Manager’s Report December 2014

Wild photo of the month

Wild photo of the month by Eleanor and Peter Craighead, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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

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

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 reservations@elephantplains.co.za.

Trapcam photo - small herd of elephants drinking

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.

Spaghetti Tower

(Makes 1 serving)

Spaghetti Tower

Spaghetti Tower

Ingredients

100g Spaghetti
1 Tbsp. Sundried Tomatoes (Finely Chopped)
1 tsp. Pistachio Nuts (Finely Chopped)
1 ½ tsp Basil Pesto
¼ Cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Dressing

Parsley
½ Tsp. Crushed Garlic
Pinch Salt
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
Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report November 2014

Wild Photo of the Month

by Gerd and Marlies, Munich, Germany

by Gerd and Marlies, Munich, Germany

Have you ever looked out of the window and thought, wow, the beauty of nature is breathtaking! I’ve experienced this feeling rather often the past couple of days, as the bush exploded into a landscape of lush green trees and fast growing grass. This all happened just after we received our first downpour for the rainy season. We had some wonderful rainy days this month, which we welcomed with open arms due to the extremely hot, humid days we experienced. Each day, after the rain, you can fill your lungs with fresh, African bush air. Pure bliss!

Grass notch on an elephant tusk by Morné Fouché

Grass notch on an elephant tusk by Morné Fouché

With all the rain, also comes some still standing water. As most of you know, mosquitoes breed around these puddles as they prefer moist, humid areas to lay their eggs. To protect our guests from mosquito bites, we provide insect repellent and all our rooms also have mosquito nets. Although we are in a low risk malaria area and not all mosquitoes carry the malaria virus, it is important to be sure that there are as little as possible mosquitoes around. Each year, the Department of Health sends out a team to spray lodges in our area against mosquitoes. This dedicated team paid us a visit this month and we are truly grateful of their services, helping us keep our guests and staff protected against itchy mosquito bites. Our maintenance team also does a great job, spraying drains and any confined spaces regularly to prevent any mosquitoes from multiplying.

Talamati pride lioness quenching her thirst by Morné Fouché

Talamati pride lioness quenching her thirst by Morné Fouché

Last month, I hinted that we were planning to revamp the dining room. Although we are still busy with some changes, it already looks totally different.

With a bit of paint and a new layer of stain on the tables, our dining room is taking on a true restaurant ambiance. Soon, the new chairs will also be ready and I am sure our guest will enjoy this stylish new look.

We will shortly also change over to a new menu with exciting dishes to complete the transformation. Thank you to each and every one who helped with this amazing project.

Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

What a nice surprise it was when we discovered a hyena den on our property at the beginning of this month. We took the opportunity to place the trapcam at the den, hoping we could capture some interesting hyena activities. The clan occupying the den consists of seven youngsters, of which three are still tiny pups, ten adult females and one male. With all these hyenas, there is off course a lot of movement around the den. We had to carefully manoeuvre a vehicle very close to a tree to set up the camera without disturbing any of the clan members. Our trusty trapcam was working in overdrive during the few days we had the camera on the tree and managed to take thousands of pictures!The camera is extremely sensitive to movement and each and every picture shows either one or more of the clan members moving around, playing or sleeping close to the den entrance. It is quite special to see their daily routines and how protective they are of the pups, never allowing them to move more than a few feet away from the den entrance. Should one of the pups stray off, one of the females will quickly pick them up and take them back to where they belong.

This month we had only two birthdays at the lodge. Feitah celebrated her birthday on the 23rd. Feitah is currently on maternity leave, but I am sure she had a wonderful day. 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. 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!

Have you ever had a mouth-watering piece of cheesecake at a coffee shop and wished you could bake one in the comfort of your own kitchen? Well, this month, Chef Linda shares an easy recipe to bake a yummy cheesecake yourself!

As our next report will only go out in January, I would like to wish each and every one a Merry Christmas and more than the best for the year to come! I hope 2015 will be a year full of love, laughter and loads of exciting surprises!

All the best till next year!
Tersia Fouché

Red Velvet cheesecake

Red Velvet cheesecake

Red Velvet cheesecake

(Serves 8)

440g Cream Cheese
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2 Eggs
80g Milk Chocolate
1 tbsp Red Coloring
1 box Oreo Cookies
2tbsp Melted Butter

Preheat the oven to 160?C. Grease a spring form cake tin. Finely crush the Oreos, mix with the butter and press into the cake tin. Allow to set in the fridge.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time to the mixture until just incorporated. Measure 1 cup of the mixture out, then mix with the melted chocolate and red food coloring. Pour that into the base, and then carefully top with the white mixture. Bake for 40mins or until the center is just set, then allow to cool down. Refrigerate for about 3 hours.

