01 DECEMBER 2013

Total rainfall for the month: 40mm.
Average daytime temperature: 36’C. (86’F)
Maximum Daytime temperature: 42’C. (108’F)
Average night time temperature: 18’C. (64’F)
Minimum night time temperature: 14’C. (57’F)
Sunrise: 5:18AM
Sunset: 6:38PM

The number of rhino poached from January to date this year, throughout South Africa, are already in access of 891 at the time of this report. That translates into 2.7 rhino per day or one rhino every 534 minutes / 8.9 hours. This is the most rhino killed since this epidemic has started. With this number rising by at least a third every year, extinction of Southern Africa’s rhino species is quickly becoming a reality.

With this being said, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all involved in fighting rhino poaching in the Madikwe Game Reserve for all the long hours spend out in the bush in these harsh African conditions. Great job guys, girls and K9’s!!

On a lighter note…
Can’t believe we are approaching the end of the year again. Here in Madikwe we have been blessed with the first decent rains of the season that broke the draught. We’ve waited almost 7 months for this rain. We hope for quite a bit more to come our way as the waterholes still need lots to fill up.

With the rain comes stunning cloud formation, the perfect recipe for stunning and dramatic sunsets. I’ll attach a few pictures of the spectacular sunsets and sunrises seen during the month.

The first rains to fall were much localized around the eastern central part of the game reserve. Within a few days the grass and leaves started pushing out green leaves everywhere and with that followed the herbivores. Giraffe, buffalo, impala, kudu, zebra, wildebeest just to name a few were seen in big numbers in this area. During the month it wasn’t uncommon to return from game drive having seen great sighting all within a 10km radius around camp. And off course with the big number of herbivores in the area comes the predators that follow them…

Lion sighting were great during the month with the two Lenyalo males taking centre stage with the guests once again. One morning just before the sun came up whilst having our morning coffee on the deck, the Monomogolo female and 6 sub adult cubs came to drink water at the camp waterhole. This little pride has a soft spot in all at Mateya’s hearts as they frequently visit camp to get a drink. The Etali female (the mother of Monomogolo and 3 of the6 cubs) died early in the month due to a tragic accident, so we were very excited to see that Monomogolo is doing fine on her own with 6 sub adult cubs to look after now. We watched them from the deck for a while before getting in the vehicles to get a closer look at them. We spend the first thirty minutes of drive sitting right in front of camp watching these great predators play like house cats around the vehicle. Chasing and stalking each other to all of our enjoyment. After they moved away we drove around the eastern side of the camp clearing. Paul and I noticed a big cloud of dust and our immediate thought was a heard of buffalo must be on their way to the water hole. As we approached we were all very surprised to see the two Lenyalo male lions fighting with each other in the midst of this dust cloud. Very soon we realized that they managed to separate a mother and her calf and they were busy killing the calf. The older male managed to wrestle the calf away and ran off with his prise. As it was still a young calf, much too small to satisfy both lions, the younger male chased into the heard trying to get a meal for himself. He returned 5 minutes later with no success. We spend the remainder of the morning “drive” sitting watching these two amazing animals with the lodge in the background, not having driven 1km.

The two Kwandwe male lion also killed a 4/5 year old elephant calf in the south of the game reserve earlier in the month. As far as I’m aware of this is the first elephant calf this age being killed by lions. What a sighting it was.

Even leopard sighting has been great during

the month. The “Tswane” male managed to kill a fully grown female kudu not too far from camp, whish even for a big male like him is quite the accomplishment. A couple of days later we saw him dragging a young zebra across the road that he just killed with the zebras mother close on his heels. So nice to see Madikwe’s leopards starting to get more relaxed and accustomed to the game drive vehicles.

Even though one or two has been reported being seen, we are expecting to see the birth of the big eared, long legged impala lambs early in December. Always a very exciting time of the year for us guides and guests alike.

Happy festive season to all from the Mateya team.

