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
One of the things that I have learned in my time in the African bush is that things are constantly changing. The season is again changing and one can see this when going out on game drive. The knob thorn trees are the first to get their flowers and are now covered in their yellow pollen balls. It is spectacular to see all the yellow flowers on the trees and this is a great reminder that spring is upon us. Another giveaway we saw was the return of the Wahlberg eagles this month. The temperature has also changed and it is much warmer than last month. The maximum average temperature was a nice 27°C with no rain. Animal sightings were awesome as always with our resident hyena clan making sure we get some spectacular sightings. This clan is doing really well and is still growing. The wild dogs were also out in our area this month. It is always very exciting to have them in the area, especially if they hunt. Overall, this was a great month for wildlife.
Female hyena by Neil Coetzer
What an awesome time we had with the leopards this month. We saw leopards every single day of the month. Some days we saw up to five different individuals. We are spoiled with all the great leopard sightings that we have in the area and this month just confirmed it. Salayexe and her daughter Tiyani are doing very well, and looking good. Poor Salayexe had to work extra hard this month to put food on the table for the two of them. Every time she made a kill there was a hyena that ran in and stole her kill from her. These hyenas have realised that if they follow the leopards around, they could get an easy meal. When the leopard makes a kill and she cannot put it in a tree fast enough, the hyenas score. Salayexe has lost four of her kills in a week due to these opportunistic hyenas. She eventually moved hunting grounds to another part of her territory and had some success. There is still tension building between mother and daughter and time is running out for the young Tiyani. Kurula and her cubs are doing great and we have seen them a few times this last month. The youngsters are getting more relaxed, but they need more time. All fingers are crossed that she can raise both cubs to adulthood. Moya was also seen a few times this month as she is expanding her territory more north and east. It looks like she and her aunt Salayexe have their eyes set on the same area. This will only lead to one thing. It just shows you that just when you think the leopard dynamics are sorted out between the ladies, oestrogen levels causes havoc. Nsele and her cub is still doing really well and Nsele is taking her all over the territory. Nsele’s little cub is looking good and is much better with the vehicles around her. Out of all the cubs she is the shyest and the oldest. Nsele’s older daughter has finally left Nsele’s territory and exploring further east and north looking for her own territory. Thandi was seen a lot this month moving around the eastern part of our traversing area. We have not seen the cubs yet, but she is still suckling them. They are still small, but it will not be very long before she brings them out for all of us to see. Let’s hope that she has better luck than her sister Shadow. Shadow was also seen a few times this month without her cub. She was also seen mating with Tingana for a few days. This does not look good for this female as she has only managed to raise one cub so far. We also had a surprise visit from a leopard female called the Ingrid Dam female, whose territory is south, out of our traversing area. This might be that she was looking for Anderson, or that there is pressure from another female. Whatever the cause might be, it is always great to see another new leopard in our area. The young Flat Rock male moved into the area again causing all kinds of havoc in the area. This young male is a really good looking male and he looks very healthy. He is still very young and not that bulky yet, but give him a few years. Tingana is also looking great and always on the move. With the young Flat Rock male moving around in his territory he had no chance to rest. Both Tingana and Anderson was much more vocal than normal during the month, due to the young male in the area. We were so very fortunate to see the big boss, Anderson a lot this month. After moving into the area he had a baby face with no scars. A few years later, he looks like a dominant male, with his face all scarred up.
