01 DECEMBER 2007

The last month of 2007 really flew past, and the summer season is in full swing. The good rain so far has transformed the African Bush into beautiful shades of green. The temperature was comfortable with a few days where the mercury rose up into the forties! Game drives have been leaving the lodge at 05H15 in the morning and around 17H00 in the afternoons.
The game viewing has been good with a few sightings standing out, this is mainly due to the excellent condition of the Madikwe Plains. The Plains have been transformed from a barren and dusty area to a green flourishing paradise, which the antelope species find hard to resist, especially Zebra, Wildebeest, Eland, Springbuck, Gemsbok and Impala.
The plains are looking so good with the green grass and Wild Hibiscus flowers, that one can easily forget that this is the same harsh Africa of a few months ago. December also marked the arrival of the young ones to Madikwe, Zebra and Wildebeest calf’s started being born around the 15th of the month! This truly is a sight, while the adults are busy feeding and all is calm the young are up to their normal silly tricks, playing tag and stretching those new founded legs! It is not just the general game that has found this area to be a magnet but also the predators. We have been seeing more Cheetah sighting in and around the plains, and ofcourse the Lions have been there as well. Three males killed a Wildebeest on the last day of the month, makes one think, is it only humans that celebrate the New Year??
The one sighting that was out of the ordinary happened one late afternoon at a mud wallow that has filled up after the rains. Edward (one of the trackers) and I were driving down a two track leading to the wallow, not expecting anything to be there. Were we wrong, we found a big herd of buffalo, but not only drinking, but walking into the water to belly height. This was not good enough, 3 White Rhinos also joined them in the water. While this thirsty group was drinking something scared them off and they made a hasty retreat out of the water to the tree line. We were still wondering what happened, when, there it was, a Black Rhino, and not at all shy of us, she came down to the water and drank, she must have stayed there for about 10 minutes, giving us a valuable and rare opportunity to view her and take as many photos of her as we liked. Then she got a sniff of something and her whole attitude to life changed!!! Head held up sniffing the wind and hopping around to see who or what was there! Out of nowhere came a herd of elephants, straight down to the water, not stopping for anything or anyone. The Black Rhino stayed close by and just viewed the Elephant from a distance! At one glance one could see, Buffalo, White Rhino, Black Rhino and Elephant, all around the same water hole, all there to enjoy happy hour at this now popular water hole.

All in all it has been a very good month with very good sightings, and looking back at 2007 it has been very productive. From the Rangers and Trackers we thank you for your support and wish all a happy new year. Hope to see you return to our paradise and to those who have not been here, come and enjoy Africa with us!!

Philip Hattingh
Head Ranger

01 OCTOBER 2007

Greetings to all the City slickers out there.

November has arrived and trust us, summer is here in full swing. The hot days with the distinct calls of the frogs at night, the cicadas, are all reminding us of the season we are in now. Rainfall looking good, with the occurrence of the odd thunderstorm or two on almost a weekly basis. The bush is recovering nicely from the drought and everything is green and a lot denser then it was two months ago. This has made the game viewing slightly more challenging as the rains have put sporadic waterholes all over the bush and the vegetation providing more shelter for the animals now.
We are all awaiting the arrival of the impala and springbok lambs for the season, as the visible signs are there that the females are soon to give birth.
The wild dogs are settling nicely and the two packs have established themselves as one pack in the east of the reserve and one in the west.
All in all looks like a good season on the way.
Looking forward to seeing you all out here in the bush soon

Mateya Rangers and trackers.

01 SEPTEMBER 2007

“What’s that smell?” I say to my guests it’s the smell of the shepherds tree.
“Whats that sound?” I say to my guests that is the sound of frogs and insects calling.
These are sounds all to familiar with the arrival of the new summer season. Everything is just waiting for that first rain to settle all the winter dust, and quench the dry lands thirst. The bush is coming alive with colour as the individual tree species are sprouting new green shoot and blossoms one by one, one can almost note the change on a daily basis now.
What an exciting game viewing month we had in September. Still have to figure out if the Rangers were more excited or if the guests were more excited, there were some awesome sightings none the less.

