Manager’s Report June 2015

Wild photo of the month by John and Linda

Wild photo of the month by John and Linda

And so we have reached the halfway mark for 2015! Hot summer days are something from the past and we are enjoying crisp winter temperatures. This month, we placed the patio heaters and burners back in the boma and we also have the blankets and hot water bottles back on the game drive vehicles. Temperatures have been dropping day by day and I think it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of winter. Although the bush can get very dry and pale during the winter months, there is a rainbow of colours around the lodge. The bougainvillea bushes and aloes are all in bloom. The gardens are painted with strokes and blotches of orange, pink, red and yellow. The aloe flowers also attract the most amazing birds, making them just a little more special.

Elephant Plains guests at sunset by Jonathan Vogel

Elephant Plains guests at sunset by Jonathan Vogel

This month we started a big maintenance project at the lodge. Behind the scenes and a few feet above the ground, we are giving our thatch roofs a small makeover. What does this all include, one would ask? Well, think of it as going to the hair salon for a cut, colour and blow-dry. Before such a project can start, the roofs need to be 100% dry and now that we are outside of our rainy season, it is the best time to tackle a project like this. As thatch roofs age over the years, the top layer of grass start to rot and they take on a pale, black appearance. Firstly, a special brush is used to remove all the rotten pieces and straighten the grass back into place. Just like brushing your hair. On some areas bundles of grass are also replaced, where needed, to cover the thinning spots. Lastly, the edges are neatly pushed back into place, leaving the roof looking like new. It is quite amazing to see the contractors in action and what a big difference a good brush can make. We are done with the main area of the lodge and will now slowly start with the rooms, one by one. Another project our maintenance team is busy with is the waterhole in front of the lodge. The main focus is to make the water hole a bit deeper by removing excess dried mud. Although some animals might not be impressed with our plans at the moment, I am sure that the end result is going to be amazing.

Yellow-billed hornbill by Louis Liversage

Yellow-billed hornbill by Louis Liversage

Now, being in the middle of the bush can sometimes get a bit challenging and one should always be ready for the unexpected. Something that we have learned in the past, is that accidents happen when you least expect them. Being situated where we are, it is important to ensure that our first aiders are able to administer emergency care, until professional medical help arrives. This month, 7 of our staff members from different departments completed a Wilderness First Aid course. The training programme used is tailor made for wilderness and remote environments. Students are given simulations of incidents that could happen, or have happened at lodges in the past, in order to prepare them to keep calm and handle a medical emergency. Thank you to Africa Safe-T for the training provided. I am confident to say that we are very much prepared to handle a medical emergency, should the need arise.

GoPro photo

GoPro photo

Last month, our Trapcam became victim to a very curios elephant. While the trapcam was situated at Rampan, one individual of a breeding herd decided to test her photography skills. Although the cow did manage to not only turn the camera completely upside down and take some pictures of the herd, she also removed it from the tree. The end result was unfortunately: Elephant 1 – Trapcam 0. So, with our trapcam now in the shape of an elephant’s footprint, we decided to use a GoPro photo this month. Thank you Dawie for this picture of your tracker, Dumisani, sharing a special moment with an elephant cow.

Staff birthdays were few and far apart at the lodge this month. We celebrated only 2 birthdays during June. Remember, our friendly waiter, celebrated his birthday on the 7th. Those of you who have visited the lodge before would know him as the bubbly personality, assisting during meals and in the bar. Then on the 26th, Dudu celebrated her birthday. Dudu is part of our housekeeping team and also makes a big difference in the scullery, never missing a spot on a plate or glass. I hope you both had wonderful birthdays. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during June, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter.

I am very excited to announce that we introduced our new menus this month. The chefs have been hard at work, mixing and matching several options to get just the correct dishes pared and in place. In the past, we used to have a plated menu every second night. We have decided, with the new menus, that we would have a plated menu for 3 nights, followed by a traditional braai buffet on the 4th night. So far, so good. We have already received many compliments on the new menus.

With the new menus in place also comes a load of options for the recipe of the month. This month, head chef Reimond thought it good to share a soup recipe. There is nothing better to fight of a chilly winter’s day like this Chorizo, Potato and Spinach soup.

