi males, echoing through the night, announcing their presence. The following morning we followed the tracks of the young males, moving straight east towards their territory. These 5 young males are just scouting and they have a lot of time on their hands, while waiting for the Majingi males to age. Although the four Majingi male lions are 10 years old now, they are still a formidable force to be reckoned with. The Nkuhuma pride is also looking great and the young male in the group is getting nice and big.

Buffaloes

African fish eagle by Morné Fouché

African fish eagle by Morné Fouché

We had some spectacular buffalo sightings this month. We saw a few massive herds moving through our area. One of the herds that we saw was easily over 400 animals strong, with a lot of youngsters. There are a few of the females that are still pregnant. Buffaloes will try and have their babies during the rainy season, or very close to the rainy season. This will be the time when more food and water are available, to help them get back into top condition, while nursing their newborn calves. We also had a few smaller groups moving through the area, but these were just splinter herds from the main herd. The old boys are still moving around the lodge and every afternoon with lunch, they are enjoying the water in front of the lodge. These old boys are spending the majority of their time in the water, as this brings welcome relieve against the hot African sun. Overall, the buffalo herds have taken a beating from the lions this month. The Birmingham males took more than ten young and old buffaloes in just more than a week. We found these 5 buffalo slayers on 6 buffalo kills in one area. The Tsalala pride also had their fair share of buffalo meat this month, as their total was 3 -4 buffaloes.

Elephants

Female cub Louis Liversage

Female cub Louis Liversage

What unbelievable elephant sightings we had this month! It is always such a treat to watch them as they go on with their day to day routine. We had a few big herds with tiny babies around some of the water holes. One of the herds we saw moving towards the water had a really small baby with them. As the herd was approaching the water they started moving faster and the baby had to run very fast to keep up. All the adults and youngsters started walking into the water for a swim, except the baby and its mother. There was a lot of trumpeting and rumbling going on as these elephants enjoyed themselves in the cool water. The little one was so confused and did not know what was going on and where its family is going to, that he/she also ran straight into the water. With a very big splash and loud trumpet-like noise baby went into the water head first and then submerged itself. The mother got such a fright that she gave a big rumble and ran into the water after the baby. The baby emerged above the water and mother guided him/her out of the water to the safety of the waters edge. With all this commotion, the matriarch and a few other adults came running out of the water to the female and baby. After all of them ran out of the water they huddled up around the female and calf, with the matriarch making sure that everything was fine. This gave us a firsthand experience of the social structure of these extra-ordinary mammals.

Special sighting

We saw a newborn elephant calf with a breeding herd one afternoon. The herd was heading toward a waterhole, with the baby following from behind. Due to its size, the calf’s mother was preventing him to go too close to the water. The little rascal decided to follow his own way and ran straight into the water. His mother got the fright of her life when her baby submerged himself in the shallow waters and came running to its rescue. It was amazing to see how all the other cows immediately focused their attention on the baby and made sure his mother got him to safety before they moved on.

Did you know?

An elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Manager’s Report July 2015

Wild photo of the month by John and Linda

Wild photo of the month by John and Linda

Having passed the first half of the year already, the most common thing to say is “I can’t believe how fast time flies!” And that is indeed true. We are already in the beginning of August and Spring is quickly approaching. We’ve had lovely temperatures this month, with only one or two chilly days in between. Towards the end of the month we had lovely warm days, so much so that our guests enjoyed lounging around the pool area. The lodge was buzzing this month with honeymoon couples, photographers and lots of family groups. With the bush not being as dense as during summertime, sightings and photo opportunities were breath taking and I am sure everyone left with some amazing memories!

Cheetah female by Morné Fouché

Cheetah female by Morné Fouché

Our roof maintenance is still going strong. Rondavel 2 got a complete makeover. It now has a new roof, a fresh layer of paint and even the floor was stripped and redone. So it looks like a brand new room! We also completed the project on the waterhole on our open area, in front of the lodge. The end result is, just as I thought, amazing. Since the moment we switched on the pump to refill the waterhole, we’ve had unbelievable elephant sightings. To fill such a large empty waterhole with water takes a few days under normal circumstances. Now you can just imagine, with the elephants constantly slurping up the fresh water and adjusting the borehole pipes every now and again, it is quite a tricky situation to get the waterhole full to the brim.