3 September 2007. My six guests and myself are on the main deck having high tea before we head out for their very first African safari. One can imagine how excited they were. “So what can we expect to see on our first drive?”. I answer that anything is possible at anytime, and one never knows what to expect next out there.
Lots of plains game etc to start off. We stop for a sundowner and while watching the sun disappear below the horizon we see a spotted hyena who decided to check in and watch what us humans do once the sun goes down. After packing up and carrying on for the rest of the drive for the evening we try and locate lions which we heard calling not to far from the sundowner spot. We find the two lazy cats in the middle of the road, close to the river. They were going nowhere, gave us a good roar next to our vehicle and proceeded to sleep further. On our way back to the lodge for one of the infamous “light dinners” we see an aardvark, genet etc. We come around a sharp bend in the road only to find a female leopard just sniffing around and minding her own business as if we don’t exist, walked straight past us and headed east, so I did the same and followed at a comfortable distance for her. 1,5kms later and we were still following, she heads off into the bush and we follow some more. We lose her, we find her, we lose her, we find her again. When we found her again we noticed that she is hunting and had laid eyes on a springhare in the clearing in front of her. With a quick sprint and pounce she had the hare in her grasp and she dashed off to the nearest tree to enjoy her catch of the day. She could not have positioned herself any better for us to sit and watch how she dines on “Spring Hare”. We sat with her until she finished her meal and followed her further into the bush where she picked a nice open area to lie down and groom herself. Needless to say we got back to the lodge 2 hours late for dinner (sorry Chef), but it was worth every minute. Talk about having “first time luck” on my vehicle that day. The next 5 nights were filled with all sorts of interesting sightings, all in all a most memorable first time safari. I take the guests to the airstrip for their departing flight back to Johannesburg, but picking up four new arrivals at the same time. My 6 guests blab everything to the four new arrivals about their safari experience and cant stop talking about the leopard sighting on their first night.
That afternoon I set out on drive with my four new guests ( also first time in Africa and first safari). About 2 hrs into the drive we had just left a rhino sighting when one of my guests said “go back, something’s happening here on the right” I hit the brakes and reversed, as I stopped we saw how a lioness had just got a Gemsbok in her grasp. In my excitement going off the road to get closer to the action, I was horribly surprised by a big bump (happened to be one of those well hidden aardvark holes under the long grass). Nobody on the vehicle really worried about the bump as we were all so taken back by the action-taking place in front of us. The lioness struggled for about ten minutes to eventually get the 400 pound animal to the ground. When all seemed under control for the lioness, the next moment it was lions all over the place, the other 9 pride members were in the bush all around us watching mom bring dinner home for them. We sat and watched how a pride of 10 hungry – very hungry lions made short work of 400 pounds of animal. It is times like this when the ranger is more than happy he took his camera along too. We returned back to lodge very very excited about the findings of our first drive. Next morning it was requested by the guests if we could go back to see what remains of the animal after a kill. Needless to say when we got to the crime scene there was nothing but one or two chewed bones and a patch of blood on the ground. These were the only visible sins that something was killed and eaten there, hyeanas made short work of the rest of the carcass through the course of the night. The beginners luck continued with the eventual find of the leopard on their last evening drive. Next day it was back to the airstrip to drop off these four and pickup four new guests. Once again the bush telegraph did its thing, the four check outs, told the four check ins about their experience, which made the four new guests way above excited, and in true fashion, saying “ we want that for our first time too”. Talk about working under pressure. Four new guests, first time in Africa, first game drive – lions, spotted and Brown hyeanas and yes, a leopard on the way back to lodge but no kill. Next morning – one lioness on a wildebeest, that afternoon 5 or 6 lions on a kudu kill.
All in all September was a really good month – we the Rangers and trackers had felt like we had won the lottery or something in September.
It was serious case of beginners luck for the guests on their first safari experiences in Africa.

