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Newsletter Summer 2004
Well, here we are, already into 2004!
I hope that your festive season was as much fun as ours was here at Makanyane. Old Year's Eve was particularly memorable; guests at the lodge were divided into two teams and given an African treasure hunt while out on game drive.
This involved, apart from game viewing, all sorts of exciting activities in the bush while looking for clues and certain objects. Guests who had arrived a few days earlier from the heart of London and flinched at every moth that flew past, could be forgiven for wondering what on earth they were doing in the middle of the African bush wading in a muddy waterhole looking for a well hidden clue while some bemused elephants looked on. After an exciting walk, a very wet river crossing and, of course, a bok drol spoeg competition (well done Joshua) the event was declared a tie. Congratulations to both teams, particularly for coming back with all their team members in one piece!
Later staff and guests got together for a fantastic party, which finally ended with everyone who had not retired to bed by the wee hours floating in the swimming pool.
How wine flies when you are having fun! The wine cellar has been a very popular place, with guests taking full advantage of our range of delicious wines. Our wines are carefully selected by our wonderful wine guru, Ingrid. Ingrid lives right in the heart of South Africa's wine country, where she is ideally situated to get hold of the best wines as they become available. She has just sent us a whole new consignment of wine to fill up our wine cellar again, so now there are even more delicious wines to choose from.
Outside the lodge, summer is in full swing. Anyone who arrives here at the moment might think that they had wandered onto a Walt Disney film set rather than into the African bush. The plains outside the lodge are carpeted with rich green grass, splashed every now and then with clumps of bright yellow flowers. Young impala, wildebeest and zebra frolic across the plains, disturbing clouds of multicoloured butterflies. Rainbow-coloured bee-eaters dodge between the elephants feeding out on the plains, while the warthogs with their tiny youngsters forage for any tasty roots the elephants may have exposed.
The only slightly jarring element might be the lions, lazily snoozing under a tree, watching all the activity with a hungry glint in their sleepy eyes.
The elephants have been very much in evidence; the lush grass growing in the camp has kept them munching their way between the suites, much to the delight of the guests, who often get to enjoy the sight from their beds in the morning.
The migrant birds are all here now and the river valley is echoing with the trilling call of the Woodlands kingfisher, Madikwe's very own soundtrack to summer. Other visitors include the Striped and Jacobin's cuckoo and the Double-banded and Bronze-winged coursers, as well as Yellow-billed kites and Wahlberg's eagles.
Out on drive things have been very exciting, Philip (our head guide) has this report:
GUIDE'S REPORT FOR DECEMBER 2003
The month started off very hot and relatively humid, normal for this time of year, with temperatures reaching as high as 42 Degrees Celsius! Towards the end of December much needed rain that we, not to mention the bush and the animals, have all been waiting for, finally arrived. We had a few small and very short storms, and then finally a very welcome downpour that lasted the better part of a night. 55 mm fell overnight and another 9 mm during the next day. The result was almost immediately obvious, the grass shooting out lush and green in response to the rain.
It is not just the bush that appreciated the rain, the Red hartebeest, impala, wildebeest and zebra have all started to drop their young and desperately need the nutritious grass shoots. We were not the only ones waiting for this yearly event; the lions, wild dogs and cheetahs have also been waiting for this time of year, and now food is more readily available to them. We watched the local four male cheetahs that roam the Madikwe Plains make a meal out of one of the first young zebra. They caught the youngster on the northern side of the plains and, after regaining their breath, they started feeding with a couple of spectators apart from ourselves, the ever present Black Back jackal were lurking in constant attendance, hoping for scraps from the meal.
The Kwena Youngsters (one the resident groups of lions, two young males and two young females) are spending more and more time away from their mother (the lovely Moselasela Female). They finally seem to have got the hang of hunting, although sometimes their choice leaves a lot to be desired. Recently we watched them try to make a meal out of a female baboon. The guests in camp had just arrived for afternoon tea, but had no time to enjoy it. While I was preparing the game drive vehicle for drive outside the lodge, one of the female lions came racing by, in hot pursuit of an impala. Urged on by myself, and much to the horror of the chef, the guests dropped their tea and snacks and raced to the vehicle. We followed the lioness in the direction she had taken and found her under a bush, where she had caught a baboon. The rest of the pride joined the young female and, with some disgust, watched her play with her kill. Even after squabbling amongst themselves for possession of the kill, not one of them actually did any feeding, evidently baboons are never going to be one of their favourite prey items!
Speaking of the Kwena youngsters, they, along with their mother, are still scrapping with the Dipelo pride on the western bank of the river. We have seen several encounters between the two prides, the Kwena's relative inexperience and youth usually means that they give way to the Dipelos, but they should soon gain enough confidence to claim that area for their own.
All of this has merely been a distraction for the Moselasela Female, who has been very busy mating with one of the Batia Brothers. We are hoping for cubs soon!
The Batias (the dominant pair of male lions in this area of the reserve) have also spent much of their time near the lodge, providing excellent viewing. Recently a small herd of some fifteen buffalo have take up residence near the lodge; they are regularly seen drinking at the waterhole near the lodge. Madikwe's two packs of wild dogs are still doing well; the youngsters are now almost fully grown and are moving everywhere with their parents. The large amount of elephant in the area has meant that, on more than one occasion, dinner has had to be delayed because a vehicle has been unable to get back across the river while the elephants enjoy a long drink or swim.
With the high temperatures during this month the elephants have been visiting the river often. During one of these visits disaster struck when a tiny young elephant fell into the river and was unable to get out. Needless to say the mother and the rest of the herd were very upset and highly agitated, the trumpeting being heard from the lodge. Garth went to investigate and found the little one struggling to get out, exhausted and close to drowning. Dodging the irate adults, Garth jumped into the river where he swam pushing, pulling and generally bullying the little one to a ravine where it could be pushed out. The calf, after some urging, rejoined the herd and although we are sure that they appreciated the helping hand, they did not stop to show it, rather mock charged Garth several times.
What some people will do for a swim!!!!
In 22 drives over December, the following numbers of sightings were enjoyed:
Elephant: 40 sightings, Buffalo: 7 sightings, White Rhino: 22 sightings, Black Rhino: 2 sightings, Lion: 25 sightings, Leopard: 2 sightings, Cheetah: 5 sightings, Wild Dog: 4 sighting, Brown Hyeana: 6 sightings, Spotted Hyeana: 5 sightings.
Meanwhile back at the lodge, in the kitchen Dave and Bertus are taking advantage of the fantastic summer produce at this time of year to create new delicious menus. Dave's Roasted red pepper and tomato gazpacho is brilliant, their Thai salad of Crispy Duck and green Mango is out of this world. Enjoyed with a 2003 bottle of Nitida Sauvignon Blanc, this creates the perfect summer evening meal, particularly with the lions roaring in the background. Follow this with a desert of Papaya and Banana Napoleon and you will never want to leave here. Ever.
Sound good? What are you waiting for? Give us a call and make that booking!