Wild photo of the month by Paul, Sue, Mark, and Kirsty Johnstone, Brisbane, Australia
The shortest month of the year came and went in the blink of an eye. We had loads of wonderful game drive sightings, celebrated many staff birthdays and on the 14th of February our guests were treated to a romantic Valentine’s Dinner. We experienced some strange weather patterns as well. We had very hot, humid days, warm, windy days and ended the month with some chilly, rainy days. It is noticeable during the evenings that the season is now slowly changing. The warm humid nights are being replaced by cooler, breezier temperatures. We can also notice the sunrise and sunset times changing a little more every day, as we slowly move towards autumn.
Red-billed oxpeckers by Morné Fouché
We all know that February is the month of love, because we celebrate the ever so special Valentine’s Day. This year, we decided to spoil our guests with a romantic dinner by candlelight and roses. Elizmari did a wonderful job decorating the tables and we had a true Valentine’s atmosphere in the air. To all the guests who joined us over this period, I hope you enjoyed your evening with us.
This month we welcomed a new face to the kitchen. Henk Human joined our team as a junior chef on the 26th and is already part of the family. He has a great passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. He has already blown us away with his creativity and fresh ideas. Welcome to the team Henk, I am sure you are going to spend many happy days at EP, while spoiling us with your delicious meals.
Trapcam photo – Giraffes
The last few months, we have been very fortunate to capture some amazing wildlife on the trapcam. This month was no exception. The trapcam was placed at Kraaines, which is just west of our airstrip. Many animals will graze around the airstrip and then head to Kraaines for a drink before moving on again. This month we captured some giraffe at the water. These tall horses are spectacular animals with their extra-long legs and necks. Luckily, the camera was placed just at the correct height to capture a complete picture. You can just imagine how far they have to bend down to get to the water.
February is a very busy birthday month at the lodge. Five of our staff members celebrated their birthdays this month. We started the month with our head ranger, Morné, who celebrated his birthday on the 1st. I am sure all of you are already familiar with him, reading his monthly Ranger’s Reports. On the 2nd, our trusty tracker, Derrick celebrated his birthday. Derrick has been part of our team for a few years now and he enjoys sharing stories of his childhood with us. Another gentleman who celebrated his birthday was Dion, on the 4th. Dion is not only a very passionate gardener, but also very good with general maintenance around the lodge and he even knows his way around the tractor! Marlet celebrated her birthday on the 24th. Although we do not see her every day as we used to, now that she is based in Nelspruit with the children, she still visits the lodge as often as she can and is still very involved with the day to day running of the lodge. The last one for the month was another tracker, Thomas, whose birthday was on the 27th. This is his first birthday as part of the Elephant Plains team and I am sure it was a special one. Happy birthday to all of you! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during February, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
Each month our chefs spoil us with delicious new recipes from the EP kitchen. This month is no exception, with a delicious Haddock and Dill Quiche by chef Reimond. This is one of my personal favourites on our lunch menus. Served with a garden salad and a fresh bread roll, it makes a perfect light meal.
Haddock & Dill Quiche
Haddock & Dill Quiche
1 Roll Puff Pastry
½ Cup Smoked Haddock
1 Cup Full Cream Milk
½ Cup Cream
1 Tbsp Chopped Onion
1 Tsp Crushed garlic
2 Tsp Fresh Dill (lightly Chopped)
Pinch Salt and Pepper
Sauté the onions and the garlic in a sauce pan until the onions turn translucent. Roughly chop the smoked haddock and add it to the sauce pan and gently fry the haddock with the onions and the garlic. Take the sauce pan of the heat and stir through the fresh dill.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper until well combined. As soon as the haddock mixture has cooled down, pour the egg mixture over the haddock and set aside.
