01 DECEMBER 2006

Happy 2007 to everybody. Another month and another year has gone by. December turned out to be a good one for all of us out here in the bush. December brought good rains to the bush, everything has suddenly sprung back to life.
The rains have washed all he dust away, the trees and grasses are as green as ever, the wild flowers adding to this colour spectacle.

The abundance of rain and lush vegetation has brought about the arrival of baby wildbeest, hartebeest, impala and springbok lambs.

The elephants and buffalo are thriving on the lush vegetation and the newly created water holes all over the park. This in turn is very good for the ecosystem as the major water holes are being rested and so there is not that great a pressure on the water holes and surrounding areas. The predators are also enjoying the new additions to the general game as this provides them with an abundance of food supply for the next couple of months. All in all the rains have brought about an abundance of life and activity.

The new Wild Dogs have settled in very well, with them spending their time roaming the park and exploring their new surroundings.

We look forward to seeing everybody in the new year

01 NOVEMBER 2006

We are now well into the summer, with a noticeable increase in average temperatures and best of all the summer rains have started. The bush has changed appearance into lush green and the bush flowers all adding to the summer colour mosaic. Game viewing is changing pattern as the rains have formed impromptu waterholes all over.

One of these mud pools proved joy for the elephants as they splashed and sprayed mud all over themselves, but proved to be a headache for the road maintenance team as the mud pool happened to be next to one of roads and the hole in the road had now become much larger than usual.

Nature also put on a surprise event one morning as we were sitting at one of the bigger dams viewing lions when the small herd of zebra approached the waterhole. Little did the Zebra know that they had already been seen by a lioness? A few seconds later she was off and the zebra all scattered in different directions, one or two distress calls and then silence. The rest of the lions headed into the thicket Shaun and K.K proceeded to follow the lions, about 100metres into the thicket, we found the lioness and the rest of the pride all having a good brawl over who will take first pickings on the zebra.

The rains are starting and life is starting a new for all the new born impala, springbok, and Red Hartebeest to name but only a few of the new arrivals for the summer.

Looking forward to seeing everybody soon

Philip Hattingh & Shaun Holmwood

01 OCTOBER 2006

Summer is here, the temperatures are rising and on a few occasions it has been in the 30 -35 C, with the humidity also nice and high. Every so often the clouds have been building up especially after a few days of high temperatures and humidity, but as quick as the clouds build up they disappeared, leaving us wondering when the first rains for the season will fall!

While the rains have not yet arrived it has been good for animal viewing, the waterholes are becoming more and more productive and great for viewing close to sunset! This was the case one late afternoon about 30 min before sunset, we decided to go and have a look at West Pan (one of the waterholes on the western side of the Madikwe Plains). There was no general game around, and then we saw the cats, 4 young lions (1 male and three females of about 2.5 years old) taking in the surroundings while lazing under a tree. This was a good find as the guests had not yet seen lions. As we sat there viewing them some more visitors to the waterhole came, 2 rhinos approached from the opposite side and went down to have a drink. The lions looked at them with no interest at first, until the rhinos decided to leave, their path………. straight past the lions! At first the lions ran off but then their lack of experience showed, they circled the rhinos and charged in, the rhinos just made a few turns and in turn charged the lions, this had the desired effect, lions running off with their tails between their legs. Makes one wonder, who is really the king of the jungle?

The elephants have also been spending a lot of time around the waterholes, trying to cool off late afternoons. The buffalo viewing has been great around Mateya and the herds are starting to relax with the vehicles.

We also had a new member of staff joining the rangers/trackers team last month, we welcome Shaun Holmwood and hope he will enjoy Mateya and Madikwe Game Reserve.
Philip Hattingh
Head Ranger

01 SEPTEMBER 2006

At last, spring has arrived in full force with the first trees already starting to flower, Blue Thorns, Smelly Shepard’s Trees and the Wild Pears; they do make the bush seem alive again, after what seemed to be a very long winter! The temperatures have also risen up into the high 20’s and low 30’s, which makes the game drives much more tolerant in the early mornings, we are still waiting for the first rain, although we have had a drizzle a few weeks back, just enough to settle the dust for a couple of hours.

The game drives in general have been very good. We were fortunate to see two 8 month old leopard cubs on an afternoon game drive and we viewed them for about 10 min and decided to leave them, as the mother was not around we did not want to put the cubs under to much stress. Then, the high light of the month was that a male leopard made a kill, a wildebeest at one of the waterholes in front of the lodge, Sakkie was lucky to have seen and heard the male leopard eating the wildebeest in a Tamboti tree, so in the end this month has been very good for leopards, they are definitely starting to relax and we are getting more and more good sightings of them.

