31 DECEMBER 2015

December ranger’s report:

Total rainfall for the month: 7mm. (0.27inc)
Average daytime temperature: 39’C. (102’F)
Maximum Daytime temperature: 45’C. (113’F)
Average night time temperature: 23’C. (73’F)
Minimum night time temperature: 18’C. (64’F)
Sunrise: 5:22AM
Sunset: 6:52PM

And so the last month of 2015 has come and gone. As can be seen on the stats above we’ve had an extremely hot and dry December month. It seems like we are still very much in the grip of the El Nino weather pattern that has affected most of Southern Africa. The little bit of rain that fell in November luckily brought most of the trees out of their dormant stages and they started pushing out leaves. Good news for the browsers like giraffe, kudu and black rhino. But as for the grazers, the tough times are far from over. It seems like the buffalo are the most affected by the drought at this stage. They are losing condition and the amount of buffalo killed by lion is a testament of how weak they are getting. No less than 15 buffalo kills have been recorded in a 5km radius around the lodge. Weather experts say we might start seeing some rain towards the end of March. As tough as a drought is for us with our human emotions to witness, it is and has been for a very long time how nature controls numbers and to make sure that only the strong genes survive.

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 As much as the herbivores are struggling, it is now the time of the predator and the scavenger. We’ve had some amazing sightings with our guests over the last month. From guests seeing a pride of lion kill a buffalo in front of camp to wild dog hunting. Predators feeding on their kills and scavengers fighting over the scraps. Brown hyena and leopard involved in a tug of war with an impala.

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The Matata lioness has had her cubs in the Tswane hills and Francois was lucky to get a glimpse of her carrying one of the cubs to a new den sight. Something a lioness would do with her new born cubs every now and then before another predator or scavenger smells the sent build up.

The pack of wild dogs that became known as the “southern pack” because they’ve been hanging out in the Dwarsberg mountain range in the south of the park has been operating more towards the central and eastern sections of Madikwe. Great new for us in the north eastern section. We’ve seen them quite a few times during the month and they even made a kill a few nights ago in front of camp to the amazement of our guests.

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Even though the lambing season started very late, it seems like most of the impala and quite a few wildebeest has by now given birth. Without fail, they always bring the quite factor to a drive.

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We at Mateya hope you had as good of a festive season as we did here in the bush and we wish everyone a prosperous New Year filled with happiness.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

OCTOBER & NOVEMBER 2015

October Ranger’s report:

Summer is in full swing here in Madikwe and it’s been the hottest, driest month I can recall. Temperatures has been souring into the high 30’s and low 40’s (98-110 ‘F) on a daily basis. We are also still awaiting our first decent rain for the season and the draught is making life for the animals of Madikwe very tough. Animals have to cover large distances on a daily basis to get to water and back again to feeding grounds afterwards as most of the vegetation around water sources are completely exhausted.

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As for the game viewing, typical to Madikwe the sighting has once again been amazing. As can be expected, the few waterholes that are left are normally very productive. Elephants are seen at the waterhole and around camp on an almost permanent basis. 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. Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Baboon and Wildebeest will also frequent the waterhole during the day.

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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…

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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 than once. The Keitumetsi pride in the north east currently consists of 2 fully grown females, of which one seems to be pregnant, and 3 sub adult cubs. With the 2 Lenyalo males occasionally joining them. We hope to see some little cub footprints in the sand soon.

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We had amazing sighting with both Leopard and Cheetah during the month as well.

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Two beautiful male Cheetahs arrived during the month from another game reserve and can also now call Madikwe home. A big male Leopard was rescued from a wire snare he was caught in outside of the park. His wounds were treated and he too can now call Madikwe home. We are looking forward to see them out there.

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Until next time…

The Mateya team.

30 SEPTEMBER 2015

September marks the start of spring and was another great month with relative moderate temperatures making it very comfortable out on game drive. We where also lucky to receive our first precipitation for the season, not to much, but every bit helps during this dry spell that has gripped the whole country.

