Wild photo of the month by Alan and Gaynor Castle, UK
Wow! What happened to the year? At first we were counting down the days till when we would receive our first winter days. Then before you know it the winter season has come and gone and we are yet again in the mid of summer. We had a bit of rain during the month and the bush began transforming to the very much loved green oasis. Every day you can see how the vegetation is becoming denser. Everything is brilliant colours of green with bright flowers starting to bloom on some of the trees. We still have some very hot days as well, and some more rain will be very welcome as it is almost time for baby season in the bush. During this month, we started to see newborn impala, wildebeest and zebra around every turn and bush. There are still loads of pregnant females just waiting for the perfect time to introduce their precious little miracles to the African bush.
Small buffalo herd by Louis Liversage
The lodge is looking amazing after the rain we received during the past two months. The Bougainvilleas are in bloom, the trees have bright green leaves and the gardens over all have taken on the summer look. With summer here, we also see much more caterpillars, butterflies, insects and other reptile species. We have also seen plenty of Baboon spiders and different scorpions around the outside areas of the lodge. They mainly hide during the day and come out to hunt at night. Our rangers have been doing a great job moving the somehow uninvited guests to a more private spot when they wonder into the public areas. If you are planning a trip to the bush soon, keep an eye out for these beautiful critters.
Nkuhuma pride with Neil in background – by Dawie Jacobs
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 species do not get along very well as Mr hippo is not very happy to sharing his dam. I have seen him chasing zebra and impala all around the waterhole before moving off into the bush.
We currently have an active hyena den on our property. The trapcam was placed at the den for a few days to see if we can capture some of their daily movements. We got a great shot of their early evening activities. It is very interesting how active the den is as soon as the sun sets. Just as the last rays of sunshine disappear, hyenas start moving. Well, we now know where they are when it is dark. The big question; what are they doing during the day?
This month we had only two birthdays at the lodge. Feitah celebrated her birthday on the 23rd. Feitah has been part of our little family for many years and have celebrated quite a lot of birthdays at the lodge. Helen celebrated her special day on the 29th. Helen is part of our lovely team of housekeepers, keeping our lodge in tip top shape. Happy birthday ladies, I am sure there will be many more to come! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during November, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
This month, chef Juandré is sharing a very easy but mouth watering recipe. With only a few ingredients, the marshmallow tart will blow your taste buds away!
32 Large marshmallows
1/3 Cup milk
1 Cup whipping cream
1 Basic pie crust, fully cooked and cooled
Chocolate sauce for serving
Combine the marshmallows and milk in a large saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the marshmallows have melted.
Remove from the heat and transfer to the refrigerator for about 20minutes until thickened but not set.
Beat the whipping cream to stiff peaks. Stir about one-fourth of the cream into the marshmallow mixture. Fold in the remaining cream.
Spread the mixture into the pie crust. Refrigerate for about 3 hours until fully set.
Serve drizzled with chocolate sauce and a mint leaf.
Makes 1 tart or 8 to 12 servings.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
Finally, the first baby impala arrived on the 19th and a few days after it was like a baby boom. All the migratory birds are finally back. If you are a keen birder this is the best time for you to be visiting the bush. The weather was absolutely great and we had some wonderful rain again. The bush has undergone a complete transformation. It is hard to imagine that a few months ago we experienced a bad drought in the area and there was no food around. The day temperature was really up and down with wonderful rain. The average maximum temperature was 32°C with 85mm of rain. We are so blessed with the wonderful rain that we had this month. We were also spoiled rotten with the animal sightings in our area. The pack of three wild dogs kept us on our toes as they came into our area on a regular basis this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing really well as they got their share of the weak buffaloes in the area.
Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché
Interesting times are awaiting us on the side of the leopards in our area. Salayexe and her daughter Tiyani are still together but I do not think it will be for much longer. Tiyani is spending much more time on her own. Salayexe left her for a full five days and she had to fend for herself. After those five days she went to fetch Tiyani again and took her straight to a fresh kill. This tells me that Salayexe is ready to break the bond between them in this next month or so. Tiyani spends the majority of her alone time around our lodge area. It is going to be very interesting to see how Tiyani starts her beginning to adulthood all alone and which piece of mum’s territory she will get. Both Salayexe and Tiyani are looking great and is in top condition after the drought. Nsele and her cub is also looking great. It is good to see that her cub is still alive and well. Nsele’s mother, Salayexe, is not making life so easy for her and her cub because Salayexe is moving more and more into Nsele’s territory. This next few months will be very interesting as both these females have daughters that needs a territory. Shadow kept a very low profile this month. We saw her once or twice this whole month. It is difficult to say where she went as her territory stretches into an area that we do not traverse. Fingers crossed that she is looking for a potential den site to use very soon. Kurula was also very low under the radar this month. We had a lot of tracks of her this month but she was always one step ahead of us. At least we saw her once or twice this month moving through our traversing. It is great to know that she and the cubs are doing just fine. The daughter of the Ingrid Dam female was also seen in our area this month. This young female very relaxed with the vehicles around her. She is definitely looking for a territory for herself. The only problem now is that she is moving around in Salayexe and Tiyani’s territory. It will really be interesting to see where she will end up in this next year or so. Tingana, the male, is looking great and was seen a few times this month. He is still patrolling his territory on a regular basis. He also has bulked up very well in this last few months with the weak animals. Anderson, the male, was seen a lot this month. This big beast is giving poor Tingana a run for his money as he is expanding again. We followed the Anderson male one day scent marking and vocalising in Tingana’s territory. The big question is now; Will Tingana just accept defeat and move on, or will he take on Anderson in a titanic brawl? These two have a history when it comes to territory and Anderson was victorious in all of them. Anderson also mated with the Ingrid’s Dam female and Salayexe this month. Fingers crossed for the next few months.
Baby hyena by Louis Liversage
Once again we had a wonderful time with these big apex predators of the bush. The Tailless female of the Tsalala pride was seen a few times this month with the four sub adults. Later the month she left the four youngsters to fend for themselves and she returned to her sister and the rest of her pride. The four sub adults stayed around our area for a few days before moving on to look for the big female. These four youngsters also killed a buffalo in the time that they were alone. It is really strange that the old female did not take the young female with her to the rest of the pride. The young female will be a great asset to the rest of the pride when it comes to hunting. She has proved herself so many times in the last two months hunting next to the old female and sometimes leading the hunt. Only time will tell what fate lies ahead for the young female. Will she be excepted by the rest of the pride or will she remain with her brothers. For these four youngsters it is great to be in this area as there is no big males that will chase them around. The Styx pride is really doing great and looking really healthy. We were very fortunate to see them quite frequently this month. The two females who lost their cubs have mated again with the Birmingham male this month. The old female and her two cubs are still doing really well and the little ones are growing up very fast. The old lady still hides them a lot but does bring them to kills made by the pride. The little ones are so relaxed with the vehicles around them. What makes it even better is the fact that the old female let them come closer to investigate the vehicle. The Nkuhuma pride was also seen a few times this month. We were very lucky to see the females along with their cubs and a Birmingham male feeding on a buffalo kill. The Nkuhuma pride’s core of their territory is north east of us. We have seen them moving far west onto EP property. This is great if they expand their territory this way. We also had two young nomadic male lions of the Avoca pride in our area this month. These two males were nice and relaxed but very alert as well. They are two beautiful males but like all young males they are just passing through trying to avoid the big territorial males. These two males are extremely good buffalo hunters and they killed a few buffaloes in our area. They also had a run in with our resident hyena clan over a buffalo kill. The two males stood their ground but the twenty adult hyenas were just too powerful and the two brothers moved on. The Birmingham males are turning into impressive males as their manes are getting fuller. They spend a lot of their time with the Styx and the Nkuhuma pride. There are still times that they will join forces to patrol their boundary but that does not happen very often.