Prepare your baking dish by lining the bottom with a thin layer of puff pastry. Pour the haddock mixture over the puff pastry and place into the oven at 150°C. Bake the quiche for 15-20 minutes, or until it feels firm.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
This month was jam-packed and full of action! All the animals made sure that we were really sitting on the edge of our seats. We were very lucky the one day on drive to see two massive heavyweights battling it out. Two hippo bulls were fighting for the ultimate prize: a big watering hole with loads of female hippos in it. We had a few lovely wild dog sightings again this month, as they moved through the area. Our resident hyena clan has two new pups and that brings the total pups to a staggering total of nine. If all of these pups survive, this specific clan will have close to 20 members and then the other predators will have to be on their toes. We had a few hot days with very high humidity. Other days had a massive cloud build up, only to disappear again. We did not have a lot of rain and you can notice it by looking at the grass and trees, as they are beginning to struggle in this heat. The average maximum temperature this month was 31°C, with 44mm of rain.
African sunset by Jonathan Vogel
Again the leopard sightings were just out of this world. Salayexe was out and about a few times this month, moving all over her territory to mark her boundaries. Salayexe is now ten years old, but she is still looking like a six year old female; very healthy and looking great. It would be great if Salayexe can have another litter soon. It is not that she is a bad mother – she has just experienced extremely bad luck with raising her cubs. We saw Kurula a few times as well and she was her old self again. Kwatile was seen mating with Tingana for four consecutive days. It will be interesting to see when she would mate with Mvula again, because he is the dominant male in her territory. The fact that she is mating again is a sign that she will soon break the bond with her cub. Shadow and her little cub are both looking great and very healthy. The little one looks like a little male cub as his footprints are almost the same size as his mother’s. The little one is getting bigger and more relaxed with the vehicles, moving around them in the sightings. With this little cub the habituation process is taking longer than normal, but it is understandable if you look at his mother, who is also not the most relaxed with the vehicles. Nzele is looking great and she is now really a beautiful leopard, just like her grandmother was. Her cubs are still not relaxed with the vehicles when on their own, but when mom is present it does not take long before they settle down. We were very fortunate to view Lamula again a few times this month. Although it was short lived we spent some quality time with him. He is such an awesome leopard and it is a shame that he is getting pressured by Tingana and Anderson. Anderson is looking good and more relaxed with the vehicles, but when he had enough he disappears in the absolute thickets. We struck it lucky when we found him in a tree with a newborn buffalo calve right next to him. We had him there for two days while feasting on his big prize. Tingana was seen a lot this month. He is still holding onto his territory. Anderson is scent marking well into Tingana’s territory and then Tingana will come along and return the favor. It will not be too long before these two will meet again and who knows what will happen then… Mvula is still a beast and looking great, when he walks down the road you can see the confidence in his stride.
Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché
All the lions were very generous, showering us with some unbelievable lion sightings. The Breakaway pride once again came into our area and stayed a day or two. The youngsters are getting bigger and they are almost just as big as their mothers now. It is so nice to see that all nine cubs are still alive and well. These four females have really done well and they can be proud of themselves for this achievement. I for one can’t wait for this pride to have their next litter of cubs. Can you imagine 20+ lions walking down the road towards you – our first super pride…? Saying that there are always a few things that you need to keep in mind, like a pride takeover or a run-in with another pride. But as the bush have showed us many times before, nothing is impossible. We had a wonderful surprise visit from the Tsalala pride the one day. It is great to see the young sub-adult have settled in nicely with her mother and aunt. The two older ladies are also looking great, considering that they are 13 years old this year. I think that the sub-adult is a great asset to the pride, as she has a lot to bring to the table. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in heart. The four youngsters are also looking great and growing fast. I hope that they will all survive and that the pride can further expand. We also had the Nkuhuma pride that moved through the area. Time is running out for the young male in the pride. He is starting to show interest in the females of the pride and for that his father will not tolerate him for much longer. The Birmingham males are looking stunning and their manes are slowly getting bigger and also changing color. The pale blond color is changing to a dark brown-to-black color. They were also following one of the breeding herds of buffalo around in our area and eventually the one night they killed a small calve. These boys had a run-in with other males the one evening. We are unsure who the other males were, as we did not see them. The one morning we found tracks for a few big males and then we found three of the young males. One of the three had fresh bite and claw marks on his back and fresh blood stained his tawny colored fur. Luckily there were no serious injuries. Tracks for the other males went up north again. It looks like when they get split up, they move north and regroup again. The two Matimba male lions are also looking good and going strong. They were seen walking around with the two young Styx females again this month. If the young Styx females do fall pregnant and the Matimba’s are the fathers, they would have to move back into their old territory so they can be close to the males. The Majingi’s also come through every now and again but more to make sure that the Birmingham males are not causing havoc in their territory. They have their work cut out for them as the five young guns have no interest in leaving this area.
