Loads of game!

We have had some amazing sightings again over recent days. The elephants and lions are back down south on the reserve and we are spoilt for choice once again.

We spotted Zebra, Giraffe (as always MANY) and beautiful photo opportunities.

We tracked and found the cheetahs near Riversdale gate cuddled up together to fight the cold. These two brothers truly are inseparable. And they are so photogenic!

We had audio of the elephants the whole day at the lodge, we heard them breaking branches and trumpeting around the Presidential Suites. So we had an idea of where they were. We set off in the afternoon and found them smack bang right on the Vuyani entrance road. About 500 m from the lodge. The whole herd together!

They posed no threat whatsoever as they were just curious. Really cool sighting! And I imagine for some quite nerve wrecking. We spotted them again in the morning on the entrance road. And they were once again calm and cool and munching away.

We tracked and found the Lions along with MRL guides just west of the Vuyani Safari Lodge near the riverbed.

Rex had audio of them in the morning and informed the guys. They all set out to find the cats and spotted them not too far from Vuyani Lodge having a snooze in the morning sun. Just amazing sightings … !

And what’s been going on at the Vuyani Safari Lodge?

Well, in 2016, a lot actually!

We added 3 amazing honeymoon suite chalets, with large private decks, and stunning double outdoor showers. But not just that … we added a large additional building, for dinners with open kitchen, a spa room, and an outdoor space for drinks right in the heart of African nature. See the photos below of the additions that have, again, moved the needle for the Vuyani Safari Lodge.

We had a professional photographer, who managed to take some stunning shots of the new spaces, as well as a mind-blowing air shot of the entire complex. Amazing.

Gives you a very good idea of what I mean when I say “Bush Lodge”. It doesn’t get any closer to the bush experience. You’re not right in it, you’re part of it.

For all our future guests: a lot to be looking forward to!

For guests who have already stayed with us: Come back, there’s a lot of new things to discover!

Bernard

Vuyani 2016-3 Vuyani 2016-18 Vuyani 2016-41 Vuyani 2016-49 Vuyani 2016-54 Vuyani 2016-59 Vuyani 2016-69 Vuyani 2016-84 Vuyani 2016-87 Vuyani 2016-92 Vuyani 2016-97

Something has changed over the years

To me it often still feels like the Vuyani Safari Lodge is a relatively new lodge. But that simply isn’t true. We have been running for over 7 years now, and that can only mean that we are not really the “new kid on the block” anymore. About 30 lodges have opened in the area since we launched, and we are now ranked No.1 of all safari lodges in the Hoedspruit area on Tripadvisor, so no, we are not really a challenger lodge. Far, far from it.

What I have noticed this year is that the density of sightings is totally different from what it was as recently as 2 or 3 years ago, as well as its reliability. We used to have “quiet” days, sometimes 2-3 in a row. No more! It’s 2-3 of the Big5 now every day, and then so much more … cheetahs, hippos, crocs, …

The last 2 days show what I mean. Loads of amazing sightings, and this is only a portion of what we managed to show our guests.

We saw the elephants just west of Lodge Road – they were in the thicket and munching away.

We tracked and found the Lions twice near Nyala Crossing on Riversdale. We got some amazing photos of the male and he is looking exceptionally regal. So pretty, not a single scar on him.

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We knew the Rhino would be near a feeding spot and we were lucky! We saw two of them munching on the grass that has been put out. You will notice that their horns have been cut, which is a very effective way of preventing poachers. Our rhinos have no value for them!

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In the evening we drove past Diep Dam and there was a large Hippo bull out of the water looking for some grass. This is a fairly rare sighting, they are usually in the water, during daytime anyway, but they don’t like to be disturbed during feeding time. But we saw this one …. fascinating.

Today’s elephant encounter – Marie’s report

Marie has visited the lodge several times already, and she is probably the biggest fan one can imagine (and a personal friend of mine). She even worked several weeks here, to help out last year.

She is staying with us again, right now.

Well, this morning, when out on safari, they had a bit of an … interesting encounter with our big boy elephant.

Here in her own words (ie. don’t blame me, I didn’t do it!):

“On this morning’s game drive we decided to try and track down some elephants. Having spotted one lone male munching away merrily on the local flora we were even more privileged to see some mummies and babies.  Cameras clicked and lots of oohs and aahs were exclaimed.  A very successful sighting we all agreed.

