01 DECEMBER 2014

Total rainfall for the month: 89mm (3.5inc)
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

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The first decent rain for the season has fallen during the month. Even though we still need quite a bit to break the dry spell, everything is turning beautifully green. Madikwe has once again become alive and vibrant with colour. By now most of the migratory birds have also returned. The sounds of Diderick and Redchested Cuckoo, Masked Weavers, Paradise Flycatchers, European Bee-eaters, Carmine Bee-eaters, Orange breasted Bush Shrike, just to name a few, can be heard echoing in the bush the entire day. Even the beloved dung beetles are out in their numbers.

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

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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.

Here’s a few interesting facts about Impala. Because impalas are one of the main food sources for large predators in Africa they have had to develop extra survival skills in order for the species to survive. Firstly they have adapted to both browse (feeds on leaves and shrubs) and graze (feeds on grass), where most antelope will specialize in only one of the two. This means they have more food available to them with less competition. They also hang out in herds of 15-100 individuals and that makes it more difficult for a predator to approach because of all the eyes and ears scanning for danger. They are also quite agile and fleet footed and it’s not always easy for predators to catch them. They will very often drink and even give birth during the middle of the day when predators are generally inactive. But one of their best strategies is to give birth during the same time of the year. After a gestation period of around 6 to 7 months, most impala ewes will give birth within a two to three week period. So almost overnight thousands of baby impalas runs around the savannah, creating a “crash in the market” effect where there’s just too many baby impala around for all the predators to kill, ensuring the survival of at least half of the impala lambs.

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Game drives during the month of November were quite spectacular. We saw no less than 15 leopard sightings combined. The Van Zweeden family was even lucky enough this time around to see the Maokeng male leopard, that holds a territory in the north east of the park, being cornered up a tree by a pride of lion.

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We also saw the coalition of four male cheetahs on a few occasions during the month. The Madimo males, a nomadic coalition of three sub-adult male lions killed a buffalo calf on two separate occasions in front of the lodge. Buffalo and elephant were seen drinking at the lodge waterhole on almost a daily basis. The wild dogs were also seen on a few occasions, once killing an impala behind the lodge, giving our guests a front row seat. Later on that morning our guests saw spectacular interaction between these dogs and a spotted hyena trying to steal the scraps of the kill.

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The thing I miss the most during the dry season is the spectacular sunsets that can be seen during this time of the year with clouds building most afternoons creating the most amazing sunsets imaginable.

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May everyone have a wonderful festive season.

Until next time,

The Mateya team

01 NOVEMBER 2014

Yet another month has blown past in blink of an eye and guests have enjoyed some memorable moments and sightings on drive; from wild dog and lion interaction to seeing wild dogs on the hunt and also a fierce battle between male giraffes!

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First a bit of good news; Madikwe will be getting two female cheetahs! We are expecting to receive them by the end of November whereby they will be quarantined in a “boma” (enclosure) for at least three months before being released into the reserve, this is just to acclimatize the animals to the area and to ensure they are good and healthy before they have to brave a whole new world.

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Also it won’t do any harm if the current cheetah coalition of four brothers could visit them while they in a secure area seeing as this could also help them to get to know each other. Female cheetahs are solitary and once a male or coalition of males finds a female the whole “meet and greet”could be very violent at times, especially if the female doesn’t want anything to do with them, off course we would like for them to have a smooth as possible transition into their new home.

We all hope that all goes well, who knows in the near future we could be enjoying great sightings of cheetah cubs as well!

October has been a good month of game viewing, seeing all of the big five, wild dogs and cheetah on a regular basis. We have also been spoilt by seeing plenty of spotted and brown hyena at the lodge waterhole.

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At last we have also received our first rain for the season, we still need a lot more and expect more rain in November. This is also exciting times regarding birding whereby most of the migrants will be returning for summer, some cuckoos and honeyguides can already be herd calling away.
Some more great game viewing is expected for November as animals will start giving birth towards the end of the month and off course good birding to be expected with the arrival of the rain as well!

