Wild photo of the month
We are at that time of the year again, winter has arrived! The bush is wearing its winter coat! We have the blankets and hot water bottles back on the game drive vehicles and game viewing has been spectacular! The trees and grass are not as lush anymore, which gives you a better view of all the amazing wildlife living around us. We had a wonderful month at the lodge with guests from all over the world. If you have some last minute safari plans, be sure to contact our reservations office for some last minute availability during our winter special rates. Come and enjoy an evening around the fire in the boma with us and witness the most beautiful night sky Africa has to offer!
Tree squirrel by Morné Fouché
In the beginning of May Etienne, Marlet, Amanda and I once again took on the journey to Durban to attend the annual Tourism Indaba. Our blue stand once again drew a lot of attention and we received loads of compliments. Marlet, Amanda and I even got the opportunity to meet the Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom. Thank you to each and everyone who visited our stand. We met with loads of our well-known agents, but also got to meet a few new and upcoming ones. I am sure we will have many more years of good business relations with all of them.
Elephants drinking water by Morné Fouché
With winter creeping up upon us, we see more and more activity at our waterholes. This month, the trapcam was placed at Kraaines Pan, west of our airstrip. The trapcam was left on the tree for only a week and boy, were we in for a surprise! During the week, the trapcam took 2300 photo’s. To choose only 1 was a difficult task. The rangers worked their way through the shots and identified 16 different animal species and a few hundred pictures of a moving branch. Amongst the hundreds of elephant, buffalo, warthog, zebra, impala, hippo, giraffe, hyena and wildebeest photo’s there were also wild dogs and 3 different leopards who visited the waterhole. Our trapcam picture this month shows two female leopards, Salayexe and her cub, having a drink.
This month we also welcomed a new lady to our team. Anel Louw joined our team at the beginning of the month. It did not take long for her to fit right in. She will be assisting in reservations when Amanda is on leave and when she is not in the back office, she is assisting guest in reception with her friendly smile.
As always, we had some staff birthdays to celebrate. I celebrated my birthday on the 3rd and just the following day, Oom Etienne Swart had his special day. Although Oom Etienne lives in the Free State, his birthday is still special to us. Then, just after the first two, Phillip celebrated his special day on the 5th. Phillip is part of the magical team keeping the gardens at the lodge in tip top shape.
To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays in May, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter!
Our recipe for the month is again one for the sweet tooth. Head chef Jacques shares this delicious recipe, which can be enjoyed any time of the day, or night. If you are celebrating a special occasion, add some liqueur to boost the flavour…
All the best till next month
Wild photo of the month. Salayexe the female leopard by Neil Coetzer
It is that time of year again, show time! April and May are two very busy months with tourism shows of all kinds all over. The World Travel Market took place 06 to 08 April in Cape Town and our lodge was again represented by our marketing representative, Samantha Chatham at her Somewhere South stand. We received very positive feedback from the show and looking forward to continue a very valuable relationship with all our travel agents and tour operators.
Breakaway lion feeding on a buffalo by Dawie Jacobs
Hendrik and his maintenance team was once again out and about with the tractor on the airstrip. The lovely rain we got flushed away some soil on the airstrip which left behind nasty ruts. We closed our airstrip for a few days, the tractor did a few laps up and down from north to south and Bob’s your uncle. Everything is back to standard and the airstrip is once again ready to welcome fly-in guests. They also started with some bush clearing. Each year after the rainy season comes to an end, we need to clear the roads of overhanging branches. The maintenance team did a wonderful job and guests can enjoy game drives without having to duck and dive for branches along the road.
Wild dog by Neil Coetzer
Since our guests spend no less than 6 hours per day on a game drive vehicle, it is extremely important for us to keep our vehicles in the best possible condition. With time and the location we are in, vehicles have to be replaced after a certain amount of years and we reached that deadline. I am proud to say that we now have a brand new fleet of land cruisers. Because these vehicles are in such high demand and do not come cheap, it took us a few months, but hey, good things are worth waiting for. We have already been doing drives with some of them for a few months, but the project is now complete. We have 5 new beige cruisers occupying our vehicle shed. I am sure it is every ranger’s dream to drive a brand new vehicle in this beautiful area we call home. A big thank you to Etienne for making this dream a reality , he always keeps our guests and staff’s best experience and interests at heart!
Our trapcam photo this month is really one of the funniest pictures we got in a long time, not what you would expect from normal day to day zebra activity. I laughed so much, Amanda had to come from her office to see what the joke was about. The camera was placed at Kraaines Pan after the rain where we have a lot of animal activity at the moment. I am still not sure if this zebra smiled for the camera or showed his teeth to prove his charms but it is priceless! Just again reminds us that there is never a dull moment in the bush!