Birmingham male lion by Louis Liversage
There was great joy with some of the lions in the area this month. We were very happy to see that the two young brothers of the Tsalala pride have re-join their mother and other two siblings. These two boys were separated for a few months from the rest of the group. They are big enough to look after themselves and they just proved that by fending for themselves the last few months. The Styx pride of lions were also out and about this month. They have spent a lot of their time in the far eastern part of the reserve, close to the Kruger National Park. The three females are looking great and they are eating very well. These lionesses are excellent hunters as they make about two kills a week. They do not just go for smaller things like impala, kudu, zebra and wildebeest, but mainly big animals. I would go as far to say that the majority of their kills are buffaloes. The little cubs are also looking very good and always have full bellies. It is always great to see them moving around in the area. The Birmingham males are in the best shape of their lives at the moment. These four males are getting more and more bulky as they get older. Their manes are still not fully grown yet, but it is looking great already. The problem I have with these big boys is that they are still splitting up and not staying together. As we all know by now, the bush can be very unpredictable. When these Birmingham males split up in ones or two’s it will be very easy for other young males to take them out. The survival of the Styx and Nkuhuma pride’s cubs all depend on the survival of their fathers. The Birmingham males are the defenders of the territories and the protectors of the prides within. This is why it is so important for the four males to stick together as a unit. There might be another reason why they are going their separate ways more than normal and it might be that they know there is no competition. So hopefully when they realise there is competition, they with stand together and fight together.
Karula the female leopard and her cub by Neil Coetzer
The big herds of buffalos have been scarce this month as we have not seen many big herds. I think over the last few months we have seen so many big herds and we got use to them being around the area. We saw one herd this month, but they did not stay for very long. Food supplies are now on the bare minimum and the grazers like buffalos are moving around more and further away in search of food. Once again the old dagga boys came to our rescue, together with a few bachelor herds. The bachelor herds are moving all over the area, one particular bachelor herd had seven bulls and one cow. This is quite strange as the females don’t normally break away with the dominant bulls. There is one reason for this. When the herds are attacked by lions, the buffalos split into splinter groups. With all the confusion of the lion attack, a female might end up with a few males. The old dagga boys are spending a lot of their time on the banks of the dry river beds as there is still a little bit of green grass. These old boys do not travel long distances as there is still enough water and food for them around the area.
Tiyani the female leopard on an impala kill by Neil Coetzer
Elephants are the free roaming lords of the African bush. Their awesome size and strength have always commanded respect and they have proved to be supreme survivors, masters at adapting to different climates and habitat. Their relationship with nature and other species is highly cooperative and symbiotic. The destruction caused by these big animals is phenomenal, as there are broken branches and uprooted trees everywhere. With the extremely dry season that we are experiencing at the moment one would think that the elephants would be effected most. This is not true as elephants are extremely clever and they can adapt to any condition. Seeing that the elephants are mixed feeders, they are still in great condition. We have seen so many herds this month and especially around our lodge. Our water hole has become a great lifeline for the animals and especially the elephants. It is such a great sight to have breakfast or lunch with the elephants quenching their thirst in front of the lodge.
Tiyani made sure that she gets the special sighting spot this month. Like I mentioned before, Salayexe the female leopard and Tiyani lost a few kills to the powerful hyena clan. The one day they lost yet another kill to the hyenas, and little Tiyani did not take it well. The hyena dragged the kill a short distance away while Tiyani followed. This poor hyena thought he was in the clear until he turned around and saw Tiyani. Without any hesitation and warning Tiyani lashed out with a fast right and followed with a quicker left paw with claws out. The poor hyena did not know what happened at that very moment. Tiyani is now 15 months old and she had her very first big fight with a hyena. We can definitely see who her parents are.
Did you know?
Giraffes can last longer without water than camels.
See you out on the game drive soon.
Wild photo of the month by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
Winter is here! The air is dry and trees have taken on the appearance of skeletons in the misty mornings. As the waterholes dry up, the desperate need for water drives the bigger animals to take on greater journeys. Without water, nothing can survive in the harsh African bush. As the days march on we are seeing more and more breeding herds of elephants quenching their thirst at the water hole in front of the lodge. Due to our current season, most travellers from the northern hemisphere are not keen on leaving their hot summers to take a trip south to enjoy a holiday in the winter. But to those guests who did join us this month, I hope you all took lots of pictures to show your families and friends how beautiful nature is, even in winter. Thank you again for your support in the winter months. I would also like to thank all our South African guests who visited us during the month.