Regards,
The Mateya Ranger team,

01 OCTOBER 2014

September has been a fantastic month regarding game viewing!

All animals big and small have been out and showing themselves, from the big five to rarities like porcupine, genet, civet and African wild cat.

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With the bush still very dry and fairly open the leopard sightings during this month was also better than usual, at least five different individuals have been seen during this time. Two of them is very relaxed; one older male and one young male. They have treated us to some exceptional viewing…one afternoon I recall following the wild dogs close to the Marico River when a game viewer that shared the wild dog sighting just before contacted me and said; he has a leopard at the river! We quickly decided to go have a look and what a fantastic sight it was to our right was a leopard wanting to cross the river and to our left was a herd of buffalo waiting their turn for a drink of water after the elephants have finished…wow, not every day you sit in one sighting with three of the big five around you! To top it all off we also found the rest of the big five earlier that afternoon. I don’t think the guests at that time knew what an exceptional drive they have had!

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September overall has just been a treat, every drive you take out in the bush is full of anticipation not knowing what could be around the corner! With great views of hundreds of buffalo and elephant at waterholes in the late afternoon to following lions on the hunt just after sunset.

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One particular afternoon we followed a coalition of three young nomadic males through the bush all by our selves as they were looking for potential prey…one could see they were intent on hunting; slowly moving through the bush with out a sound and stopping to listen every now and again. To our surprise, and with out any warning they rushed ahead flushing a leopard out of a thicket…of course they were to slow to catch up to the poor leopard running for it’s life. We kept following them were later they found a dazzle of zebra, they surrounded the herd rather well cutting off most of their escape routes but one lion was just to over eager and the herd got scent of them or spotted the cat and they ran off into the night leaving the lions hungry.

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All in all so many stories to tell, of the magnificent sights we and our guests have seen. Can’t wait to see what October has install for us.

Regards from the Mateya Rangers,

Until next time.

01 SEPTEMBER 2014

And so we are at the end of winter again. Spring is on our door step and besides a few cold fronts during the month, temperatures are slowly on the rise. It is still extremely dry as the last decent rain was recorded in the beginning of April.

My most favorite occurrence during the month of August is when the Black Thorn Acacia trees (Acacia mellifera) start to blossom. Flowers usually appear in during the month before the tree comes into leaf and makes an attractive show. Large areas in and around these “mellifera” thickets will have a stunning sweet smell in the late afternoons and evenings. The Black thorn Acacia starts to blossom at least a month before most other threes in the area, probably to lessen competition for pollination between plants. The leaves, pods and young shoots are nutritious and make fodder for wild animals. They are browsed by animals such as black rhino, kudu, eland and giraffe. The flowers are attractive to bees, which produce a high quality honey, hence the name mellifera. The timber is hard, almost black when polished, resistant to termites and used for construction and fencing. Black thorn trees are used as live fence and hedging because of the curved thorn that would keep most intruders out. The bark is used in ethno medicine to treat stomach problems, sterility, pneumonia, malaria and syphilis.

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Animal sightings are phenomenal during these dry months as most animals would try to drink at least once a day. With most of the seasonal pans dried up by now that creates a concentration of game around the last water sources. Even at the lodge’s waterhole we’ve seen a few rarities like Mountain Reed buck, Eland and Bush pig coming to quench their thirst. Elephant, Zebra, Kudu, Warthog, Impala, Giraffe and Baboon are some of the daily visitors.

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Even predators like Lion, Hyena, Leopard and Wild dog have been seen at the lodge’s waterhole on a few occasions during the month.

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We’ve had an extremely good sighting of a male Leopard that patrols the territory in the north eastern section of the reserve. We call him Maokeng, named after a pan where he was spotted for the first time in the game reserve. He is generally known to be quite relaxed with the game drive vehicles and we spend quite some time with him one afternoon as he followed a herd of Impala, trying to get within “striking” range.

