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

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

 

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

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

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

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