13 OCTOBER 2010

We managed to capture two more very rare animals on the Mateya “trail cam”, Leopard and Black Rhino.

07 OCTOBER 2010

After months of seeing this very elusive animal’s tracks around camp we’ve managed to capture the African Civet (Civettictis civetta) on film. Here’s a few facts about him.

Diet:
Omnivorous: insects, small rodents, fruit, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and carrion. Takes rumen contents from antelope carcasses.

Reproduction:
Litters of up to four young are produced August-January after a gestation of 60-65 days.

Behavior and Habits:
Solitary, or in family groups of mother with young. Nocturnal; most active from 1-2 hours after sunset until midnight. Shelters during the day in holes or dense cover. Forages on the ground making extensive use of pathways. The teeth are designed for crushing rather than cutting, and vertebrate prey is held down by the forepaws and torn apart with the incisors and canines. Scent marks frequently by wiping the everted anal gland onto smooth objects, depositing an odor which lasts for up to three months. Defecates in middens near paths, which have the same odor as scent marks. Middens may be used by more than one civet. Adult males spray urine.
-Buffalo is also appearing on the camera on a daily basis

03 OCTOBER 2010

We here at Mateya decided to get a “trail camera” and put it up around camp to see what’s happening when we are not around or all fast asleep. This camera is triggered by motion and also body heat. Not only are we getting photographs of some very rare and shy animals, but we also found out who’s been steeling our water pipes.

So far it’s proved to be a huge success and we thought we’ll share the fun we’re having with this new toy with you.

01 SEPTEMBER 2010

Firstly I would like to use this opportunity to welcome Francois to the ranger team. I hope he will enjoy being part of the Mateya family.

As for the Madikwe bush, it is still very dry and it’s getting hotter by the day. Sightings are still booming around camp with animals coming to the camp waterhole daily to quench their thirst.

I am very excited to announce that five very healthy Wild Dog pups have been seen for the first time after “denning” during the winter months. My guest and I spend some time with them early one morning running and playing next to our vehicle. Very exciting stuff…

I would like to share one of my most amazing leopard sightings to date in this park with you. As per usual very early one morning my guests (John and Christina) and I left on the morning drive. We started off by rushing to get our coffee down to get a closer look at some White Rhino that came in to drink at the camp waterhole. After that we had some Elephant on the road. I heard a call come in on the radio that one off the other rangers spotted a Leopard up in a tree very close to where we were. I immediately responded and asked to join his sighting. As we joined the other vehicle we were told she just jumped from the tree seconds before we arrived. No need to say we were extremely disappointed to have missed this beautiful animal. Especially when we saw the excitement on the faces of the guests on the other vehicle. We hanged around for a few more minutes hoping for a miracle before myself and Paul (my tracker) decided to drive around the block very slowly to try to find her again. Halfway around, we found some lions lying in the road blocking our way. We spend fifteen minutes with them and continued circling the block. When we got back to the same tree where she was spotted at in the beginning Paul whispered, “Nkwe”, and surely there she was. Perfectly camouflaged between the grass. I switched the vehicle off and we sat for five minutes watching each other. She was very interested in something up in the tree. Eventually she took a leap and 20 meters from the vehicle she scaled the tree trying to get to what I would imagine was a Squirrel or Genet in the cavity of the tree. We spend another ten minutes watching her climbing up and down the tree. The first photo I’ve attached is to see how well these spotted cats camouflage in the African bush. The second is to share the beauty of this magnificent cat.

Until next time…

Werner

01 AUGUST 2010

August marks the last month of winter before spring begins. No rain has fallen yet and it is very dry out in the bush.

But these dry conditions made for brilliant game viewing during the month. Because of very little surface water out in the bush there is plenty activity at the camp water hole every day. Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo Giraffe, Zebra, Kudu, Impala and Warthog can be seen almost on a daily basis from the decks of the suites and the main lodge. We’ve even been treated by the presence of a big male Leopard one morning that came to quench his thirst at the camp water hole while we were having coffee before going on drive. Leopard sightings in general have been above average this month probably also because of the drier conditions with most trees still being in a dormant state without leaves.

Lions as always were seen almost daily but one specific sighting that stuck to my mind is where we had the two “Kagala-Etali” males feeding for five days on an Eland bull that they killed. Seeing the size of that Eland bull just reminds you of the power these two male lions must poses to take down such a beast.

Eugene was lucky enough to see Cheetah on two occasions. The Wild Dogs was also seen occasionally and even hanged out close to camp for a couple of days. I was over the moon with an African Civet sighting we had close to camp one night. This was only my third sighting in my career of this very elusive animal.