Chorizo, Potato and Onion Soup

Chorizo, Potato and Onion Soup

Chorizo, Potato and Onion Soup

Ingredients

5 Chorizo Sausages
1 Large onion
10 Large Potatoes
4 Cups Chopped Spinach
2 Teaspoons Garlic
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
1Lt Water
500ml Cream
100ml Chopped Spring Onions

Chop and fry the onions, garlic and spring onions until the onions turn translucent. Finely chop 1 chorizo sausage and fry with the onions for a few minutes. Now add the chopped spinach and fry together. Boil the potatoes until soft. In a big pot, mix the cooked potatoes, water and cream. Now blend with a stick blender until smooth.  Add the onion, chorizo and spinach mixture to the soup and stir trough. Cut the rest of the chorizo and fry in a saucepan till slightly crispy.  Portion the soup and garnish with the crispy chorizo pieces.

Makes one big pot of soup.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Rangers Report June 2015

June was hands down the best month of the whole year, so far. The nightlife was amazing and we saw many different nocturnal species on game drive. The general game was also spectacular. We saw loads of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and much more. Our resident hyena clan is also doing great and we’ve had some really great sightings around their den. Winter is definitely here and not just a figment of your imagination anymore. The mornings and evenings are really cold at times, but the day temperatures are still pleasant. The bush is very dry at this stage, but there is still food for all the herbivores and they are all in good condition. The average maximum temperature for this month was 23°C and we had no rain.

Tyson by Neil Coetzer

Tyson by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

Leopard sightings this month was any photographer’s dream. We also welcomed a very old friend who came to visit us… At last we saw Salayexe’s little cub for the first time, as she took us to the den the one morning. The little one is awesome and unbelievably relaxed with the vehicle. She jumps onto mom’s belly and head, then she grabs mom’s tail and she even stalks the vehicle. This is the start of the habituation process. It is crucial that the process runs smoothly. If we do not stick to the rules, the little cub could become afraid of the vehicles and we will struggle to get her relaxed again. For the next month we will be viewing the little one with only one vehicle at a time. We are so excited to have the little one around and we just hope that she will survive. Hopefully Salayexe can stay clear of Anderson, as the current den site is in his newly claimed territory. Shadow and her cub are looking great and this little guy is growing up so fast. It really looks like Shadow is putting a 110% effort into raising her son to independence. It will be great for Shadow if she can take the little man all the way to independence. She also spends a longer period of time away from her son, maybe to encourage him to get his own food. It looks like the bond between Kwatile and her daughter is busy disappearing, as the two are spending more time apart than together. It will be interesting to see what will happen during the next few months. Moya was seen very briefly this month and she is also looking great. She unfortunately lost her cubs to another female, but then she was seen mating with Lamula shortly after. We were also very fortunate to see Quarantine and his twin brother, Nkunyuma, together on a kill. These two will sometimes join up and will be seen together and then they would just go their separate ways again. Lamula was seen a few times, marking his boundaries and making sure there are no intruders in his territory. The territorial shift between the male leopards has stepped up a notch. Anderson has successfully pushed Tingana more north and east and took over a piece of the southern and western part of Tingana’s area. The part that Anderson took is the part that Salayexe calls home. Tingana is staying well clear of this section around our lodge, but is venturing more eastwards into Mvula’s area. Unfortunately one of these impressive male leopards has to give way, as this is survival of the fittest. We were lucky to see an old friend who came to visit us. Tyson came marching through his old territory the one day. It was a massive shock to see him again after such a long time! He did not stay too long before moving on again. You can expect this from a nomadic male leopard. Come visit again soon, old friend.