01 NOVEMBER 2013

Total rainfall: 24mm.
Average daytime temperature: 30’C. (86’F)
Maximum Daytime temperature: 42’C. (108’F)
Average night time temperature: 15’C. (59’F)
Minimum night time temperature: 9’C. (48’F)
Sunrise: 5:36AM
Sunset: 6:26PM

October has been a wonderful month with our first proper rain for the season and also some lovely moderate temperatures making it very pleasurable to be out in the bush. Although it has rained the bush is still very dry and we will probably only start seeing some good change by the end of November, currently because of limited water we have had some great sightings around the lodge waterhole with great numbers of animals of all species arriving to quench their thirst.

We will post another video clip at the end of summer to compare the view of the lodge from the waterhole, showing the difference after the rain season.
Drives have as always, been amazing and one can almost feel the anticipation of good things to come in the next few months. Many of the migrant birds have already been seen like the Steppe buzzard which is a non-breeding summer visitor they breed in Eastern Europe to central Asia and migrate to east and southern Africa. The Steppe is a flat grassy plain with few trees, especially in south-eastern Europe and Siberia where the Steppe name originates from.
We were treated to one of the most memorable sightings of the year…we sat in awe as four cheetahs hunted; watching them stalk and rundown a wildebeest! In a blink of an eye they caught the wildebeest and it was amazing to see these formidable predators at full speed chasing past the vehicle, as the dust was settling one cheetah was suffocating the wildebeest by the throat while the other three was constantly scanning the surroundings for any other predators that might be a threat to them and steal their well earned meal. Guests were flabbergasted by the whole scene that unfolded in front of them and was left with a sense of appreciation and amazement for its not everyday even for a guide to witness such an extraordinary event.

The wild dog sightings have been good as well and the guides need to work just a bit harder again to find these special creatures seeing as they are mobile with the pups all over the park again. At the moment there are five pups left from the initial eight in the northern pack that we usually see, unfortunately the local lion pride stumbled onto the den area a few weeks back and killed three of the puppies. Since then they have left the den area and are in a normal wild dog routine of roaming huge home ranges making them harder to find.

A huge congratulation to Francois, one of the rangers at the lodge, having this photo selected as one of the finalist in the Getaway Magazine, Getaway Gallery Competition Photographer of the Year competition! The photo was published in the July 2013 issue as a double page spread and we should know the results by the end of the year! Well done & great job on a fantastic photo and photographic technique!! Good luck!

Until next time,

The Mateya team.

01 OCTOBER 2013

Total rainfall for the month: 2mm (0.07 inch.) Average daytime temperature: 26’C (78’F) Maximum daytime temperature: 38’C (100’F) Average nighttime temperature: 10’C (50’F) Minimum nighttime temperature: 4’C (39’F) Sunrise: 06:09 am Sunset: 6:15 pm

And so spring is here. Not that the weather really has been reflecting spring at all. Here in Madikwe we had full on winter and summer both in one month. The bush is still extremely dry and we are anxiously awaiting the rain.

During the month we have been blessed with numerous Cheetah and Wild Dog sightings. Even those elusive Leopards were spotted a few times. Last night as we sat down at the bar for a pre dinner drink a beautiful male Leopard came to drink water and kept us in awe with his mesmerising beauty for ten minutes.

The last time Keitumetse, one of the oldest lionesses in the north eastern section of the park was seen, she was heavily pregnant. She has since left the pride, probably to give birth. Normally a Lioness would hide her cubs in a rocky outcrop or thicket for 6-8 weeks or longer if there are older cubs in the pride before introducing the new youngsters to the pride. Weaning starts at 10 weeks, and is completed by 6 months. Females stay in the pride, males leave by the age of +-3 years. They are competent hunters at two years, fully grown at 3-4 years, and weight peaks at 7 years. Approximate lifespan of 12 years for males, 15 years for females. We can not wait to see the new additions to the north eastern pride.