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On the Rhino front things are not looking up throughout South Africa. More than 700 Rhino has been illegally hunter or poached till thus far this year. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the guys, girls and K9’s involved in protecting this amazing animal under very extreme conditions.

On a happier note… September is spring here in the southern hemisphere. So not only should the days be warmer, but we can start looking forward to the first rains of the season and the return of many of the migratory birds. Looking forward to be out in the bush during this time…

Until next time.

The Mateya team

01 AUGUST 2014

July has been a typical winters month in Madikwe, with cool evenings and mornings and moderate temperatures during the day.

Thus we have done quiet a few day drives, packing snacks and taking a leisurely day drive and stopping mid day for a nice pick-nick in the bush!

During one of these day drives we encountered a number of game including a big pride of lions, cheetah and herds of elephants quenching their mid day thirst.

Guests where also treated to see leopard on a few occasions…one particular morning as we moved into a sighting the leopard moved into the thicket right next to the Marico river we tried in vain to relocate the animal with out any success for over an hour and just as we wanted to move on and except defeat our vehicle scared the leopard out of the grass and it leaped out into the open, with us realizing it was lying there the whole time watching us right next to the vehicle with out us knowing. Just goes to show how elusive these amazing animals are! If a leopard doesn’t want to be seen you won’t see it, that’s just the way it is.

Some of the rarities that we encountered was; aardvark, civet and African wild cat. We have also had some amazing action on our trail cameras with plenty of game coming in on a daily basis for a drink at the lodge waterhole. The cameras even managed the capture a stand off between three male lions and a family of three porcupines…now that’s not something you see every day! In the end both parties departed unharmed although I am sure the porcupine family was a bit shook-up!

Until next time,

The Mateya rangers.

01 JULY 2014

Winter is in full swing in the Madikwe bush. We’ve had a few morning this month where it was as low as -2’C (28F). But this luckily is the exception and not the rule. Normally winter in Madikwe consists of average minimum temperatures of 6 ‘C (43F) and a maximum of 25’C (77F). But even with the cold we’ve been having it didn’t stop us from having great animal sightings.

Due to a couple of cold fronts we’ve decided to do a few day drives to avoid the bitter cold mornings, packing snacks and taking a leisurely day drive, stopping mid day for a nice pick-nick lunch in the bush!

During one of these day drives we encountered a number of game including a big pride of lions, cheetah and herds of elephants quenching their mid day thirst.

Guests were also treated to see leopard on a few occasions. One particular morning as we moved into a sighting the leopard moved into the thicket right next to the Marico River. We tried to relocate the animal for over an hour without any success, just as we wanted to move on and except defeat, our vehicle scared the leopard out of the grass and it walked out into the open. Just goes to show how elusive these amazing animals are! If a leopard doesn’t want to be seen, it won’t.

Some of the rarities that we encountered were aardvark, civet and African wild cat. We have also had some amazing action on our trail cameras with plenty of game coming in on a daily basis for a drink at the lodge waterhole. The cameras even managed the capture a stand-off between three male lions and a family of three porcupines. Now that’s not something you see every day! In the end both parties departed unharmed although I am sure the porcupine family was a bit shook-up!

As always lions were seen on a regular basis again. On another morning drive we found a pride of 5 lions that killed a wildebeest during the night. On the afternoon drive we went there again to see what progress was made on the carcass just to find Hyena’s has taken over. On our way back to the lodge we passed by again to find the two dominant males lions of the area has chased the Hyena’s off the kill and was feeding on the remains of the wildebeest. Lots of elephant and general game like zebra, wildebeest and impala was again seen at our water hole in front of the lodge. Even a big herd of buffalo has been coming down to our grey water sight and even the lodge’s water hole with amazing regularity. We had a very special sighting one morning when we went on a late morning walk and found the wild dogs on foot. We were on a hill and saw then from a distance. We walked up onto a ledge and sat down with our binoculars for about 30 minutes watching them play. One of those sighting that will stay with a person for a long time to come.