Elephant bull by Jonathan Vogel

Elephant bull by Jonathan Vogel

This month, the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust took lodge managers on an educational tour to the surrounding villages. Their main goal is to develop small businesses and to encourage the lodges to support local entrepreneurs. I was amazed at all the projects and ideas going on right on our doorstep. We visited our local Utah village vegetable and herb garden, where we already receive weekly supplies of fresh produce. We also got introduced to a tyre repair and wheel alignment workshop and a gentleman who supplies and fits glass. Another stop on the itinerary was at a local tour guide, conducting cultural tours and we were treated to a performance from a local dance group. To our surprise, we also got to visit the local Tilapia fish farm. Our last stop for the day was at the local Shangaan sangoma. Freddie is a very friendly guy and we were given a short presentation on how his readings work when he “throws the bones”. It is only when you are exposed to these enthusiastic entrepreneurs that you realize how creative the human mind can be. Sometimes, less really can be so much more than you thought.

Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

This month we placed the trapcam at Kraaines Pan. Kraaines is on the western side of our airstrip and animals often visit it for a morning or afternoon drink. We caught this shot of impala and zebra having a drink and two buffaloes relaxing in the shallow water. We did have a few warm days during the last stretch of the month, so it comes as no surprise that some of the larger and older boys of the animal kingdom decided to go for a swim. At the moment we are really having bad luck with our Trapcams. As you will remember, last month our Trapcam was broken by a very intuitive elephant. We got a new, “tamper proof” Trapcam, complete with a steel housing and thought that this would keep the animals at bay. But to no avail though… Three days after placing the Trapcam at Kraaines, we found it in pieces all over the place. Luckily we could still download the pictures. The culprits this time? The Breakaway lion pride! The photos were taken at night at you can see lion silhouettes and whiskers in close-up shots. Because we know that they were in the area that evening, it had to be them! Luckily we managed to get this very nice photo of the herbivores enjoying the waterhole before it was destroyed.

The last week of July was packed with staff birthdays at the lodge. The rhythms of the Happy Birthday song was just about echoing uninterrupted, as rangers and ladies of our housekeeping team aged another year. On the 24th Dawie celebrated his birthday. Dawie has been a ranger at Elephant Plains for a few years now and he is very popular with our guests. The 26th was shared by one of our housekeeping ladies, Eummy and another ranger, Neil. Eummy is mostly active in and around the main areas of the lodge. Neil is the newest addition to our staff and this was his first birthday at Elephant Plains. I am sure there will be many more to come for both of them. On the 29th, another ranger, Jonathan, enjoyed his special day. Jonathan is truly a bubble of energy and with him around, there is never a dull or silent moment. Busi ended of the celebrations on the 30th, when she had her birthday. Busi is also part of our housekeeping team, ensuring that our guest rooms are in top condition for an enjoyable stay. Happy birthday to all of you! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during July, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter.

Our new menus are up and running like a well oiled machine. It has been a big success! This month, head chef Reimond’s recipe is the delicious Cinnamon Rolls, served as a pastry option for breakfast.