 Game viewing has been fantastic again, with limited water available for the general game making it much easier for the predators to locate their prey.

The lions have not disappointed seeing them on kills, mating and even a few hunting attempts witnessed by guests. A few individual female lions by the look of it have already started looking for potential den sites so we will expect them to show of their new cubs within the next few months…exciting times ahead!

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The cheetahs were also seen on numerous occasions and they are doing very well, on a number of occasions they were also seen with kills. One morning we worked hard tracking them but to no avail…later the afternoon we returned to the area to continue our search only to find that they made a kill during the mid day and finished it within a few hours and was resting in the shade close by. We were also lucky to find a brown hyena den site and on a few occasions watched the sub-adults interact, truly a privileged to be allowed a glimpse into the lives of these elusive and shy creatures.

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This time of the year is also very exciting for the guests interested in birds, with the migrants starting to return for summer the bush comes alive with beautiful bird songs and species to be seen.

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Again guests was very lucky to see a pangolin on a afternoon drive, what a truly special animal to see in the wild… rarer than that you can’t get!

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

31 AUGUST 2015

The winter has flown past and spring is upon us, the bush is still very dry and water scarce. The wildlife sightings though has not disappointed with some truly amazing sightings experienced by our guests.

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I will share with you a few of these incredible moments; the predators have been doing very well as they normally do during the dry periods of the year with the general game being relatively easy to find for them, close to or in vicinity of the few available water sources.

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One such sighting was seeing a coalition of four male cheetahs, at work chasing down and catching a sub-adult zebra right in front of us! Seeing the chase was incredible and one just can’t fathom the cheer pace of these animals. When we arrived in the sighting they were resting late morning under a big marula tree and we all thought this was where they will spend the rest of the day but little did we know they had other ideas…a few minutes later they started moving again and soon after spotted a herd of zebra, the chase was on in an instant and they chased the herd of zebra right past our vehicle. One cheetah just managed to avoid the kicking hoofs of a zebra to the face; which could have been fatal for the cheetah, but in the end they managed to catch one!

Seeing a full on hunt like this is as raw as Africa can get and the guests was in awe sitting there as the cheetah went about suffocating their prey and within minutes it was all over.

The wild dogs have also provided some amazing sightings during the month with their eight new pups and on a few occasions we were fortunate enough to spend some time with them at the den site. The “cute factor” just doesn’t get better than this and seeing these little ones find their feet and running around the vehicles as if we are not even there is just so special and what a privilege it was seeing them. Soon they will be big enough to accompany the adults and leave the den site making it very hard again to find them.

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All in all some great sightings during August, also including a few rarities like Aardvark, African Wildcat, Spotted Genet and even an African cuckoo hawk.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

31 JULY 2015

Total rainfall for the month: 0mm (0.00 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

A couple of cold front hit the southern parts of South Africa during the month, pushing some cold air our way. So for the first time this season we’ve had a few days that felt like winter and the gloves and beanies had to come out at last.

The nice thing about the cold front is that some of the very shy nocturnal creatures like the Aardvark and Pangolin will be too cold during the night when they are normally most active to go about their business of finding termites to eat. So with a bit of luck you might get a glimpse into the very illusive lives of these extremely shy animals during the daylight hours.

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Philip, Paul and their guests was so lucky to get a once in a lifetime sighting of a female Pangolin with her baby late one afternoon. Most guides are lucky if they see a hand full of these amazing animals in their entire career. But to see a baby…

I thought I’ll share a little information about the illusive Pangolin since so few people get to see them.

The Pangolin looks prehistoric and is unmistakable. The whole upper body and tail as well as the sides of the legs are covered by triangular, overlapping horny plates. The eyes are small and the ears are just slits in the side of the head. The legs are short and heavily built; the forefeet have a nail on the first toe, curved claws on the second, third and fourth toes, and a short claw on the fifth. All five toes of each hind foot have a small nail-like claw. The tail is long and heavy, concave on the inside to accommodate the body when alarmed. Average total length of males is 81cm and weight 13kg, total length for females 87 cm and weight 6kg. The tail is slightly less than half the total length. Diet consists mainly of ants and termites. Single young are born after a gestation of 139 days. The young will first take solid food at 4 weeks.