During the colder winter months lots of the grass and even trees will go into a dormant state. Grass dries out and is in general shorter, and many of the trees loose there leaves. This all makes it much easier to spot some of those not so easily seen animals. On one specific game drive we sat with a Small Spotted Genet for quite some time before he decided to get up and start looking for food. Even the shy Brown Hyena was seen on a few occasions.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

 

01 JUNE 2014

There is already a little chill in the air as the season changes into autumn. We still had a bit of rain during the month, but not enough to help fill the seasonal pans for the long dry winter months that lies ahead of us. The total rainfall for the season stands at 533mm. (+-21 inc.) Even though that is still slightly higher than the average rainfall for this area, the rain was widely spread out through the rainy season. Good for the vegetation, but none of the water holes and seasonal pans really reached their full capacity. Average daytime temperatures hanging around the high twenties to low thirties (75-90 ‘F) with it dropping down to mid, even high teens (57-66 ‘F) during the night.

On drive the sightings has been good. A Lioness with a couple of young cubs has been seen on a regular basis around camp. It seems like every elephant herd has a few babies as well. The Wild Dogs hanged out around camp for a few days. We were even lucky enough to see them kill an Impala ram close to the Marico River one morning. Even though it will always be hard to see an animal loose its life, I always feel so privileged to see nature in its purest form. I hope the guests lucky enough to see things like that feel the same. Even with the bush being as dense as it is at the moment we’ve had a few good Leopard sighting during the month as well.

I’m sure most of you have seen the pictures form our “trail cameras” that we’ve strategically placed around camp. We’ve had enormous success with the little cameras, getting pictures of Buffalo and Elephant almost on a daily basis, Lion and Rhino every other day. Leopard is seen on the pictures at least twice a week. We’ve even gotten pictures of a leopard stalking it’s pray. And then on the odd occasion we manage to get pictures of very rarely seen animals like Aardvark, Porcupine and Honey Badger.

As from next month the rain should stop, the smaller waterholes should dry up, the bush should get less dense and more animals are again seen coming to the lodge waterhole. I can not wait for what is in my opinion the best month of game viewing lying ahead of us.

Until next time…

Werner

01 MAY 2014

The winter is here and the game viewing as been spectacular the last month, from leopard to wild dogs and lions with small baby cubs! What a treat we have had here at Mateya with our lucky guests to have seen what we have seen.

As winter goes with the bush clearing and the small waterholes drying up game viewing as been a buzz around the prominent water sources. Late afternoons one can drive to a waterhole and easily encounter large herds of elephants and buffalo all quenching their thirst and you can bet your bottom dollar the predators would be nearby as well. Some of the highlights were seeing a leopard on a few occasions feeding on a buffalo carcass and also a pride of lions feeding on a giraffe that died of natural causes. Werner was also fortunate to see cheetahs being chased off of their kill by a brown hyena…talk about a once in a lifetime sightings! We were also treated to seeing; two aardwolf on two separate occasions which was a first for me on Madikwe!

The aardwolf is such a rarity most people don’t even know what they look like or what their habits are so here is a few interesting facts:

The Aardwolf falls into the hyena family; which consist of four species including the striped, brown and spotted hyena. All of these species except the striped occur in Madikwe, the striped only occurs in north and east Africa.

Aardwolf are one of the most specialized carnivores, the aardwolf almost dines exclusively on harvester termites of the genus Trinervitermes. Aardwolves concentrate on certain termite species in which the storing habit is least developed (harvester termites produce their own food inside the mound by storing grass blades and seeds inside and feed of the fungus that grow of it) these kinds forage in the open at all seasons. The distribution of the aardwolves is thus largely dictated by the termites they prefer.