African wild dog by Louis Liversage
We had some of the best buffalo sightings yet this month. We were so lucky to have three different buffalo herds that were moving in and out of the area at the same time. We saw a few females with newborn calves of maybe a day old at most and their mothers were very nervous with these youngsters. It was interesting to see how all the pregnant females walked at the back of the herd. One way to see if the females are pregnant is to look at their bellies. They will have very low hanging belies and would be lagging behind the rest of the herd. When pregnant females lag behind, they become easy prey to lions. The pregnant females who were walking at the back of the herd were accompanied by a few big males though. With all the buffalo herds moving through the area, the young Birmingham male lions thought it was heaven! This time of the year all the predators will be waiting for that exact opportunity to strike a herd, when they least expect. We had quite a few new dagga boys that hang around a few of the scattered mud wallows. These males were pushed out by the new dominant males within the herds.
Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché
What a wonderful treat we had with our elephant sightings, being even better than last month. We had a few big groups that came through the area, followed by a big male or two. We did not see a lot of big elephant bulls this last month, but this might be due to the females that have small calves at the moment. Every herd that we saw has calves aged between six months to two years and older. The elephant herds that we saw were always moving and feeding as they went along. Elephants normally gain a lot of body reserves during the rainy season, when there is a high nutritional value in the food they consume. They will then loose body condition again during the dry season when nutritional value in the food is low. The elephant’s large body enables them to withstand nutritional stresses. Death due to starvation does sometimes occur, but elephants are capable of traveling long distances in search of food and water. Breeding herds are limited in a way, as they can only go as fast and as far as the smallest calves’ capabilities.
The special sighting this month was to see two hippo bulls in a battle for dominance. The fight happened between an older and younger bull, both living in the same dam. At one stage the older and more dominant male managed to lift his younger challenger out of the water with his head and neck. Battered and bruised, the two males called it a day and returned to opposite ends of the water hole. Although both males sustained deep cuts and wounds, they will live to tell the story another day. It is only when you witness such an awesome spectacle that you realize how strong and dangerous these animals really are.
Did you know?
Besides whales and dolphins, the hippo is the only African mammal that mates in the water.
Hope to see you all out on game drive soon!
The moment you turn 30, sometimes even before that, ageing signs start to appear in the form of wrinkles. Pollution, together with sun damage, a lack of the correct daily vitamin supplements, as well as the excessive use of cosmetics all contributes to wrinkle formation. Although there is no full proof recipe to get rid of wrinkles, there are quite a few natural options that could lessen their appearance. Instead of trying out those anti- wrinkle creams, why don’t you use your own homemade mask? Here I will share my favourite options with you:
Egg & Yoghurt Mask
Combine egg white and yoghurt as a natural de-wrinkler
Eggs are a powerhouse, filled of proteins, vitamins and fatty acids that can help to nourish, firm and tighten your skin naturally, easing fine lines – especially your laugh lines. Mix one tablespoon of plain yogurt to one egg white and apply it to your whole face twice a week for a firmer, brilliant skin.
Honey also helps sagging skin, but one of its most useful properties is its ability to hydrate and anti-oxidize your skin. Honey is also naturally antibacterial, so it will help treat and also prevent acne. You can use any honey, straight from the jar. Moisture your skin with a splash of water before you apply your mask, rub it onto your clean skin and leave on for about 10 minutes.