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Photo Credit: Carmen van der Berg

Pangolin are ssolitary and mainly nocturnal, with occasional daytime activity. Hides during the day in burrows, holes, or piles of vegetation. The Pangolin walks on its hind legs and the front feet rarely touch the ground. It locates ants’ nests by smell and scratches them open with its claws. It licks up the ants with its long (25-40 cm), round, sticky tongue. The tongue folds into a pouch in the mouth when not extended. Pangolins have no teeth. As a defense mechanism the pangolin rolls up in a ball with its head protected by its tail. The scales have sharp edges which can inflict deep cuts as the pangolin slides its tail sideways across its body. The young ride crossways at the base of their mother’s tail; when they are older they ride lengthways on her back. If threatened, the mother rolls up around her offspring, enclosing its head and most of its body.
Until next time…
The Mateya team.

01 JUNE 2015

The month of May here in the southern hemisphere means autumn, the month where summer goes over into winter and quite often it can be a very chilly month. This year it was different as we still had days with maximum temperatures in the mid thirties (+-95’F). The night and early mornings was cool, but beautiful warm days. Our last chance to get rain for the season also came and gone with the end of autumn. A very dry winter lies ahead for the inhabitants of Madikwe.

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Some of our guests this month got involved in conservation work that needed to be done in the game reserve. They sponsored the darting and fitting of satellite collars for a male cheetah and a female buffalo. These collars were fitted for scientific purposes to help ecologists and scientists understand these animals better. Things like movement between night and day, winter versus summer, distances males travel versus females are amongst the things being monitored for about a year before the collar are removed again. What an awesome experience being able to get so close to these wild animals and being hands-on involved in the conservation of an endangered species (cheetah) in a beautiful game reserve like Madikwe. Thank you Mark and Thabang for you contributions.

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The sightings during the month were good as always. Animals start to gather around larger water holes as the amount of surface water starts to decline. Elephant and buffalo sightings are amazing around these water bodies this time of the year.

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We followed Munye, a young male leopard that occupies a territory east of camp, one morning as he was looking for breakfast. He briefly stopped for a second, smelled the air, tilted his head a few times left and right as he tried to pinpoint the sounds and scent he was picking up. Next moment he took off like an arrow from a bow, diving into a small raisin bush. When he stood up he had a scrub hare in his mouth. It was amazing to realize just how acute these animals’ senses are. We never heard a sound, but without seeing the hare, he knew exactly where he was.

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The north eastern pride of lion was successful with a few kills during the month and we were lucky to see them feed on these. The three Madimo’s, a young nomadic coalition of males, were also feeding on a buffalo carcass east of camp for almost a week. We witnessed a big power display between them and 6 hyenas one night on our way home. The sounds that come from such a battle will surely stay with the guests for a long time to come.

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Good news on the cheetah front. The female cheetah Madikwe received a couple of months ago has been released from her quarantine boma (enclosure). She has been roaming Madikwe completely wild for over a week now and has been reported feeding from an impala carcass that she killed herself. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that she does well here with us and that we can look forward to amazing sightings with her and hopefully some cubs.

Until next time…

The Mateya team.

01 MAY 2015

April has flown past in a hurry and the temperatures are dropping fast as we are heading into winter. The bush is still very dry and with a little boost of rain during the month, which will probably be the last rain for the season, we are preparing for a very dry winter for the animals and ourselves.

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The sightings however did not disappoint and we have had some incredible and breathtaking experiences. The highlight during the month was seeing a leopard whom we call “Munye” on a few occasions. One afternoon drive we went out in mind to find the leopard that we also spend tracking the whole morning without success so we intended to follow-up on where we had his last tracks.