Bull elephant by Louis Liversage
The big herds have returned. We have seen a few big herds of about 100-200 buffaloes this month moving through the area in search of enough food and water. With all the wonderful new green grass all over the area there is finally a lot to eat. There are still the smaller herds of between 20 to 30 all over the area. These smaller herds tend to stay longer in one specific area as there is a lot for them to eat seeing that they are not a big herd. The big herds on the other hand have to keep on moving more as there are a lot more mouths to feed. We have not seen any new born calves yet but it is still early in the wet season. The bachelor herds are also still in the area enjoying the new grass and fresh water in the waterholes. It will not be too long before these bachelor herds brake up and they return to the breeding herds to fight for mating rights. The old dagga boys are enjoying every moment of this wet season as all their mud wallows are once again filled with water. When driving past any mud wallow on a hot day you are bound to find a dagga boy or two having a day at the bush spa.
Plains zebra by Morné Fouché
The elephant herds are still in the area and they provided for some spectacular sightings this month. Once again we were fortunate to have three to four different herds moving through the area per day. The waterhole in front of the lodge was a real hot spot again as the elephant herds came to quench their thirst. We saw quite a few babies this month struggling to find the purpose for their trunk. We had such laughter and great fun with these small babies. It is so special to sit and watch the toddlers in the herd doing all kinds of things. One in particular was a little rascal. He will go and look for trouble as he picks a fight with the bigger youngsters in the herd. When the youngsters get fed up with him and turns around he runs to the safety of mums big and strong forelegs. When he sees that the coast is clear and everyone is busy eating again he makes his silent approach. This went on for nearly an hour. We did not see a lot of big males this month, just a few younger males moving through the area. With all the new growth the herds do not move very long distances in search of more food.
It is always great to see predator interaction and this month we witnessed just that. The two young nomadic male lions killed a buffalo bull during the day. After a few hours the first hyena got the scent of a fresh kill and followed the scent. On arrival she realized she was outnumbered and called for reinforcements. After calling the first time a few other hyenas responded with calls from different areas. It was not long before two more came running in and then more after that. In a matter of ten minutes there were just over ten hyenas. The young males did not stand back as they charged at the hyenas every so often defending their kill. At a stage it looked like the two brothers had the upper hand, or so we thought. There was more vocalization going on by hyenas behind us and they were coming closer fast. Suddenly the rest of the hyenas regrouped and got ready for the battle. The two brothers launched yet another attack and the hyenas scattered. Suddenly the matriarch hyena and a few of her daughters arrived on the scene. The now twenty strong group of hyenas with the matriarch leading from the front marched forward. The two brothers charged at the hyenas again but with a different result this time. The hyenas did not scatter, they split into two groups and went around the brothers. Realizing they were outnumbered the two brothers disappeared into the darkness.
Did you know?
The hyena does not fall under the cat family nor the dog family. They are under the Hyaenidae family.
See you out on the game drive soon.
Wild photo of the month (Salayexe’s cub) by by Paul and Sue
Spring is in the air and the landscape is slowly changing. Some of the trees around camp are showing off new small green leaves and before we know, we will be surrounded with a burst of green. Now that the sun is rising earlier and setting later, we have changed the game drive times to depart earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. With the temperatures slowly rising, it is no longer necessary for heaters in the evenings and we have been enjoying pleasant nights in the boma around the fire. We had a few hot days and it will not be too long before our guests will be spending the days next to the pool with a refreshing drink. For those of you visiting us during the next few months, please remember to bring along your sunscreen. This summer is going to be a hot one!
Drive, Drink & Dine with Safari Wines Hoedspruit
We had another very successful wine tasting evening this month. As the day was scorching hot, a gin tasting was also worked into the plans. We learned that certain types of gin pair well with different types of herbs, spices and fruits. Never in my life could I imagine what a big difference a piece of cinnamon, rosemary or even a thyme sprig can make. We welcomed guests on the open area next to the waterhole during game drive to refresh their spirits. Thank you once again to Safari Wine club for introducing truly South African distilled gins to our guests. If you are visiting us in the near future, be sure to try a spicy Inverroche Amber or zesty Wilderer Cape Fynbos gin. It will blow your taste buds away!