The attached pictures were taken from the deck at the main lodge.

Until next time…

Werner

01 JULY 2010

One good thing about the end of winter is that all the periodic waterholes are dried up. This makes it a little bit easier to find certain of the herbivores that drink water daily or even twice daily like most grazers. Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo have been particularly good the last couple of weeks. There is nothing on earth that beats looking at a herd of buffalo drinking water at the dam with a typical South-African sunset in the background.

July isn’t a bad month because we have had some warm days, thank heavens everybody in Africa hates the cold. One sure sign of the days warming up is the rock monitors basking in Leadwood Trees, where they have been hibernating for the last 3 months. One big problem though is as it gets hotter the already yellow grass dries out even more and fire is a huge risk. So everybody’s extremely fir conscious. At this time of the year all water dowsers in mint condition and fire beaters at the ready. The worst is August, the windy month in South-Africa.

The most interesting sighting we saw this month was the extremely rare brown hyena. What made this sighting even more exiting was that it was daylight. Brown hyena’s are extremely shy creatures so to see them skulking along in daylight is unbelievable. On closer inspection we saw that this hyena didn’t have any hair around his neck. I must tell you what an odd sight this was. This brown hyena had a scuffle with a lion and lucky him he survived. We could see all the scabs around his neck where the lion had crunched its jaws into the poor hyena’s neck. The most probable reason is that he ventured a bit too close to a lion kill and paid the price, fortunately he escaped with his life. One thing about the bush is that it is a cruel fight for survival where only the strong survive and meek get eaten. Until next month happy photographic hunting.

Eugene Bothma

01 JUNE 2010

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.

As always lions were seen on a regular basis again. On one morning drive we found a pride of 5 lions that killed a wildebeest during the night. On the afternoon drive we went back to pride 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 (Ditaba & Tsipedi) has chased the Hyena’s off the kill and were feeding on the remains of the wildebeest. We even witnessed a stand off between two young Lions and a Rhino. Lots of elephant and general game like zebra, wildebeest and impala were again seen at our water hole in front of the lodge. Even a big herd of buffalo has been coming down to our recycled water hole and even the lodge’s water hole with amazing regularity. We had a very special sighting one morning when we went out on a late morning walk and found the wild dogs on foot. We were on top of 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 you 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.

I can not wait to see what the rest of the month has to offer.

Werner

01 MAY 2010

May is supposed to mark the first month of winter and the start of the dry season. This was not quite the case as we got over a 100mm of rain in the beginning of the month. Even the grass was confused and started to produce seeds again. Despite being wet and miserable, it was a good thing for the animals as most of the water holes filled up nicely again after starting to dry up in April.

Even with all that rain we still managed to get brilliant sighting during the month.

We had a few very nice leopard sightings, one of which was feeding in a Leadwood tree on a young impala. She was very relaxed with the vehicle and we sat watching her feed for quite some time before heading back to camp for a well deserved dinner. One late afternoon we also saw a beautiful young female leopard walking in the road in front of the vehicle for a few minutes until she walking off on a game path, stopping for a few seconds to look back at us just long enough for all the guests to get some stunning pictures of her face.

Lion sighting was good as always and even the big males were seen on a few occasions. For one sets of guests the Kgala-Etali males was the first thing they saw coming from the airstrip as they killed a wildebeest 40 meters from where the plane landed. For another set of guests the Kgala-Etali males with the Sereti females and their cubs were the last thing they saw before getting onto the plane as they were lying on the Western Airstrip. The Timodiso pride of 5 also killed a wildebeest right in front of camp on one occasion and hanged around for 2 days. During those night hyena’s was constantly heard calling for backup to overpower the lions to get to the kill.

We also had a few brilliant wild dog sightings during the month. They even passed by camp on a few occasions. We are happy to report that the Alpha females of both packs are very much pregnant. The bigger pack of 16 seem to be looking for a den in the “Tswene Tswene” mountain range again like the year before last. This is a very safe area for them as not many of their big nemesis (lions) get up into the hills. Leopard can still sometime be a problem, but with 16 dogs in the pack not many a leopard will brave to get that close. The smaller back of 5 seemed to be hanging around the southern sections of the park.

Towards the end of the month most of the puddles formed by rain water started drying up and the herds started showing up at the camp’s water hole again. Elephant, zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, buffalo and even a few white rhino and hyena have been spotted coming down to drink.

Until next time…

Werner

24 APRIL 2010

It is not too often that I get out of the office and into the bush these days, so you can just imagine how I enjoyed getting out and back into the bush for a 3-day safari with a return guest to Mateya!