Use cucumber juice to plump out wrinkles
Cucumber can also be used to tighten loose and saggy skin. Just look at the effect of cold cucumber slices over your eyes in order to reduce puffiness… It is one of the best natural skin toners with a reviving and restoring impact. Press a cucumber through a strainer to get all its healthy juices, apply all over your face and let it dry out. You can use cucumber juice on a daily basis.
Papaya & Banana Mask
For those frown lines on your forehead, you can make a purée of papaya and banana. Papaya is loaded with enzymes such as papain, while a banana is rich in vitamins that will help in revitalizing your skin. Both fruit pulps are an excellent antidote for premature ageing. So the sooner you start with this mask, the better! Mash the two fruits together into a nice paste and gently spread onto your face and neck. Relax for 15 minutes and rinse off with water. Remember to always pat your skin dry with a clean towel.
Avocado and honey make two excellent masks
The last product that everyone has in and even sometimes around the house is Avocado. Avocado is a wonderfully versatile fruit as it reduces the appearance of wrinkles, while pampering your skin back to its natural health. Apply the mashed pulp just before you step into the bath. Your skin will glow with radiance and vitality afterwards.
I hope these home-made mask recipes will help you, not only in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, but also in feeling radiant and full of confidence.
Wild photo of the month
Wild photo of the month by Eleanor and Peter Craighead, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
December was a great month to end the year. We had lovely animal sightings, shared happiness and laughter over the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s and just before we said our last goodbyes to 2014, we received a heavy downpour of rain. This was our first heavy rains for the season and we welcomed it with open arms.
Breeding herd of buffaloes drinking water by Louis Liversage
The rain we received was just enough to turn the dry Manyeleti River into a shallow stream. At the beginning, we were a bit concerned when flood warnings were issued. Luckily, the weather cleared up just in time and the river did not pick up. I was definitely not looking forward to enter 2015 with a flood! After the rain, we were entertained by a choir of frogs singing the most amazing songs each night around the ponds and fountains at the lodge. The sounds they make are so powerful and insistent, that some of our guests were looking for a recorder playing the sounds.
Matimba male lion by Morné Fouché
During the last few months, I dropped hints on where we have been improving and renovating around the lodge. I am happy to say that our dining room now has a brand new look with fresh paint, renovated tables and a new set of very comfortable chairs. This transformation was completed just in time to complement our new menu’s, which were also introduced this month. The chefs did a wonderful job preparing all the new, fresh summer dishes. Setting new menus is always a tricky task. A lot of thought and consideration goes into each and every dish. Our new menus are packed with a wide selection of crunchy summer salads, freshly baked breads and light meaty dishes. We have already received loads of compliments from guests and requests for recipes as well.
On the 25th and 31st, Janine and Louise did a wonderful job decorating the dining room for Christmas and New Year’s dinner. Guests were welcomed with a refreshing cocktail and the chefs once again went over the top with a wide selection of meats, salads and an “oh so heavenly” dessert buffets. Thank you to each and every guest who chose our lodge to celebrate these specials days and a special thank you to each and every staff member who gave their 100% during the festive season. We truly appreciate it! For those of you who travelled during the festive season, near or far, I hope you had a wonderful time and a safe journey home.
During December we also had a lot of children in camp. Elephant Plains is one of only a few child friendly lodges in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin and we enjoy having the younger generation with us. If you would like to treat your family to an African bush experience, be sure to contact our reservations team for availability and rates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trapcam photo – small herd of elephants drinking
Our trapcam caught a small herd of elephants drinking whilst a buffalo was cooling down in the water at Leeukuil.With the lovely rain we had, there are many water options available to the animals and the bush is bursting with life.
This month we celebrated only two birthdays at the lodge. First up was little Martin Swart who celebrated his 2nd birthday on the 11th. Martin is a busy body, but can melt your heart with his friendly smile. Frank celebrated his birthday just two days before Christmas. I am sure the 23rd was a special day for him as well. Frank is one of our cooks,who always has new, innovative ideas up his sleeve. I hope both of you enjoyed your special days! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during December, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.