01 AUGUST 2007

At last, the cold spell that has been gripping us for what felt so long seems to be at an end. Adolf, one of our trackers, has even been so brave as to venture out on drive wearing shorts, must be a sign that it is warming up. We have been going out a bit earlier in the mornings and later in the afternoons, the animals like humans adapt their patterns according to the temperatures. Makes one think……

Game viewing this month has been excellent, from seeing the new Wild Dog litter to the internal battles that the lions have been having, in particular the old male trying desperately to hold on to their territory.
We have been so fortunate, that on one morning drive we started out with the hopes and prayers that we would be successful in finding the adult Wild Dogs. The wild dog pack has not been seen on a regular basis as they have been denning in the Dwarsberg mountain region of Madikwe, an area not accessible to game drive vehicles, as if the Wild Dogs knew we would not be able to disturb them there. Only the few lucky ones had glimpses of them coming down or going up the mountain.
We had been driving for about 45 minutes and bumped (well, not literally) into a magnificent Black Rhino bull, on a normal day he would have been off into the distance as these animals are very shy and skittish. Not this one he trotted across the road right in front of us and then turned to present his profile and later a profile as if to say, ‘have a good look this will not happen again’ , and then continued to feed on a nearby bush. We left him be, as not to disturb him in his daily routine and made our way at a slow pace down the bumpy road. Little did we know that just around the next corner a pleasant surprise was waiting for us in the form of a Spotted Hyena and Brown Hyena. The Spotted Hyena was trying to feed from what looked like the left over’s from a lion kill, but to no avail, the Brown Hyena was not going to let this happen. He ran circles around the Spotty and this in turn convinced the Spotty to move away with the kill and try and get rid of the Brown Hyena. Talk about eating on the move, later the Spotty found a rocky outcrop where he was able to eat in piece, the Brown Hyena gave up the chase and probably figured out that this left over was not worth the effort, all of this for a bunch of bones?
The morning so far seemed to be going well, we almost forgot about the Wild Dogs, ALMOST!!!! Just down the road, we were still chatting about the Hyena’s, Adolf nearly jumped off the tracker seat, and there they were, miles from where we expected to find them, trotting out of the bush! We just sat there in amazement, we FOUND the Wild Dogs, and with joy on our faces we watched as they emerged out of a thicket, none of us were ready for the next sight…….. The Wild Dogs, normally a pack of 8 Dogs, just kept multiplying, first 7 adults and then more and more kept emerging….to our amazement, 10 puppy appeared out of nowhere. What an experience, to be the first game drive to see and confirm that there are 10 puppies and to see them trotting down the road! We followed them for 10-20 min and then let them be, as the puppies have never seen a vehicle before and we did not want to scare them too much on their first day out in the big world.
On to the lions, all the prides in the east of Madikwe are still in array, as the dominance of the two old boys are being broken down by the ever hot pursuit of the younger males. The old boys are running wild and by the looks of things have given up the north-east of their old territory, and are content by having held on to a pride in the far south of the park. Every so often they still venture into the north but only for a few brief hours and then returning to the safety of the south.
The old boys have had a good and long life and now it seems that all of that is over, they have left their legacy behind in the form of some beautiful off spring that will be viewed by many and leave future guests wondering ‘If these are the young, how gorgeous the fathers must have been?’

Warm Regards,
Philip, Shaun, Adolf, Richard and Edward

01 JULY 2007

Greetings to everyone out there in the concrete jungles of the world.

August has arrived and indeed living up to its name for been the windy month of the year. Spring is just around the corner, and hopefully be the start of a good rain season to break the current drought we are experiencing. The dry times are however showing some interesting movements from the animals. The water hole in front of the lodge is however giving us great enjoyment, with the lions, elephants, rhino and the general game all making regular visits to quench their thirst. There is a leopard that has moved into the area of the lodge recently also making use of the water hole but as usual leaving the fresh signs of his presence but living up to his elusive nature.