We also had two different lion sightings that stood out from the normal ones. Both these prides were feeding on two different giraffe kills and were about 10 km apart. The Dipelo pride with the two new cubs were on one kill with the Batia Brothers (two dominant, 14 year old, male lions) at the eastern side of Madikwe close to the Groot Marico River, and the Kwena Males were in the middle of the park on their kill for about two weeks, great viewing!

The elephant and buffalo sighting were also good but unfortunately the buffalo did not frequent the Mateya water hole as much as the previous months.

We had very good news this month; the park had received a number of new animals, wildebeest, impala and kudu. This will definitely have a good impact on the general population of the park and not to mention the lions! The best of all was that the first members of the new wild dog pack have arrived in the park, they were translocated from a reserve in the Limpopo province and are currently in the boma to get them settled in, we are still awaiting 4-6 wild dogs that will make the rest of the new pack.

We hope to see you here and to share our world with you.

Philip Hattingh
Head Ranger

01 AUGUST 2006

It was 15:30 when the Land Cruiser’s wheels started turning that afternoon. We were in search of a pride of lions that hasn’t been seen for a couple of days.

The search started of on Tree squirrel road, heading in an easterly direction. When we got to the junction with Airstrip road, K.K. (the tracker) lifted his hand as a sign to stop. He got of and showed me the spoor (tracks) of where three lions have crossed the road. We the decided that K.K. will follow the tracks while I will drive around to see if the lions came out on the other side of the block. About seven minutes later K.K. called me on the radio with the good news. It was three lionesses. The sun was going down and we left o go and enjoy the view while having something cold in the hand.

After we quenched our thirst we started heading back to the lodge. As we came around a corner three honey badgers were trotting along the road. I nearly jumped out of the vehicle of excitement as they are my favorite animals. They then went off the road and I killed the engine to hear them growling as they disappeared into the darkness.

Again I started the Cruiser and carried on down the road when in the distance of the spotlight we saw something heading towards the vehicle. In amazement we discovered it was an aardvark in search of some termites. When it got close to us it changed direction and dashed off into the bush.

Just as we thought it can’t get any better K.K. spotted a leopard in a tree feeding on an impala it had the previous night. Adolph and Philip found the same leopard on the morning drive, but ran away when a brown hyena pitched up to have a share in the meal. Luckily for the spotted cat t had dragged the kill into a tamboti tree. We couldn’t see the illusive cat very well, but to hear the crushing of bone in pitch darkness surely made up for it!

The perfect end to an evening drive was the first glass of red wine everyone enjoyed back at the lodge.
Until next time.

Sakkie Faurie
(Field guide)

01 JULY 2006

With July already gone we are getting ready for August and her winds. This past month started of with some really cold spells which catered for chilly morning drives and cold evenings. Hence the reason the drives only started out a bit later in the mornings and got back at about 19H00 in the evenings, and luckily the animals also agreed with this, as with humans they too feel the cold and only started to get active around sunrise.

With the water drying up in the bush we have had very good sightings around the lodge and especially at the Mateya water hole, which is situated in front of the Mateya Safari Lodge. Elephants frequently came down to drink at around sunset, and a female rhino with a calf also came in for a drink after sunset, keeping us all on our toes to have a good look at the water hole after dark. The buffalo really seemed to have made the water hole a definite stop on their never ending journey from north to south and vice versa, and if not at the main water hole then at the secondary pan to the east of rooms 4 and 5. Shai Goodman the General Manager that has been in the Park for close to five years saw a herd of about 200 buffalo in the front of the lodge, the biggest herd he has seen thus far in Madikwe!!!

To top all these sightings in front of the lodge, we started a morning drive in search yet again of a pride of lions (consisting of three females and two 6 month old cubs) which have managed to elude us for the previous two drives. A half an hour into the drive we picked up the track and started the tracking and searching for them, and then the call came in from the lodge, “there are lions at the water hole”! Well, needless to say, we made our way back to the lodge and spend a good hour and a half with them.

We also had very good sightings in the park from lions on a Wildebeest kill to a female leopard who was very interested in a herd of Impalas, she was not successful and the Impalas got the upper hand and dashed off into the night.

The bush in general is very dry but looking good after the high rainfall from the previous rain season, this resulted in very high fuel loads (dead grass) for bush fires and to prevent run away fires North West Parks Board has started to burn fire breaks and block burns to decrease this fuel. The blocks (areas between roads) that have been burned have started to recuperate and the new grass shots are coming out rapidly, providing the grazers with nice green grass in the middle of winter.

We hope to see you here and to share the African experience with you.

Philip Hattingh
Head Ranger

01 JUNE 2006

We were driving along one morning, when a report came in that a leopard has been spotted with a warthog kill at one of the pans. We decided to go back to the area that evening to see if we could find the illusive spotted cat of the bush. After following the drag mark of the warthog she caught, we eventually found the kill, but without any leopard. We decided to go and have sundowner drinks and then return later.

