And back again!

Wow … what a crazy few weeks these have been … I have never been busier helping so many guests for bookings, questions, travel arrangements … January was the busiest month I have ever had, and I have been doing this for over 6 years now. And February is not showing any slowdown!

As a result, I could not dedicate enough time to this blog, and that was frustrating, because we have had loads of amazing sightings over recent weeks.

So let’s start in the recent past … the last two days!

Guests were absolutely thrilled to see a week old giraffe standing still next to his mom so they got a good look at him.

The Cheetahs are still hanging around the Broken Dam, this is good for us since we are lucky enough to see them as often as we do. It is something that this reserve is now known for … you can see wild cheetahs in their wild habitat almost every day here, and that’s very rare nowadays in Africa. Come and see these iconic animals really up-close and personal here!

The Lions were being rather evasive although we were able to get a shot of one of the females. The photo below is the mother of the three cubs. I am still in awe in terms of how well she’s done. By God, I struggle with our two little ones. Maybe lion cubs are just better behaved. Well, they don’t need nappy changes, for one, so that’s something.

Two gorgeous Hoopoe birds were found only after their call was heard. Hoopoe is named after the sound produced by the bird. Another interesting fact about them is that their beak is muscular enough to open while it is in the ground looking for food. Apart from that, they are also very pretty birds. See below … I think everyone will agree with me. :-)

Cheetah up-close
Cheetah up-close
Impala herd
Impala herd
Lioness
Lioness
African Hoopoe bird
African Hoopoe bird

Fighting giraffes, rhino spa treatments and training lions

Nature is like life … a never-ending conveyor belt of activity … giraffes fight for domination over females (yep, we do that too, just in more subtle ways, and sometimes in less subtle ways if we are honest), young lions are learning the ropes of the “business” under the watchful of big daddy who thinks he knows it all, and rhinos … well, they have nothing to fear really (except humans of course), but as they are all well protected here, they can endulge in a relaxing mud bath, a proper spa treatment. And it’s all for free. ;-)

The point of these mud baths is to cool down, and also “drown” the many ticks that are biting them. Once the mud has dried on the skin, it can be scratched off with the ticks and other parasites stuck in it. Clever trick. Lots of animals use this trick, and rhinos are no exception.

The photos below have been taken over the last 2 days, but it’s of course only a short selection of the dozens of animals we saw … frustrating in a way, but if you want to see it all … just come and visit! :-)

"Necking" giraffes fighting out their differences
“Necking” giraffes fighting out their differences
Young lions fooling around ...
Young lions fooling around …
... I wouldn't annoy big daddy ...
… I wouldn’t annoy big daddy …
Now that's a chilled spa treatment. Enjoy!
Now that’s a chilled spa treatment. Enjoy!

Lion cub update

I personally know a thing or two about raising TWO little ones at the same time. It’s tough.

One of our lionesses is raising three … hats off!

And just as human toddlers, these three are busy, fooling around, fighting with each other, experimenting with all sorts of things. Luckily for her, it’s not for 20 years (let’s be honest, it’s usually for life!).

So these three cubs are now a little over half a year old or so, and we are all impressed that all three of them have made it, the mother has done a great job. They are all in good health, and it’s an immense privilege and pleasure for our guests to watch them.

We spotted them all yesterday, playing around in the Mbezi River. The serious part of life has clearly not begun … yet!

It will be interesting to see what will start happening once they reach maturity. What genders are they? Because if there is a male, then that one is in for a hiding from his dad … he will not tolerate a mature male competitor next to him. I will update you over the next months how the situation evolves. Last time they had 2 girls … so that made it easy (how ironic is that?). But what is it this time? Time will tell …

Lion cub
Lion cub

Chasing each other!
Chasing each other!
... mom's never far ...
… mom’s never far …

Finally back!

This must have been the longest absence from this blog probably ever.

Not that it reflects a lack of sightings over this time, totally to the opposite. In fact, I was planning on showing photos of all the animals we have seen over the last 10 days. But then I realised it would be far over 100 photos, and that’s just the animals we took a photo of, so I had to give up on that idea. It’s just too much, I’d be working on that blog the entire day.