A foraging individual may consume up to a kilogram or 200,000 termites in a night! Aardwolves also have special sticky saliva to help them lap up the termites as rapidly as a cat laps up milk, inevitably other items stick to its tongue like sand and dirt which could add up to 15-66% of his feces, which could add up to 8% of the animal’s body weight being passed in a single defecation. Because aardwolves forage and usually sleep alone, they seem to be solitary and it is clearly not a social animals. However there is mounting evidence that male and females share a 1-2 km2 territories together with their offspring which males have been known to guard. Whether aardwolves generally live in pairs, and if so during all or only part of the year and whether they are truly monogamous or not are still open questions.

Until next month,

From the Mateya team!

01 APRIL 2014

After some very good rain during March, the bush is alive and well with lush green vegetation all around us making for very scenic and pleasurable drives. During March we’ve had some exceptional animal encounters and jaw dropping sunrises and sunsets to go with it.

One particular morning comes to mind…as we left the lodge the sun was just about to rise; we drove down the road to find a herd of giraffe seemingly enjoying the sunrise just like we were. It was truly a memorable moment watching the skies light up with some of the most beautiful colors and with the giraffe’s silhouettes around us, talk about wonderful photo opportunities! Shortly after we encountered a fantastic sighting of three nomadic male lions with a zebra kill and a few black-backed jackals trying to run in and grab a bite. The lions off course were not in the sharing mood so we were lucky to witness amazing interaction between the two species and also great photo opportunities as the lions charged at the jackal chasing them away from the food source. Was quiet nerve wrecking to see just how close the jackal would get to the lions before making a hasty retreat to safety, off course they know they are much more agile and faster in short burst than the lions could ever be.

Another amazing sight was to see spotted and brown hyena feeding together on a giraffe that died close to the lodge. One particular morning as we left the lodge not even a minute into our morning excursion we were greeted by a clan of spotted hyena. There was four sub-adults that made for very entertaining viewing getting right up to the vehicle curious about us; just as we are of them.

 

Over all drives and game viewing has been very good with general game like; zebra, wildebeest, impala, water buck and hartebeest around every corner. Other fantastic sightings included several leopard being spotted, cheetah, wild dog and elephant. For our birding friends; birding has also been very good with a few rarities that has been seen such as; Lesser Moorhen, White-fronted plover, Icterine Warbler, Cape-penduline tit and Common whitethroats which is a first for Madikwe. On one particular morning drive we were able to sight no less than 85 species in one morning drive and a total of 124 for the day. Incredible stuff for any keen birder!

Until next time from the Mateya team.

01 MARCH 2014

Total rainfall for the month: 100mm.
Average daytime temperature: 30’C. (86’F)
Maximum Daytime temperature: 38’C. (100’F)
Average night time temperature: 18’C. (64’F)
Minimum night time temperature: 14’C. (57’F)
Sunrise: 6:05AM
Sunset: 6:40PM

February month proved to be cooler than what it has been in the last few years. Quite a few days were nice and cloudy giving us a break from the normal heat. Some rain did come from the cloudy days, but we still hope for quite a bit more to fill the seasonal waterholes before the dry season starts.Even though the bush is beautiful green and lush the sightings have been amazing. Lions with cubs, male lions roaring next to our vehicle, leopard up in a tree, leopard sleeping next to the road, leopard and spotted hyena having an argument, brown hyena marking his territory, elephants swimming and playing in a waterhole, herd of approximately 300 buffalo crossing the road in front of our vehicle, sleeping wild dogs, hunting wild dog, even cheetah on a couple of occasions.

But with the rain also come many of the smaller creatures that one often overlooks. Tortoises come out of the long grass to drink on the road, colourful and incredibly interesting insects roam the bush, dung beetles and giant centipedes. All kinds of pretty and colourful birds are out and about to feed on the abundant insects. Frog quires sound though the night from all the rain water puddles standing around. All sorts of spiders with their incredibly engineered webs are seen between the trees and shrubs while we drive.

The rainy season brings life, especially so in Africa where water can be very scares, and it is such a privilege to experience it.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.