Salayexe and Tiyani by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
After the low rainfall during the year, water is a very valuable asset, which we try to preserve and save as far as possible. Our maintenance team added a very valuable structure to our lodge – a water filtration system! Hendrik and his team constructed a filtration system which allowed us to create a beautiful green garden in front of the gym, using only grey water from our laundry. The fact that we use only biodegradable laundry detergents, make the water safe and garden friendly. The drain water from the washing machines run through three different levels of rocks, gravel and sand into a water tank. As soon as the water in the tank reaches a certain level, the pump switches on and sends the water to the sprinklers in the garden. I am sure it will not be long before we have a paradise of birds visiting the beautiful aloe flowers.
Our trapcam spend a few nights at Kraaines Pan again this month. There was once again loads of visitors, big and small. Some came in groups, others came alone. Some preferred the day and others the night. This month’s picture shows that if baby elephant can’t get around mommy, he will go underneath her, no problem.
As every other month, we celebrated some joyful staff birthdays. First on the calendar was ranger Dawie. His birthday was spent in a place very close to his heart, the bush. On the 26th another ranger, Neil celebrated his birthday. Both these guys share an enormous passion for the bush and animals. I am sure they will celebrate many more birthdays guiding. Eummy also celebrated her special day on the 26th. Short on her heels, on the 30th, Busi celebrated her birthday. Both these lovely ladies are part of our trusty housekeeping team. They always keep our lodge and rooms in tip top condition. To all our readers who celebrated birthdays in July, I hope your day was overflowing with happiness and laughter!
Little Rock Guesthouse
We have an exciting announcement to make! Elephant Plains recently bought a Bed & Breakfast in Jongensfontein, on the Garden Route, between Mossel Bay and Worcester. Jongensfontein is a small town in the Western Cape, with the nearest town being Still Bay. What a true gem this quiet, little beach town is! The name for the town is derived is from the fact that it has a natural perennial spring. The guest house’s name is Little Rock and we are looking forward to this endeavour. It sleeps 14 guests and we are currently undergoing renovations to upgrade it to a 4* status. We are very excited to be the new owners. Having spent much of their childhood holidays there, it is a place very close to both Etienne and Marlet’s hearts. The guesthouse is situated mere metres from the beach and all our rooms have wonderful sea views. We will keep you updated on the progress, but if all goes well, we are planning to open our doors to the public at the end of November / beginning December. So watch this space!
Our recipe this month is from our new menus. Head chef Jacques surprised us with something rather different this month, Kingklip Ceviche.
1 House Garlic
1 Ginger Root
400 Ml Olive oil
400 Ml Soy Sauce
2 Kg Fresh Kingklip
1 Kg Spinach Leaves
1 Packet Cherry Tomatoes
6 Large Carrots
4 Bell Peppers
Debone the Kingklip and thinly slice it into bite-sized pieces.
Grate the garlic, ginger and chillies and mix with olive oil and soy sauce to form a marinade.
Put Kingklip in the marinade and leave to absorb flavour for 15 minutes.
While the fish is marinating, cut the spinach leaves in halves, length wise.
Julienne the carrots and half the cherry tomatoes.
Roll tomatoes, carrots and peppers in a spinach leaf.
Place the marinated Kingklip on top and finish with a topping of your choice.
Makes 10 to 12 Servings
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
I know I say that every month is good but it is just getting better and better as the year goes on. The bush is really dry at the moment and in some areas there are a lot of bare patches. The average maximum temperature was only 23°C. We were blessed with 12mm of rain this month. It was great to see newly formed water puddles in and next to the roads. A few days after the rain we noticed the first new green grass pushing through the ground. The days that followed, more and more grass made their appearance. All the grazers did not let this opportunity sneak pass them as they quickly started feasting on these new green grass. We were very fortunate again with the wild dog sightings this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing really well and their numbers are steadily rising. This hyena clan showed us this month why they are a force to be reckoned with. They killed a buffalo bull one evening in front of the lodge. The killing was very messy as each hyena ripped chunks of meat out of the living buffalo. Unlike the lions who suffocate their prey and then eat, the hyenas eat while their prey is still alive.