The dry winter months also brings more regular sightings of some of those really shy, rear animals like the Aardvark (antbear). During the month of September two of these incredible animals were spotted. Aardvark are unique an unmistakable. They are excavating specialists equipped with long claws to dig for their favourite pray, termites. The snout is long and pig-like with slit-shaped nostrils that can be closed while digging. The ears are long with pointed tips. The hindquarters are powerful and much heavier than the forequarters, and the back slopes upwards to the rump. The tail is long, thick and powerful. The legs are sturdy and very strong. The only teeth are a row of cylindrical molars and premolars. Diet consists of mostly termites and ants, occasionally other insects. Single (occasionally two) young are born in May-August after a 7 month gestation. Young accompany the mother as early as two weeks old.

As we go into October, beginning of our summer down in the southern hemisphere, we are awaiting the return of most of the migratory bird species. Swallows, Bee-eaters, Cuckoos just to name a few will once again be back in their hundreds to spend the summer with us.

01 SEPTEMBER 2013

August has come and gone and so has the cold mornings…it’s still a little chilly in the morning but the season is definitely changing. Now we just waiting for the first rains of the season to arrive to wash the dust away, hopefully we will have a atom or two in September. The dust in the air acting as a natural filter for some stunning photography as seen in the below time-lapse video taken at one of the dams around the corner from Mateya safari Lodge. Some of the migrant birds have already returned from abroad which is normally one of the first signs that spring is around the corner.

We have had some fantastic game viewing with a few rarities and some great viewing in general during August. A few of the more rare animals seen included an incredible sighting of an Aardvark and luckily for us it was also a relaxed animal so we could spend about 15 minutes with the animal, which normally heads for cover when spotted. Guests sat in awe as we watched this rarely seen creature go about his business digging for termites and ants. On a few occasions the elusive African civet and African wild cat was also seen!

Wild dog sightings have also been amazing… since our last report they have moved across the river back into the Madikwe Game Reserve and we were blessed to be viewing them almost at our own leisure with the den site being only a ten minute drive from the lodge. The pups at around 3 months of age have given us hours of pleasure, watching them playing and interacting around the den area. We have made full use of them being just around the corner, knowing that very shortly they will be moving with the adults all over the park again making them much harder to find!

The coalition of four male cheetahs were spotted on a few occasions and they seem to be doing very well, we have seen them with sub-adult wildebeest and waterbuck kills on a few occasions.

Lion sightings again have been phenomenal seeing the pride often with the males in the north east of the park and also viewing two nomadic males in the south on a giraffe kill! The female pride in the North East seems to also have had a fight with a smaller pride over territory and they bared some heavy scars for their trouble.

One particular sighting we had made me very humble and emotional…we were on our way down to the South of the park when we stumbled upon an old female Elephant, she was probably one of the oldest elephants I have ever seen. Her temples were heavily indented and her mouth as well, which means that she most probably has no teeth (molars) left in her mouth and with her pelvis and backbone sticking out a lot more than usual you could tell that she was on her last legs! This female was also on her own which is very unusual normally one would not find females on their own except when they get very old and feeble and is not fit to lead so they either leave or is abandoned by their families. The next oldest cow will usually take over the leadership role in a breeding herd. The elephant we saw could have easily been between the ages of 50-60 years of age! As a guide and understanding just a touch of nature’s marvels I felt very appreciative and humble to share a few moments with her.

All in all great game viewing with something around every corner!
Until next time,
The Mateya team!

01 AUGUST 2013

Total rainfall for the month: 2mm (0.07 inch.)
Average daytime temperature: 21’C (70’F)
Maximum daytime temperature: 30’C (86’F)
Average nighttime temperature: 8’C (47’F)
Minimum nighttime temperature: 2’C (36’F)
Sunrise: 06:55 am
Sunset: 17:48 pm

And so we passed the halfway mark of 2013 again. So far with the exception of one or two cold fronts, we’ve had a very mild winter. The Madikwe bush is still extremely dry though and animals have to travel vast distances for water daily.

