01 DECEMBER 2012

Total rainfall for the month: 125mm (4.9inc)
Average daytime temperature: 29’C (84’F)
Maximum daytime temperature: 43’C (109’F)
Average nighttime temperature: 16’C (60’F)
Minimum nighttime temperature: 12’C (54’F)
Sunrise: 05:15 am
Sunset: 18:45 pm

Out here in the African bush water does not only give life, it is life.

The best rain for the season so far has fallen during this month. Even though we still need quite a bit to break the dry spell, everything is turning beautifully green. Madikwe has become alive and vibrant with colour as most of the migratory birds have returned. The sounds of Diderick and Redchested Cuckoo, Masked Weavers, Paradise Flycatchers, European Bee-eaters, Orange breasted Bush Shrike, just to name a few, echoes through the lodge the whole day.

It is also the season for wild flowers. Blood Lilly, Ground Lilly, River Crinum, Flame Lilly, Wild Hibiscus, Wild Iris and many more have already starting making their beautiful flowers.

The start of the rainy season in the bush is synonymous with lambing and fawning of quite a few herbivores. The most abundant, and maybe the cutest of the baby antelopes, is the Impala. Already we’ve started seeing the odd Impala lamb here and there. Within the next week or two there would be a sudden and drastic influx of baby animals. So there is still much more to look forward to for the guides and guests yet to visit.

Game drives through mid November were just fantastic. Viewing four of the big five on quite a few drives and even a few “big five” drives. African wild dogs, giraffe, brown and spotted Hyena, a few rarities like Honey Badger, large spotted Genet and African Wildcat was also on the “tick lists” of the guests. A particularly good sighting that comes to mind is when guests were fortunate enough to witness a heart pounding standoff between a Elephant and a White Rhino with her calf. Soon after we also saw a heard of Elephant chasing some Lion around, showing them who the real kings of the jungle are. Leopard sightings have increased as well with no less than 9 individuals sighted and most of them pretty decent sightings were we spent at least half an hour with them.

May everyone have a wonderful festive season.

Until next time,

The Mateya team

01 NOVEMBER 2012

I can’t believe it’s this time of the year again. Summer is in full swing and we have had a few scorching days already. The total rainfall for the season is standing at 39mm (1.5inc) this far. Not nearly enough to put water in all the empty dams and waterholes, but at least the dormant trees has started pushing out their leaves and all over you see the green grass shoots popping out. Life should soon start getting a bit easier for the animals in Madikwe.

As for the game viewing, typical to Madikwe the sighting for October has once again been amazing. The big pack of Wild Dogs started taking their pups with them on the move. We have had a few sightings worthy of a National Geographic documentary. We’ve seen no less then 9 Wild Dog kills between the 3 rangers during the month. 4 Impala, 2 Kudu, 1 young Wildebeest and 2 Waterbuck was on the menu. Out of the 14 pups born into the “big pack” 12 are still alive and are looking very healthy. With the 13 adults they make up a “super pack” in Madikwe standards. With their unusually high metabolism a pack this size needs to hunt on a very regular basis. For the pack to kill 2 Impala in the morning and again 2 in the afternoon is not unknown. The smaller pack has been seen more regularly as well. They’ve been hanging out in the south of the park majority of the time since the pups have been born.

We have had the pleasure of seeing a mating pair of Leopard on a Koppie (rocky outcrop) not to far from the lodge on a regular basis. Even a female with her 1 year old cub have showed themselves on a couple occasions close to Tshukudu dam.

Elephants have been seen at the waterhole and around camp on an almost permanent basis as there isn’t much service water yet. Much to the delight of our guests that can just look up from their decks and you’re almost guaranteed to see an Elephant somewhere.

We’ve had a few very good Buffalo sightings during the month. One afternoon a very impressive heard of approximately 250 Buffalo came to drink at the camp waterhole. One night on another occasion we found ourselves caught in the middle of a herd as they were moving south over the road we were heading home on. There was a fairly bright moon so we decided to switch the vehicle and all lights off, sit still and just enjoy the sounds and smells of a herd of Cape Buffalo walking around the vehicle. Magical…

One the Lion front, we here in Madikwe are always very lucky with amazing sightings. 100% of the guests that visited Mateya this month had at least one Lion sighting during their stay, most of them more then once. The Keitumetsi pride in the north east currently consists of 3 fully grown females, 2 different litters of cubs, 9 in total, and when the 2 Lenyalo males occasionally join them, it makes for a very impressive pride. For the guests that have been here recently I am happy to report “Tripod” the cub with one foot missing on his left hind leg is still doing fine thanks to Keitumetsi, his very protective mother.