Two Hippos fighting by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
There was so much excitement happening with our spotted cats. The best part, there is so much more excitement waiting to unfold. Salayexe and Tiyani are still together and at times it looks like the bond between them will never break. With all that said, sometimes it looks like they are not even related when Salayexe growls at Tiyani. We saw Salayexe, Tiyani and Anderson together for almost 2 full days. All of us thought that Salayexe was most probably coming into estrous and that is why Anderson was with them. After day two Salayexe and her daughter, Tiyani, moved north and Anderson moved south again. We see Tiyani a lot more on her own when Salayexe goes of hunting or just need some alone time. This gives Tiyani time to practice her own hunting skills as she stalks hares, birds, squirrels, duikers and so much more. Sometimes it works out and she kills something small but other times she goes to bed with an empty stomach. Salayexe is still expanding her territory more south and more east. Salayexe, showed her dominance this month after she stole a kill from Moya. Just as expected, Moya came down the tree and moved away from her kill. She knows Salayexe from previous encounters and knows that her aunt is bigger and stronger than her. Otherwise Moya is looking great and still very healthy. She was also seen with Anderson this month but they crossed out of our traversing area before we could see if they were mating or not. Shadow moved more east since Salayexe started expanding her empire. Shadow is also smaller than Salayexe and these two ladies have met a few times in the past and the outcome was the same, Salayexe was the dominant one. Shadow was very low on the radar this month but this might be due to the small cub. She and her cub are still looking great and feeding well. Kurula and her 2 cubs are also looking great and they are much more relaxed than last month. Nsele and her 6-month old daughter was seen a lot this last month. These two are looking great and they are well fed. Although Nsele has only one eye, it does not stop her from being a very successful hunter. Nsele’s older daughter is also still moving around in her territory and we have seen her a few times this month. She is looking good and rather big for a female of her age. We were also very fortunate to see the daughter of the Ingrid Dam female, who moved around our area. It is great to see there are a few young females moving into the area to try and establish a territory. Tsakani is also moving around the area giving the older females a lot of grey hairs. She is a wonderful little leopard and I hope that she will settle down in the area and start her own legacy. Madiba/Sindile, the young male leopard, was also seen a few times this month moving through our area. This young male is looking good and very healthy. At this stage he is a nomad wondering through the area in search of his own piece of Africa. The only thing standing in his way at this stage is Anderson, the big male. Anderson is on the top of his game at the moment and he is still expanding more north. I do not think that there is another big male who can challenge Anderson for his territory. Tingana is still spending a lot of his time in the eastern part of his territory to avoid Anderson. Both these males are still expanding their territories but avoiding each other. There is still loads of excitement instore for us with all these beautiful spotted cats.
Styx pride cub by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
The lion sightings were really pumping and we were spoiled with all the sightings again this month. The three lionesses of the Styx pride and their eight cubs are looking fantastic. The cubs are always so full of life with loads of energy. It is great to see that the Birmingham males are interacting with their cubs. They are very tolerant towards the cubs while they play and jump around them. The two female cubs in the group are always on the receiving end as their brothers always bully them. Luckily for them they have their mothers on their side. When things get too rough mum jumps in to help. The eight little ones are growing up fast and they do not have that real baby fur any more. Let’s just hope that all eight will survive to adulthood. This will be great for the pride. We saw the two Tsalala lionesses with two cubs again this month. It was a quick visit from them but they still look very healthy and in good condition. The core of their territory is south of our traversing area and they do not move this far north a lot. The Nkuhuma pride surprised us with our first sighting of three of their new cubs. It was great to see the cubs of this pride. The core of their territory is far northeast out of our traversing area. It is always great to see these little cubs and we also got word that there are two more litters. This means that three of the five lionesses have cubs at the moment and the other two have apparently already mated with the Birmingham males. If it can work out that the five females have babies it will be a great asset to the pride. We are not sure how many male and female cubs there are in the three litters as we do not see them a lot. Still we are full of hope that we will see them again in the next few months to follow. The Birmingham males are still looking great and their manes are just getting bigger and more impressive. These four males are getting more and more confident as they are moving more west again. The young and strong Birmingham males are still in their prime but it means nothing if they are alone. These males are doing so good now, I would hate to see them fall. The only why that will happen is when they keep on splitting up. These males are doing exactly what the Mapogo’s did. A successful coalition always stays together like the Majingilane males.