We welcomed a new member to our team this month. Wayne Lubbe joined us to complete our team of rangers. Originally from Gauteng, Wayne started his guiding career in 2010 at Kapama where he gained valuable experience. At the moment, he is joining as many game drives as possible to learn roads and will start with game drives soon. Welcome to our team Wayne!
We also had some birthdays at the lodge this month. On the 3rd Simon celebrated his birthday. He is one of the gardeners who keeps the lodge surroundings in tip-top condition and assists with general day to day maintenance. On the 13th, Etienne had his big day. The love and pride Etienne has for the lodge is bigger than anything I have ever seen. He is an inspiration to all of us and a wonderful boss to work for! Just one day later on the 14th, Amanda also aged another year. Amanda’s bubbly personality is well known in our reservation department. Short on their heels was Janine, who celebrated her birthday on the 18th. She is the friendly face that will check you in during your arrival and make sure your stay is an unforgettable experience. Then, last but not least, Joyce celebrated her birthday on the 30th. Joyce is one of our cleaners that make sure that the rooms are comfortable and cleaned to perfection. Happy birthday to all of you! I hope you had wonderful birthdays and may you enjoy many more at Elephant Plains! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during April, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
Our kitchen always have the most amazing aromas during the day. One very strong and attractive smell is that of braised lamb shank. For this month’s recipe, head chef Jacques gives us his secret to creating a mouth watering piece of art.
Braised lamb shank
Braised lamb shank
Braised lamb shank
3kg lamb shank/ 6 shanks
385g carrots/ 1 packet
4 Onions – roughly chopped
1 Bunch celery – roughly chopped
2 Garlic heads – halved
750ml White wine
3Lt Liquid Chicken Stock
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
4 Rosemary sprigs
4-6 Thyme Sprigs
1 Bay leaf
10 Juniper berries
1 tsp Black Pepper
Oil for frying
Flour for dusting
Fry the carrots, onions, celery and garlic in oil till tender.
Lightly dust the lamb in flour then fry in a pan until brown
Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce the wine by half
In an oven proof dish, add together the fried vegetables, browned lamb, tomato paste, reduced white wine and hot chicken stock
Make a bouquet garni with the black pepper, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and juniper berries and add to the dish, ready to go into the oven.
Cover with foil and bake for 8 hours at 100°C. Check every hour to make sure your dish does not cook dry. If extra liquid is needed, top up with more stock or wine and water. Serves 6 to 8
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
Wild photo of the month. Salayexe’s cub resting in a tree by Dawie Jacobs
The shortest month of the year came and went in the blink of an eye. We had loads of wonderful game drive sightings, had some maintenance projects and also celebrated many staff birthdays. We experienced some strange weather patterns as well. We had very hot, humid days, coupled with warm, windy days and ended the month with some cloudy days. It is noticeable during the evenings that the season is now slowly changing. The warm humid nights are slowly 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.
Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer
A few months ago I was contacted by one of our guests Chris Duffield who had a booking for February. He explained that it was him and his lovely fiancé’s biggest wish to get married while in South Africa and the breathtaking beauty of the African bush gave them an idyllic idea for their dream venue. On 9 February we celebrated their very special day at Elephant Plains. It was a lovely sunny day – perfect for an intimate bush wedding. Chris and Lucy wanted to keep everything as rustic and natural as possible. They were joined in marriage under a Leadwood tree on our open area next to the water hole. The ceremony was ended off with elephants trumpeting from a distance. Everything was perfect. Thank you for choosing us to host your dream wedding Mr & Mrs Duffield, I trust that you will keep memories of your bush wedding forever!
Salayexe the female leopard by Neil Coetzer
I mentioned earlier that we had a maintenance project this month. As you all know by now, most of our buildings at the lodge have thatch roofs. This month, 3 roofs were given a new look. The roofs still have the same structure but now wears a different outer layer. Harvey Thatch is a stone coated lightweight steel roof tile, resembling a natural thatch look, but without the associated problems which thatch roofs typically give. From the inside, you still see the natural thatch as the tiles are secured onto a wooden frame on top of the original thatch. With the colour and texture very close to that of the grass, the newly finished roofs fit right in with the rest.
This month we welcomed a new face to the kitchen. Juandré Jansen van Rensburg joined our team as a junior Sous chef on the 28th and is already part of the family. He has a great passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. Welcome to the team Juandré, I am sure you are going to spend many happy days at EP, while spoiling us with your delicious meals.