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Manager’s Report October 2014

Wild Photo of the Month

by Gerd and Marlies, Munich, Germany

by Gerd and Marlies, Munich, Germany

As we sweep the 10th month of 2014 out of the door, just two months are left until we celebrate a brand new year. I can hardly believe that 2015 is just around the corner! I am happy to report that the bush is slowly, but surely recovering after the fire. The rain we received during October was a huge blessing and it is amazing to watch the barren, black areas turning into a sea of green. We still have to be patient and give the areas time to completely recover before going off-road with our vehicles, but luckily the extra traversing areas we have at the moment more than makes up for this. Thanks again to all the landowners involved in this initiative. With your help we could make sure that the fire did not have a negative impact on the game viewing experience of our guests. If you would like to treat yourself to a safari, be sure to contact our reservations office. You might be able to snatch up some last minute availability, before the festive season rush!

Buffalo bulls by Louis Liversage

Buffalo bulls by Louis Liversage

Now that we had our first rains after the winter, our maintenance team has been spending some time on the roads. In order to keep them in a good condition, we have to give special attention to roads where erosion is prone to take place during the rainy season. After a few loads of gravel and general maintenance, such as opening up mitre drains, the roads are once again in a good condition and ready for the rest of the rainy season. Those of you who have visited the lodge before would remember the bumps in the road, leading to the lodge. These are not speed bumps, but act as barriers to prevent water flowing down the road, washing away the top soil, which in turn causes erosion. With these bumps in place the water runs up against them, redirecting it into the bush, away from the road.

Majingi male lion on a buffalo kill by Jonathan Vogel

Majingi male lion on a buffalo kill by Jonathan Vogel

As most of you know, our rangers are very involved with everything happening around the lodge. Whether it is game drives, bushwalks, admin, assisting with luggage or doing bush clearing, they are always part of the action. As they work on a six weeks on, two weeks off leave cycle, most of them do two game drives a day for at least 50 days in a row! In order to give them a gap every now and again, we have decided to appoint another ranger to the team. So therefore we welcomed a new face to the lodge this month. Stefan Kruger joined our team on the 25th as the newest addition to our ranger team. Stefan entered the hospitality industry in 2005 and has been guiding since 2006. Welcome to the EP family, Stefan. Your bubbly personality made you fit in from day one and I am sure you will have many more joyful days with us in the bush!

Trapcam photo - group of buffaloes

Trapcam photo – group of buffaloes

This month we had an enormous group of buffaloes moving through our area. With the Trapcam up at Bushcamp, we were able to get a picture of some individuals of the herd moving past. There were many females with young calves, as well as some older females and a few big strong males.

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 Khanisile celebrated her birthday. Khani is the short, friendly waiter that keeps our guests entertained with her friendly smile 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 got spoiled on the day and that you would 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!

As we are getting closer to the festive season, some of you might be planning some mouth watering dishes to spoil your guests with. This month, Chef Linda is sharing her Braised Oxtail recipe. If you are still unsure what to serve for Christmas dinner and prefer not to spend the entire day in the kitchen, preparing a traditional meal, you might want to consider this easy and delicious meat option.

Braised Oxtail (serves 6)

Braised Oxtail (serves 6)

Braised Oxtail (serves 6)

Ingredients

2kg Oxtail
2 Onions
2 Carrots
1 packet Brown Onion Soup
500 ml Beef Stock
2 Leeks
½ cup Tomato Sauce
2 cups Red Wine
½ cup Chutney

Slice all the vegetables into even, chunky sizes. Brown the oxtail pieces in a bit of oil. Put the vegetables and oxtail into an oven proof pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bake in the oven for about 4 hours at 160°C, stirring every hour. If it gets too dry, add some extra water as needed. When the meat pulls away from the bone, it is cooked. Serve with rice, or any other starch of your choice.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report September 2014

Wild Photo of the Month

by Robert and Jose Kok-Cluistra, The Netherlands

by Robert and Jose Kok-Cluistra, The Netherlands

Spring is in the air and the landscape is slowly changing. Some of the trees around camp are showing off new, small green leaves and before we know it, the whole bush will be transformed into a green oasis. Now that the sun is rising earlier and setting later, we have changed the game drive times to depart earlier in the mornings and later in the afternoons. With the temperatures slowly rising, it is no longer necessary for heaters in the evenings and we have been enjoying pleasant nights in the boma, around the log fire. We had a few hot days and it will not be too long before our guests will be spending their days next to the pool, with a refreshing drink. For those of you visiting us during the next few months, please remember to bring along your sunscreen. If you do forget, our curio shop also stocks sunscreen. This summer is going to be a hot one!