Just as the sun was setting we found him going about scouting for potential prey. We followed him until nightfall and all of a sudden he flushed a steenbok out of cover the steenbok got away making a speedy escape. Not five minutes later we watched the cat focusing on something in front of us, we switched of and waited for him to do his thing. He stalked slowly towards whatever he was hearing or seeing. We watched him closely with huge anticipation. Not a single sounds coming from the vehicle, everyone holding their breaths. A spotted flash jumped from its cover and within seconds it was all over. The leopard caught the steenbok and ended it with one bite behind the head killing his prey almost instantly!

The leopard took the steenbok straight up the closest leadwood tree and started plucking the hair from the prey and started feeding, out of reach of any larger predator that might steal his hard earned meal.

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The very next morning we set out to find some buffalo but our plans quickly changed when we picked up on cheetah tracks. Werner and myself worked together trying to cover as much areas and possible directions the cheetahs might have moved to; eventually Werner called me and said he found them…

We followed the four cheetahs for a while not expecting too much action from them seeing as they had full bellies and didn’t look too hungry or eager to hunt. Again with no warning they started chasing ahead of us and to our amazement they chased a female leopard up a tree right in front of us. So there we were sitting with four cheetahs and a leopard in a tree! The cheetahs lost interest in the leopard fairly quickly and moved on. The leopard wasted no time jumping out of the tree and running off trying to put as much distance from the cheetahs as she could. Truly a breathtaking two drives we have experienced!

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In all the sightings has been very good with great predator sightings and big herds of elephant and general game around the waterholes. What a month April was and we are looking forward to the next month, you just never know nature has in store.

Until next time…

The Mateya team,

01 APRIL 2015

Total rainfall for the month: 5mm
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

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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 commonly eaten 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 than having lunch while watching a herd of Elephant enjoying the water.

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We had great sightings of the spotted cats of Madikwe during the month. Both Cheetah and Leopard was seen on a few occasions. The Cheetahs even spend one full day on the lodges door step. That afternoon we followed them as they started getting active and we ended up seeing them kill a fully grown Waterbuck cow. Normally Waterbuck would be a little on the big side for Cheetah to take down, but because these four guys have worked out how to work together as a team, they have surprising success with bigger pray. Amazing to see these fleet footed animals in action.

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Some other highlights during the month…

– Leopard in a tree with a kill during an afternoon drive.

– Leopard in a tree with a kills with a Hyena picking up the scraps under the tree during a night drive.

– Pride of Lion roaring next to the vehicle as the sun went down.

– Brown Hyena cubs.

– 3 Male Lion on a fully grown buffalo kill.

– Lions cubs harassing a couple of Rhino while the adult still took a nap.

– Martial eagle feeding on a monitor lizard.

– Heard of Elephant taking a mud wallow.

– Spotted Hyena feeding with Cheetah on a kill

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 Until Next month…

 

The Mateya team.

01 MARCH 2015

It’s been a hot and dry February with not much rain over Madikwe, most seasonal pans that would normally be reasonably full this time of the year; is all but dry.

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This has not influenced the game viewing and guests were fortunate over the last month to have had some exceptional animal encounters. The predator sightings have been very good especially the lion sightings…with the limited water only around major waterholes one is almost guaranteed of finding the big cats close by. The Madimo and Kwandwe male lion coalitions have both been seen attempting to hunt buffalo, the Madimo males which is a coalition of three males were seen chased all over by a big herd of well over 100 buffalo one morning, leaving the cats empty handed.

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Leopard sightings were also very good seeing leopard on kills on a few occasions…we are also excited to have seen another male leopard around our lodge, and what a striking animal he is with the most piercing blue eyes. On checkout one late morning guests were even lucky enough to see him hunt and kill a baby impala right in front of their room.

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The hot days also provided us with amazing elephant viewing of big herds gathering late afternoons at the local waterhole, quenching their thirst and swimming and wallowing providing us with hours of viewing pleasure.

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All in all another great month in the African bush, lets just hope we receive some much-needed rain before summer comes to an end!

