Manager’s Report June 2014

Wild photo of the month

by Robert and Jose Kok-Cluistra, The Netherlands

by Robert and Jose Kok-Cluistra, The Netherlands

We are now over the halfway mark of 2014 and it is unreal that we will be meeting 2015 in only 6 months! June was a mystical month with amazing sightings and some unexpected excitement as well! We had a pack of wild dogs in our area again. We had some outstanding wild dog sightings and even saw them on the open area one morning during breakfast. As if this was not enough excitement, one afternoon, a wild dog made an impala kill right in front of Rondavel 2! We had some very cold mornings and evenings during this month, but also some hot days where maximum temperatures flew up to almost 30°C. This was rather strange as you would not imagine having the urge to swim during winter, but in Africa, nothing is impossible and some of our guests enjoyed the swimming pools to cool down. We also had a lot of South African guests during June due to all the South African public holidays as well as the lower rates. We are running our winter special rates at the moment, making a safari a bit more affordable. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you would like to check availability, or you can also check availability directly online, on our website. You never know, we might just have some last minute dates available for a crisp winter safari at Elephant Plains!

Tree squirrel by Morné Fouché

Tree squirrel by Morné Fouché

This month we did some maintenance on our airstrip. During the rainy season, our airstrip soaked up a lot of water and needed some TLC to get it back on standard for our guests flying in from Hoedspruit, Nelspruit and Johannesburg airports. We closed our airstrip for a few days and our maintenance team did a wonderful job ensuring a smooth landing! We can now, as usual, transfer guests from our own airstrip to the lodge in only a few minutes.

Matimba male lion by Morné Fouché

Matimba male lion by Morné Fouché

Every year, when the grass is dry and yellow, various properties in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin prepare for the windy winter during which we always have the stressful thought of a veldfire hanging in the back of your head. We will soon start with the firebreaks around the lodge and the Sabi Sand Wildtuin will do some firebreaks. Before you can start burning, you need to get permission and a permit from the Sabi Sand Wildtuin who will first check the weather forecasts and wind predictions to ensure no runaway fires occur. Veldfires can start due to natural causes like the sun reflecting off a piece of glass, igniting the dry grass or due to lighting, so being prepared in all areas is very necessary.

This month, we welcomed another new staff member at the lodge. Louise Du Preez joined us in the beginning of June to assist the day to day running of the reception and will also relieve Amanda in reservations when she goes on her off days. She has a very bubbly personality and enjoys interacting with guests. Louise fitted in to our family from day one and I am sure we will have a lot of days filled with smiles, with her in our presence.

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

We were very fortunate to discover a wild dog den site. We closed the area off to give them time to adjust and also placed our Trapcam nearby to try and get a glimpse of the pups. They have proven camera shy up to now, but we were still lucky to catch one of the adults on the move!

We celebrated 2 birthdays at the lodge this month and both are staff from the kitchen side. Our one chef, Millicent, celebrated her birthday on the 4th. Millicent is the shy, friendly personality behind the kitchen door, spoiling our guests with mouth-watering dishes! Remember also celebrated his birthday on the 7th and it was another joyful day for him as always. Those of you who have visited the lodge will remember him as the cheerful, friendly waiter welcoming you for breakfast, lunch or dinner with the biggest smile. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during June, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!

This month, chef Linda is sharing the recipe for her Caramelized and Blue Cheese Tarts. These tarts are a winner as a winter starter and also wonderful to serve with a salad for a light lunch option.

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tar

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tar

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart

(Makes 4 side servings)

2 sliced Onions
2tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2tbsp Butter
2tbsp Honey
100g Blue Cheese
500g ready-made Puff Pastry

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Sauté the onions in the butter for about 10mins, then add the balsamic vinegar and honey and continue cooking for a further 10mins.
Cut the blue cheese into ½ cm cubes.
Line a greased muffin tray with puff pastry, then add the onions to the cavity and sprinkle over the blue cheese cubes.
Bake until the pastry is golden.
The pastry can be served warm or cold.

Serve and enjoy!

All the best till next month!

Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report May 2014

Wild photo of the month

by Regina, Thomas and Sebastian and Leonberg, Germany

by Regina, Thomas and Sebastian and Leonberg, Germany

Winter has arrived! The days are getting shorter and the evenings longer, with sunrise being much later and sunset much earlier. The morning game drives start off quite chilly, but then heats up towards the end of the morning drive and the afternoon drives are the direct opposite – you do not feel the need for a jacket at first, but just as the sun sets behind the mountains, a warm fleecy jacket is more than welcome! For those who will be visiting the lodge in the next month or two, please remember to pack those scarves and gloves. Should you not have space, you can also buy them from our winter stocked Curio Shop!

Two young Styx pride males by Morné Fouché

Two young Styx pride males by Morné Fouché

This year, the World Travel Market in Cape Town and Tourism Indaba in Durban was another big success for us! We were represented by Sam Chatham from Somewhere South at WTM and the feedback was great! It was our first time exhibiting in the Durban ICC and we could not have asked for a better outcome! It was wonderful seeing all the familiar faces as we met with a lot of our existing agents and tour operators and also with a lot of new and upcoming agents. Thank you to everyone who visited our bright blue stand, we are looking forward to a year of good business with you till we meet again in 2015! I hope those of you who attended Indaba had a safe journey back home after a very busy three days!

Trapcam photo

Trapcam photo

This month, we had some excitement on the Trapcam as the rangers placed it close to a new hyena den on our property. When on game drive, you can sit and watch them for hours, playing around the den. We were lucky to get a lovely shot of the clan members and the pups around the entrance of the den site. I hope you enjoy the photo!

We were sad to say goodbye to one of our rangers, Devon Becker, this month. Devon decided that he would like to put some time in to further his studies and obtain his FGASA Level 2 qualification. We wish him all the best with his future endeavors! We also welcomed two new staff members to our EP family this month. Firstly, we have an EcoTraining student, Andrew Bartlet, who joined us to gain some practical experience in the day to day running of a lodge. As part of his training to become a qualified guide, he needs to be exposed to a lot of areas of the lodge and obtain some practical hours in and around the lodge, as well as on game drives and bushwalks. Welcome Andrew, I am sure you are going to enjoy your time with us and I hope that you will gain invaluable experience while with us! We are also happy to introduce our new ranger, Jonathan Vogel, who will be joining our wonderful team of rangers to ensure our guests have an unforgettable experience on game drive. Jonathan has been guiding since 2009 and I am sure he will fit in straight away. Welcome to the team Jonathan!

Styx pride cub by Morné Fouché

Styx pride cub by Morné Fouché

We celebrated some birthdays again this month. On the 3rd, I celebrated my birthday, followed by Phillip who celebrated his birthday on the 4th. Phillip is one of our green-fingered gardeners. Phillip has a way with plants! Wherever he plants whichever plant, it grows like you cannot believe. Then, the last birthday for the month was on the 5th when Etienne’s dad celebrated his special day. We do not see him very often as they live in the Free State, but I am sure he had a wonderful day! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during May, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!

This month, chef Reimond is sharing a decadent Strawberry Cheesecake recipe with us. If you ever have a craving for something sweet and creamy, give this recipe a try, you will not regret it!

Strawberry Cheesecakes

(serves 8)

Strawberry Cheesecakes

Strawberry Cheesecakes

2 ½ cups cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. sponged gelatine
3 tbsp strawberry syrup
100g shortbread biscuits
50g melted butter

Strawberry syrup topping

1 cup strawberry syrup
9 tsp. sponged gelatine

Crush the biscuits and mix with the melted butter, press into individual dessert glasses. Allow to chill. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and strawberry syrup together. Sponge the gelatine into hot, but not boiling water and beat this into the mixture, incorporating well. Pour the mixture over the biscuit mixture and allow to chill. Make sure that the syrup is warm, then melt the gelatine and mix it into the syrup. Allow to cool down to room temperature. Cut strawberries in half, lay them over the set cheesecake and pour the syrup carefully over the cheesecakes. The layer should be about 1mm deep. Allow the dessert to set completely.

Serve chilled and enjoy!

All the best till next month!

Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report April 2014

Wild photo of the month

Wild photo of the month by Paul, Sue, Mark, and Kirsty Johnstone, Brisbane, Australia

The season is busy changing to autumn and together with that, we’ve also had a big change at the lodge. As you have read in last month’s report, we’ve said goodbye to Wayne Dovey after almost ten years at Elephant Plains. He did a great job managing the lodge since 2011 and we will all miss him dearly, but know that he will be very happy with his new family in Pretoria. We wish him the best of luck with all his future endeavors! I had some mixed feelings when Etienne and Marlet offered me the position of manager. Quite a daunting task, even though I’ve been working here for almost five years now. It is an honour and a privilege and I know that they would not have offered me the position, if they did not think that I’d be up for the challenge. I am looking forward to my new role and hope that I can follow in the very big footsteps that Wayne left behind!

Elephants drinking by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants drinking by Dawie Jacobs

It is now very obvious that we are moving closer and closer to winter. Some of the trees are already changing color from the dark green that we got so used to, to a paler green or yellow colour. This colour change happens so fast and soon we will have a lot of autumn shades around us, as the Round Leaf Teak and Jackalberry trees will start transforming to orange and red before shedding their leaves for the winter. With the lowering temperatures at night, we have placed the blankets and patio heaters back in the boma for dinner to fight off the worst cold so our guests can still enjoy dinner under the star lit skies.

After the recent floods, Hendrik, our maintenance manager, has spent a lot of hours fixing the roads that were damaged by the huge amounts of water. Thank you Hendrik, I am sure that our guests appreciate the smooth drive to the lodge and that the rangers are also enjoying the newly fixed roads. It is amazing to see how much water still seeps out of the ground in some areas. There are also a lot of water pools in the riverbed in front of the lodge. This is proof that the water table is still very high after the March rains, which is a good thing, going into the dry winter months. With all the water pools in the area, there is always a concern that we would see a lot more mosquitoes, as they breed in still standing water. We spray the lodge on a regular basis to keep breeding mosquitoes at bay and we were also glad to welcome the Department of Health to the lodge on the 17th of this month. They work in teams in order to also spray the whole area against mosquitoes. Thank you guys, we appreciate all the effort and hours you put in to keep our guests and staff safe and protected from mosquito bites!

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

The month of May is always an important one on the Tourism calendar and this year is no exception. The World Travel Market will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of May in Cape Town. Although we won’t be attending this show ourselves, our marketing representative, Samantha Chatham will be representing us at her Somewhere South stand, A30. Etienne, Marlet and I will then take on the journey to Durban, for the annual Tourism Indaba, 10-12 May. We are just as excited as every other year to meet with all our existing agents and also to present our lodge to some new and upcoming agents and tour operators. It is always great to see all the familiar faces and to make new contacts in the industry. For those of you attending Indaba this year, we look forward to meeting with you! If we do not have a meeting scheduled yet, please visit our stand at ICCG06.

Wild dogs by Louis Liversage

Wild dogs by Louis Liversage

We also had some birthdays at the lodge this month. On the 3rd Simon celebrated his birthday. He is one of the gardeners who keep the lodge surrounds in a tip-top condition. On the 13th, Etienne had his big day. As Elephant Plains was his brain child and he build it up from a small, ten bed lodge 16 years ago, to the successful business it is today, 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. Anyone who has recently made a booking at the lodge would have gotten to know Amanda’s bubbly personality, either via a telephone call or while exchanging e-mails. 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!

Trapcam photo - Female giraffe

Trapcam photo – Female giraffe

This month we decided to place the Trapcam at the open area in front of the lodge to see if we could capture some interesting animal behavior and activities. When we get the camera back from a certain spot, it is always a big excitement to download the pictures to see what was captured. This month, Louis had to sift through over 1000 images and we decided on this photo of a female giraffe standing quite close to the camera. It looks as though she noticed the camera in the tree and went closer for an inspection…

Our head chef, Linda Van Heerden, is spoiling us with the recipe for one of her vegetarian options, a lovely Broccoli tart. Don’t be fooled though. Even the meat eaters out there would enjoy this as a light lunch! Those of you who cannot enjoy a meal without some meat, why not add this as a veggie starch to your next braai menu?