Now what do I say about Rhino? Sadly the number of poached Rhino in South Africa has risen to just under 480. At the moment we are losing a Rhino every 16-18 hours in South Africa. Madikwe unfortunately has not been left out in that sad number. To date 17 Rhino (if you include the fetus of the last pregnant Rhino that was poached) has been lost to this greedy, cruel act by humankind. I don’t think I will ever forget seeing any of the Rhino carcasses poached, but one specific day will be stuck in my mind as the worst. On a very pleasant afternoon drive my guests and I stopped at a water hole doing some birding when we heard the distress calls of a Rhino calf. Upon investigation we found a Black Rhino calf constantly crying out. I realized then the perfect afternoon was changing quickly. The calf eventually came out from hiding and came right up to our vehicle, so close that he actually touched the vehicle and smelled Paul, our Tracker’s leg. It turns out that this calf was the orphan of a female Black Rhino that died the previous day of her wounds caused by a heartless Rhino poacher. His crying was hart breaking. In my mind he was asking “…have you guys not seen my mother by any chance, I think something is wrong, she’s hurt…”

He was still too young to survive by himself so the park Ecologist got the wildlife vet out. He was darted from a helicopter and placed into a metal container and taken to a “Rhino orphanage” close by where he will join others, some who suffered the same fate, and probably stay there until he is old enough to hopefully be released back into the wild. One can only hope that this would be the last ore deal in his life caused by this, the greediest of all occupants on this planet.

On a more positive note, two beautiful male Cheetahs arrived during the month from another game reserve and can also now call Madikwe home. We are looking forward to see them out there.

Until next time…

Werner and the rest of the Mateya team.

01 OCTOBER 2012

Another month has flown past and the game viewing has been spectacular, the clouds are building as the days start getting hotter as we are in anticipation for the first rain that will hopefully fall soon. Guests and guides have enjoyed some lovely sightings of the big five including wild dog, giraffe, brown hyena, spotted hyena and a few rarities like; African civet, small spotted genet, African wild cat and caracal hunting!
One particular three day period comes to mind…we were fortunate enough to witness no less than five wild dog kills. Guides had a hard time telling the guests that this is not normal but off course guests would think that we just want to make them feel special, but I really could not believe our luck and truly tried my best to tell the guests just how special and fortunate they were! One particular morning we where following the pack of dogs while they were on their usual trot covering vast distances in search of prey and all off a sudden, out of the blue, the dogs started splitting up and speeding up so much so that we couldn’t keep up with them, we lost them for a few minutes and as we scanned over the tall grass we just saw white tail tips all in a bunch and I knew that they caught their meal. As we arrived on the scene I was amazed to see that they have pulled down an adult female waterbuck, my first thoughts was; will my first time safari going guests be able to handle this graphic sight, since the dogs started feeding on the animal while it was still alive! Words can’t describe the true emotion one feels and rawness of a sight like this, the smell, the moaning of the prey and the chattering of excited dogs. This kind of sighting is not what everyone wants to see on safari but it surely is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life as this is Mother Nature at work.

Another fantastic sighting was one afternoon in the south of the park, a herd of elephant, over one hundred buffalo, rhino, giraffe, kudu, ostrich and black-backed jackal all at one small waterhole and not to forget a lioness with three cubs less than two minutes away. What a fantastic sight it was seeing all these species together! Elephants playing in the mud, the big herd off buffalo coming in to drink and rhino in amongst all of the buffalo! You just did not know where to point your camera since so much was happening, it was like the whole scene was cut out of a African novel, right there for us to watch.

We are all looking forward to the next few months, surely with some fantastic sightings to come…
Hope to see you soon,

Mateya Rangers.

01 SEPTEMBER 2012

Spring is here and it’s getting hotter by the day, the bush is probably as dry as it’s going to get this year, for we are still awaiting our first rains of the season. The game drives have been fantastic with some rare and special sightings.

The wild dogs with their pups, which are doing very well at this stage have been viewed on a number of occasions, the pups are still a bit too young to roam with the pack but it will almost soon be time for them to tag along. The local lion pride of the North East is also doing well and they were seen with a zebra kill that they made close to the lodge. Guest where very fortunate to see a pangolin and as far as my memory can serve me this is one of only two sightings of them over the last three years on Madikwe!