The wild dog’s daily routine of leaving the den site up in the mountains to vlei pan for the late afternoon drink and the late afternoon hunt is becoming quite a regular activity now. This only means that they have a few young hungry growing pups to look after at the den site up in the mountains. We are all waiting patiently for the Wild dogs to introduce their new family members to the Madikwe fraternity.

The drought and the limited water on the reserve is keeping the lion prides fairly mobile and not staying in the same area for very long.

Regards,

Mateya Rangers & Trackers

01 JUNE 2007

This month the temperatures really drop very low and with the snow that came down in Johannesburg it did not help us over here in the bush with the cold front that even caught up to us here in the North West Province on the Botswana border. Needless to say that the animals also felt the cold and only started to move later in the morning and earlier in the afternoons, never the less we had a good game viewing month.

The lions have been moving around a lot this month and some of the prides even surprised us by moving well out of their normal territory and displacing the other prides. This had a roll a coaster effect on all the prides in the eastern sector of the park, with all of them adapting to the changes in territory well. The main reason for the move by the prides were prey related, the Mosela Selas had to move wets away from the river and to the north of the Madikwe Plains, as the prey species were more prolific over there. This in turn pushed the Dipelo Pride more to the south of their normal territory and closer to Mateya, they also have been spending time around the lodge and made a few kills in front of the lodge close to the water holes. In between the prides pushing one another around there is also a female lion with 4 cubs, she is doing a great job at keeping the cubs away from the other prides and making kills between the prides without them even knowing about it. There is also 2 younger male lions that are trying to take over the territory from the 2 old boys currently in control of the area, this in turn has led to a lot of vocalisation from both groups and also made it a cat and mouse game of finding the lions as they all scatter in different directions as soon as the males enter there territories.

We have had some great entertainment at the water hole. There is a limited amount of water in the bush, and so the elephant herds come down to our water hole on a daily basis and spend a good few hours there, and so did our frequent rhino & calf.

We also had a very good sighting of the rare pangolin, these animals are extremely nocturnal and do most of their activities during the late hours under darkness.
We were fortunate to have seen the pangolin just before sunset, it curled up into the normal defence ball and we had the opportunity to inspect it at a closer view. These animals are so rare this was some of the rangers first ever time to see one up close and personal.

We are expecting the temperatures to start rising, so why not come and visit and experience the bush with us here at Mateya !!!!!!

Regards,

Rangers & Trackers

01 MAY 2007

Hearty Bush Greetings to everybody in the concrete jungles out there.

What a month May has been. Shooo! The sightings have been something incredible and the temperatures at the same time incredibly cold too. The first half of May was pretty good with the regular sightings of lion, elephant, wild dogs and cheetahs.
Enter the last two weeks of May (wow). The temperatures had plummeted somewhat on the morning drives and on the night drives, once the sun drops below that horizon it gets very chilly.

Monday the 14th May we head out for the morning drive, took a drive onto the Madikwe plains to look for springbuck and a few other plains animals like cheetah etc as it is the guests first time in Africa and first time on safari. From the plains we headed east. We stopped for coffee just to get everybody to thaw out a bit. All enjoying a hot cup of coffee, when we heard some weird noises coming from the bush, then we hear the Jackals calling. All in the excitement everybody finishes coffee eager to get moving to see what is going on. A few hundred metres down the road we are greeted with the sight of 3 male cheetahs that had just killed a medium size wildebeest. After spending some time at the kill watching the cheetah having wildebeest for breakfast, and watching the jackal plan how they were going to get something out of the deal.

We decide to head back to the lodge for breakfast when 5 minutes down the road from the cheetah kill we are stopped by a Black rhino bull casually crossing the road into the thicket. Indeed a breakfast well earned when we got back to lodge. On the evening drive we witnessed the lions and hyenas interacting at a white rhinoceros carcass that an elephant bull had killed a few days ago.