After the family had wandered off in the dense bush we moved a little further down.  Stopping suddenly we were confronted by another bull elephant who was obviously feeling rather amorous! Our driver, Togara, pointed out that he was probably a very frustrated and unhappy elephant. He was in must, which you could see dripping from his mouth, and was proudly showing off his goods for all the world to see.

OMG! Oh my!  Whoah! These were the initial reactions from my fellow guests, followed by some  sniggering and a few comments in the style of toilet humour that us Brits love so well. One lady commented that she had never seen one so big, to which her husband exclaimed “yes you have, every day!” I was just thinking how lucky I am not to be a lady elephant!

I wonder if the poor fellow realises that his manhood – or elephanthood – was going to be the star of the morning? We were all impressed, even if his intended lady friends were not. Fingers crossed me meets a nice young lass very soon……”

So here the pictures to prove this saucy sighting … Not for the shy souls …

Oh my ....
Oh my ….

Truly crazy sighting

We had a truly UNIQUE sighting this week …. We tracked and found two rhinos at a dam. We were watching them
approach the water to take a mud bath when the pack of wild dogs approached. They were very interested in what the rhino were doing!!

The rhinos seemed oblivious to the dogs and carried on with their mud bath. Even when the dogs approached them they did not seem to be alert at all. At one stage they did kick up a bit of dust. But that is about it. And quite frankly, if you have ever seen a rhino up-close, then you know why a rhino will not be worried by a wild dog. Not a chance.

There was a dead wildebeest already in the water when the dogs approached. They sniffed at it and inspected, but decided that they don’t want “Old Meat” ;-)

What I find particularly amazing is that this sighting combined two of Africas’s very rarest animals. There are only about 3000 wild dogs out in the wild, and about 12,000 rhinos, on a continent larger than North America, Latin America and Europe COMBINED!

So the odds of seeing these two animals at the same place and at the same time are almost zero. It is a total fat tail event, ie. a black swan event. Mind-blowing stuff!

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So do you have giraffes?

This is a question I get frequently … and I suppose, for good reason. Giraffes are amongst the most impressive animals to roam earth. They are the tallest in the world, and that alone is a very good reason to want to see them up-close, and in the flesh.

So the answer is, yes, we have giraffes here. Loads actually. In fact over 500 … at least. You will see giraffes every day here, that I can pretty much guarantee.

Here a lovely shot a couple of days ago. Cute, the little baby giraffes.

While it seems that giraffes travel in groups (called “journeys”), their social connections are very loose. They often leave a group, join another, then leave again. Sometimes they roam in large groups, sometimes, in small ones, and sometimes on their own. They are not as such herd animals, strictly speaking. But they don’t seem to mind it either. They are just quite chilled animals actually. They don’t mind the odd bird getting rid of their parasites either, so they are very tolerant. Well, if they get rid of your ticks, why would you mind? ;-)

Giraffes crossing the dirt road
Giraffes crossing the dirt road
A large journey of giraffes, with little ones of all ages
A large journey of giraffes, with little ones of all ages

 

Something very, very different

I admit it … I do have a funny fascination about all things vintage. I really do. I find most modern things a little soul-less, maybe because they are too perfect. I don’t know. I like old brass taps, I like old watches, and I really like vintage cars. I always think that it would be such a pleasure to go back in time, say to the 1930s and spend one day in a city at that time. But that isn’t possible of course.

So I have been driving past this car shop for many years now, in Hoedspruit, and there was this old vintage 1947 car there, standing nolens volens under a shabby roof. And every time I drove past I thought to myself … one day, I will stop, buy it, and restore it to its former glory … what a shame it is standing around here, in the elements, slowly rotting away. But you know how it is … you think it … and you drive on. I either didn’t have the money, or the time, there always was a reason not to stop. So about 5 months ago, I saw that car again, but this time, I didn’t drive past. I did stop, walked in, made an offer and bought it!!

I had it taken to Pretoria, to a car restoration specialist, and he had only good news for me. Sound engine at its core, and good body, as well as chassis. No damage that cannot be made good on! What a find.

After some research, we found out that the car was the Cape Town mayor’s car in the 1940s. It was passed on to a friend, who kept it until he passed away, and then it went to his son, who sold it to a Hoedspruit mechanic in 2003. And now it is my mission to have it completely restored.

So why am I sharing this on the safari blog?