All the best till next month!

Tersia Fouché

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Manager’s Report February 2013

Wild Photo of the Month. By Bror and Tuija West, Finland

Wild Photo of the Month. By Bror and Tuija West, Finland

As we ticked off the second month of the year, I can’t help asking what is going on with our weather. It has truly been quite unpredictable since January. We’ve had a lot of cloudy days with high humidity, only to see the sun come out behind the clouds for a while, before the sky closes again for a quick thunder shower. But then again, if everything in life was predictable, how boring would that be?

Female giraffe by Dawie Jacobs

Female giraffe by Dawie Jacobs

I mentioned in my previous reports that we were planning to do some work at the lodge and we started at the beginning of the month. First up was the dining room. We took out all the wooden door frames and replaced them with aluminium frames. These new doors have made quite a difference. The frames are not as wide as the original wooden ones and allow a lot more light into the room. We are very happy with the end result! We also gave one of the Luxury Suites a revamp. We closed Zebra Suite for a few days and this allowed us to also replace the frames with aluminium. While it was closed, we repainted the room and did some more work to it. It looks brand new! Over the course of the next few months, we will be renovating all the rooms and we are very excited about this venture.

Thandi, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Thandi, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

This month we did not see much of Morné, our head ranger. You might ask why? Well, the poor man had to have a knee operation. Morné has been struggling with his knee for some time, after he injured it a few years ago while we were playing touch rugby on EP airstrip. As time passed, the problem worsened and his doctor confirmed that he needed an operation to repair some badly damaged ligaments. I am happy to report that the operation was a huge success and that he would be back at the lodge by the end of March. We wish him all the best with the recovery. Should a hippo chase us in the future, he might just be able to keep up now! In the interim we were joined by a familiar face. Stephen Pieterse, who also used to be head ranger and later manager, re-joined the team for two weeks to help out with game drives. I believe that Steve enjoyed to be back at EP and enjoyed his time here. We would like to thank him for helping out when we needed an extra ranger. I will be driving from middle March until Morné returns and am also looking forward to spending some time in the bush, sharing this beautiful area with our guests.

Salayexe, the female leopard by Dawie Jacob

Salayexe, the female leopard by Dawie Jacob

To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day, filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more joyful days! At the lodge we had a couple of birthdays. On the 1st Morné celebrate his birthday. If you read our newsletter, you would know that as head ranger here at EP, Morné writes all the Rangers Reports, informing you of all the ins and outs that happened in the bush the past month. Morné has been with Elephant Plains for seven years now and we hope to still have him on staff for many more years. On the 2nd Morné’s tracker, Derrick, celebrated his birthday. As many of you, who have been on drive with these two, would know Derrick is a brilliant tracker and can follow animals deep into the bush. Next up was one of the faces that you would definitely remember if you’ve visited EP before, our barman Walter. He celebrated his birthday on the 7th, as always with the biggest smile possible on his face! Marlet celebrated her birthday on the 24th. As she spends her weeks in Nelspruit with Etienne jnr. being in school now, we did not see her, but I am sure that she had a lovely day spent with family and friends.

This month we employed another staff member. With the lodge being so busy, we thought that it would be a good idea to get an extra person to help out in a few areas, as needed. Marie van Wyk is a very hard working person that will go a long way here at lodge. She was brought up on a farm, so the bush is no strange place for her. She and her sister used to have a chicken farm that supplied some of the high market shops here in South Africa with chickens. She then went to Cape Town to try and see if she would be able to make it away from farm life, but needless to say she is back where she is happy and what better place to be, than the Sabi Sand! We also appointed a new maintenance manager, Hendrik Snyman. He started with a bang and we are very happy with what he has achieved so far. We hope that both of you would fall in love with the lodge, like all of us have and that you would enjoy working here for many years to come!