Our trapcam picture this month is kind of a family portrait. This little warthog family came past Rampan early one afternoon to cool down and have a relaxing soak session in the mud. We always get amazing pictures of buffalo, elephant, giraffe and impala at the waterholes, so I was very happy to find some warthogs this month.
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 also one or our trusty trackers, who always has a smile on his face! 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. Happy birthday to all of you! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during February, we hope you 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 stuffed venison loin by head chef Jacques. The venison can also be replaced by beef fillet or chicken breast.
Stuffed Venison Loin
Stuffed Venison Loin
3 kg venison loin of your choice
Braai and grill spice
Garlic and herb spice
1 Tub Feta Cheese
1 Small Jar Mild Pepper dews
Trussing String (butchers string) or toothpicks to hold in place
Place the venison loin on a chopping board and with a sharp knife cut length wise down the loin but not right through.
Place some cling film over and hit the meat with a meat mallet till it’s about 5 millimetres thick.
Chop the pepper dews and break the feta into pieces.
Season the loin with braai & grill and garlic & herb spice to your desire.
Place the pepper dews and feta length wise onto the loin.
Roll up your masterpiece and secure it with string or toothpicks.
Grill in a gridded pan to desired temperature (recommended medium rare).
When cooked, portion the meat into desired sizes and remove the trussing string or toothpicks.
Serve with vegetables and starch of your choice & enjoy!
Yields 4-5 portions.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
Wild photo of the month by Rogier, Melissa en Tuur Nieuwendijk, Mortsel, Antwerp, Belgium
Like I always say… Time flies when you’re having fun! It feels like just a few days ago that we had our New Year’s dinner and we are already going into the second month of 2016.
Spotted bush snake by Morné Fouché
At the lodge, we are buzzing as always. January was a very hot month overall and the rain we received was indeed a huge relief. We never expected after the drought we’ve experienced that after having less than 40mm of rain, the Manyeleti River would flow. So, here comes the “never say never” part. On the 25th we had 34mm of rain. This is normally not nearly enough, but on the morning of the 26th we were greeted by the sounds of flowing water. Yes, indeed the Manyeleti River was flowing! I assume that the catchment areas had a bit more rain than we did, as this is where the water actually comes from. Nevertheless, the water level was not very high and by the afternoon it had almost completely cleared up. We still have some puddles of water in the river and the bush is quickly transforming, being ever so grateful for any amount of water… One can almost hear the grass growing after the rain! Another sound we can not miss after the rain is the frog choir, which is very active every evening. Toads and frogs off all different shapes, sizes and colours bundle together and they make the most interesting sounds. Guests are often amazed by the powerful sounds and some even think we are playing sound recordings! Right after the rain, we had hundreds of bullfrogs all around camp. I even met one on the pathway one evening and he happily posed for a picture. What an interesting, friendly looking face!
Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer
Our maintenance team was also up and down on the roads and airstrip this month. Hendrik and his team gave the roads some special attention, filling up all the areas where erosion took place. After the roads, they also levelled out the airstrip and compressed all the loose sand which washed over the airstrip after the rain. Our airstrip is now once again ready for guest arriving on flights from surrounding airports.
Last month, I mentioned that our annual star grading again took place during December. This month, I am proud to announce that our grading has been approved and we are still a proudly 4 star lodge! We will soon receive our new plaque, which will shine bright at our front door.
Our trapcam found a lovely spot again at Rampan. With the extremely hot days elephants frequently visit the waterholes in search of a fresh drink, or just a spray of water to cool down. They often go right into the water to enjoy a mud bath. We got some good close-up shots this month. I sometimes wonder if the animals know that they are being watched, because they seem to be on their best behaviour…
We celebrated only one birthday at the lodge this month. David celebrated his birthday on the 15th. David is one of our trusty gardeners, always keeping our gardens in tip-top shape and the outside areas of the lodge clean and tidy. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during January, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.
Our recipe for the month is a mouth watering one! Head Chef Jacques bakes the most amazing Bacon and Blue Cheese bread for our morning buffet service. If you are a bread lover, this will be heaven on earth, served with butter and preserves! If you prefer a basic country loaf, just give the bacon and blue cheese a skip.
Bacon and Blue Cheese French Country Loaf
Bacon and Blue Cheese French Country Loaf
450g Cake flour
30g Granulated sugar
7g Instant dry yeast
75g Blue Cheese
100g Bacon, chopped and fried
Flour to dust
Mix the flour, sugar and yeast in a bowl.
Add the water.
Add the bacon and blue cheese.
Mix until soft, smooth and elastic.
Prove in a bowl, covered with plastic until double in size.
