The Bush House - exclusive private game lodge in malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa - Game viewing drives to see the Big 5

The Bush House

Sue & Gordon's Notebook.

 

February 2014 finds us in the 2nd half of Summer, having passed the Summer solstice on 21st December, 2013. The days are hot, as they should be, but not the oppressive heat that we sometimes get for short periods in December and January. The evenings are mild and a pleasure to enjoy under the star filled Southern Hemisphere skies.

 

Our rains started more or less on time late last year, and we had a mid-season dry spell in late December, early January. This is a normal pattern, and is followed by rain again from the second half of January, hopefully continuing well into April this year. February has been very good for rain so far, to the extent that you can almost "hear the grass grow."

 

In spite of the rain and the resultant thick vegetation in the Reserve, game viewing on drive has been exceptional, and our Field Guides are to be commended for the great sightings and experiences they enthral our guests with.

 

Around the waterhole in front of the Lodge has also been fantastic from a sightings point of view, and when exceptional "stuff" happens, we get such a thrill. The underground Hide has given our guests many fantastic memories, both in pictures to treasure forever, as well as just having the experience of being so close to wildlife, in the safety of the Hide.

 

To be so close that you can examine the toe nail of an elephant, standing just a metre away from you, or watch baby waterhogs playing right in front of the Hide opening is unbeatable as a true wildlife experience. You sometimes need to pinch yourself to just remember that these really are wild animals!

 

elephant bull drinking

baby warthogs

 

When we built the underground Hide in early 2012, we had to have a structural engineer involved because the roof of the Hide is outside of our fenced area, and there was always the possibility that a large elephant could walk across the top of the Hide. Concrete and steel were used, and we held thumbs!

 

elephant bull on top of the Hide

 

Nearly two years later was the first time all the building effort was really put to the test when this five ton + elephant bull walked on top of the Hide and stayed there for about ten minutes, casually eating some lush grass. We are very happy to report that the engineer and builder did do a great job.

 

Because of all the lush vegetation, December/January is when many of the herbivores give birth. Young Impala, Wildebeest, and many other species are all around, and often just watching the antics of the young is so much fun. Even our Summer resident pair of Egyptian Geese have had a good breeding season this year, with seven young goslings here at the waterhole to delight us.

 

Egyptian geese goslings waterhole getting very crowded

 
Sometimes the waterhole can get a little crowded, especially for a pair of geese with such young goslings. The pair keep their goslings huddled together at the front of the waterhole while the elephants and buffalo get on with quenching their thirst. No casualties fortunately! This magnificent male lion came in all on his own for a drink one afternoon, and was very aware of Sue taking his picture. Afrter a drink, he settled down for a while, and when he made his way off in the evening, he did so with a white rhino cow and juvenile keeping a
close eye on him. Mutual respect amongst most of the members of the Big 5 is the order of the day in the wild, and usually ensures that conflicts are avoided.

 

Lion in for a drink Lion and white rhinos

 

Another sure sign of a good wet Summer season is flocks of red billed Queleas. These birds, which have the ability to breed in record time, form enormous flocks which are an absolute pest to crop farmers, raiding and destroying potential grain harvests. Here in Madikwe, they are present in large numbers whenever grass is plentiful, and again feed on the grass seeds.

 

red billed Quelea birds

 
In the last few weeks, we have had a lot of African wild dog activity around the Lodge and at the waterhole. The wild dogs, being the most capable and successful hunters in the African bush, often use the electric fence around the Lodge grounds by driving their prey into the fence, and then easily pulling it down and feasting. We have been fortunate enough to have both a pack of dogs with teenage offspring, as well as two male dogs that move around and hunt together as a small group.

 

Two wild dogs wild dog pack

 
The two male dogs seen above, relaxing at the waterhole in front of the underground Hide, are hot and panting after an unsuccessful hunt. Teenagers from the main pack look very curiously at the waterhole, this being a waterhole that they as yet have not been familiar with.

 

We were sitting enjoying a morning cup of coffee last week when there was the sound of a huge splash at the waterhole. The wild dogs were hunting an adult male wildebeest, and the animal had the sense to run into the middle of the waterhole. Wild dogs will often follow prey into water, and are very capable of pulling down animals in water. On this particular occasion, the wildebeest made his way slowly towards the
pack of dogs at the edge of the waterhole, and the dogs surprisingly did not continue the hunt, and left to look for some other prey that might be an easier kill.

 

wild dogs wildebeest

 
Many of the pictures in this newletter are taken from our Webcam, which is on 24/7, focused on the waterhole in front of the Lodge. The webcam has a feed to our website, which whilst not "live" owing to internet band-width issues, updates on the website every 30 seconds. You can view the webcam either on the website, or as many of our followers do, click on the words "webcam window" above the picture, and keep the
webcam open in a corner of your computer or laptop whilst working or doing other things.

 

When you have the time, do come and visit this spectacular corner of our world. Whilst sightings can never be guaranteed, and you do need some luck on your side, we can promise a relaxing and pampered experience at The Bush House, as always.

 

Hope to see you soon!
Gordon & Sue.

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