Lions

Male cheetah on a duiker kill by Jonathan Vogel

Male cheetah on a duiker kill by Jonathan Vogel

The two breakaway Styx females and the three tiny cubs are doing great. The little cubs are just so cute and also very relaxed with the vehicles around them. It is nice to see these little bundles of fluff running around, chasing after each other. It would be amazing to see these little rascals all making it to adulthood. The only way these youngsters will survive, is if the two Matimba males can stay dominant for at least another two years. The older Styx female of the original pride was seen mating with one of the Matimba male lions this month. It would be nice to have more cubs in the Styx pride, as this can just help them to grow. We had a few wonderful sightings of the Breakaway pride this month. The Breakaway pride also feasted on a big buffalo bull, but with thirteen lions feeding away, the buffalo did not last very long. The 4 big females are looking very healthy and the 9 cubs are getting big now. When you see the pride walking down the road, it is difficult to identify the cubs from the adult lionesses. The Tsalala pride also came through our area and decided to stay here for a few days. It is always such a treat to see these old ladies with their little ones. Talking about little ones, the four sub adults of the Ximungwe pride was seen again this month, while feasting on a zebra carcass. A few days later, after leaving our area they worked together and managed to bring down an estimated 800kg buffalo. These four youngsters are survivors and they do not stand back for anything! One of the young Styx males was also seen around our area, but all alone and without his brother. Three of the Majingi males also moved through our area a few times this month. It is great to see them still holding onto their territory and their females. The Matimba males are also very active in their territory and they are staying close to the Styx females and their newest cubs. At this stage we see the two Matimba males more often than the Majingi males.

Buffaloes

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

This month the buffaloes were back in the game. The big breeding herds we have been waiting for have returned to our area. We saw a massive breeding herd of about 400 buffaloes that slowly moved through our area during the month. The herd did not stay too long before moving on again, in the quest to look for enough food and water to sustain the entire herd. After the herd left our area, we saw a few large bachelor herds of males which decided to stay behind. These male herds consisted of old and young males. In the winter, males might leave the safety of the breeding herds to get back into shape. We still have the dagga boy hotspots, where we are almost guaranteed to see our old, loyal friends.

Elephants

Matimba male by Morné Fouché

Matimba male by Morné Fouché

What a memorable month it was with these gentle giants. There were elephants all over the show and around every corner. We had such wonderful times with all these elephant herds in and around our area. They made sure we were always entertained. We had a few smaller herds that congregated together at one of the water holes close to our lodge the one afternoon. It was so special to sit and watch them, as they were trumpeting and making a lot of noise. A few of the small babies did not know what was happening and they became very agitated and stressed with all the rumbling and trumpeting. After a few minutes the trumpeting and rumbling calmed down and the elephants started feeding again. This vocalization is just their way of greeting each other as they normally do when meeting up.

Special sighting

This month the special sighting was to see Salayexe with her tiny cub at their den site. It was such a treat to be able to spend some quality time with her and her small cub. The one morning we followed Salayexe down the road when suddenly she changed direction. We decided to keep following her to see where she was going and I was glad we did. Very close to the edge of the river bank she went and sat down and stared towards the dry river bed. After a while she decided to lie down and started with soft contact calls. I knew she was calling the cub, so we sat there in total silence. Suddenly from out of the thickets a tiny head appeared. After seeing that the coast was clear and mom was calling, she came running towards Salayexe. A little blue eyed girl! That was really a great sighting.

Did you know?

A lioness will leave her pride to give birth. She will only rejoin the pride when the cubs are between 6-8 weeks old.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report April 2015

The month of April was action packed with intense moments and full of surprises. Finally the time has arrived for the males of the different antelope species to battle it out for supremacy and hierarchy. The impala males were the first ones to announce that love is in the air, as they were snorting and grunting, followed by the familiar clash of horns. The kudu and waterbuck males showed us that size does matter and you do not always have to fight for the ladies. We also had two nyala males that did a lateral display, complete with raised hair on their backs and fluffed up tails. I must say that we had some very exciting sightings with all these males, battling it out for mating rights. We had some really great sightings of both the Half-tail and Investec wild dog packs. We also had a great time around the hyena den, with the pups getting bigger and bigger by the day. The hyenas are making life difficult for the leopards and lions around our area, because they are stealing kills wherever they go. We changed over to our winter game drive times during the last week of April. With the sun rising a bit later and setting a bit earlier, we changed our times with 30 minutes in order to keep a good balance with the first and last bits of daylight. The blankets made their way back onto the game drive vehicles and within the next few weeks we will also add the hot water bottles for extra comfort. The average maximum temperature for this month was 27°C and we had 23 millimetres of rain.