Game viewing during the month of July has once again been exceptionally good. We’ve been very fortunate to have the coalition of four male Cheetahs hang around the North Eastern section of the game reserve and we were lucky to even see them feeding on a few occasions. We got spoiled one morning during our pre-game drive coffee with two Lionesses and their 6 cubs playing around the waterhole entertaining us for 45 minutes before we left on drive. A couple times a week a herd of roughly 300 Buffalo arrive at the lodge waterhole in a cloud of dust to quench their thirst. Elephants are seen around the waterhole most of the day as well.

My tracker Paul and I picked up Leopard tracks one afternoon and decided that they were fresh enough to follow on foot for a while. When we found the flattened grass still warm where she was sleeping we knew she must have been close. We crept closer as slowly and quietly as we could just to find her standing on a game path 30 meters from us staring at us. Typical leopard, she probably heard and watched us from the moment we got off the vehicle. She did however grace us with her presence long enough to go fetch the vehicle with the guests and follow her as she walked through the African bush. What a privilege spending the last hour of a beautiful day with such an amazing relaxed cat.

Both packs of Wild Dogs seem to have pups and are still hanging out at their respective dens most of the time. So far 9 pups have been recorded in the “Big” pack. We’ve been lucky to follow the “Big” pack on a few occasions as they come across the Marico River, looking for prey. Because of their high success rate when hunting, there is always a good chance to see them make a kill on these hunting expeditions, that is if you can keep up with the vehicle as everything happens very fast with these animals.

On one of our “sundowner” stops we were busy admiring the beautiful Tufa rock formation at an area revered to as “Bat caves”, when a entire Baboon family walked right passed us to find a safe resting spot for the night. Sights like this make me really appreciate the life we are so privileged to live in South Africa’s game reserves.

Because of the lack of surface water at the moment our “trail cameras” around the lodge are extremely successful, capturing an amazing variety of animals as they come to drink.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

01 JULY 2013

With winter in full swing the morning and evenings has been very crisp lately out on drive but it has not affected the game viewing in the slightest.

We have been treated to some fantastic lion sightings lately with a certain pride which includes two females and six cubs that we frequently get sightings of around the lodge and at the nearby Thsukudu dam area. All of the big five have been spotted including cheetah, giraffe and the wild dogs!

The wild dogs is busy denning, guest and guides where lucky to see the pups for the very first time, we managed to count a total of nine pups and at around 4 weeks of age they are still incredibly small and need parental care 24/7, when the pack goes hunting there will always be one or two dogs left behind, looking after the little ones. The pack will bring back food for the baby sitters by regurgitating for them.

We were also treated to two separate lion hunts, watching these masters at their craft is always very interesting and exciting…unfortunately none of the hunting attempts were successful. Lions might be at the top of the food chain as the most dominant predator in Africa but very few of their hunts end up with a full belly, in fact their success rate is only around 30 percent.
The rangers in Madikwe have also competed in a birding competition and our team from the east of the park went on to win the competition…in total we spotted 129 species in 24 hours not to bad if most text books state that in winter 110-130 species could be seen over a weekend period in Madikwe. Off course winter is not the best time at all for birding but it was rather interesting to see what is out there during the colder winter period. It’s always amazing what you actually bump into while birding and not really looking for any big game, during our 24 our birding period we also sighted all of the big five including a beautiful male leopard just casually strolling past the vehicle.

Until next time…
The Mateya team.

01 JUNE 2013

Total rainfall for the month: 0mm (0 inch.) Average daytime temperature: 26’C (78’F) Maximum daytime temperature: 36’C (104’F) Average nighttime temperature: 8’C (46’F) Minimum nighttime temperature: 5’C (41’F) Sunrise: 06:50 am Sunset: 17:33 pm

Madikwe had beautiful autumn weather during the month of May as can be seen on the average temperatures for the month. Mostly stunning cloudless blue skies during the day with crisp evenings and morning with the brightest stars you can imagine.