Here are some facts about these very secretive animals:

There are three types of pangolin in Africa-the giant pangolin the tree pangolin and the most wide spread, the ground pangolin. They are toothless and have no external ears (pinnae) although their hearing is good, their sense of scent is very well developed but their eye sight is poor. The weight of their protective keratinous scales and skin make up about 20% of the pangolin’s weight.

The common pangolin which is found here on Madikwe prefers sandy soils and is found in woodlands and savannahs, within reach of water. Pangolins are nocturnal and remain in their burrows during the day. All pangolins are able to roll themselves into a ball to protect them and it takes considerable force to unroll them. Pangolins are normally solitary; females are normally alone with their young but could be accompanied in their burrow by a male. The young are six inches long at birth and the mother will protect the youngster by rolling him into her lap when she rolls herself up keeping him totally concealed. They weigh 30-40 pounds and can live up to 20 years.

Pangolins use their sense of smell to locate termite and ants nest which they will dig up using their claws and then they use their tongue to lap up the ants or termites. Interestingly, the tongue has its root attachments in the pelvic region near the kidneys, the total length of the tongue and its muscle and tendon attachments often exceeding that of the head and the body (more than 50 cm). Large salivary glands coat the tongue with gummy mucus to which ants and termites stick.

Man takes his toll on the pangolin, which is thought to be a purveyor of magic and charms. When mixed with bark from certain trees, the scales are thought to neutralise witchcraft and evil spirits. If buried near a man’s door, they are said to give an interested woman power over him. Sometimes the scales are burned to keep lions and other wild animals away. In some areas pangolins are sacrificed for rainmaking ceremonies, and in others they are hunted for meat.

Hope to see you soon here at Mateya,

The Rangers.

01 AUGUST 2012

The days are getting longer again and spring is on its way, the bush is in dire need of water but will probably still have to wait until end of October for the first rain. At the moment the game paths is well worn by the animals moving up and down in search of grazing areas and heading to and from the few water sources that is still available.
The game viewing is still exceptional; the big pack of wild dogs have moved their den closer to the river and we found them almost on a daily basis crossing the river to come and hunt and the puppies is growing up very fast with their appetite and demand for food growing on a daily basis making it hard work for the pack to provide for them. More good news was that the smaller pack with eight adults has also had success this year with seven pups of their own and they are denning in the south of the park!
Guests have enjoyed some fantastic lion sightings as well; the Lenyalo males have had a few arguments by the looks of it and were boasting some new scars, soon after we saw two of them a bit fragile looking we found the third male mating with a female which explained everything. In lion society male coalitions is a normal occurrence, males form these coalitions basically to make life easier for themselves once they have left their native pride so with a few of them together and on their own for a while it just makes hunting easier and eventually when they reach their prime also helps in taking over a territory from another male and then holding on to that territory for longer periods. Sure enough though when it comes to food and mating there will always be competition among the coalition members.
There was also an awesome rarity found on the reserve and that was a very big pangolin which made all the guides drive from a far just to get a glimpse of this rarely seen animal. It’s sometimes hard to explain to guests just how special a sighting like this is, I personally know of guides and nature lovers that have spend years out in the bush but have yet to see one of these animals. Rarities like this are by all means no daily occurrence but this is what drives every guide and nature lover to get out there time and time again!
No day in the bush is the same and you never know what you will get around the corner.

Warm regard,
Mateya Rangers

18 JUNE 2012

Another month has flown by and we are now pretty much in the middle of winter. The bush is extremely dry and all the natural surface water has by now dried up.

I am happy to announce the arrival of brand new Wild Dog puppies in Madikwe. We were all very fortunate to see the pups for the first time when they were only about three weeks old. We have since been to the den a few times and it looks like there are 13 new family members added to the “Big pack”. Seeing Wild Dogs are quite special by itself; them being one of the most endangered predators in the world, but to be able to see their pups are one of those safari experiences only few people ever get to see.