Well, I have decided to make this magnificent car available for mountain road trips to our guests once it is done. This sort of historic pleasure is to be shared and enjoyed by all.

I will update you here regularly on progress of the restoration. I will not yet let you know yet what the make and model is, but in due time, it will become obvious. All I will say is that it is a 1947 make.

Here a snapshot of the chasis restoration. This is a proper 100% bottom-up restoration, with all bolts and nuts restored or replaced. You will be able to enjoy this car in exactly the condition it was in when it rolled off the production line in 1947. Something to be getting excited about! It will be ready in about 8 weeks or so.

Chassis full restoration
Chassis full restoration

 

Surrounded by elephants!

Ellies…..Ellies…..Ellies…. We found the herd between MRL and the Vuyani Safari Lodge in the block. They were on the move. We stopped in the road and the herd pretty much “surrounded” us. We got some amazing photos and the elephants got quite close … make that a British “quite”. Amazing moment for our guests, that’s for sure.

We also spotted the male lion near Big Dam in the evening. We decided to follow up the next morning and found they (male and two females) had taken down a wildebeest not too long before our arrival. The male had started feeding and as customary (first things first!), the females waited nearby for their turn. Great sighting and some very nice pics too……

What a start into May

We have started May off in a super fashion – the sightings have been superb so far. Not that it surprises us, the quality of sightings is always second to none here, but it still doesn’t cease to amaze us.

We have seen giraffes in all shapes and sizes – one animal you can never get tired of photographing, in my opinion. It is also an all-time favourite with our guests.

Elephant herd - with playful baby
Elephant herd – with playful baby

We also tracked and found the Lions in the evening near Diep dam – they were quite hidden in the thicket but we managed a snap of one of the sub adults peeking through the branches. We didn’t sit with them long as the visual was quite poor.

Lion sub-adults
Lion sub-adults

We also saw Nyala, Vulture, Vervet Monkeys and some Wildebeest. Amazing shot, see below. It doesn’t get much more iconic African nature than that.

Nyala
Nyala
Herd of wildebeest
Herd of wildebeest

We tracked and found the Cheetah on Jackal Plains – they were on the move and we snapped a photo of the one brother crossing the plains. Very cool.

Cheetah on plains
Cheetah on plains

We spotted the wild dog pack near porcupine dam – they were taking a nap. We spent around 10 minutes or so in the sighting and then pressed on. Having said that, this is the second rarest carnivore in Africa, with only about 2000-3000 still out there in the wild, so to see them is as rare as it gets. Well, the only rarer animals is the Ethiopean coyote. That’s about it. Enough said, conservation here is taken extremely seriously.

Pack of super rare wild dogs
Pack of super rare wild dogs

On our way back to the lodge we picked up fresh elephant tracks and they crossed right in front of us a mere couple of seconds later. Lucky!! They were on Nyala road near the bridge crossing heading West. The whole herd together and the bull gave us a bit of a dominance show (as usual). See below. He’s the boss. We get it. ;-)

Meet the boss!
Meet the boss!
Elephant herd crossing right in front of us
Elephant herd crossing right in front of us

 

Predator’s days

It’s been a “hectic” couple of days … we have seen loads of large game and loads of predators … cheetahs, lions, wild dogs, bird predators, … all sorts.

We tracked and found the Ellies south of Big dam – the whole herd together – the bull was again showing us who is bigger. ;-) great sighting!

Elephant bull
Elephant bull

We then picked up fresh tracks of the Wild Dogs and spotted them at the Giraffe Road / Nyala Road split. Three of
them have veered off from the rest of the pack – but our guides are convinced they will reunite soon.

Wild dogs
Wild dogs

Amore snapped some great photos of Togara driving in the riverbed and on sundowner stop – one of the perks of working at the Lodge – you can sometimes join the Safaris. Amore, as an avid photographer, managed this great shot.

River bed cruisen'
River bed cruisen’

This morning we tracked and found the lions at Seekoei dam. The female with the sub adults had managed to take down not one – but TWO wildebeest!!!! They were feasting on the remains (which were pretty gruesome, see photo below). We snapped some incredible photos and let them be after about 15 minutes. Our guests have had a seriously spectacular couple of days … gruesome at times, but that’s nature. It’s raw and real here. And we keep it that way.

Lionesses on kill
Lionesses on kill
Beautiful Goshawk
Beautiful Goshawk