Rangers Report February 2016

This month was very exciting with awesome game viewing opportunities. The wild dogs blessed us with their presence, as we saw them several times this month. We were also very fortunate to see a young male cheetah moving through the area. The matriarch of our hyena clan has given birth to the cutest little pup. The little one, who is now a few weeks old, is not shy at all. The older pups at the den do not know which way to go as this little pup bites their ears and heels. When the older pups fight back and manage to pin the little busy body down on the ground, he calls his mum. When the mother hyena stands up, the older pups knows they are in trouble and scatter into different directions. We are very fortunate to have this resident hyena clan in our area – especially the den with the small pups. The weather went from one extreme to the other. We had wonderful day temperatures in the deep 20°C to the low 30°C. There was yet another heat wave that came through the area, pushing the temperatures up into the mid 40°C. There was a few overcast days to help against the scorching sun, but no real, sufficient rain. The average maximum temperature for the month was 33°C, with 8mm of rain.

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

Salayexe and her daughter are doing very well. Salayexe’s daughter is now 10 months old and getting really brave and adventurous. The one morning we found the two resting not too far from the lodge. Out of nowhere a hyena made his way closer to them and the cub ran straight towards her mum. Salayexe moved in between the cub and the hyena, in order to keep a watchful eye on the hyena. The cub then started stalking the hyena and mum just had to follow and make sure that nothing went wrong. If this little cub makes it to independence, it will be great to have another relaxed female in the area. Kurula, the old lady, recently gave birth to small bundles of fluff. We do not know how many cubs she has, as they are safely tucked away in a den. This is exciting for us and we can’t wait to see the little one/ones running around. The core of her territory is out of our traversing area, so we do not know where their den is and how they are doing. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that these youngsters make it and not fall prey to something. Thandi is doing fine and she is moving all over the area and that includes moving through Kwatile’s and Kurula’s territory. She was also seen with Tingana this month. Both these ladies are occupied with their cubs at this stage, so they have other priorities. Shadow was also seen a few times this month and she is also looking great. She moves around all over and she was seen in and out of her mother’s territory. We were very fortunate to see young Tsakani, the daughter of Kwatile this month. This young female is looking very healthy and she is growing more and more in confidence. She is not scent marking yet, but is still moving around in her mother’s territory. We also found her moving deep into Salayexe and Shadow’s territory, maybe getting familiar with the area and her future neighbours. Nsele was also seen this month, and it looks like she has big plans. Nsele is trying to expand her territory more east, as her two daughters are moving around on the western part of her territory. She had another standoff with her mother (Salayexe) the one evening. Nsele stood her ground for the first few minutes, but then the more experienced and more intimidating Salayexe took charge and chased Nsele away. The next day Salayexe was still on the tracks of her daughter, making sure that she really did move out of her territory. This did not scare Nsele off as we found her on the tracks of Salayexe and her cub again the one afternoon. Nsele is getting older and stronger, but she is not ready to take on her mother, although this will not stop her from testing the waters. Tingana, the male leopard is all over as well, expanding his territory more north at the moment. Tingana is looking to take over Mvula’s whole territory. Mvula is well under the radar as we do not see him much anymore. Tingana is looking great and he is in the prime of his life. Anderson was up to his old tricks again and made us work hard to find him. Overall we had great sightings of him during the times that we saw him. The young Flat Rock male was moving around in our area, making life very difficult for the big males. This young male is a nomad and does not have a territory at the moment. At 3 years of age this youngster was pushed out of his birth area which was in the southern part of the reserve. With the presence of this new intruding male to the area, Anderson and Tingana are much more alert and active. This young male does not stay very long in one spot and moves all over the area. It is a beautiful male with piercing, bright orange eyes, a rounded head and strong shoulders. This male almost looks exactly like the late Lamula, just a little smaller.