Game viewing has been amazing during the month. All of the “Big 5” have been seen on numerous occasions and plenty more. Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Baboon and Kudu, just to name a few can be seen on an almost daily basis coming to drink at the lodge waterhole since most of the smaller natural waterholes has by now dried up. We were also lucky to see a few rarities like Aardwolf, African Wildcat catching a mouse, Honey Badger, Aardvark, Spotted Genet and a beautiful Baboon Spider.

Our “trail cameras” also got a few pictures of a Bush pig walking by. For me it was the first sighting in Madikwe of these shy animals.

One special morning drive Paul my tracker pointed out Lion tracks on the road. We stopped and followed them on foot for a while. We walked around an Acacia thicket and found Cheetah tracks crossing over the Lion tracks. Since those guests already sow Lion, we decided to follow the Cheetah tracks instead. Ten minutes later as we approached a young Shepherds Tree, four Cheetah heads popped up and looked at us through the grass. What a rewarding experience finding these amazing animals and being able to spend 45 minutes just sitting in their presence, totally in awe.

Update on the Wild Dog front… The “Big” pack of dogs chose a den sight and it looks like the alpha female has given birth. We cannot wait for her to reveal them to us. We sat at the Marico River one afternoon watching the “big” pack of dogs building up confidence until they were brave enough to cross the river in the late afternoon light. Definitely one of those memories one wishes to store in the memory banks forever.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

01 MAY 2013

The end of another month and autumn is creeping up on us with the harsh heat of summer behind us and the days getting shorter and cooler but what a great month we have had out in the bush.
Game viewing has been spectacular with a few big 5 drives on occasions including cheetah, wild dogs, giraffe, brown and spotted hyena! A few drives that stood out were; one morning drive where we managed to find the newly released cheetah coalition of four brothers in the far south of the reserve. This was an amazing experience since this was the first sighting of them for us and that we were able to spend 40 minutes with these breathtaking animals all to our self. When we located them they were at a waterhole where there was an elephant busy mud bathing and while the giant was going about his business one of the cheetahs came right down next to the water, the elephant off course was not to happy with this intruder and started slinging mud at the cheetah. After snarling at the elephant a few times he eventually backed off and rejoined his cheetah brothers in the shade.

Another fantastic morning was where we were lucky enough to find all off the big five with in the two hours of our game drive including wild dog, the sightings that stood out on that morning was of a pride of lions which were playing and running around in the early morning light…truly just a magical moment that the guests and guides would cherish!

Later that morning after finding all off the five except the elusive leopard we came around the corner and Devine (my tracker) suddenly stopped me with a quick jerk of his arm and whispered “inkwe” which is leopard in tswana. He pointed down at the tracks in front of us, we had a quick look around but didn’t see anything we both got off the vehicle to closer inspect the tracks…looking at the tracks we suddenly realised this was very fresh and the leopard could be nearby, we quickly climbed back in the vehicle and started edging the vehicle forward scanning carefully through the thick bush…not even 5m down and there he was a beautiful big male leopard watching us, right then it dawned on me that this guy was also watching us while we were out of the vehicle but that is the realities of the bush you just never know what is waiting for you around the corner!

Wishing you all well and hope to see you soon!
The Rangers team…

01 APRIL 2013

Total rainfall for the month: 28mm (1.1 inch.)
Average daytime temperature: 34’C (93’F)
Maximum daytime temperature: 40’C (104’F)
Average nighttime temperature: 19’C (66’F)
Minimum nighttime temperature: 14’C (57’F)
Sunrise: 06:25 am
Sunset: 18:15 pm

And so the last official month of summer has come and gone. April in this part of the southern hemisphere spells autumn. During the month of March we’ve see very little rain and already the bush is slowly putting on its winter coat. The first trees to start changing their leaves from green to yellow seem to be the Bush Willow trees. Most commonly grows on rocky outcrops and around pans. Its leaves are most favored by kudu, impala, steenbok, elephant and giraffe.