Until next time, The Mateya Rangers

01 FEBRUARY 2015

Total rainfall for the month: 75mm.
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: 5:50AM
Sunset: 6:50PM

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And so the first month of the year has come and gone. January was generally a very dry month with 48 of the 75mm rain only falling in the last couple of days of the month. Most of the seasonal waterholes has dried up, some becoming death traps for desperate animals trying to get to water through the sticky mud. We are hoping for some good rain in the last 3 months of the rainy season to take us into the dry winter months.

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Despite the lack of rain the game viewing has still been spectacular. We followed “Munye”, a young male leopard one evening on his nightly patrol. He got to an open area where some impala and wildebeest were resting. When he started stalking we picked a good spot to wait and switched the vehicle and lights off in order not to give predator of pray an advantage or disadvantage. After 15 minutes of sitting in the dark we heard the alarm calls and struggles and switched the spot light back on. We saw “Munye” with a young wildebeest calf in a throat hold. The calf’s mother swung back trying to rescue it with her dangerous horns and hoofs. But the leopard was just too quick for her; the calf was still so small he could jump around with it in his jaws. Just as we thought it was all over for the calf two spotted hyena came rushing in and the leopard dropped the calf to get away from their powerful jaws. The wildebeest mother managed to keep the hyena away for a while, but they then got hold of her. She eventually managed to free herself but realizing the serious threat to her own life and ran off. When the hyena returned to the wildebeest calf he was surprisingly standing up after his awe deal. But one bite from those powerful hyena jaws to the back of the skull ended his fate. I always remind myself when I see something like this, that what we as humans portray as “cruel”, is all natural, and that animals doesn’t kill for sport or pleasure, but only to survive, and that nature has been surviving for a very long time like this without the interference of humans.

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We also had an amazing sighting of the rarely seen honey badger trying to kill a baby grey duiker, small antelope specie) one evening. Luckily for the youngster the mother managed to chase the badger off.

On another morning drive we found the two Kwandwe male lions, miles out of their territory, feeding on a buffalo cow that they surely just killed. We witnessed how the one male lion pulled this fully grown buffalo cow, weighing +- 600kg/1300lb, nearly 10m to shade. What a spectacular display of strength. They were feeding on this carcass for 3 days until they had their fill and the scavengers took over from them.

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Besides all the action, we had amazing sighting during the month of baby impala playing, giraffe feeding next to our vehicle, a heard of elephant walking around us like we weren’t even there, big herds of buffalo coming to drink at the last remaining water holes, sparring kudu bulls, leopard sleeping in a tree, leopard feeding warthog mother with 6 piglets playing around the vehicle and many more.

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Until next time…

The Mateya team.

01 JANUARY 2015

Firstly the Mateya rangers would like to wish every one a happy and prosperous new year, 2014 sure have been a roller coaster ride with many unforgettable moments from the bush; gifted to us and our lucky guests and I am sure 2015 will be no different!

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Our last month of 2014 was no different with some truly great sightings! This time of the year the bush is alive and well with baby animals all over, especially impala lambs which have stolen the hearts of many guests with their cute factor. Year-end is always full of surprises and we were fortunate to see brown hyena cubs on a few occasions, including a rare sight of an African wild cat kitten! The lions sightings has also been fantastic, our resident pride in the north-east entertained us very well seeing them regularly. Some guests have even been lucky enough to see three different lion prides from the north and the south of the park.

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The cheetahs was spotted on a number of occasions and one can’t ever get tired of seeing them, one is always mesmerized by theirbeauty. We are looking forward to enjoying the new year with you and share many more great sightings one of the early highlights of the year will be the release of the two female cheetahs and we can’t wait to see them out and about exploring the expanse of Madikwe.

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We had some great news as well early in December…the wild dog pack in the south had a litter of pups and we enjoyed their company on a few occasions. Since then they have moved the den site unfortunately like they normally would to keep the larger predators from locating the den, but we are anticipating the pups to be moving around with the adults soon giving us more opportunity to be able to find them.

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Best wishes for 2015 and we are looking forward to many more memorable moments in the bush!

 

From the Mateya team.

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