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

This month delivered some impressive leopard sightings. It is confirmed that Salayexe is definitely pregnant. We noticed that her milk glands are swollen and her belly is starting to hang. She is far pregnant and by the looks of things Tingana is the father, as she mated with him during the middle of January. Leopard females are pregnant for a period of between 15-16 weeks. If our calculations are accurate, she should give birth during the first week of May. We are all very excited and can’t wait any longer! We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will have more success in raising these cubs to independence. Nsele, Salayexe’s daughter, and her two cubs are looking great. The cubs are eventually at that stage where they no longer run away when they see the vehicles. They are beautiful cubs and it is great to see that Nsele have managed to raise them this far. Kurula was seen once this month and what a pleasant surprise it was to see that she has got suckle marks. It will be interesting to know where her new den site is. At the previous den site she lost her cub, so I guess she will not use the same one again. We will have to wait and see. Shadow and her cub are also looking great and the cub is now finally relaxed with the vehicles. The two of them gave us some great sightings, while running up and down trees or playing hide and seek. We started viewing the little cub at night with the spotlight, but only one spotlight is allowed to be on. He is very relaxed with the spotlight. In fact, he’s always trying to catch the moths that fly towards the light. Moya was also moving around in the area, following the scent of an unknown female leopard. Female leopards will sometimes leave their territory to look for a male leopard, if there are no males available in her area. After mating is finished, she will return to her area. Kwatile and her cub are also doing great and at this stage the cub is spending more and more time away from mom, as she explores around. Kwatile and Mvula were also seen mating this month. Bahuti, the young male, is still moving around in Mvula’s territory and he is growing into a spectacular, very healthy male. Quarantine, the young male, is also looking good and he is getting nice and big – even bigger than his twin brother, Nkunyuma. Mvula is still in the prime of his life and still in good shape. He is very active in his area and he hasn’t had any challengers yet. Anderson is moving far into Tingana’s territory and these two heavyweights have met up again this month. Once again there was no fighting between them, just a lot of growling and running next to each other. It looks like it doesn’t matter what Tingana has to say about Anderson moving into his territory, as Anderson definitely has his sights set on Tingana’s territory.

Lions

Hyena pup by Louis Liversage

Hyena pup by Louis Liversage

The most exciting part of all the lion sightings this month, was the new beginning for the two young Styx females. The one young Styx female had her very first litter of cubs. This was headlines in the bush and we are overwhelmed with joy and happiness for this first time mother. So far, she is doing very well in raising the cubs, without the help of her mother or aunt. She has moved the cubs three or four times since their birth. It seems that she does not want any unwanted attention, which is great. The two Matimba males were often seen with the two Styx females, very close to the den site. If the Matimba males stay with the Styx females, on and off, for the first year and a half, things can work out for the Styx ladies. It will be interesting to see when the other Styx female will give birth, as she is also far pregnant. Every time we see the Tsalala pride they are looking healthy and very well fed. These females are very good hunters and the little cubs are growing fast. We saw the Tsalala pride a few times more this month than last month. After the run-in with the Breakaway pride last month, we have not seen the Tsalala pride close to our lodge again. When they move through the area, they move around the southern part of our traversing area. We also had some great sightings of the Nkuhuma pride that moved into our area and had a kudu kill to feast on. The Breakaway pride had a real up and down rollercoaster time this month. The one evening they followed a big herd of buffaloes on one of the airstrips. What a sighting! One of the Breakaway females is definitely coming into oestrus, as she was scent marking and calling for the Majingi males. That evening the males responded, but it was not the Majingi males but the Matimba males. The next morning we had small groups of lions scattered over our area. All the members were accounted for except for one, the adult lioness who was calling for the males the night before. We found five youngsters close to our lodge, all shaken up after being chased by the big unfamiliar male lions. Just when we thought it can’t get any worse, the five youngsters had a run-in with the resident hyena clan. The clan soon saw that they had the upper hand and launched their attack. The young lions all ran up a marula tree to get away from the sharp teeth of the hyenas. That afternoon we found the missing female, she was mating with the Matimba male. The big male followed her and tried to keep up, but soon realized it is no use as she moved back into Majingi male territory. We also had the Majingi males feasting on a buffalo for three days and in the early hours of day four we heard them calling to say goodbye.

Buffaloes

Anderson the male leopard by Louis Liversage

Anderson the male leopard by Louis Liversage

We were once again very fortunate to have one of the big breeding herds of buffaloes moving through the area. With the lack of rain, food is getting scarcer for these bulk grazers, moving together in a big herd. We had a great sighting of them the one late afternoon. The Breakaway pride was resting, when suddenly the one adult lioness lifted her head and looked south. She heard the buffaloes moving towards them and she rounded up the troops and moved towards them. The big herd could smell the lions, but they did not know where they were. The buffaloes quickly regrouped and made their way to the big open airstrip, for safety as light already faded. It was great to see them regroup after a few of the members smelled the lions. True teamwork!