Our recipe of the month will definitely knock you off your feet! Thank you chef Reimond, for sharing this amazing Spaghetti Tower recipe with us. With something so quick and easy to make, you will never have an excuse not to spoil your guests with a tasty starter, or to use it as a vegetarian option.
(Makes 1 serving)
1 Tbsp. Sundried Tomatoes (Finely Chopped)
1 tsp. Pistachio Nuts (Finely Chopped)
1 ½ tsp Basil Pesto
¼ Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Tsp. Crushed Garlic
Pinch Black pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
5 Drops Lemon Juice
5 Drops Tabasco (Red Pepper Sauce)
Heat a pot of water over a high heat until the water starts to boil. Add some salt to the water to flavour the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and allow to cook for +- 10 minutes. While the spaghetti is busy cooking, chop the sundried tomatoes and the pistachio nuts into a fine crumb. In a pestle and mortar, crush together all the ingredients for the dressing until it becomes a very fine liquid. Remove the spaghetti from the pot, drain and rinse under hot water. Place the Spaghetti in a bowl and mix the basil pesto through the spaghetti thoroughly. Place the pesto onto a serving plate and garnish with the finely chopped pistachio nuts and sundried tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over the spaghetti and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top just before serving.
Serve and enjoy!
My wish for each and everyone for 2015 is a year full of peace and happiness. Let’s grab 2015 by the horns!
All the best till next month
I cannot believe that 2014 came to an end so soon. It feels like just yesterday that we greeted it with open arms. The year was full of excitement, challenges and great surprises! It was such a treat to be out in the bush during this past year. Always remember, when you come on safari, that there are more to the bush than just the big animals. Take the time to stop and look at the frogs, beetles and flowers. Learn more about the smaller wonders of nature. We had 210mm of rain during December and the average maximum temperature was 28°C. The rain did not only cool us down after a few extremely hot days, it also supplied water to all the waterholes and marsh areas on our property. All kinds of frogs are all over the show, singing in chorus with crickets and other small critters. After a long wait, we at last welcomed the new wildebeest calves, with the first one being spotted on the 2nd of December. We were very fortunate to see the pack of wild dogs which denned close to our lodge in the beginning of this year. The pups are almost as big as the adult dogs and still growing stronger by the day. Again fortune was upon us, as we saw the two cheetah brothers moving around, marking their territory.
Birmingham male lion by Dawie Jacobs
It was just awesome with regards to our spotted friends. Thandi is doing well for herself and hunting on a regular basis, as the little cubs are also eating meat. The cubs are so relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. It looks like the two cubs are one female and one male cub. It is not definitely confirmed yet. The little cubs run up and down, chasing each other and we have not seen clearly, but it looks like the one is a little bigger than the other. Shadow was also seen on a regular basis this month. It looks like she and the cubs are also doing very well and looking very healthy.We have seen her a few times with only one cub moving around with her. It would be bad if she loses one of her cubs again, or even both for that matter. We will keep a close eye on her to see if the other cub joins up. Nsele is a beautiful female leopard and now also a fantastic mother. Her two cubs are nice and big now and in superb condition, because Nsele is taking such good care of them. These cubs are still not the best when it comes to viewing them with the vehicles, but they are at least getting better. Kwatile was seen mating with Mvula again this month. This might mean that her young cub is almost old enough to take on the wilderness on its own. Bahuti, the young male leopard was also out and about doing what he does best, entertaining the vehicles. Time is running out for this wonderful young leopard as Mvula will not tolerate him for too much longer. Bahuti is getting bigger and as soon as he gets interested in the females he will need to go. Moya’s young male cub is still moving around in the area, but he needs to watch out for Anderson, as he might kill him if he finds him. Quarantine is becoming a beautiful male and he is getting nice and big – you can clearly see who his father is. Then it brings us to the big males in the area. Lamula was seen once this month and it is as if the pressure from both Tingana and Anderson is getting to him and he is moving more south. The time we saw him he was looking good,but he didn’t stay long before moving south again. Anderson is expanding a lot now, but more into Lamula’s area. We saw him far into Lamula’s territory stalking a big herd of buffaloes. Anderson is in the prime of his life and getting very bulky now. He also sports an impressive duel lap. Tingana is still holding on to his territory around our lodge, but Anderson is still trying his luck. It is almost like they came to an agreement that both males will use the area. Tingana is also looking great and is in great shape.