African wild dog by Dawie Jacobs
Last month, we got some interesting pictures from the trapcam. This month we decided to place the trapcam on a tree next to the road on Eastern Bank Manyeleti road. Our cam trapped a herd of buffalo feeding along the road. Some of the members in the group were not in the best of shape, but after the rain we received, it will not be too long before they are back into healthy shape. Round and shiny! With our waterhole in front of the lodge filled with fresh water we have buffalo visiting almost every day. We also saw some large herds of elephant, impala, zebra, giraffe, hyena and a warthog family pass the camera at all hours of the day and night. Comes to show, the bush never sleeps!
At Elephant Plains we are always celebrating birthdays, almost one every week. Linky, who celebrated her birthday on the 5th, is one of the ladies that make sure all the rondavels are spotless. She is a very humble person and always has the sweetest smile. Onnie, last but not least, had her birthday on the 16th. Onnie is one of our waitresses who attend to your needs with a smile. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during September, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.
This month, chef Juandré is sharing a very well known dessert recipe. I am convinced that any and every South African will classify this dessert as one of their favourites. Try this easy Peppermint Crisp Tart recipe and you will find out why.
Mini Peppermint Crisp Tart
Mini Peppermint Crisp Tart
2 Tins Caramel Treat (cooked condense milk)
1 x 150g Peppermint Crisp Chocolate (150g)
100 g Chocolate biscuits (Crushed)
50 g Butter (Melted)
Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter.
Press the biscuit mixture into desired moulds.
Whip 1 L cream till stiff peak and fold in the caramel treat.
Grate half of the chocolate into the mixture and fold in.
Pipe the mixture onto the biscuit base in the mould.
Whip the remaining 500 ml cream to stiff peak and pipe on top of the caramel mixture.
Grate the remaining chocolate on top of the cream for decoration.
Add the mint leaves for colour.
Place in the fridge for about an hour to set and cool.
Makes 8 to 12 servings, depending on the moulds used.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
Spring has finally arrived and the bush received a facelift in the form of wonderful colours. We were truly blessed this month with 18mm of rain. The average maximum temperature for this month was 31°C. The majority of the trees are full of flowers and their new bright green leafs are emerging. The first flowers have merged from the dry soil in some of the areas. It is not going to be too long before the entire area will be transformed. More migratory birds have returned to this area as the weather is changing and it gets warmer every day. Game viewing was again awesome this month and full of excitement. The wild dogs have been moving through the area again this month and we see them more frequently now. Our resident hyena clan is still doing very well and there were more babies born this month. The clan moved their pups to a new den on the western side of our airstrip. The pups are having a blast as they are exploring this new area around the den.
Red-billed oxpecker by Dawie Jacobs
There was so much excitement with the leopards again this month. Finally, Salayexe mated with the big man, Anderson. We are excited to see if she conceived this time around or will she go and look for Tingana as well. For the first time in her life, Tiyani was left to look after herself for longer than three days. Time is running out for this young female and we hope that she learned a lot from mum in this last few months. Overall Tiyani is looking great and although mum has mated with Anderson there is still somewhat of a bond between these two. I think it is safe to say that Shadow has lost her last cub again. She was seen mating with Tingana on two separate occasions for four to five days. Things are just not working out for her at this stage and she is really not a bad mother. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she is pregnant at the moment and that it will work out for her this time around. Kurula and her two cubs are doing very well. These two cubs are growing up very fast and they are very relaxed with the vehicles around them. We still allow only two vehicles with the cubs if mum is not there and three when mum is present. With them being only seven months old we are still not viewing them at night with the spotlight. From next month we will give it a test run and see how they react with the light. If by any reason they do not like it, we will give it another month before putting light on them. Nsele was also seen a few times this month. Although she has only one eye, she is an extremely good hunter and great mother. We have not seen her cub this month but we have seen her tracks moving up and down with her mother’s tracks. We have started using the spotlight with this cub and she is totally relaxed. Thandi was also out and about this month. Finally we saw her two little bundles of fluff. They are looking great and are not too bad with the vehicles around them. As long as we keep our distance they are nice and relaxed. It is great to see these little cubs playing around mum and play with anything and everything. Nsele’s older daughter Nchila, is also still moving around in our traversing area. She is also much more relaxed with the vehicles. Tingana is still a beautiful male with a spectacular duel lap under his neck. We are seeing him a lot more in the western part of his territory. This might be due to young males moving through his territory. Anderson is just an impressive male and to see him mating with Salayexe just confirmed his size. Anderson is so relaxed with vehicles that he will even relax in the shade of the game viewers. It is wonderful to have this big male so calm with the vehicles.