Trapcam photo of the month - Waterbuck

Trapcam photo of the month – Waterbuck

This month’s trap cam picture is two Waterbuck females, drinking water at Rampan. The name Waterbuck pretty much says it all. They like to stay around large areas of water and most times you will find them standing in the water itself, feeding on water cabbage. They are attractive antelope, with a massive white ring on their rump and a lovely, soft face. They do, however, carry a strong smell about them, as they have many glands on their legs. From being in and out of the water, they have a tendency to smell like a wet dog on a hot summer’s day! Overall, they are the (somewhat smelly) teddy bears of the bush, with their soft faces and shaggy coats.

I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for her delicious recipe of the month. Chicken Milanese is a refreshing option for a hot summer’s afternoon lunch.

Monthly Recipe

Monthly Recipe. Chicken Milanese

Monthly Recipe. Chicken Milanese

Chicken Milanese
(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Sweet Peppers
  • ½ Onion
  • 2 deseeded Tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp. Thyme
  • 2 tbsp. Oregano
  • 90ml Lemon Juice
  • 60ml Oil
  • 3 tbsp. Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by making the salsa. Cut the onion, sweet peppers and tomatoes into small blocks, season with coriander, salt, pepper and garlic. Mix the thyme, oregano, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper for the marinade and place the chicken breasts into this. Arrange the chicken breasts onto a baking tray, allowing to marinade for about 2 hours. Bake for about 20mins. Once the chicken is cooked, allow to cool, slice into slices across the breast. Arrange the chicken onto plates, with some of the salsa over the top. Serve chilled with some honey and mustard dressing.

Honey mustard dressing:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. mustard
  • ½ tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp. water

Mix together well.

Serve and enjoy!

Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!

Wayne Dovey

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Manager’s Report January 2013

Wild Photo of the Month

Wild Photo of the Month by Eric Leboucher, Voiron, France

Wild Photo of the Month by Eric Leboucher, Voiron, France

Here’s to new beginnings in 2014! I truly hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday time with family and friends and that you returned home safely, rested and ready for 2014!

Breakaway pride cub by Morné Fouché

Breakaway pride cub by Morné Fouché

This is the first January in a few years’ time that I don’t have to mention how we got flooded during the month. I thank my lucky stars that all went smoothly and the drastically heavy rains chose to give us a breather this year. However, there were still two days during which we received some very good rains. The main Manyeleti River did not come down in flood, but the smaller Pungwe River was in flood for a few hours the one morning. It was a bit tricky for a 4×4 to go across, but it was doable. There was just one problem, though… We had two sets of guests that were driving sedans and wanted to leave early the morning. But there was no way that they would have been able to cross in their low vehicles. So we sat it out and gave the swollen river time to calm down. At 9:30 we decided that the smaller cars would now be able to be towed through. Devon and I towed the cars through the river in reverse, so as to prevent water pushing up into the engines and air filters. Both cars got across easily and with no hassle. The month of January was also quite hot, with some days where temperatures reached into the middle 40 °C.

Elephant female by Devon Becker

Elephant female by Devon Becker

The sightings have reached a point of almost becoming unreal during the past few months. Our January guests were once again treated to various lion, leopard, wild dog and cheetah sightings, to name but a few. I don’t want to speak to soon, but it seems as if there might be one or two cheetahs that are possibly considering making part of our traversing area their home, which would be awesome! The reason I am saying this is because we have been viewing them more regularly than in the past. So let’s hold thumbs for this! On one of the morning drives, our vehicles had just left the lodge when they bumped into the Breakaway pride of lions and all their cubs, feeding on a zebra kill on our airstrip. There is no better feeling than to start your drive with a bang, then knowing that for at least the next two days, feeding lions are going to be a stone’s throw away from the lodge!

This month we will be saying goodbye to Braam, who was our maintenance manager. His passion has always been to get involved with anti-poaching, so he is leaving us to pursue his dreams in that field. We would like to wish him good luck with his future endeavours. Anti-poaching is a very important part of the industry and I do hope that he will be happy with his new career path. We have not yet found a replacement for Braam, so you will have to stay tuned to next month’s report to see who gets to fill his shoes.