Elephants feeding by Dawie Jacobs
We had unbelievably great lion sightings this month. We nearly had lions around every corner of our traversing area. The two sub adult lionesses of the Styx pride left the rest of the pride and came to mate again with the big Matimba male lion. They are looking great and at almost four years of age they will be going into oestrus soon. Females will sometimes leave the pride in search of a suitable male to mate with if they do not have a dominant male in the pride. That is what is happening with the young Styx females, as they do not have a pride male except for their brothers. Although their fathers are the dominant males in the area they move around a lot and don’t stay with one pride, they have multiple prides under them. The Breakaway pride is still all together and fortunately has not lost one cub yet. The Majingilane male lions are spending a lot of their time with these young females and that is why they still have all nine cubs. One of the females is leaving the group on a regular basis and then she starts to contact call. One of the Majingi males has followed her around for a few days, but we did not see them mating yet. It might be that this young lady is coming into oestrus again and that is why the male is shadowing her. The cubs of the Breakaway pride are already over a year and a half old, so it might be that the females will go into oestrus. We have been fortunate to see the Nkuhuma pride again this month. This particular pride is now slowly claiming parts of the territory of the absent Styx pride that has moved more south about four months ago. The Nkuhuma pride is a medium sized group but with a few young females and a few adult females. If all the young females make it to adulthood this will be a great looking pride. We also saw the Tsalala pride that came in and killed a buffalo at Big Dam and they fed off it for a few days. The little Tsalala cubs are now beautiful sub adults and looking very healthy. The five young Birmingham male lions were also seen this month still moving around in our area. These five males are growing in confidence but they have to be careful that they are not over confident as this might be a problem for them. At this stage they are moving further and further south into the Majingi male lion’s territory but then they return to the north. The Four Majingi male lions were seen a lot more this month than in previous months. This might be because of the presence of the Birmingham males that are scent marking and roaring in Majingi territory. The Nkuhuma male lion was also seen this month, just saying hello as he passed through the area.
Thandi’s cub by Dawie Jacobs
We were so blessed by their presence in the area this month. There were herds literary everywhere and there were quite a few times during game drive when you had to decide which herd you wanted to go and see. It is always great to see them moving through the area as a big herd. As with most herbivores, buffaloes also have their calves during this time of the year, as there is enough water and food supplies for them. We were so lucky to see a female with a newborn calve and I think there will be more females with newborns quite soon. The herds are still moving around on the areas that burnt down in September, as these areas have wonderful new growth. The old dagga boys are having a field day at this stage as there are so many mud wallows to choose from. These old boys can be found at the waterholes around the lodge and that makes our bush walks a bit more challenging.
Hippo returning from a graze by Dawie Jacobs
Elephant sightings were quiet at times, but we still had a few incredible sightings with the herds we saw in our area. The herds are slowly returning to our side after they had a visit to the Kruger National Park, where they enjoyed the nice green Mopani tree forests. Now that we are approaching the Marula season, the herds are heading back in our direction and it won’t be too long before we are once again spoiled with their presence. There was a lot more young males scattered all over than in previous months. With all the young males we had two or three big males in musth moving around. There was one bull in particular that was in a fight with another bull, as he had a nasty wound under his eye. Big bulls can and will sometimes fight to establish the dominance hierarchy between them. The presence of these big bulls within the herd makes the females and youngsters very anxious. A herd of elephants are made up of closely related females and their youngsters and all the males have to leave by the age of 14-17 years.
We have been following the four females of the Styx pride for a while now and what a surprise it was to see them mating with the Matimba males.If all goes well after the mating and both the females conceive, their pride will grow and we will have amazing sightings of lion cubs.
Did you know?
The bonds formed amongst male lions are much stronger than those between males and females within a lion pride.
I hope you enjoyed the last report for 2014. See you out on game drive soon!