Anderson the big male leopard by Dawie Jacobs
There were a few sad days with some of the lions in the area this month. With all the sadness we also had joy and excitement. The month was not great for the Styx pride as they had a major setback with their cubs. It is never nice to lose an animal but that is part of nature. With this big loss in the Styx pride, there was also some excitement as the old female gave birth to a few youngsters. We closed the area where she was seen moving in and out from, so we do not know how many cubs there is at the moment. This is great for the pride to get a few more cubs after the loss of a few of the older cubs. She will keep them hidden for the next six to eight weeks before she introduces them the rest of the pride. Sometimes it can also happen that she keeps them hidden for longer as her cubs will have to compete against the older cubs for milk. At this stage we don’t really worry about how many cubs she has or what the sexes of the cubs are, as long as they are healthy. The three Styx pride females are very healthy and in good condition as they are killing a buffalo almost every week. These ladies are working together like an oiled machine. The Nkuhuma pride also braced us with their presence the one morning. They had two buffalo kills a mere 50 meters from each other. This pride is looking great and very healthy and the cubs are in mint condition. With all the weak buffalo around the lions do not have to go very far in search of them. At this stage the lions are hammering the buffalo herds in the area. The Birmingham males were also out a few times this month. They split themselves up again as two went with the Styx for a few days and two went with the Nkuhuma pride before they joined up again. These four boys are also looking great and they are eating very well, thanks to their ladies.
Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché
What a great time we had with the buffaloes this month. Finally, the big herds have arrived and let me tell you it was awesome. We had a massive herd which leisurely made their way through the area. This herd was about 800 or more strong. Before seeing the herd, we saw the dust cloud in the sky which looked like a dust storm making way towards us. This was also short lived as they passed through the area in one day. After the big herd we saw a few smaller herds of about 60-80 individuals. There are no small babies but a few of the females are currently pregnant. We also had a lot of bachelor herds moving around in the area. We are spoiled every day with a big group of buffalo bulls resting in the water in front of our lodge. With the temperature rising and the days getting hotter, these buffalo bulls are spending a lot more time at the water holes or inside the mud wallows hiding from the African heat.
Young Tsalala male lion by Dawie Jacobs
The elephant sightings were absolutely brilliant this month. We had two to three different herds of elephants moving through the area every day. All of the waterholes around the lodge have dried up except for the waterhole in front of the lodge. The elephant herds move back and forth from this waterhole throughout the day to quench their thirst. We saw a massive herd on drive the one day with one of the smallest babies I have seen these last two months. We also saw a herd with a little white baby again. Although there is almost no grass, the elephants are still thriving. With the new leafs and flowers on the trees there is enough food for the elephants.
Special sighting this month was the interaction between the mother hyena and three wild dogs. The mother hyena had pups in the den when the three wild dogs killed a steenbok close to her den. After the wild dogs finished their meal they turned their attention to the single mother hyena. Although the mother hyena was out numbered she still did not give in and did not once hesitate to defend her babies.
Did you know?
A group of leopards together is called a leap or lepe of leopards.
See you out on the game drive soon.