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

(15 Portions)

Dough

1 ½ Cups warmed milk
3 Eggs
125ml Melted butter
6 ¾ Cups flour
¾ Cups castor sugar
1 ½ Packets dry yeast
1 tsp Salt

Filling

1 ½ Cups muscavado sugar
3 ¾ tbsp Cinnamon
90ml Softened butter

Icing

127g Cream cheese
6tbsp Softened butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Pinch salt

Method

Mix the flour, castor sugar, salt and yeast. Mix the butter into the eggs and slowly add the milk to the butter and egg mixture. Add the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Knead until you have dough that springs back when a finger is poked into it. Allow to rise in a warm place until double in size. Mix the muscavado sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle until it is about 5mm thick. Spread the butter evenly onto the pastry, then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over this. Making sure that it is all over the pastry, then press down gently. Roll it up. Portion the rolls and lay them into a baking tray. Allow to rise, covered with foil in a warm place for 30mins. Bake for 20 mins. with the foil still on. Make the icing whilst it’s in the oven. Mix the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, vanilla and salt together until smooth. Immediately after the cinnamon rolls are done, spread the icing over the top so it can melt into the rolls. They should be completely covered. Allow to cool, then separate. Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Rangers Report July 2015

What a very exiting month we had in the bush! From day one we had a lot of awesome sightings and it just got better as the month went on. We had a wonderful sighting of a female cheetah, moving past the lodge in search of a meal. We don’t get a lot of cheetahs around the lodge area, because it is too dense and bushy and cheetahs need open areas to hunt. When we do see a cheetah in this area, they are normally young animals, or females, moving through the area looking for a territory. We were also very fortunate with the wild dog sightings and some more great nightlife. The bush has totally changed its colors. The grass is very short in some areas and some of the smaller waterholes are bone dry. A few of the mornings and evenings were really chilly, but the normal day temperature was warm and pleasant. The average maximum temperature was 24 °C with no rain for the month.

Buffalo by Jonathan Vogel

Buffalo by Jonathan Vogel

Leopards

Once again there was so much laughter and excitement with our beautiful cats. Salayexe and her cub are doing really well. Salayexe moved the little one to a new den. For the cub this is a great outing and she is exploring her new home and surroundings. The previous den was right next to a very busy road and I think that helped a lot with the habituation process, as the cub was exposed to a lot of vehicles. When Salayexe returns home after a long day of hunting, the little one gives her a warm welcome by jumping on her back or grabbing her by the ear or tail. Salayexe really has her hands, or paws, full with this little busy body. Shadow and her cub are also looking great and the young male is growing nice and big. Shadow is still hunting for the young male and both of them are eating enough. Shadow needs to hunt a lot more than the other leopards in our area, because of her teenage son with his big appetite. Fingers crossed that she will raise this young male to independence. Now a young female we have seen a lot this month, was Nsele. It looks like Nsele has finally pushed her daughters out, as we don’t see them together anymore. One of Nsele’s daughters was seen with a duiker kill in a tree within Nsele’s territory. As we tried to get closer she climbed out of the tree and moved to a safe distance. Animals will quickly let you know when they feel uncomfortable with your presence, so we left her in peace. It will be great if one of the young females sets up territory next to mum. Seeing that Kwatile’s daughter is now independent, we had to decide on a suitable name for this young and adventurous female. After scratching our heads for a while, the name Tsakani came to mind. Tsakani is a Shangaan name, meaning “always happy”. We have seen her a few times moving around in Salayexe’s territory. At this stage Salayexe has bigger things to worry about, but if she finds her, she will definitely chase her out. Tyson also came through the area again, but with a lot of new battle scars to his collection. It looks like he had a run in with one of the other territorial male leopards. Still, it was great to see this old legend again and I hope that he will return in the months to follow. Back to the territorial shifts… Anderson is turning his attention to Lamula again. Lamula and Anderson had a territorial standoff at the beginning of this month. Lamula was resting on a big termite mount when Anderson stalked him from behind. The wind turned in the nick of time and Lamula turned his head, just in time to find Anderson a mere 20 meters behind him. Lamula showed great courage as he stood up and came down the mount and walked straight up to Anderson. As Lamula got closer to Anderson, Anderson knew he had to do the same and he met Lamula halfway. The growling was so loud you could barely hear the diesel engine of the game viewer idling. It was not long before Anderson turned up the heat. Lamula knows that he is not as big and he moved away to fight another day. It will be very interesting to see what will happen in the next few months, as just the next day Lamula was back and scent marking all over the area. Tingana was also seen a few times, marking his territory. Although he lost a part of his territory, he is still going strong and it looks like he has his sights set on Mvula’s territory.