As we finished high tea on the first day I found myself sitting in the game drive vehicle and it dawned on me, I have not been out on a game drive for a while, with no idea where the latest sightings were! Luckily, Richard, one of three trackers at Mateya, was sitting on the tracker seat! To me, the golden rule on game drive set in, “When in doubt, ask your tracker!” He looked at me and said, “Let’s go to the Southern part of the reserve”. Now to me, you never do this on your first drive, it can be a bit quiet down there but never the less, I trusted Richard!

The safari started off with a sighting of a lone buffalo bull walking across the road and disappearing into the thick sickle bush! An hour later we reached the southern part of the park, having seen good general game, birds and a herd of elephants feeding in an open clearing. Not to bad! We decided to find a nice spot for a sundowner, somewhere nice with a high vantage to view the sunset, but before we could even go further than a 100 meters we encountered a huge roadblock, right in the middle of the road in the form of one of the biggest elephant bulls in the park! We had no choice but as to follow him down the road as he walked unhurriedly, feeding every now and again.

After we have had our drinks we started the drive back to the lodge. Not more than 5 minutes from where we had our sundowners, deep in conversation with the guest, I saw something right at the top of a dead lead wood tree, and there she was! A beautiful sub-adult female leopard! She was so relaxed and not even bothered by us. We sat right there, in the middle of the road, to scared to move, not wanting to frighten her. After about 10 min we decided to dare go a bit closer, she allowed us to within 20 meters of her, still draped over the branch staring of into the distance! Eventually she came down the tree and disappeared into the under growth.

The drive back to the lodge was quite; we still saw loads of animals, more buffalo, elephants and rhino, but quite in a sense of conversation. We all just sat there, in silence, reflecting on how privileged we were for her to have allowed us a glimpse of her life!
The next few days proved to be very productive, with more elephant, lion and general game sightings. We even got to see the big pack of wild dogs and a cheetah. All & all a very good safari and good excuse for me to get out of the office!

Philip Hattingh

01 APRIL 2010

Hi all, what an exciting month April has been. People would think going into winter the bush would be quiet but that’s not the case at all this month! As the sun comes up later each morning and the distinctive chill is in the air no-one really wants to get up for the morning drive, but what a beautiful time of the day it is with a fine mist covering the mountains and the dew laying on the deck. As the sun comes up it illuminates the leaves of the trees which has gone from green to yellow, brown or red. There were so many unbelievable sightings this month I’m not sure where to start so here goes.

One of the top sightings to me this month was the Buffalo; we went looking for them in the morning and found tracks of a big breeding herd heading into a thicket. We thought that our luck had run out because, finding Buffalo in Sickle bush is nearly impossible because they are like shadows. Nevertheless we decided to push on coming around the corner to my surprise the Sickle bush opened up and the Buffalo where all standing in the clearing, we slowly inched forward until we were right beside them and the wind was favourable to us. We spend a lot of time with them. As they couldn’t smell us they were unsure of what we were, picking up their heads trying to smell us with some of the younger bulls coming closer to investigate then taking a few steps back as their confidence fades. One thing about a Buffalo is it always looks at you like you owe him money. We then decided to move on and leave them in peace.

We also saw the same young female Leopard as last month but we couldn’t get any photo’s of her because she was mobile skulking through the brush. Still we considered ourselves unbelievable fortunate for this animal to let us into its world for any amount of time. Lions, Elephants and Rhino are out and about on almost every game drive in abundance.

The last sighting I would like to tell you about is the Wild dogs. As everyone knows they are extremely rare so just seeing them is a humbling experience. One morning we left on drive and the call came over the radio, I looked at my guests and said they found the dogs but it is very far. The guests replied go!! So we went and as we got closer the scrabble started between lodges about who is going to see them first. I decided to settle on the golden rule of Africa, “Hurry up and wait”, so that’s what I did. Suddenly the dogs got up and started running and I thought ”No we’re not going to see them”. As it was my turn next I entered the area where they headed towards, very concerned that I build up my guests expectations and won’t be able to deliver on my promise. The next moment 5 dogs popped out of the bush in front of us and you could clearly see they were hunting. The next moment they all darted into the bush and we could hear the alarm calls from a Kudu as we followed the dogs in we saw the rest of the pack devouring a Kudu. Unfortunately it was right in the middle of a thicket and there was no way to get closer but the sounds coming from the dogs where amazing. We waited patiently and were rewarded greatly for our patience. After a little while some of the dogs came running towards the vehicle and a huge fight erupted in front of us for the remaining scraps. I couldn’t help to think how hypocritical this action was for one of Africa’s best pack predators who work so well as a team to bring their prey down to be fighting like mortal enemy’s for the last bits of the carcass.

Keep it green!