Wild photo of the month by Alan and Gaynor Castle, UK
Each morning, we were greeted by carpets of yellow, orange and brown as the trees were losing the last of their leaves. We are very fortunate to have a lot of lovely trees around the lodge, providing us with loads of shade. One thing that mother nature takes care of, is trees shedding their leaves to ensure a brand new attire for summer. Keeping the grounds around the buildings and pathways clean can be a struggle, but with our trusty leave blower nothing could stand in our way. The leaves we gather are added to our compost heap to decompose and we then give back to mother nature by working the compost back into the gardens. We had lovely temperatures during the entire August, which almost made the winter chill only a dusty memory. Just as we got comfortable with the idea of pleasant spring days, we were surprised by some very strong winds the last few days of the month. We were almost blown straight into September, leaves and all!
Drive, Drink & Dine with Safari Wines Hoedspruit
This month we started an exciting new trend at the lodge. DDD is our newest project. With the assistance of our wine supplier, Safari Wines Hoedspruit, we now host a wine tasting evening once a month. August was our first Drive, Drink & Dine and it turned out a huge success. Our main focus with these DDD evenings is to present our guests with a selection from our wine cellar, paired perfectly with the menu for the evening. Charl and Amanda from Safari Wines present the wines with all the interesting facts and history, from how it is made and where it originates from, to what food it can be paired with. We started off with 2 rosé wines and a splash of gin during game drive. Upon their return, guests were welcomed back with a bubbly glass of true South African sparkling wine. Dinner was complimented with white and red varieties, paired with the various dishes on the menu. I must admit, as the night went on, conversations picked up and the atmosphere was festive.
Drive, Drink & Dine with Safari Wines Hoedspruit
One of the most amazing things we are spoiled with at the lodge is the waterhole on the open area in front of the lodge. This little piece of magic is a source of water for many impala, zebra, elephant breeding herds, buffalo and even the odd troop of baboons that can be seen almost daily. It is a pleasure to sit and watch the different species interact around the water, while you are enjoying breakfast and lunch. So, while it is very interesting to watch the animals from the deck, I always wonder what they are actually up to down where we cannot see. With this curiosity in mind, we placed the trapcam on the open area for a few days, hoping to find some interesting behaviours at the water. Between the number of photos of elephants drinking, we found a special moment. Two babies playing right next to the water. With the adults occupied, these two decided it was time for a game of wrestling. Baby elephants are adorable with their little bodies and floppy trunks, but seeing them in a position which is known to big bulls is extremely cute!
We celebrated only 2 birthdays this month. Precious, who wears her housekeeping title with the biggest pride, celebrated her birthday on the 14th. A few days after, on the 22nd, Michael celebrated his 21st birthday. Michael started with us as a student straight out of training, 9 months ago. In this time, he has grown into a lovely young ranger, ready and eager to share his passion. I trust you both had a very special day and will share many more birthdays as part of the Elephant Plains team. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during August, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.
Our recipe this month, is one for the sweet tooth. Head Chef Jacques presents his Crème Brule with pride. If you try this recipe, you would know why. The recipe might be a bit of a challenge at first and will most definitely test some skills you never knew you had.
6 egg yolks
100g castor sugar
200ml fresh cream
300ml full cream milk
5 Vanilla Pods (these can be replaced with coffee beans)
400g Granulated Sugar
50 ml Water
8 Egg Whites
343 Granulated Sugar
Put milk, cream and vanilla pods in a sauce pan. Simmer until scolding point. Mix eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light in colour and sugar dissolved. Mix all together. Pour through a chinois strainer and skim the foam. Portion into ramekins and bake it in oven for 30 to 45 min on 180 °C.
Melt sugar in a sauce pan.
With a fork, stir till it cools enough to make strands.
Pull the fork forward and backwards over the handle of a whisk to form a strand hanging down.
When you have enough loose strands, make a ball of the sugar by pressing all strands together.
Place on baking paper to harden.
Combine the water and 232g of sugar in a small pan. Melt together but be sure for the temperature not to exceed 114 °C.
Wisk the egg whites till in forms a soft peak and add remainder of the sugar. Whisk till almost stiff peak.
Slowly add in the hot sugar and water mixture wile constantly whisking.
Wisk till cool and shiny.
Add to the top of your baked Crème Brule and end off with a spun sugar ball.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month