Swallows

Swallows

One of the amazing things about living in the bush is to see new offspring arriving and growing up. We currently have a baby bushbuck in camp and what a little miracle she is. It is also that time of the year when birds are nesting. We are very fortunate to have a swallow’s nest under the roof, right next to the window in our reception area. We were so happy to see that the nest had some residents again. As last year, they are raising three little youngsters. We have been keeping a close eye on them since they hatched. It is amazing to see how fast they grow and how the parents are both very involved in raising them. During the day, the parents are out and about, returning often with food for their three musketeers. When they return to the nest, you can see the excitement as the little heads bob up and down, waiting for a bite. At sunset, mom and dad return to the nest and all five of them snuggle up together for a good night’s rest. Soon, the youngsters will be big enough to leave the nest and we will wave them goodbye, as they head off to explore their beautiful surroundings.

Salayexe with her kill by Morné Fouché

Salayexe with her kill by Morné Fouché

This month, some changes were made to the bar’s interior appearance. We have a brand new set of bar chairs and some lovely new scatter cushions, decorating the couches. The warm red and brown shades have given it a total new, fresh look. Another project at the lodge is the repairs being done to the decks in front of the bar and dining room area. These decks have been in place for the past 11 years, but as with any natural building materials, they needed some replacement after many years of traffic moving over them, as well as constant exposure to the African sun and rain. When replacing fixtures in a public area, timing is extremely important to prevent any disturbance to our guests. The contractors did an amazing job replacing the planks in only a few days. They worked during game drive times, when there were no guests at the lodge to ensure no noise during the day. The newly replaced area is looking very good. Next up on our upgrading list is new dining room furniture. It is going to look stunning!

One never knows what each new day will bring in the bush, but we are always trying to be prepared for the unexpected. On the 18th of this month, we started our day as every other day, but by around 11:00 am, a dark cloud was hanging over our lodge. One of our biggest nightmares came to life when we realized there was an aggressive veld fire in our area. The fire started on one of the neighbouring properties and before we could hope that it was just a bad dream, flames were spreading and moving fast, with winds gusting in all directions. Luckily we are always prepared for a possible fire during this time of the year, when the fuel load of the grass is big and extremely dry. So we quickly got our fire fighting gear ready and the teams spread out – fighting the fire from various angles. Around midnight we were still mopping the area to ensure that the fire did not flame up again during the night. What a long day it was! A large piece of bush burned down, an estimated 5000 ha, but thanks to all the assistance and teamwork from the lodges, there were no injuries or damage to any lodges or buildings. As far as we could see, there were also no animals hurt during the blaze. Thank you to each and everyone who assisted on that hot day (42 °C). It just goes to show what a good team we are part of. Although unplanned fires are never welcomed, it is good for certain areas to burn, in order to get rid of old plant matter and to return natural components back into the soil. At the moment there is a large black carpet where we used to have winter bush. It will not be long before we see new green grass covering the entire section. This will come at a perfect time, as the animals will have lots of food spread over a large area. We would also like to thank our neighbours in the east, for giving us extra traversing areas while we await the first summer rains. From there, Mother Nature would transform the area.

Trapcam photo - saddle billed stork

Trapcam photo – saddle billed stork

Last month, we got some interesting pictures from the trapcam. This month we decided to place the trapcam at Leeukuil pan again, but on a different spot. We got the most amazing picture of a saddle billed stork. We often see these birds at the waterhole on the open area, but it is the first time we have been able to get such a close-up shot.

At Elephant Plains we are always celebrating birthdays, almost one every week. There were four ladies who celebrated their birthdays at the lodge this month. Linky, who celebrated her birthday on the 5th is one of the ladies who make sure all the Rondavels are spotless. She is a very humble person and always has the sweetest smile. Saphia celebrated her birthday on the 11th. Her friendly face is mostly hidden in the kitchen, where she is one of our cooks. Onnie had her birthday on the 16th. Onnie is one of our waitresses, always ready to attend to your needs with a permanent smile. Last one on the list for September was Louise who celebrated her special day on the 30th. Louise is the smile you see all around the lodge. Louise joined our team in June this year and I hope she enjoyed her first birthday at Elephant Plains. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during September, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!

This month, chef Reimond is sharing the recipe for one of our plated meat options. Stuffed Trout is a very popular choice amongst our guests. Try this easy recipe and you will find out why.

