Now that is an honor!

We had the pleasure and honor to host Mr Litwak, from Los Angeles, his wife Tiiu Luk and their son Michael a few weeks ago. Little did we know that Tiiu is THE African travel expert. She has visited, professionally for the Smithsonian, pretty much any famous lodge in Africa between Cairo and Cape Town. Literally.

As you can imagine, we were a little “nervous”. ;-)

Well, it turns out, there was no need for that. They absoluely loved it here. In fact, they told me that this was one of the best lodges they had ever stayed at. Wow! Here what she emailed in to me to thank us for their stay:

“Forgive my delay in letting you know how much we enjoyed and appreciated our stay at your wonderful Vuyani Lodge.  The lodge itself is a delight to the eye, and a comfortable vantage point to enjoy the wildlife coming through the grounds of the lodge.  Your staff all made us feel very welcome, the guides were excellent, and Craig does a terrific job of managing it all.  Your chef does an excellent job, and we enjoyed sharing meals with the rest of the guests. Thank you to you and Craig for the pleasure of sharing that meal with us in Hoedspruit, it was delicious, and great getting to know you.

Our game drives in Vuyani were delightful, and we saw lots of wonderful wildlife.  The frosting on the cake was the smorgasbord of excursions that gave us the opportunity to explore the neighboring attractions, including the breadth of Kruger National Park, and the stunning landscapes of the Blyde River Canyon.  What was most wonderful was the chance to spend time as a family doing these explorations, and the only thing missing was our son Michael, but he had a compelling work assignment that appropriately took priority.

I took a number of photos at Vuyani, and at Kruger, and if you want to use any of them in your blog, please feel free to do so.”

Here also some of the best photos Tiiu sent through. All of them spectacular!

 

Svetlana’s photo delight

Svetlana just sent in several lovely photos of her stay at the Vuyani Safari Lodge. Originally she grew up in Russia, and then later on she moved to France. She always wanted to visit South Africa and to see what the talk of big game is all about. So she came over with her husband Arnaud, and her two kids and a friend of theirs with his kid. Big party!

They absolutely loved their time here with us! And they saw so much, lucky them. Cheetahs, lions, rhinos, elephants (and baby!), the list goes on and on.

Many thanks to Svetlana for sharing some of her photos with us. We hope to see them again in the future!!

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Is the rainy season upon us?

The dry season in this part of the world lasts typically from May to October. As soon as September has come to an end, all eyes are on the sky. Is there early rain coming? Will there be a good rainy season?

These questions are a yearly ritual, lack of rain, or abundance of it, which are part of the cycle of life. I have seen rain for days on end, with an intensity that boggles your mind, and I have seen entire weeks in the middle of the rainy season go without a drop. Disaster! Cycles of multiple years of relative drought, causing havoc on the wildlife, followed by several years of heavy and frequent rains which makes everything come back strongly. Every time there is talk of climate change, and I am sure there is an effect there also, but the truth is: Dry and wet cycles have been a historic reality here, and it is essential, ironically enough, for the natural eco-system here. Survival of the toughest and fittest! And there is nohing like a good old challenge.

Last year was “ok” in terms of rain. We had some late rainfall in the season, which was very welcome. And after the Cape has had a relatively good rainy season, many are saying that we are in for good rains this year. But is it a fish wife’s tale? We shall see this year.

In the meanwhile, we had a few mm of very first rains, a few days ago, just a little drizzle, really, but it got everyone excited. Hopefully there is more to come! The heat has been on us, and the sun has been strong. Great for our guests, of course, but the game needs some refreshment now. Fingers crossed!

See below some photos taken this week. The vegetation is now at its driest, but one can see first green shoots everywhere, as nature readies itself for the wet season.

The way of the veld

I am always pleased to see that quasi all our guests stay almost a week here at the Vuyani Safari Lodge. The reason is that when guests stay shorter, they are, pun intended, changing themselves short.