Lions

Salayexe and her cub by Neil Coetzer

Salayexe and her cub by Neil Coetzer

The lion sightings were a bit slow at times, but still we still had a great time with these big cats. We had a wonderful surprise visit by three of the adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride the one day. The Breakaway pride spends a lot of their time more in the western part of the reserve, as this is where the Majingi males are. Their visit was short-lived in our area, as they moved back southwest, out of our area. This might be due to the presence of the 5 young Birmingham males in the eastern part of the reserve, who is looking to expand more west. Also a big threat is the two Matimba males who have set up territory in the central part of the reserve. The adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride are in great condition and they are looking very healthy. These four adult lionesses are a few of the last daughters of the late Mapogo males, who ruled this reserve. I think out of all the lionesses in our area they are looking the best. The three Styx pride lionesses were also seen a few times this month and they are spending much more time with the Birmingham males. All three females have mated with the Birmingham males, so if everything goes well we might have some more cubs in the near future. It would be great for this pride if they could get cubs and stay with the young Birmingham males. This pride has struggled a lot over the last few years to raise a single cub. It will be great for them if the pride can grow more with a few new members. The Nkuhuma pride lionesses were also out and about this last month and they are also in top shape. This pride is unbelievable hunters and they always eat well. The Nkuhuma pride has always been a pride that specialized in hunting buffaloes and doing it very successfully. Even today these five females that we see in our area are not afraid to take on a full grown male buffalo bull. The Birmingham males have been all over the show as they are patrolling their boundaries, making sure that there are no intruders in their territory. The only problem that I see now is that these males are splitting up into two’s, or singular formation. We all know too well that they have a better chance of survival if they stick together and face danger as a team. We have seen it so many times that when a coalition splits into smaller groups, it could mean their downfall when a younger and stronger coalition moves into the area. I think there are still very interesting times waiting for us in the near future, concerning the lions in our area.

Buffaloes

Hyena pup by Neil Coetzer

Hyena pup by Neil Coetzer

The buffaloes were very generous to us as we had awesome sightings this month. At times it was so hectic that there were about three to four different herds of buffaloes moving through our area. There were big, medium and small herd’s moving through the area almost every day. The few smaller herds that moved in and out of our area were anywhere from ten to forty individuals strong. These might be splinter groups of the big herds that moved through. The one herd we saw the one morning was extremely nervous and was snorting and running away when we got closer to them. This might have been due to lions that chased them around the night before, or even that morning. There were one or two small babies in the herds as well. The majority of calves were yearlings. The different herds stayed in the area for quite some time, feeding away at the new green grass that is coming out. We also noticed a few females that were in two’s and three’s, which is really unusual. Females always stay together as a unit as they are stronger in a group. If a lion pride moves through the area and they come across these ladies, they will definitely go for them. There were also a few wonderful bachelor herds that moved into the area. These young and big male buffaloes are staying really close to the main waterholes, as this is where the best food and water is.

Elephants

Elephant bull by Neil Coetzer

Elephant bull by Neil Coetzer

We had such a great time with these big heavyweights. There were so many herds that moved through the area. The waterhole on our open area was again a massive attraction, as we had up to three herds per day moving through to quench their thirst. We were spoiled the one day when a tiny baby elephant came charging out of the bush towards us while we were on drive. After realizing that we were not afraid and did not plan to run away, the little rascal tried a different approach. He went all around the car to see what was going on. Suddenly the little one came straight towards the vehicle and sniffed the side of the vehicle. Mum saw this and came towards us as well and we knew that it was time to leave. As we moved off the baby followed us without the intention of leaving his new found friend. Mum soon stopped him in his tracks and he followed the rest of the herd, trumpeting as he went along… maybe to say: “see you guys later again.” This was such a special sighting for both me and our guests alike. There were so many big bulls this month and we had a few that were in full musth again. One bull in particular was always around the lodge and he also provided us with some great sightings. This big boy chased all the animals away from the waterhole in front of the lodge, claiming the waterhole for himself. The big males were accompanied by a few younger males who would learn from them in the years to come.

Special sighting

This month it is the tiny baby hyena at their den site. It is so great to see the little one moving around the den. Being a baby of the matriarch, this little one learned from a young age that she is untouchable and she can do what she wants. She does not stand back for any member of the clan as she knows where she is in the hierarchy. It is great to have her at the den and she is not shy at all as she likes to entertain us.

Did you know?

The giraffe is the biggest ruminant. Ruminants have a four chambered stomach.

Morné Fouché

Manager’s Report December 2015

Wild photo of the month by Trevor and Julie Legg

Wild photo of the month by Trevor and Julie Legg

What a wonderful year 2015 was! We had so many special moments at the lodge and I am positive that 2016 will bring plenty more amazing memories. To all our guests who shared a wonderful experience with us this year, thank you so much for your support. To those who already have a trip booked during 2016, we cannot wait to welcome you to our magical piece of heaven in the bush. This is where we live our dream!