Stuffed Trout

Stuffed Trout

Stuffed Trout

Ingredients

1 Trout Fish
1 tsp Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp Breadcrumbs
Pinch Thyme
Pinch Rosemary
Pinch Salt & Pepper
Pinch Oregano

Mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Open the trout (butterfly). Put the stuffing into the open trout belly. Place the prepared trout on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180°C. As soon as the trout flesh becomes flaky and easily removed from the bone, the fish is cooked. Serve with tartar sauce, vegetables, salad and starch of your choice.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month
Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report August 2014

Wild Photo of the Month

by Robert and Jose Kok-Cluistra, The Netherlands

by Robert and Jose Kok-Cluistra, The Netherlands

This month it rained… thunderstorms of leaves every day! We are very fortunate to have a lot of lovely trees around the lodge, providing us with loads of shade. One thing that Mother Nature takes care of is trees, shedding their leaves to ensure brand new attires for summer time. Each morning we were greeted by carpets of yellow, orange and brown as the trees were losing the last of their leaves. Keeping the grounds around the buildings and pathways clean can be a struggle, but with our trusty leaf blower nothing could stand in our way. The leaves we gather are added to our compost heap to decompose and we then give back to Mother Nature, by working the compost back into the gardens. We had lovely temperatures during the entire August, which almost made the winter chill only a dusty memory. Just as we got comfortable with the idea of pleasant spring days, we were surprised by some very strong and cold winds during the last few days of the month. We were almost blown straight into September, leaves and all!

Baby elephant by Louis Liversage

Baby elephant by Louis Liversage

One of the most amazing things we are spoiled with at the lodge is the waterhole on the open area in front of the lodge. This little piece of magic is a source of water for many. Impala, zebra, and elephant breeding herds, buffalo and even the odd troop of baboons can be seen almost daily. It is a pleasure to sit and watch the different species interact around the water, while you are enjoying breakfast and lunch. With the Africam keeping a close eye on the open area, we rarely miss an interesting sighting of a playful baboon or baby elephant sleeping in his mothers shade. If you would also like to join the action on our open area, please like our Facebook page and be amazed by all the live wildlife alerts that let you know the moment an animal is spotted on the camera. You can also follow us on twitter to find out what the game drive highlight of each day is.

Anderson the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Anderson the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

As with every other month, we had some maintenance projects at the lodge. Hendrik and his team took on the challenge to start cleaning the thatched roofs. Branches overhanging on the roofs were trimmed and roofs were cleared from all the loose grass and dead leaves. We do this quite often, especially before the rainy season, to prevent damage to the roofs. When there is a layer of dead leaves and loose grass on the roof, the roof will not dry out properly after the rain and the grass could actually start rotting underneath the layer of dead leaves. If you have a rotten area on the roof, water will eventually start seeping through during heavy rain and this is the last thing we want to happen. The boma also got a brand new coat of fresh paint, to ensure many more pleasurable dinners around the fire underneath the stars. Last month, we treated the decks and this month attention was turned to the doors and window frames. As these are also wooden fixtures, they need a new coat of varnish to keep them safe and protected from the natural elements. Thank you once again to our maintenance team for taking such good care of the lodge!

Trapcam photo - breeding herd of elephants

Trapcam photo – breeding herd of elephants

This month the trapcam was placed at Leeukuil to see if we could get some action around the water. We did capture various animals, but one picture which stood out, was a breeding herd of elephants passing by while sand bathing. Elephants throw sand over their bodies after they had a swim or mud bath, to protect the skin form sunburn. Fine sand is often loosened with the forefeet and tossed onto the body with the trunk. You can just imagine the big cloud of dust there would be after covering such a huge body.

We had only three staff birthdays at the lodge this month. On the 8th, Hildah celebrated her birthday. Hildah is part of our trusty housekeeping team and where ever she goes, no dust will stay behind. Precious, who also wears her housekeeping title with the biggest pride, celebrated her birthday on the 14th. The last lady who celebrated her birthday on the 17th was Portia. Portia cleans the main area of the lodge each morning before guests return from game drive. When she is not cleaning the lodge, she can be found in the kitchen ensuring all the dishes shine bright. Ladies, I trust you all had a very special day and will share many more birthdays as part of the Elephant Plains team. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during August, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.

It will not be too long before we change over to our summer menus. Before this happens, head chef Linda shares another one of her lovely muffin recipes. For a savoury muffin option, try these spinach and feta breakfast muffins. They’re to die for and healthy!

Spinach and Feta Muffins

(Makes 12 Muffins )

Spinach and Feta Muffins

Spinach and Feta Muffins

Ingredients

  • 200g cooked and chopped Spinach
  • 130g crumbled Feta
  • 250g Flour
  • 3tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Eggs
  • 80ml Oil
  • 300ml Milk
  • ½ tsp Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease muffin trays.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix the oil, eggs and milk together. Pour the wet mixture into the flour and add the feta and spinach. Mix well. Spoon into the muffin trays and bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month!