I have been on a trip abroad to promote the lodge, and at the same time, we have never seen more bookings come in than this January. It’s phenomenal to see how the reputation of the lodge and the reserve has spread over the years, and after the many years of constantly improving things, we are now part of the top 10 lodges. And we will continue to improve and innovate, keeping all the aspects that people are telling us that they like it here for, and adding new things that might have been missing. If you stand idle, you actually regress, that’s what I feel is truer than ever.

So, let me show you some of the prettiest photos our tracker shot over the last couple of days, to get back into the swing of things! Feathers, furs and claws. It was all there!

Lioness
Lioness
Now that's a funny rhino photo!
Now that’s a funny rhino photo!
Young Giraffe
Young Giraffe
Spotted Eagle Owl - posing for our guests
Spotted Eagle Owl – posing for our guests
Close-up encounter will an elephant
Close-up encounter will an elephant
That's as pretty a Kingfisher you'll ever see
That’s as pretty a Kingfisher you’ll ever see

Action outside – action inside

Now that the summer season is in full swing, there is more wildlife activity than ever. At least it feels that way. There are more and more grazer babies everywhere – impala, wildebeest, zebras, … making predators very happy and their bellies very full. That’s the cycle of life, and this is a great time of year to see it all unfold, right in front of your eyes.

And when our guests come back from exciting game drives, the action continues at the lodge! Vusi, Kalmay, Rosie and everyone else of the kitchen staff are always busy surprising our guests with their hundreds of culinary exploits. And in a setting like this, it’s all smiles. most naturally. I don’t blame them! :-)

Here the week’s most beautiful shots. There were hundreds, literally, so it took me a long while to narrow them down.

Spectacular cheetah sighting! Mother with her cubs!
Spectacular cheetah sighting! Mother with her cubs!
Elephant unusually up-close
Elephant unusually up-close
Wildebeest herd with calves
Wildebeest herd with calves
Lion pride!
Lion pride!
It's just a cute look ... but just a look.
It’s just a cute look … but just a look.
The pride of the pride!
The pride of the pride!
Vusi is all smiles - this guy is one of the stars in the kitchen
Vusi is all smiles – this guy is one of the stars in the kitchen

Attention - this is addictive!
Attention – this is addictive!

Quite a way to be kicking off 2016!

I received today a really kind email from George Johnson, who stayed with us in late 2015. I am always delighted to receive emails with feedback about our guests’ stay, and this one was glowingly positive, so that put an extra big smile on my face. What a way to kick off 2016!

George claims that “he is only a banker” as an excuse for the quality of his photos. Well, I beg to differ, there are clearly other talents outside of banking!

George has kindly allowed me to publish his best shots here, to share with our many fans. Many thanks for the generosity.

Here some of his review:

“The game drives were wonderful. We were tempted to go on certain activities outside of Vuyani, but never at the expense of the twice daily drives. We loved the challenge of the “hunt”, being able to go off road and look for the animals. We were never disappointed. We would not have had this energy rush at Kruger, I guess, as there’s a paved road for part of the park I am told and you can’t leave that. But, the animals there come “pre-packaged” and you can see the whole kingdom on one day. I preferred the adventure of doing it the way we did at Vuyani! We even saw a bull elephant the last night, while the others were still up the mountain.”

And here the photos!

Zebras
Zebras
Male lion
Male lion
Giraffe
Giraffe
Leopard at night
Leopard at night
Cheetah up-close
Cheetah up-close
Female lion
Female lion

Putting things in perspective

It’s a funny thing with pictures … it’s a bit like with the view through a rear mirror … things might not be the way they appear.

When it comes to photos, they really disguise the size of the object on them … until they are put into perspective.

I often get the question from future guests: “How big is a rhino?” or “How big is a lion?”. When you then say things like “a lion can weigh up to 270kg” (about 70 times the size of a house cat), or “a rhino weighs as much as a pickup truck”, then this usually means something to people.