Trapcam photo of the month - Hyena drinking water

Trapcam photo of the month – Hyena drinking water

With the trapcam picture for this month, I thought that I would show you a night time shot. The trap cam has an infrared light with a motion detector. This is so sensitive that it can even pick up movement at night. We always get great day time shots of diurnal animals, but have not yet posted a night time shot of a nocturnal animal. Well, here we go! The trap cam picture of the month is of a hyena drinking water late at night. Hyenas have the reputation of mostly being scavengers. Well, that’s not true at all. Hyenas have loads of stamina and strength in their front shoulders. They also hunt down their own prey by running them down, until the prey cannot go anymore. Once they get hold of the prey, they would start tearing the animal into pieces. I know that this sounds very harsh, but when you come to think of it, it’s quick and relatively painless to the animal, unlike being suffocated over a couple of minutes. Lions are known to take up to 30 minutes to suffocate a buffalo. I hope you enjoy this trap cam photo of the month!

To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day, filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days! At the lodge, we had no birthdays this month.

I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for this month’s delicious recipe.

Mushroom Bruschetta

Mushroom Bruschetta

Mushroom Bruschetta

Ingredients

200g Button Mushrooms, sliced
½ Onion, diced
1 tbsp. Thyme
1 tbsp Garlic
2 tsp Butter
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
½ French Loaf
3 tbsp Basil Pesto
Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Method

Fry the onions in the butter and olive oil mixture, until they are just tender. Add the mushrooms, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms have cooked and all the liquid has evaporated.

Slice the French loaf into 1 cm slices, brush with garlic oil, then toast in the oven until it is golden.

Spread the basil pesto over the bruschetta, and spoon the mushroom mixture over this. Using a vegetable peeler, make parmesan shavings. Drop the shavings on top of the bruschetta. Add a rocket salad that has been dressed with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Serve and enjoy!

Well, that’s all from my side this month. Have a good one!

Wayne Dovey

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Manager’s Report December 2013

WILD PHOTO OF THE MONTH

Wild photo of the month - by by Eric Leboucher, Voiron, France

Wild photo of the month – by by Eric Leboucher, Voiron, France

Wow! The end of the year has come and gone. I truly hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year’s, filled with love and lots of laughter! On behalf of all the staff at Elephant Plains, I would like to wish you a fantastic 2014, with lots of happiness and good fortune. The saying goes “end it with a bang” and that’s exactly what we did. The year 2013 did end with a massive bang, with game viewing being off the charts. Our guests were spoiled with amazing sightings, including different lion prides, cheetahs, wild dogs and mating leopards… But not just one pair of mating leopards, some of our guests saw three different pairs mating. Rangers often work for years without seeing mating leopards and we got to see three different mating pairs in a just over a week’s time. What a privilege. We also had the wild dogs around the water hole in front of camp once again and a kill just behind our lodge one night. I truly hope that they will now stay around so that they can den somewhere within our traversing area. That would be so amazing. To top off a great month of game viewing, our guests got to see a very relaxed pangolin, feeding in the open. Normally a ranger would only ever get to see pangolins once or twice in their career. Imagine what a special sighting this was. Not only seeing a pangolin, but also being able to watch him move around while foraging.

African wild dogs by Dawie Jacobs

African wild dogs by Dawie Jacobs

With all the rain, the vegetation has turned into a wall of greenery. The grass is long, the water holes are full and as a result, all the animals are in a great condition. With the baby boom we had last month, there are hundreds of little ones running around the bush, which in itself makes for great game viewing.

The lodge itself is also looking good. During winter time we water the grass to keep all the gardens up to standard. But in summer, all the goodness contained in the rain water just makes such a big difference, so the gardens are looking extra lovely. The longest day and shortest night has come to pass on the 22nd of this month, meaning that we now slowly start the countdown back towards the shortest day and the longest night in June. But there are still lots of long summer days left to enjoy and we have plenty of fun to look forward to.

Tersia's Creative Christmas Trees

Tersia’s Creative Christmas Trees

Christmas day started off overcast and cool, but by nine the sun came out in full force. The day itself was amazing. Our guests had a relaxed day around the pool, with Walter pouring cocktails for them. Although the humidity was very high during afternoon drive, it was the first Christmas in years that it did not rain. Christmas dinner was a festive affair. Tersia was in charge of the decorations and the whole area was transformed into a lovely pallet of reds, whites and silver. Chef Annika made sure that the dinner was a highlight of the evening and her mini Christmas cakes were to die for. I am sure that all the guests that spent Christmas with us would agree. For New Year’s, Lanette was responsible for the decorations. Candles and fairy lights created a lovely ambiance. The braai menu was delicious and our guests celebrated until well after midnight!