Elephants

Male wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

Male wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

This month we did not have loads of herds moving through our area, but the herds that moved through made it worthwhile. We also didn’t see a lot of tiny babies this month but we did see a few in the terrible two stage. We also saw an old female with really impressive tusks that moved through the area. It is always nice to see an elephant with a pair of impressive tusks and to see a female with big tusks is a big bonus. The majority of the herds have moved towards the areas where it rained a lot this year. The big bulls were really scarce as we saw just two big males moving around. The one bull had an impressive body but no big tusks. He also had about five young males that moved around with him. It does not bother the old male when the youngsters tag along with him, the only time he minds is when the youngsters invade his tree where he is feeding.

Special sighting

We had an amazing sighting with lions and hyenas which truly took first prize! The five young Breakaway pride members were minding their own business when the hyenas came running in. The poor sub-adults immediately new that they were outnumbered and the hyenas knew they had the upper hand. After the lions went up the tree, the unimaginable happened. The one young male fell out of the tree and landed right in the middle of the twelve hyenas. Before warning the hyenas attacked and the young male did not hold back. He took on the angry hyenas, grabbing one by the head and then another in quick succession. After a good ten minutes or so, the hyenas suddenly turned and ran south. This gave the young male enough time to get up the tree again. A few of the hyenas walked away with a few cuts and bruises, but the young fighter just had a bloody nose and a few scars on his tail.

Did you know?

A marabou stork is the only stork that eats rotten meat. These birds can often be seen around carcasses with vultures.

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

Morné Fouché

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Manager’s Report March 2015

Wild Photo of the Month

Wild photo of the month by by John and Linda

Wild photo of the month by by John and Linda

We are already through the first quarter or the year and the days just keep coming. March is the month where you first notice the season changing and with the low rainfall we had, the bush is already transforming to its winter appearance. Slowly the grass is turning a light brown shade and the trees are shedding a little more leaves every day. With the grass drying out in the bush, we are seeing a lot more Bushbuck and Nyala antelope inside the camp. They visit us to feast on the green grass around the buildings, knowing that this area inside the fence is a safe haven for them, where they can even peacefully enjoy an afternoon nap.

Lamula the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Lamula the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Around the lodge, things were buzzing as always. The maintenance team finished clearing the last of the roads this month and they are now set for the winter. We also gave one of the luxury suites a fresh coat of paint on the inside. We are planning to give each of our rooms a makeover as availability allows. When taking on such a challenge, we need to close the room for maintenance for quite a few days and with new bookings confirming each day, such a room block needs to be done well in advance.

Louis and Janine

Louis and Janine

The 14th will forever be a very special day for Louis and Janine, as it was their wedding day! Louis and Janine met at the lodge in 2011, quickly fell in love, got engaged in 2013 and after almost 2 years of planning, they celebrated a very special day in the Drakensberg Mountains. Everything was perfect, just as they had hoped and Janine looked amazing. I am sure Louis found it difficult to keep his eyes off his beautiful bride. Congratulations Mr & Mrs Liversage! I am sure that you will have a brilliant future together.

 

Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

This month, our trapcam took a very close up mug shot of a young elephant bull. After the little rain we had during the past two months, most of the small water puddles are dry and therefore there are a lot of animal activity around the bigger pans and dams. We placed the Trapcam at Rampan pan for a few days and caught this elephant inspecting the camera. I must say, he did a pretty good job taking a “selfie” while inspecting the unfamiliar black box situated on the tree trunk.

We said goodbye to two of our staff members this month, Stefan Kruger and Linda van Heerden. Both Stefan and Linda decided to take on a new challenge at different lodges. Stefan will continue his career as a guide and Linda hers as a chef. We wish both of them the best of luck and all the best for their future goals.

We celebrated some special staff birthdays at the lodge again. On the 6th, Yoldah celebrated her birthday. Yoldah is part of our housekeeping team and one of the friendliest people I know. On the 23rd Sidness had her special day. Sidness spends a lot of time in Nelspruit with Etienne Jnr and little Martin, but she still visits the lodge over school holidays and weekends. On the 26th Etienne Jnr had his 7th birthday. The little man is busy with his first year of primary school and enjoys every second. Louis had two special days this month. Not only did he get married on the 14th, but he also celebrated his birthday on the 28th. Happy birthday ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you all had wonderful days. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during March, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.