I thought it would be appropriate to add a little info on the very misunderstood African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)…

Typically only the alpha pair in a pack breeds, very rarely a second female gives birth. Litters of 10-21 pups can be born in May-June after a gestation of 70 days. They can eat meat at 2-3 weeks and are weaned at 5-10 weeks. In some area’s the mortality rate can be as much as 70% every season. Most likely causes of death are Hyena, Leopard, Lion and disease. But habitat loss is till the biggest reason for their dwindling numbers.
Main prey is antelope in the 10-50 kg range, such as Steenbuck and Impala; also larger species like Kudu, smaller prey like hares, occasionally Warthogs. Wild Dogs will very rarely scavenge.
Packs hunt by day, occasionally in moonlight. They are most active in the early morning and evening, resting in cover or lying in water during the midday heat. Prey is chased at speeds of up to 65 km/h over distances of up to 3-5 km (most chases are 1-3 km) and killed by disemboweling and dismembering, dying from shock and loss of blood. They have a success rate of 70%-80%, compared to the big cats only being successful around 30% of the time. Adults feed pups on regurgitated meat. Regurgitated meat is begged from other dogs by grinning, lowering its forequarters, raising its tail and giving a wail. Packs vary from 2 adults with pups, up to 50 dogs being recorded in a pack. Packs are bonded by intense social interactions, most involving mutual sniffing and muzzle licking. Adults as well as pups play. Wild dogs have a very strong body odor. Dogs separated from their pack track their way back to it by smell. An alpha pair dominate the rest of a pack, and only they urine mark. Dogs disperse in single sex groups of up to five animals; new packs form when dispersing groups of opposite sexes meet. Packs have huge home ranges: 400-1100 km and can remain anchored at dens for 13 weeks while pups mature if the den is not discovered by other predators.
Their musical “whooo” is quiet but carries 2-3 km and is used as a long-range contact call. They twitter during social interactions such as pre-hunt rallies and greetings. The alarm call is a short, deep, growly bark. Puppies whine in distress.

Until next time…

Werner

01 MARCH 2012

A great thing about Madikwe is that there are some nice rare and not often seen animals that can make a game drive very special.

One particular morning drive comes to mind; we were driving along and for some reason I got this weird feeling that it might be a hard morning seeing as we haven’t really seen anything as yet…I still remember telling the guests that this area we are in can be very quiet but could sometimes produce fantastic sightings.

The wild dogs were seen in the area the day before and I just hoped that we could find them again, just out of nowhere I spotted the pack of dogs crossing the road ahead; as we followed them off the road to my amazement there they were watching a black rhino. Saying that I was exited is an understatement; right here in front of us was two of the most endangered animals in Africa all in one sighting! The dogs looked at the rhino for a minute and moved on and left me to make a very hard choice; stay and view a very relaxed black rhino or follow the dogs, I decided to stay with the rhino seeing as he was so relaxed (not something you find every day) called in other game drive vehicles so they can relocate the dogs while we viewed the rhino for about forty minutes. After the rhino we moved on to go see the wild dogs running down the road as we followed. We were fortunate to see a few more rarities; brown hyena and African wild cat.

What a morning and so blessed we were, definitely one of my most memorable game drives to date!

Until we meet again,

Francois

01 MAY 2012

April Ranger’s report:

All too soon summer is over and we’re going into winter again. The bush is slowly putting on its winter coat with grass changing color from all shades of green to a tawny brown. Many tree species will go into a dormant stage during the cold dry winter months and loose their leaves. Even though some of our sister game reserves have had some damage to lodges due to floods, in Madikwe it’s been a particular dry summer and we’ve only received about a third of the rainfall that we’ve gotten used to over the last five years. Animals will once again have to rely on the few bigger water holes in the reserve that hasn’t dried up yet. Unfortunately that means difficult times for the animals having to walk vast distances for water, but for us its good news to see them flock to the lodge water hole to quench their thirst.

Already we’ve started seeing big herds of Elephant and Buffalo coming into the camp clearing to drink. Rhino and Lion have been seen on a regular basis using the camp water hole as well. We’ve even managed to get a few pictures from the trail cameras of a couple of Leopards coming to camp to drink.

Typically, the animal sightings have been great again during the month. A few new members have been added to the Lion families with no less then four prides in the east having cubs ranging from 3 weeks to 6 months old. The three new male Lions (Lenyalo coalition) that took over the north eastern section of the park seem to have settled in and most of the female prides have accepted them by now. They are still very restless though and move huge distances marking territorial boundaries. A couple of morning ago they were calling outside camp from about 4am, making sure all of us at Mateya also knew they were now in charge. I’m also very happy to announce that we had a few amazing Leopard sighting during the month. The last one about a week ago, us spending a good hour looking at this beautiful young male lying up in a Marula tree while watching a herd of grazing Impala close by. The Wild Dogs have also been around the eastern sections of the park and even at camp on a few occasions blessing us with their presence. By now the Alpha female of both packs should be heavily pregnant and they should start looking for a den site soon.