After sundown we returned and found that the kill was still untouched. Two hours passed and still nothing. By this time it was pitch dark, so we drove in to where the kill was, and to our surprise it was gone. The leopard had taken the kill away under our noses.

We admitted defeat and started making our way back to camp.

This incident just made me realize again how unpredictable nature can be and how much luck there is involved in doing this job.

Until next time.

Sakkie Faurie
(Field guide)

01 MAY 2006

Well, another month has passed and one can clearly feel the drop in temperature, especially when going out on game drives early in the morning. The average is about five degrees Celsius and the cold factor when driving, help it along to feel even colder.

Sightings were good as usual, with some exellent lion sightings. We were also lucky enough to go out one morning and find two different groups of black rhino and about five minutes apart from each other. As we all know black rhino is probably the animal with the shortest of tempers and this was clearly shown when the one bull came crossing the road in front of us.
Elephants were also a regular sighting and we were visited by a pack of four wild dogs at the lodge one morning as we returned from a game drive.

The new moon started this month and it was a perfect time to do some star gazing. This time of year is extra special, because you are able to see both scorpio as well as orion at the same time in the night sky.

That`s all for this month, and lets see what surprises the bush hold for us this coming month.

Greetings
Sakkie Faurie
(Field guide)

01 APRIL 2006

Little different to our usual game drive hours, we left camp at 14:30, a little earlier than usual. The reason for this was we had Graham Kerney, a wildlife artist and Richard van Ryneveld, a reporter doing an article about Graham. They wanted to get out as early as possible to get the best light for photos, which Graham will turn into beautiful paintings later on.

The drive started of good when we got a heard of elephants at Tsukudu dam. We moved on to go and look for signs of the leopard we saw a month earlier in the north eastern part of the reserve. We got some tracks that were heading west and decided to go and have a look at Tholo dam. No luck on any leopard tracks, but the sun was starting to set, so we decided the dam wall would be the perfect spot to take some sun downer picture from, as it is elevated and also has a very nice view of the surrounding landscapes.

After sunset we packed up and made our way back. About two hundred meters away Adolph suddenly raised his hand, as a gesture to stop the vehicle. In the last bit of sunlight left you could see the outlines of the scaly anteater. We all jumped off the vehicle and started taking pictures of this, very rarely seen mammal. I called it in on safari channel, but all the other stations were too far away to join in on the lucky find. After twenty minutes of cameras clicking away we got back into the vehicle to leave the Pangolin to carry on with its daily search for ants and termites. Until next month, hope you all shared our excitement, and are looking forward to more bush news. Bush greetings

Sakkie

(Field guide)

01 MARCH 2006

Sightings were great this month, probably the best so far for this year. To start off with, one afternoon we went out on drive when we got a big herd
of elephants about five minutes into the drive. We stopped and suddenly we were surrounded by the herd. One calf, probably just over a year old, came out of the sickle bush thicket, onto the two track and headed straight towards the vehicle. Three to four meters away, it shook its head, trumpeted as only a calf could, and scattered towards its mother for cover. White rhino was the 2`nd of the big five. As we came around a bend Adolph spotted a bull and a cow with a calf about 75 meters away. We decided to walk closer to get a better view of the animals, as the area we were in you could not go off-road. Twenty meters away we stopped and the guests could get some nice pictures without disturbing the animals.

As the sun was starting to set Adolph stopped me and pointed out fresh lion tracks. The tracks carried on down the road and when we got to a nice open clearing we stopped for sundowners. Everyone enjoyed the sunset with something cold down the throat and some snacks prepared by the kitchen for us. Back on the Land Cruiser, as we were about to carry on, the lions roared close to us. I switched to 4wd and dashed off following the roar. The Batia brothers and a female were under a camel thorn tree when we found them. Light was bad for photos, but being this close to lions when they roar certainly made up for it. Everything inside you trembles when three lions roar at the same time. Still with the lions, I heard over the two way radio that someone has spotted a leopard not to far from where we were.

The sun was gone by now and we had to find our way through the tall grass, as quickly as possible. The young leopard was crouched on the ground and visual was not that great.

It was past eight by now and we haven’t made contact with the lodge to tell them that we were going to be late. Just as I was about to call the lodge two lionesses popped out on the side of the road. Ahead was a heard of wildebeest and we could see that these two meant business. Close to the wildebeest I switched the Land Cruiser off as well as the lights. Minutes later we heard the wildebeest running. As we switched the lights back on we saw the last dash of a failed attempt by the two lionesses.

The next morning we headed straight to were we saw the leopard the previous night, and guess what; there she was in a dead tree, playing around as if we weren’t even there. Some beautiful pictures were taken.

Just to round everything off, that afternoon we spotted a big herd of buffalo, and the big five list were completed.

Lady luck was definitely on our side and I hope that it would continue throughout the year.

Sakkie
(Field guide)