The next morning we were out at first light again, not long and I had responded to a sighting with a pride of 16 lions, only to get there and find they are all feeding on a wildebeest, which we maybe missed by 30 minutes. The interaction of the lions while feeding was intense stuff, the noise, the youngsters with their faces covered in blood, what a sighting. That afternoon we decide to head far south. We arrive at a lovely water hole in the south of the reserve where we found three lions enjoying their afternoon siesta in the winter sun (good recipe for laziness). The female suddenly wakes up with serious intent and the males follow suit. She got up and moved rapidly west into the thicket, we follow but it was hard to keep up through the thick bush when we eventually heard them, we locked onto their position, we were greeted by the sight of three lions still killing a wildebeest. After the lion kill we responded to the wild dogs. Lovely sighting considering the fact that when we arrived in the sighting they were trying to hunt some zebra and wildebeest, the dogs lost interest in the zebra and wildebeest and went for impala but to no avail. The rest of the evening treated us with good genets, African wild cat and a lovely civet sighting. Next morning provided good elephant and buffalo sightings. It was the day the guests were checking out. It was a memorable three nights as we had witnessed three kills in two days, and it was their first visit to Africa.
New guests checked in the same day. Only to be greeted b two lion kills on their first morning, one kill on the Friday morning and an unusual sighing of a brown hyeana walking down the road with a dead eagle in his mouth on the Saturday morning.

In one week we had seen on average one kill a day. Another couple for thee nights with very exciting results. The following week provided us with a lioness and her 4 cubs on a wildebeest kill, more black rhino. Guests from Texas had a very memorable stay from the 24th to the 27th of May. On their first night drive we viewed a breeding herd of elephants in the late afternoon sun, had a lovely sundowner and after sun downers decided to look for some lions. It was very cold that night so everything seemed to disappear after the sunset. I was making my way back to lodge at 19:30 when I got a call to come back to the northern side of the reserve. The U turn was very worth our while when the ranger that found the sighting met me on the road and told me to follow his vehicle tracks into the bush. We were welcomed by the growling and bickering of the 16 member lion pride on a wildebeest kill.

What made this sighting unique was that it was at night, it was their first safari, everything in the spotlight and the steam that was rising from the wildebeest in the middle of this feeding frenzy. This gave us a good indication of how bitterly cold it was but driving in that cold on the way back was well worth it.

The next morning we head out just after 7am. 20 minutes into the drive we had a young lioness that had just started feeding on a wildebeest (this was not a good month for wildebeest), not long and a big male and female ran in and chased her off with a lot of running around and roaring. Male and female decide to use the opportunity to feed on their impromptu breakfast. We eventually left the sightin and took a drive out to the west to look at some of the mountainous scenery etc, when we saw two big male lions walking around a thicket, upon closer inspection we found that one of them was feeding on the remains of a baby giraffe. They obviously killed that in the early morning or late the previous night. On the way back for brunch the guests asked if we could go look at the wildebeest kill again to see how rapidly feeding progresses only to find when we got there that a big male was there, two sub adult lioness and a big lioness with her 4 cubs and not to mention the lone brown hyena wandering around at a safe distance waiting for his chance to get a good meal to see off the rest of his day.

All in all it has been a month of sightings where one could almost say “it was to die for”.
The lions are definitely making use of the drier months as was evident in May, the wild dogs have not been spotted on a regular basis in the last two weeks as they are now starting to den in the mountains in the southern end of the reserve (denning means they are making a home because their could be puppies soon). The cheetahs have moved to the west. The black Rhino sightings are more regular now seen as thought the winter time opens up the vegetation by leaves dropping and grass becoming shorter.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon.
Regards

Rangers and trackers.