Weigh the dough out in 6 x 150g portions. Shape out in loafs, place on a greased tray and dust with flour.
Prove until double in size.
Bake at 240â°C for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
Turn out to cool.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
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
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
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!
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.
5 Duck Breasts
120g Coarse Salt
5g Black Pepper
5 Bay Leaves
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 180â°C. 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!
Wild photo of the month by Rogier, Melissa and Tuur Nieuwendijk, Mortsel, Antwerp, Belgium
The final countdown has arrived… Just one more month till we welcome a brand new year. With the bush now once again wearing its bright summer colours, we are looking forward to an eventful summer! Game viewing has been amazing and with all the new babies born this month, there is never a dull moment out on game drive.
Breakaway pride lioness by Neil Coetzer
Each year November, we have a “birding day” at the lodge where our staff forms a team to compete against our neighbours, Arathusa Private Game Lodge. This has now become tradition and with the winning team being awarded their name on the birding trophy, it is all great fun. The competition does not have many rules and the goal is to identify as many different bird species between 05:00am and 07:00pm. If you see it, you can claim it. Last year, Elephant Plains took the lead and we won the competition with 7 species. This year, we were unfortunately defeated with 6 species, but we accepted our second place with great pride. With the birding trophy proudly presented in our reception area, we are looking forward to next year and once again engraving our name on the plaque as the 2016 winners.
Buffalo bulls by Louis Liversage
Some time ago, we decided to start producing our own organic compost at the lodge by using leaves, grass and tree cuttings from our gardens as well as vegetable peelings, fruit waste and teabags from the kitchen. With our compost heap now active and providing us with wheelbarrows full of nature’s most rewarding soil amendment, we decided to get a new project up and running, namely our very own herb garden. Our maintenance team was very creative and made use only of leftover building materials from old projects to put up a frame and cover it with mesh to keep out our resident bushbuck, monkeys and baboons. The end result is a strong little structure in which we can grow the freshest variety of herbs for our kitchen. I cannot wait to get the first plants into the soil. Watch this space!
We welcomed two new staff members to our team this month. Ciske Van Zyl joined us on the 2nd and will be assisting in Front of House and Reservations. Jacques Swart is our new Head Chef and I must say, his cooking skills are amazing, but not too good for my figure! Ciske and Jacques both decided to leave the buzzing city life in Cape Town to settle in a more tranquil environment. Where better than in the African bush?! Welcome to our team guys. I am certain that you are going to make many friends and lifelong memories at Elephant Plains. We also have a visitor at the lodge. Aisling Bury, a student from Bath, England is currently completing a ten week practical period with us. Her future goal is to graduate from a Swiss hotel school with an MBA in Hospitality Management. She has been a great help all around the lodge and we are excited to share as much knowledge as we possibly can with her.
Nkuhuma pride lioness by Neil Coetzer
This month we had only two birthdays at the lodge. Lanette, our spa therapist, celebrated her birthday on the 25th. Lanette does not only pamper guest in the spa with relaxing treatments, she also helps out all around the lodge. Helen celebrated her special day on the 29th. Helen is part of our lovely team of housekeepers, keeping our lodge in tip top shape. Happy birthday ladies, I am sure there will be many more to come! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during November, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
This month, head chef Jacques shares a mouth watering recipe. Steamed Berry Coconut Pudding is the perfect combination between juicy fruit and a soft vanilla sponge.
Steamed Berry Coconut Pudding Base
Steamed Berry Coconut Pudding
200 g Black berries
50 g Caster sugar
1 Tbsp corn flour
2 tbsp water
100 g Butter at room temperature
100 g Caster sugar
100g Self raising flour
50 g desiccated Coconut
Custard or cream to serve
Lightly butter 4 x 250 ml ramekins.
Put half of the blackberries into a small sauce pan, mix the sugar, corn flour and water together and add into the pan with the blackberries. Cook till berries are soft and the sauce is thick. Add the rest of the blackberries and allow cooling.
To make the sponge, put all ingredients into a bowl and beat till it’s smooth.
Spoon the blackberry sauce into ramekins, and then add the sponge on top of the base. Place it into an oven safe dish, add water to the dish to cover 1/3 of the ramekin.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180°C.
Remove from oven and remove the foil. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the dish.
Loosen the edges of the desert from the ramekins with a round nose knife and turn it out onto a plate.
Serve with custard or cream.
As our next newsletter will only be sent out in early January, I would like to wish each and every one of our readers a joyful Christmas and only the best for 2016. Whether you have a holiday planned, or you’re just relaxing at home with the family, make the best of every second and travel safe!
All the best till next month