Impressive elephants

We tracked and found the bull elephant near Porcupine Dam – he was being the perfect “model” and posed for
photos (even playing with a stick and giving himself a dust bath): a perfect photographic opportunity. I think the photo below is one of the most stunning shot we have ever managed of the male elephant. Great work!

The lions have been rather near each other (only about 3 kms apart), they were seen near Anaboom camp. The male had taken down a very skinny warthog and was snacking on it by himself. The rest of the pride were on the move – and we lost them in the thicket after a while. But our guests managed some stunning photos, and that’s what a safari is all about – experiencing these animals close-up in their natural habitat.

We are starting to be hopeful about the beginning of the rainy season soon(ish) … our reserve, of all reserves, seems to have suffered the least, but this year’s drought has been tough on many reserves. Food is scant, and you can see what the concept “survival of the fittest” sometimes really means in nature. It’s toughest near the finish line.

Male elephant
Male elephant
Lioness resting in th shade
Lioness resting in th shade

Hilary Martin – the full safari photo report

Now and then I have guests email in some of their best shots that they took during their stay with us. And I am happy to admit, it always makes me smile how amazing many of these sightings are. I myself don’t get to go out there nearly as often as I would love to, so it is a huge reward to see at last what our guests see … and boy, do they see things … wow!!!

Hilary had a great time here, and she has sent me the following shots, her favourite photos. And I can see why! Stunning, simply stunning.

Many thanks for allowing us to share them with our fans and future guests, that’s really kind. And many thanks for sharing these wonderful memories with us!

Hippo
Hippo

Not to be messed with!
Not to be messed with!
Up-close!
Up-close!
When do you get this close to an owl??
When do you get this close to an owl??
Checking out lunch ...
Checking out lunch …
Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon
Elephant herd crossing a dry river bed (am I stating the obvious??)
Elephant herd crossing a dry river bed (am I stating the obvious??)
Rare White Rhino!
Rare White Rhino!

Dry times

August is the peak of the dry season … but this year, things are particularly dry. This year’s rainy season wasn’t much to write home about, and that means tough times for wildlife in the dry season. Most of the animals have moved west nearer the mountain for feeding purpose – we are lucky in the sense that our reserve goes all the way to the foot of teh Drakensberg, so compared to other reserves, we are doing ok.

Nonetheless, we saw loads of amazing game … and visibility is superb, which most certainly is an advantage of the dry season. Very crisp photos too!

We saw Giraffe, Vervet Monkeys, Grey Turaco, Kudu, White Backed Vulture & Nyala.

We tracked and found the cheetahs on the Khaya Ndlovu line, they flopped down and started to groom each other, a bit of brotherly love in tough times ;-)

We also saw a crash of White Rhino … amazing!

We tracked and found the young lions on Muruti in a dry river bed – we snapped some great photos.

They were quite active and the young male’s mane has really started to “blossom”. I wonder how long daddy will tolerate him being around … I reckon not too much longer. He’s on his way to becoming competition, step by step. And dads don’t like competition, don’t we know that all? ;-)

Curious monkeys
Curious monkeys
Young lion
Young lion

Cheetahs
Cheetahs
Elephant
Elephant
Crash of rhinos
Crash of rhinos
White backed vultures
White backed vultures

Leopard’s Bent living up to its name!!

Leopard spotted last night on Safari on the “Leopard’s Bent” portion of the reserve! An unusually outstanding sighting. We stayed with him for about 15 minutes … this is the sort of sightings that make a trip to South Africa worth it on its own. I wish I had been there myself … lucky guests! :-)

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From the cutest to the most massive – and all up-close!

I often bemoan the obsession about the “Big 5″, and it is right … many of the very largest animals are not in the Big 5 (how about the giraffe, or the hippo?), and also many of the prettiest or most interesting aren’t in that group either (cheetahs anyone?). It’s an old-fashioned hunter term that should really be done away with … but it is proving to be having many lives.

For me, what an African safari is all about is discovering the full range of animals, and that’s many hundreds of them. In fact we have about 400 species of birds alone on our reserve … some of them tiny, and super cute, to the most impressive, such as the elephant, the largest animal on land.

Here’s what I mean by tiny and cute: the bush baby! It’s the smallest of all primates (yes, it is a small monkey), and they are just adorable. Hard to see them up-close, as they are very shy, so it is all the more amazing to see them so close-up. Adorable!

Bush Baby :-)

And when I talk about impressive and close-up, well, this is it!!

Male elephant!
Male elephant!

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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