Tersia Fouché

 

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Manager’s Report July 2014

Wild Photo of the Month

Waterbuck ewe by Paul, Sue, Mark and Kirsty Johnstone, Brisbane, Australia

Waterbuck ewe by Paul, Sue, Mark and Kirsty Johnstone, Brisbane, Australia

With the seasons slowly changing, we greeted July with a smile, knowing that we are slowly moving towards spring. The landscape is still dry and pale brown, but there is nothing quite as beautiful as the bright colours we have around the lodge as all the aloes are decorated with bunches of yellow and orange flowers. The bougainvillea bushes are also wearing their flower coats which you can see from a distance away. Now that most firebreaks have been burnt, it will not be too long before new green grass will appear from the black blanket covering the areas, where just a few weeks ago, there was just a pale brown landscape. This was a typical bush winter month with cold early mornings and evenings, but pleasant daytime temperatures. We also had two cold fronts, which surprised us with very chilly temperatures.

Steenbok by Morné Fouché

Steenbok by Morné Fouché

The cold days did not stop the game viewing though. This month must have been one of the most exciting ones with all the breathtaking sightings we had. From wild dog puppies to a quadruple standoff on our open area late one afternoon with a leopard, elephants, wild dogs and hyena’s – all chasing each other around right in front of the lodge. Morné will tell you more about all of this though!

Those of you, who have visited the lodge before, would be familiar with all the wooden decks we have around the main area and rooms. These wooden floors cover a big area around the lodge and because they are exposed to all the natural elements, they need to be treated frequently. Our maintenance team has done a wonderful job this month, giving the decks a brand new coat of fresh varnish to protect the wood against the harsh summer sun and rains.

Lilac breasted roller by Morné Fouché

Lilac breasted roller by Morné Fouché

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Winter months are very popular for photography because the bush is not very dense, which makes viewing animals a bit easier than in the summer months. We had a great amount of photographers at the lodge this month. Some came in groups, others on their own and some of them were return guests as well. I hope you all enjoyed your stay with us and that you got that 1 in a million wildlife shot! Our rangers enjoy having photographers out on game drive, as they also share this passion and strive to give each person the best possible view of the animals to ensure that perfect shot. Thank you to all our guides for taking such special care of our guests during game drive!

Trapcam photo - honey badger

Trapcam photo – honey badger

Every month, there is a big debate on where the best place would be to place the trapcam. This month, the rangers decided that, for a change, they would place the Trapcam along our access road, hoping to see more than just vehicles arriving and departing. The pictures were downloaded and it was a big surprise when they came across something they would never have thought to catch during the day, a honey badger!

July is a very busy “staff birthday” month at the lodge. On the 24th, our head chef Linda shared her special day with one of our rangers, Dawie. Both Dawie and Linda have been well known at the lodge for the past few years and I am sure they enjoyed another special birthday at the lodge. On the 26th Eummy celebrated her special day. Eummy is part of our very hard working housekeeping team and always carries a smile on her face. The 29th was a special day for our newest ranger, Jonathan, who celebrated his 1st birthday as part of the Elephant Plains team. Jonathan joined our team in the beginning of June 2014, but it already feels as if we have known him for years! Last on the list for July was Busi, whose birthday was on the 30th. Busi is also one of our housekeepers and with her bubbly personality there is never a dull moment. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during July, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.

During the winter, there is no better comfort food than cake to fight of the winter cold. Luckily for us, our head chef, Linda, is sharing the recipe for the delicious Peppermint Crisp Cupcakes. Get those mixing bowls ready, you will not regret it!

Peppermint Crisp Cupcakes

(Makes 12 cupcakes)

Peppermint Crisp Cupcakes

Peppermint Crisp Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 150g Flour
  • 30g Cocoa Powder
  • 210g Castor Sugar
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • Salt
  • 60g Butter
  • 180ml Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Topping

  • 2 cups Cream
  • 1 tin Caramel Treat
  • 100g Peppermint Crisp Chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line muffin trays with cupcake cups.

Combine all the dry ingredients with the butter until it resembles a sandy consistency. Mix in the eggs, milk and vanilla. The mixture should be smooth, but make sure not to over mix the batter. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the trays for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the topping.

Whip the cream until it’s stiff, then stir in the caramel treat and the finely chopped chocolate. Leave in a refrigerator for 2 hours to set completely. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes and garnish with chocolate art.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month!

Tersia Fouché

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