A visit in the African bush (we call it “veld”) is not about ticking off the Big 5. It is about so much more. It is about letting yourself immerse into pure wild nature, detaching from the stressful modern tech world, back to an ancient way of things being, and soon, you will get back in touch with our human roots and origins in nature. This in itself is an enormously powerful, and liberating, effect, and it leaves our guests with lasting memories and lessons learnt, the most important one probably that in times immortal, our daily worries and ambitions are probably a little exaggerated and that there is something much bigger out there that does what it does, no matter what. It is that thing call planet, a huge eco-system, where millions and millions of small and large random events form an intricate self-healing system, where daily struggles and challenges make sure that only the fittest survive, producing wildlife that takes your breath away: the tallest, the fastest, the strongest and the heaviest animals that roam the earth all call this part of the world their home, on our reserve. It is nature on steroids, and the impact on our psyche is overwhelming.

Maybe that’s why we always say: “You can leave Africa, but Africa will never leave you”.

Baby Leopard Tortoise
Baby Leopard Tortoise

 

Amazing photos

Sometimes (in fact, not that seldomly) I get emailed photos that guests have taken on our reserve, and they are always beautiful. When the subjet is stuning, then the result can only be very good.

But sometimes I get SPECTACULAR photos. The sort of hobby photographers who, whatever other jobs they do, they could always also become professional photographers, and one of our very recent guests, Biplab, is certainly one of that rare kind of people. So let me just publish all his photos here, and you can pick your favourites. I tried, but I could not. I love them all.

And by the way … I LOVED the fact it seems that Biplab is one of the very seldom people who have noticed the many antique African artworks in our lodge and has captured them so well. And yes, they are all original pieces, from all over Africa. A true collection of the fascinating artwork that this rich continent has on offer!

2 baby giraffe 1 A tower of giraffes1 blue dragonfly1 Blue wilderbeest1 brownheaded kingfisher1 Cheetah brothers1 Cheetah lying1 Cheetahs crossing1 croc1 dung beetle ele eye ele trunk1 fire finch1 Grey go away1 hawkedit hipo 1 Hoopoe hornbill 1 Kudu1 Kudus fighting1 landscape1 Lion 1 Lion cubs behind bush with kill 1 lioness watching us1 Lion's teeth1 mum and baby hipo1 Nyalas1 red dragonfly1 spotted hyena1 starling toss1 sunrise1 Vervet monkey1 Vervet1 vultures1 Vuyani yellow belly bulbul1 yellow eyed starling1

End of dry season approaching

What a spectacular week is coming to an end! We had the elephants visiting our lodge in the evening, drinking half a jacuzzi empty, and ramming a tusk into it at the same time, causing it to having to be replaced now. Guests LOVED the “drama”. What entertainment. Felt like a bunch of teenagers ransacking a bar. ;-) (just kidding!)

In any case, especially in the dry season, elephants love visiting our lodge for a little swimming pool drink (but worry not, they don’t take a swim in it!), and, quite frankly, I think they are sometimes just plain curious and feel like checking out what the buzz about the Vuyani Safari Lodge is all about. Check our Facebook page for regular sightings. Spectacular stuff.

Speaking of spectacular and rainy season … it is slowly but surely coming to an end. September might see first rainfalls before the rainy season kicks off in October. This is NOT a hard rule, as there are large variations from year to year, but we had a couple of mm in August, which is unusal. Early rainy season coming? We shall see.

Rain is usually short-lived and strong (often at night), so not to worry … we don’t get the annoying grey drizzle for weeks on end. It would be nice if we did, but, to our guests’ delight, we simply don’t. Rain events are almost always short-lived events, and we always hope for more. This is Africa, after all!

Sightings have been amazing these days, ranging from up-close elephant sightings, rare birds, cheetahs, lions, and lots more. There is something amazing being spotted every day! But see for yourselves: this week’s sightings. Gives one a very, very good idea. The idea of a safari experience that is second to absolutely none!

Cheetahs up-close on a kill!
Cheetahs up-close on a kill!
Frog!
Frog!

African squirrel
African squirrel

Super rare Southern Ground Hornbill
Super rare Southern Ground Hornbill

The pretty and the rare – Birds!

While there is much focus on the large mammals that roam our reserve, and understandably so, it is easy to forget that the Moditlo Reserve is also home to many bird species … 400 actually! That makes it the highest bird wildlife density in the world, in all likelihood. So, for you birders out there: this is a destination for you!