Or photos like these, they also do the job. ;-)

Lion close-up
Lion close-up

Raw nature

The depth and rawness of nature here is really quite overwhelming by times, and I have seen a thing or two, that’s for sure.

It’s also the variety of every day that’s so surprisng. No day is like any day ever before. You never know what you’ll get when you head out.

Here an example of what we saw a couple of days ago … a spectacular day indeed.

We tracked and found the Cheetah female with her 3 Cubs near Diep Dam – they are still doing well and have become quite relaxed with the vehicle – we spent around 15 minutes watching them move and rest and move and rest. What a sighting, and what iconic photos our guests managed. Memories to treasure a lifetime.

On our way back to the lodge we took the Entrance Road from Main Gate side and saw something in the bushes. Krest spotted it and we saw it was the lions. Amazing! They were on the move and clearly looking for a snack. We stayed with them for about 10 minutes as they disappeared into the thicket.

We also found a dead Impala with some tracks around it – hard to tell for sure as it is quite “rocky” terrain. But the Vultures were having a feast!

Also interestingL Egyptian Goose in her nest!

Some of the more spectacular sightings were the Herd of Elephants that crossed the road RIGHT in front of us and walked off munching away – they were spotted on the Eastern River Track. We even saw one of the tiny elephant calves suckling on the Mom. Very moving indeed and our guests must have taken hundreds of photos. They couldn’t have been happier. Lots of smiles.

Not long after we saw Zebra with her foal, also suckling! Babies everywhere … ;-)

Cheetah Mum and her cubs
Cheetah Mum and her cubs
Pride of lions
Pride of lions
Impala kill? Vultures are enjoying the meal ...
Impala kill? Vultures are enjoying the meal …
Egyptian Goose nest
Egyptian Goose nest
Zebra baby ...
Zebra baby …
... and the herd
… and the herd
Elephant and her baby
Elephant and her baby

News – finally !!

Yesterday, Hendrick and Krest decided to have coffee at Diep Dam with our guests, but then unexpectedly picked up fresh cheetah tracks. After a bit of tracking we found the female with her cubs. We saw her earlier in the year and she had started out with 5 cubs at the time. That is a huge lot for one female, what a brave mother. She has 3 healthy active cubs left and they are around a year old now. That’s a very good achievement for this cheetah mum. In nature, survival rates of cheetah cubs can be as low as 20% so she has done an brilliant job.

It was a great sighting and we are so glad she is still around, and that she has managed to get 3 cubs through what must have been an extremely tough year for her.

For me personally, this is the best news that I could have hoped for, as the year comes to an end. It shows us the immense value of our reserve, and what a haven it has become for some of the world’s most iconic, and yet highly endangered animals. We have done our bit here for a lasting legacy, and that is cause for celebration. :-)

Cheetah mum with her cubs
Cheetah mum with her cubs

And as the heat rises …

… animals are getting very lazy.

I have been a bit quieter on this blog for a little while, but that’s not because we have seen less game, very far from it (we have been spotting loads of it actually), but because I have been very busy with bookings and many other end of year (Christmas anyone?) matters over recent days. All good now though!

Over the last few days temperatures have been rising steadily, and today a monstrous peak temperature of 48 Celsius was reached. Wow. As a result the game has also become very lazy, and the photos show it. I don’t blame them.

It has been Rhino drive today! We tracked and found rhinos on two different occasions – either munching away at the greenery (quite close to the vehicle, as you can see) but very chilled out or taking a much needed mud bath in
the sweltering 40 degree heat! Very chilled indeed …


We also spotted the two Cheetah brothers – they are not being very active – as it is simply too hot to do anything, they were near the same spot on Khaya cutline where we saw them yesterday.

We also saw Nyala, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Vervet Monkeys and a plover, so it’s been a very busy day. We go out in the eary mornings and the late afternoons, so we avoid the worst of all heats that way. But otherwise, our large pool is offering some welcome refreshment.

When giraffes are sitting down, you know it must be hot. This is not normal for them.
When giraffes are sitting down, you know it must be hot. This is not normal for them.