Lions

Salayexe, the female leopard, with a cane rat kill

Salayexe, the female leopard, with a cane rat kill

There was so much excitement regarding the lions of this area. The five Birmingham males came back for a quick visit. They are looking great, in good shape and their manes are well developed, but not yet full. They had a good feed as they had a buffalo bull and also stole two young buffalo kills, but this was all short-lived. Just when the young males though life was at its best, the Majingi male lions moved into the area and caught up with them. The Birmingham males made a quick run for it and the Majingi males chased them all the way back to where they came from. The Majingi males are still in good shape and by the looks of things they are not ready to step down as kings of the area. One of the Majingi males was seen mating with a female from the Breakaway pride. The Breakaway pride is doing great and they are just magnificent. My guests and I had the wonderful opportunity one chilly morning to witness the Breakaway lion pride hunting and killing a male giraffe. Now the best part of this entire hunt was that only 5 pride members killed the giraffe. The other 8 were at the back. A day into the feeding frenzy the two young Styx pride males came in to join them. At first there was loads of growling to establish a hierarchy between them. After all that they fed together around the kill. The Styx pride is also looking great and the small cubs are big and healthy. The two older females were again seen mating with the two Matimba males. We were also very lucky to see the Styx pride in full force as they eventually joined up. There is only one obstacle in their road and that is the Matimba males. The Matimba males don’t like the sub-adult females in the group and they just want to kill them. The young Ximungwe lions were also seen this month and they showed us their unique way of hunting. They followed a herd of impalas the one afternoon and then they chased them into the fence, those who got stuck in the fence were dinner. These youngsters don’t have an adult to teach them how to hunt. They have to teach themselves and by the looks of things they are slowly, but surely getting there. The Tsalala pride also came in and had an interesting afternoon at one of the waterholes. As the pride had a relaxing and peaceful day, they were challenged by 8 wild dogs.

Buffaloes

Breakaway female lion by Jonathan Vogel

Breakaway female lion by Jonathan Vogel

We had wonderful buffalo sightings again this month. We saw 2 to 3 different big buffalo herds and then also a few smaller splinter groups that broke away from the main herds. The buffaloes took a beating by the lions this month as the Birmingham males, Breakaway pride, Styx pride and the Majingi males had some buffalo steaks for dinner. We had a few bachelors and bachelor herds also moving around in our area. These old boys are staying close to certain big water holes and don’t stray too far, as there is enough food for them around the waterholes. The big herds, on the other side, are constantly moving around in search of more food and water to sustain the whole herd.

Elephants

Leopard cub by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard cub by Jonathan Vogel

With all the smaller waterholes now dry, the elephants spend a lot of their time on the open area in front of the lodge in order to get the fresh water that is pumped into the waterhole. One elephant can drink between 100-200L’s of water in one day and consume 100-300Kg’s of food per day. An elephant herd will stay in one particular area until food and water sources are exhausted, and then move on again. The herds we saw all had small babies in the group and they will not move very far in one day, as the babies can’t keep up with the adults. One of the groups we saw was about seventy members strong and the matriarch was a big female with big tusks, so she was easily recognizable. It is not always possible to recognize each and every elephant in a group, as there are too many. They are always on the move and not territorial, so you can just imagine how fantastic it was to be able to follow the big herd’s movements as they gracefully moved through the area.

Special sighting

The Breakaway lion pride with their buffalo kill takes first prize this month. Seeing a lion hunt from stalking to feeding is such a rare sighting. This was such a special sighting to witness with our guests. What made it even better was to see how these lions communicate with each other, without making a sound. Each member in the pride has a certain roll to play when it comes to hunting and all of them know that one wrong move might lead to you either getting hurt, or having to go hungry.

Did you know?

A giraffe has only 7 neck vertebrae, the same as humans.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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