Young Fourway pride males by Dawie Jacobs

Young Fourway pride males by Dawie Jacobs

During December, we welcomed a new member of staff. Amanda Truter joined our team and will be doing accounts, as well as relief reservations. With her bright, bubbly personality she has settled right in and we hope that she will enjoy working with us. I sometimes wonder if wanting to work in the African bush is in your DNA… Some of our staff members have been working out here for more than thirteen years, with no urge to return to city life. Yet there are some that would not be able to stay in the bush for more than a week. Some people need to feed off of the rush of a city, or as they call it, the “buzz”. But for bush people, the only buzz that we enjoy isn’t man made. It’s the roar of a lion on a cold winter’s night, the excited begging ritual of the spotted hyena and the low, deep grunts of a leopard on your lawn at one ‘o clock in the morning. No matter how many times you hear these night time sounds, they will always give you goose bumps, confirming why you belong out here and not over there. So it just goes to show, whether it’s in our DNA or not, we all have our differences in life and that’s what makes life just that much more interesting.

To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days! To have your birthday close to Christmas must be great and hopefully you all received gifts twice this month! We had two birthdays this month, one being the youngest staff member at the lodge. Who am I talking about? Well, Martin Swart of course. He is really a sweet little guy and when he’s around us in the office, he always has a smile on his face. The big man celebrated his first birthday on the 11th of December and we were treated to a Jack Russell birthday cake. On the 24th Linah celebrated her birthday. She is one of the cleaning ladies who make sure that the rooms are spotlessly clean and what a great job she does! I hope both of you had fantastic birthdays.

Trapcam photo - zebra and impala at Kraaines

Trapcam photo – zebra and impala at Kraaines

This month’s trap cam picture was taken at Kraaines, one of the waterholes just west of our airstrip. In the early hours of the morning, we normally find some of the herbivores resting on the airstrip next to this waterhole, as they would often spend the night on the airstrip. Because the airstrip is a large open area, it is a safe haven for these animals. Sleeping in an open area, the animals have a 360° view of their surrounds and would be able to see when a predator tries to sneak up to them from the tree line. Once the predator has been spotted, they would all sound the alarm, alerting each other of the predator. So this month’s photo is of some impalas and zebras coming off the airstrip to have their first drink of water after the long night.

I now hand you over to our Head Chef, Linda van Heerden, for her delicious recipe of the month. These cupcakes are evil, as it’s really hard to stop eating them once you’ve started. I know that a lot of guests have asked for this recipe, so here it is.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

(Makes 24)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • Salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups oil
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Sauce

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup syrup
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups cream
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups cream (extra)

Icing

  • 350g icing
  • 100g butter
  • 45ml milk

Line a muffin tray with cupcake cups. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then mix all the wet ingredients and then combine the two mixtures. Divide the mixture into the cupcake cups, and bake for 15-20mins, until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool.

For the sauce

Bring all the ingredients to the boil until it starts to thicken slightly. It should be a dark, caramel colour. It will take around 15 – 20mins. Beat the 1 ½ cups of cream until stiff, and then spoon half of the sauce into this and beat until it is all incorporated. Keep the other half of the caramel sauce for garnishing later on. The caramel cream should be stiff.

For the icing

Beat the butter for around 2 mins, then add the icing, and beat until combined, adding a little milk at a time and add the vanilla. Spoon into a piping bag.

To assemble

Using an apple corer, make a hole in each cupcake and fill the cavities with the caramel cream. Then pipe the icing over the top, covering the hole that was made. Use the extra sauce to drizzle over the top of the cupcakes.

Serve and enjoy!

Well, that’s all from my side this month and for the year 2013. We are looking forward to a brilliant 2014. Have a good one!

Wayne Dovey

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