Although the season is changing a little bit every day, we still have some hot days and there is nothing better on a hot day, than a cold, refreshing dessert. Head chef Reimond shares the perfect recipe for such a cold dessert, Strawberry Parfait.

Strawberry Parfait

(Serves 6)

Strawberry Parfait

Strawberry Parfait

Ingredients

1 Cup Fresh Cream
1 Cup Mascarpone Cheese
1/3 Cup Castor Sugar
1 ½ Cup Chopped Strawberries
½ Cup crushed Oatmeal Biscuits
32ml Frangelico Liquor
¼ Cup Sugar
60ml Lemon Juice

Method

Beat the cream with the castor sugar until firm. Add the Frangelico to the cream. After you have added the liquor to the cream, gently fold through the Mascarpone Cheese, trying not the over-mix the cream.

In a small sauce pan add 1 cup strawberries, ½ cup water and ¼ cup sugar. Bring the strawberries to a boil and keep boiling until the strawberries are tender. Boil until ¼ of the liquid has reduced. Place the mixture in the fridge to cool down.

Take a serving dish and spoon in a thin layer of the Cream mixture. Add a layer of strawberries, biscuits and syrup. Keep layering the ingredients until the serving dish is filled. Top off with some fresh strawberries and place in the fridge to cool.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Rangers Report March 2015

Once again it was just outstanding and brilliant to be out in the bush this past month. The nightlife was excellent and we were very fortunate to see a lot of porcupines, genets, civets and even a few honey badgers. We also had wonderful sightings of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and loads of general game. A pack of wild dogs were very generous to us, as we had them hunting and moving through our area for a number of days. We also had a few wonderful sightings of a cheetah that moved through the area. The day temperatures were in the mid-thirties, with an average maximum temperature of 32°C. The humidity was very high, but we had no rain this month. The trees and grass are slowly but surely changing colour from green to a pale brown and yellow. Although they are no longer green, they still contain a lot of nutrients for the animals.

Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

What great sightings we had with our beautiful leopards this month. Salayexe is still looking great and moving all over her territory, even sometimes venturing further than her own territory. She is moving more eastwards into Shadow’s territory, more south through a part of Moya’s territory and also west into her daughter, Nsele’s, territory. It will be interesting to see how things will unfold in the next few months, if she is pregnant. Shadow is also moving a lot more on her western boundary, but that might be due to Salayexe, who is moving around on her western boundary. Shadow’s cub is looking great and we had a few lovely sightings of him this month when mom made kills. He is much more relaxed when she is there with him and when he is busy feeding on a kill. Things are really looking good for Shadow, as this might be the first cub that she can raise to independence. Thandi was also seen a few times this month, but this time only with one cub. It looks like she lost the other cub. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that she can raise the remaining cub. Unfortunately the cub that was killed looks to be the more adventurous one. This is normally the case with the majority of cubs that get killed. Being the adventurous one also exposes you to more danger…

Moya was also seen a few times this month, moving through the area and patrolling her boundaries. Moya is not one of the biggest female leopards around. In fact, she is just a little bigger than the twins, Thandi and Shadow. Moya’s mother, Nyaleti, was an above average female and her father, Tyson, was an enormous male leopard. Nsele was seen a few times this month and we are viewing her more and more these days. Her two cubs are getting big and it will not be too long before she needs to kick them out and have new babies. Kwatile was also seen a few times and she is looking really healthy and in good shape. She is leaving her cub alone more often and for longer periods of time. I think when she kicks her cub out the cub will be fine, because Kwatile is a great mother. We managed to see Kurula again this month and the old lady is looking great. She is also moving all over the area, whilst scent marking. It might be that she is advertising again, trying to get another male to mate with her. She could also just be expanding her empire. Lamula was seen a lot more this month than in previous months. He was seen scent marking all over and doing his territorial calling while moving through. The next day we had Tingana and Anderson close to the area where Lamula was calling and scent marking. It was only a few days later when Lamula walked straight into Anderson at one of the main water holes, Big Dam. Anderson quickly showed Lamula who the new boss in the area is, but Lamula did not back off. After the standoff Lamula was back scent marking and calling to say that he was still in the area. This territorial calling might work in his favour as it is sure to attract both Tingana and Anderson. Luring them both to the area, might cause a stand-off between the two of them. Who knows what will follow then? Anderson is pushing further east into Tingana’s territory. Tingana and Anderson are both looking great and they are in their prime. It will be a match that I do not want to miss. Mvula is also looking great and he still tolerates all the young males in his territory, but the question remains, how long before he’s had enough?