Birmingham male lion by Louis Liversage

Birmingham male lion by Louis Liversage

It is that time of the year again – our annual star grading date arrived. Each year our lodge gets graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA.) With star grading, there are many different criteria you have to meet, in order to earn your grading status. Other than a high level of service and standards, there are many requirements that need to be in place and the assessors have a very fine eye for these details. I am proud to say that our lodge has once again been recommended for a 4 star grading.

Spotted hyena by Louis Liversage

Spotted hyena by Louis Liversage

This year we had a Christmas dinner like never before. Our kitchen went the extra mile and cooked up an amazing 7 course meal. The dining room was tastefully decorated in true Christmas spirit. The beautiful white, red and silver decorations sparkled in the candlelight, from when the first starter was served, till the last bit of desert was scooped up. For our New Year’s dinner, guests were spoiled with a truly South African braai menu. A wide selection of salads, breads and meats were put together, in order to ensure that each and every guest would never forget their last meal for 2015. A special thank you to Lanette and Amanda, who made sure that the dining room looked amazing during these two festive evenings. To our wonderful kitchen team, thank you for all the mouth-watering dishes! To all our guests who joined us during these special nights, I trust that some unforgettable memories were made!

Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

Our trusty Trapcam is back in action and this month we placed the camera at Rampan. After the pan was cleaned a few months ago, it is buzzing with wildlife. This month, we have a picture of the daily visitors who come to the pan to enjoy the cool water, fresh from the borehole. We are slowly trying to fill the pan, but because we are going through a period of very low rainfall, the water levels are carefully monitored and the pump is only switched on for a few hours at a time.

We have a new staff member who joined our team this month. Welcome to Michael Brown, our new junior ranger. Michael recently finished his training at Bushwise Academy, where he obtained his FGASA qualifications. He is now starting his career in the bush and as soon as he reaches his 21st birthday, he will apply for his PDP, in order to be allowed to do game drives. Michael is already part of our wonderful team and I wish him all the best for a successful career. We also have a familiar face back at the lodge – Andrew Bartlett came to visit us. Andrew came to work here before commencing his studies at Stellenbosch University. Now, whenever he has a gap during holidays, he comes to work at the lodge for one or two weeks at a time. He is part of the EP team and it is always great to welcome his friendly face back to the lodge.

December is a quiet birthday month at the lodge. This month, we celebrated only 1 birthday. The youngest member of our team, Martin Swart, celebrated his 3rd birthday on the 11th. Happy birthday little man! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays in December, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter!

We received so many compliments on the Duck Confit salad that was served at our Christmas dinner, that head chef Jacques decided to share this special recipe. This delicious duck breast can be served hot or cold and can be enjoyed with many different side dishes.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

Ingredients

5 Duck Breasts
120g Coarse Salt
5g Black Pepper
5 Bay Leaves
5g Thyme

Method

Rub the duck breasts with salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours. Rinse off excess salt and spices. Diamond the skin, render the fat and crisp up the skin. Place in an oven dish and bake for 20min at 180⁰C. Remove from the oven and strain the fat from the meat juices. Pour the fat over the breasts and bake for another 30 minutes. Leave to cool and place in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to develop. Serve with a fresh garden salad and enjoy

All the best till next month, the first one for 2016!
Tersia Fouché

Rangers Report December 2015

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

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

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

Lion

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

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

Buffaloes

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

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

Elephant

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

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

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

Manager’s Report October 2015

Wild photo of the month by Trevor and Julie Legg

Wild photo of the month by Trevor and Julie Legg

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

Southern ground hornbill silouette by Neil Coetzer

Southern ground hornbill silouette by Neil Coetzer

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

Female giraffe by Louis Liversage

Female giraffe by Louis Liversage

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

Young Tsalala pride male lion by Neil Coetzer

Young Tsalala pride male lion by Neil Coetzer

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

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

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

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

Pear Baked Jan Ellis Pudding

Ingredients

Pear Baked Jan Ellis Pudding

Pear Baked Jan Ellis Pudding

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

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

For the Syrup

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

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

Serves 6

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

Rangers Report October 2015

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

Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer

Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

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

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

Lions

Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage

Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage

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

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

Buffaloes

African fish eagle by Morné Fouché

African fish eagle by Morné Fouché

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

Elephants

Female cub Louis Liversage

Female cub Louis Liversage

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

An elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort.

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

Morné Fouché