Burchell’s starling by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
As the month came to an end the buffalo sightings exploded. We saw two main buffalo herds this month. The one herd had between 100 and 200 individuals and the other one was bigger with about 300 to 500 individuals. These big herds were constantly on the move in search of food and water supplies. Although they were moving the whole time we still saw them almost every second day of the month. The lion prides in the area had a field day with these big herds. Any young or old buffalo that stray too far from the herd or can’t keep up will fall prey to the lion prides. With the rain we had this month there was just enough water in the mud wallows for the old bulls to wallow in. These old boys are still in good shape. They are always close to a waterhole and the dry river beds where there is still green grass. A few of the dominant buffalo bulls have left the breeding herds to fatten up for the next breeding season, next year.
The elephant sightings are just out of this world. There was no shortage of them. The herd sizes range between ten to thirty animals in a group. The elephants are still looking great even now that we are experiencing a drought. Elephants are incredible creatures that eats 95% of all the vegetation in the bush. In the summer months their diet mainly consists of grass as it will make up around 98% of it. In the winter when there is not a lot of grass their diet changes to 90% trees. They also spend a lot of their time in the dry riverbeds to feed of the wild date palms. There were a few big males moving around in the area following the female groups. It is wonderful to see the herds in their numbers moving across the open area in front of the lodge. All the matriarch elephants of the herds know that the waterhole on the open area always have fresh water. We have elephants passing the front of our lodge almost every day.
To see a mother leopard and cub is always a very special sighting. To see a mother with two cubs is even more special. This month we were dumbstruck to see Nsele, her youngest daughter and her older daughter from her previous litter in the same tree with a kill. We all thought that maybe this was a once off thing but we couldn’t be more wrong. Just a few days later all three of them were together on another kill. Nsele was very relaxed with the older cub being there with them and the youngest daughter liked the idea of her big sister visiting them. It was really special to see them all three together as a family.
Did you know?
Unlike many other animals, hippos seldom, if ever, use mock charges on land as a passive defense.
See you out on the game drive soon.
Wild photo of the month
We are at that time of the year again, winter has arrived! The bush is wearing its winter coat! 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 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!
Tree squirrel by Morné Fouché
In the beginning of May Etienne, Marlet, Amanda and I once again took on the journey to Durban to attend the annual Tourism Indaba. Our blue stand once again drew a lot of attention and we received loads of compliments. Marlet, Amanda and I even got the opportunity to meet the Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom. Thank you to each and everyone 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.
Elephants drinking water by Morné Fouché
With winter creeping up upon us, we see more and more activity at our waterholes. This month, the trapcam was placed at Kraaines Pan, west of our airstrip. The trapcam was left on the tree for only a week and boy, were we in for a surprise! During the week, the trapcam took 2300 photo’s. To choose only 1 was a difficult task. The rangers worked their way through the shots and identified 16 different animal species and a few hundred pictures of a moving branch. Amongst the hundreds of elephant, buffalo, warthog, zebra, impala, hippo, giraffe, hyena and wildebeest photo’s there were also wild dogs and 3 different leopards who visited the waterhole. Our trapcam picture this month shows two female leopards, Salayexe and her cub, having a drink.
This month we also welcomed a new lady to our team. Anel Louw joined our team at the beginning of the month. It did not take long for her to fit right in. She will be assisting in reservations when Amanda is on leave and when she is not in the back office, she is assisting guest in reception with her friendly smile.
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. Then, just after the first two, Phillip celebrated his special day on the 5th. Phillip is part of the magical team keeping the gardens at the lodge in tip top shape.
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 again one for the sweet tooth. Head chef Jacques shares this delicious recipe, which can be enjoyed any time of the day, or night. If you are celebrating a special occasion, add some liqueur to boost the flavour…
All the best till next month