Lion

Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs

Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs

We had great lion sightings again this month. The two young Styx pride lionesses are still moving around in their old territory and strangely enough they are scent marking as they are going along. The big question is now, are these two young ladies looking to reclaim their old territory? If this is the case and they want to take back this area, there is only one problem: they are outnumbered. The Nkuhuma pride is a strong pride and a force to be reckoned with, so it will not be a push-over for the young females. The one thing that is great for the young Styx females is that the Nkuhuma pride is still spending the majority of their time in the northern and middle part of their own territory. The two young Styx females are spending a lot of their time with the two Big Matimba male lions. The Nkuhuma pride definitely has their eyes set on the Styx pride’s old territory, so only time will tell. The battle for supremacy has begun between the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the original Tsalala pride. There is a definite change in the lion dynamics in our area and it is so interesting to see it unfold. Although these two prides are related, there is no love lost between them. The Breakaway pride was in the shadows of their mothers for a long time. It looks like they just had enough, wanting the spotlight for themselves. We had both these prides close to our lodge one evening. That night we heard an explosion of lions roaring and growling and it sounded as if the bush came to a complete standstill as all the other night-time sounds abruptly stopped. The lions were chasing each other over our open area in front of the lodge and it was difficult to spot which lions belonged to which pride. Upon closer inspection that evening we found the Breakaway pride with three of the Majingi male lions resting close to our lodge. We soon realized that the Tsalala females were the ones that got chased south by the Breakaway pride. The Tsalala females are still looking great, but they are much older than the younger and stronger Breakaway females. Both these female prides are very healthy. The cubs are getting bigger and bigger by the day. It is always great to have them in our area. The Majingi males are still looking powerful, but their ageing bodies are full of battle scars, each telling a different story. Although they are ten years old this year, they still have enough strength in them to fend off any rival males.

Buffalo

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffaloes and more buffaloes. This was the sightings we had for the month. The herds moved in and out of our area for the entire month. With the bush taking on a wintery look, these herds do not move too far away from the big water holes and they will frequently move between favourite feeding places. When they move around a lot, it spreads the grazing impact over a wider area than if they stayed in one area. When buffaloes feed, they move around very slowly. They will normally drink water in the mornings and in the evenings and rest during the hottest time of the day. The majority of the females already gave birth and there are loads of healthy calves within the breading herds. We also had our trusty dagga boys moving to the main water holes to enjoy a cool and refreshing mud wallow. Our guests were once again entertained by these big boys in the water on the open area in front of the lodge.

Elephant

Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs

We had awesome elephant sightings this month, so much so that we had tears of joy in our eyes. We had such a great sighting the one morning when we came across a herd of about twenty elephants all huddled up together. When we moved closer for a better look it became clear that they did not want us that close as they were very vocal. As we got back to the road the herd calmed down and it looked like they planned to move towards the road. We knew that there was something going on in the middle of the many grey bodies, but we did not know what… So we waited for them to reveal what they were hiding. After what felt like forever, a female came out of the bush towards the road. We immediately saw the female with a piece of afterbirth still attached to her backside and then the tiny baby came stumbling out of the thicket following its mother, aunty and older siblings. The newborn calf could hardly walk, let alone keep up with the rest of the herd, but mum and the older siblings were always around making sure that the newest addition to their family felt safe. That small baby did not go ten minutes without any one of the other elephants touching and reassuring it. It was great to see how gentle these big animals can be when it comes to a small baby. They truly are gentle giants.

Special sighting

This month was filled with great sightings, but there was one that stood out from the rest. This was when a cheetah had a standoff with a female leopard. It was awesome to see how the cheetah stood its ground, although it was no match for the leopard. We do not see cheetah and leopard in the same area very often as their habitats hugely differ, therefore, watching these two cats staring each other down was truly amazing.

Did you know?

Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest cat.

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

Morné Fouché

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