For any guests coming to visit us in the next few month, this is a very special time if year, considered by some to be the best time of year for game viewing. But it will become very chilly on the morning and evening drives, so make sure you pack accordingly.

Until next time…

Werner

01 APRIL 2012

All too soon summer is over and we’re going into winter again. The bush is slowly putting on its winter coat with grass changing color from all shades of green to a tawny brown. Many tree species will go into a dormant stage during the cold dry winter months and loose their leaves. Even though some of our sister game reserves have had some damage to lodges due to floods, in Madikwe it’s been a particular dry summer and we’ve only received about a third of the rainfall that we’ve gotten used to over the last five years. Animals will once again have to rely on the few bigger water holes in the reserve that hasn’t dried up yet. Unfortunately that means tuff times for the animals having to walk vast distances for water, but for us its good news to see them flock to the lodge water hole to quench their thirst.

Already we’ve started seeing big herds of Elephant and Buffalo coming into the camp clearing to drink. Rhino and Lion have been seen on a regular basis using the camp water hole as well. We’ve even managed to get a few pictures from the trail cameras of a couple of Leopards coming to camp to drink.

Typically, the animal sightings have been great again during the month. A few new members have been added to the Lion families with no less then four prides in the east having cubs ranging from 3 weeks to 6 months old. The three new male Lions (Lenyalo coalition) that took over the north eastern section of the park seem to have settled in and most of the female prides have accepted them by now. They are still very restless though and move huge distances marking territory boundaries. A couple of morning ago they were calling outside camp from about 4am, making sure all of us at Mateya also knew they were now in charge. I’m also very happy to announce that we had a few amazing Leopard sighting during the month. The last one about a week ago, us spending a good hour looking at this beautiful young male lying up in a Marula tree while watching a herd of grazing Impala close by. The Wild Dogs have also been around the eastern sections of the park and even at camp on a few occasions blessing us with their presence. By now the Alpha female of both packs should be heavily pregnant and they should start looking for a den site soon.

For any guests coming to visit us in the next few month, this is a very special time if year, considered by some to be the best time of year for game viewing. But it will become very chilly on the morning and evening drives, so make sure you pack accordingly.

Until next time…

Werner

01 FEBRUARY 2012

February ranger’s report:

February was a very dry hot month here in Madikwe. So far we’ve only had about half the amount of rain we’ve had last year this time. So the bush is quite dry and we are all holding thumbs for a bit more rain to fill the water holes before the dry winter months start.

The animal sightings have been out of this world though. Animals are once again attracted to the lodge’s water hole to get water and we see big herds of Elephant, a few Rhino, Giraffe, Zebra, Impala and Warthog coming to drink on a daily basis. Buffalo and Lion we see every few days and even the Wild Dogs have visited on a few occasions. They were even brave enough to chase a couple of Buffalo bulls around the water hole yesterday morning

We’ve been very privileged to have a few exceptionally good Leopard sightings in the last few weeks. A youngish female Leopard popped up all of a sudden a few months ago in the western sections of the park with her cub and gave us hours of viewing pleasure. Both she and her cub are extremely relaxed around the game drive vehicles. We had one of those brilliant sightings a few mornings ago. When we first saw them they were walking in the road ahead of us. Used to the normal Leopard sightings, I gave them a lot of space. When they left the road we went up to were we saw them disappear in the long grass. We sat motionless for a few minutes just watching the long grass move every now and then. To our surprise the cub came walking from the grass, walked right by the vehicle and lied down in the road five meters from the vehicle. We filled our minds and camera’s memory cards with images of this young leopard staring at us. Five minutes later the mother Leopard appeared in the road. There was a brief meeting between mother and cub and they walking away into the golden morning light.

A week before this encounter we sat for 40 minutes watching the cub laying up in a huge Leadwood tree with the last few afternoon sun rays falling on her. She eventually stretched, came down the tree and walked by the front of our vehicle to go drink in a mud puddle. After all the years working in the bush I still get goose bumps watching these majestic cats.

Even though it’s always nice to see all the members of the “big 5”, there are so many other things to also see. During the last month our guests were also lucky enough to see, Brown Hyena, Spotted Hyena, African Wild Cat, Spotted Genet, White Faced Scops Owl, Giant Eagle owl, Dung Beetles, Bush baby, Tsesebe, Eland, Gemsbok, Black Rhino, a fast variety of birds and many other equally nice African animals.

Until next time…

Werner