So we have the full range: eagles (actually the largest eagle on earth), owls, and hawks, vultures, storks as well as hundreds of other species, some of them the prettiest you can imagine, some of them super rare, and some of them just downright bizarre.

Here one of my favourites. Can you spot it?

Here it is, zoomed in!

It is a lilac-breasted roller, which is in my eyes one of the prettiest birds on earth. 7 colors!! It is spectacular. Birders in general actually don’t like it, because it is very territory dominant, it does not tolerate other birds in its territory. So, pretty it may be, but pretty aggreessive too!

Here another photo!

Of course we also have kingfishers! Simply stunning.

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During evening game drives you are quite likely to spot a few of these. Always funny, and interesting.

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And then there is the super rare also: the Southern Ground Hornbill. If you stay a week here, you are quite likely to spot them. We have two breeding couples, which is amazing.

They get very old, up to 80 years old, and they only lay eggs every now and then, once every 4-5 years. They need perfect habitat conditions. It takes them years to raise one chick, and the previous chick helps them too. It’s complex, and that’s probably why this bird is severely endangered. I absolutely rejoyce seeing them. It’s a blessing.

 

The biggest, the tallest, the cutest, the rarest …

… here at Vuyani, you really see the entire range of what African wildlife has to offer. I always tell people: If the biggest, the tallest, the heaviest and the prettiest animals don’t impress you, then NOTHING ever will. It is truly incredible to see animals before you that weigh as much as lorries, and animals that tower, literally, over you and make you feel like the tiniest creature on earth. It’s probably a but like Jurassic Park, that sort of emotion. It’s a thrilling one too, and this one is REAL!

July of course is the first proper month of the “dry season” and as a result, lakes are starting to hold somewhat less water, and the bush is a lot less lush. Visibility increases and so this makes for amazing photos. But bear in mind: the mornings and evenings are usually quite cool, so pack for warm weather with strong sun during daytime, and chilly temperatures if the sun isn’t out.

Here a few photos we took over the last few days: Gives you an excellent idea!

Cheetahs - super rare and the world's fastest animal
Cheetahs – super rare and the world’s fastest animal
Elephant - the world's biggest animal on earth
Elephant – the world’s biggest animal on earth
Lions - the king of them all
Lions – the king of them all
Mongoose - ok, come on, they are super cute
Mongoose – ok, come on, they are super cute
Southern Ground Hornbill - one of the worl rarest birds, and super intelligent
Southern Ground Hornbill – one of the world’s rarest birds, and super intelligent
Southern Ground Hornbill - one of the worl rarest birds, and super intelligent
Southern Ground Hornbill – one of the worl rarest birds, and super intelligent
Starling - just pretty!
Starling – just pretty!

Hippos - Africa's deadliest animal!
Hippos – Africa’s deadliest animal!

Best of – Diane Heinrich

I am always particularly pleased to receive photos from guests that stayed with us. It shows me the immense treasures of experiences that we leave with our guests, and the incredible spectrum of wildlife that one sees here.

One of the things that one has to know about this place … because we have kept the amount of lions relatively low density, we have a truly spectacular amount of night wildlife: leopards, wild dogs, wild cats, cheetahs, civets, honey badgers, hyenas … all these animals would be “pushed out” by lions if over-abundant. It is all about the right balance, and I think we got it just right, thanks to wise reserve management. Nature comes first here, and the conservation successes are beyond our wildest dreams. We have so many super rare species here … I mean … where do you experience fights between lions and honey badgers?? As a guest … unique!

Diane Heinrich sent in a lot of amazing shots, please see a short “best of” list. Many thanks for allowing us to share them! They all prove my point …

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The rarest of the rarest – and what luck!

Some animals are so rare, it’s not funny … it’s actually tragic. And one of those animals is the cheetah.

Thank God our reserve has become a haven for these super endangered animals. Only about 300-400 cheetahs still live in the free (like on our reserve) in South Africa. And South Africa is twice the size of France! If that does not make it clear how rare these animals are, then nothing will.

So seeing cheetahs in the wild is in itself a chance and luck that really goes way, way beyond the usual.

But some guests are just lucky beyond lucky.

See the pictures that a guest of ours emailed in a few days ago. No comment. Just wow.

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