01 APRIL 2007

Another hearty warm welcome from the African bush. (Well not so warm anymore). Winter is just around the corner, and its presence felt in the last weekend of April. One or two good rainfalls presenting themselves over the Easter weekend was well and truly a blessing in disguise. The rains are now over until the next season, leaving a very dry winter ahead of us.
Not to worry though, as the dry winter presents us with some very interesting sightings.
Lioness and her cubs have been spotted on regular occasion as they are now in the “inquisitive” stage of their lives and practicing stalking the game drive vehicles and trying to figure out what they are and do.

The leopards are presenting themselves on a more regular basis now.
The elephants are not enjoying the dry times to much as they are already working on their landscaping skills and uprooting the odd tree or two trying to get to the water and nutrients in the roots.
We look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Greetings

Mateya Safari Lodge Rangers/Tracker

01 MARCH 2007

Greetings from the African bush once again. Time seems to be passing on fairly rapidly now. With the months passing by rather rapidly so too are the seasons making a definite change out here in the bush. April now sees the start of autumn and this is clearly evident in the colours of the leaves with the golden yellows and brown starting to appear. This all adds to a totally different character to the bush. Sigh of relief came about with one or two decent downpours at the end of March. The temperatures slowly dropping and the evenings and early mornings getting much cooler. The dry summer has produced some very interesting animal sightings around the few remaining waterholes.
Sightings like 10 or more rhino around a waterhole at the same time, mass congregation of elephant herds around waterholes. The lions also jumping in on the act by lying up close to waterholes lately and waiting for the opportune moment when something comes down to drink

The highlights of March would definitely in favour of the leopards, we have had excellent sightings. It is a real treat for guests and rangers alike to see a leopard, with these animals being so secretive. Some guests in the last month have been so fortunate to have seen not 1 but 2 leopard sights in two days, the first being a bit on the off side, the female leopard was drinking at one of the waterholes and as Murphy would have it, a couple of lions pitched up at the same moment, needless to stay the female leopard took the high road and left the lions wondering what happened. The next sighting was indeed amazing for this part of the world, as we saw a female with not 1, but 3, 2 month old cubs drinking at the water. She was, not blaming her, very skittish at the beginning but as the night progressed she calmed down and let us get as close as 20 meters from her. What a sight this has been. We also found the vlei pan female on a few occasions and she also gave us a good show.

We would like to welcome Richard to the tracking team as he has started with us in the last two months, Richard has been working in the lowveld for the last few years and has decided to join us her at Mateya.

We look forward to seeing you here and to experiencing the African bush with us!

Regards,

Mateya Safari Lodge Rangers/Trackers.

01 FEBRUARY 2007

Yet another month has come and gone, the bush seems to be a hive of activity with all the young impalas and blue wildebeest running, bouncing and playing around the feeding adults. The morning and evening drives have been going out at the normal times, and what a special time it is early in the morning to be able to see the sunrise out in the middle of the park with no light pollution and without the hectic traffic of the cities. You might bump into a pride of lions sleeping on the road as you are on the way but this is one roadblock that no-one will complain about, and be contempt to just sit and watch them as they settle down for the day.

The sightings this month have been very good as always, with one or two standing out above the rest. We were very fortunate this last month with regular sightings of the 3 male cheetahs, who spend a lot of their time around the Madikwe Plains, about a 15 min drive from the lodge. We did not see them feeding on any kills but this does not mean that they have not been killing, every time that we saw them they were in very good condition and had no major run-ins with the lions. There were a couple of times that the cheetahs were in close proximity to one of the lion prides but they managed to sense the lions and head for the hills.

We have had very interesting sightings of the different prides of lions in the eastern side of the park; they seem to be on top form and catered for the guest by means of killing on a regular basis, and allowing us to view them while they were feeding.

The elephant herds have also been around the lodge on a constant basis as the water in the bush is drying up at a rapid speed, due to this the major water holes have been very productive and the elephant herd and rhinos are enjoying it at the water holes. Nothing like a drink and a mud bath to cool off when the temperatures are so high.

Greetings from the Mateya Rangers and Trackers Team.