Some of the summer migratory birds like the Barn Swallows have started congregating getting ready for their long flight up north to warmer weather.

Because of the low rainfall during the month the big herds of game are once again back in front of the lodge, using the lodge’s waterhole on a daily basis. Elephant being present most of the day to the great enjoyment of the guests. What can be better then having lunch while watching a herd of Elephant enjoying the water.

During the month we had some stunning Leopard sightings. One of which was a young Leopardess so relaxed with our vehicles that Francois and I could not believe our luck. At one stage she was no more then 3 meters from the tracker seat, pretending we were not even there. We sat with her for nearly 40 minutes until it was dark and time to head back to the lodge.

Unfortunately it looks like one of the “two brothers” Cheetah coalition has been killed, most likely by Lion. So far the remaining animal seems to be coping and hunting well for himself. The second coalition of 4 males is thriving in the southern sections of the park. They were seen feeding on a freshly killed Red Hartebeest, Africa’s second fastest antelope, a few days ago.

Francois and his guests had a once in a lifetime Wild Dog sighting a couple of weeks ago. They followed the “Big Pack” of dogs chasing a male Kudu into a waterhole. The dogs didn’t hesitate and jumped right in and swam after the Kudu. During all the commotion a Lioness broke out of the tree line south of the dam to investigate. That spooked the Wild Dogs, and they swam to the opposite side of the waterhole. The Kudu took his chance and made a run for it. In seconds the chase was back on. Minutes later the Kudu returned to the waterhole with the Wild Dogs on his heels. As the Kudu swam through the waterhole he met his final fate at the claws of the Lioness. Seeing things like this makes us, as guides, feel very privileged to work and live in an amazing park like Madikwe.

Until Next month…
The Mateya team.

01 MARCH 2013

The end of another month and autumn is creeping up on us with the harsh heat of summer behind us and the days getting shorter and cooler but what a great month we have had out in the bush.
Game viewing has been spectacular, with a few BIG 5 drives on occasions including cheetah, wild dogs, giraffe, brown and spotted hyena! A few drives that stood out were; one morning drive where we managed to find the newly released cheetah coalition of four brothers in the far south of the reserve. This was an amazing experience since this was the first sighting of them for us and that we were able to spend 40 minutes with these breathtaking animals all to our self. When we located them they were at a waterhole where there was an elephant busy mud bathing and while the giant was going about his business one of the cheetahs came right down next to the water, the elephant off course was not to happy with this intruder and started slinging mud at the cheetah. After snarling at the elephant a few times he eventually backed off and rejoined his cheetah brothers in the shade.

Another fantastic morning was where we were lucky enough to find all off the big five with in the two hours of our game drive including wild dog, the sightings that stood out on that morning was of a pride of lions which were playing and running around in the early morning light…truly just a magical moment that the guests and guides would cherish!

Later that morning after finding all off the five except the elusive leopard we came around the corner and Devine (my tracker) suddenly stopped me with a quick jerk of his arm and whispered “inkwe” which is leopard in Tswana. He pointed down at the tracks in front of us, we had a quick look around but didn’t see anything we both got off the vehicle to closer inspect the tracks…looking at the tracks we suddenly realised this was very fresh and the leopard could be nearby, we quickly climbed back in the vehicle and started edging the vehicle forward scanning carefully through the thick bush…not even 5m down and there he was a beautiful big male leopard watching us, right then it dawned on me that this guy was also watching us while we were out of the vehicle but that is the realities of the bush you just never know what is waiting for you around the corner!

Wishing you all well and hope to see you soon!
The Rangers team..