The month's of December and January are generally the hottest months in our part of the world - some days reaching the early 40's in degrees Celsius, and without a breeze or breath of air. You can't wait for some relief from the oppressive heat.
On good days, this relief comes in the form of the most amazing afternoon thunderstorms, with all the drama of the Theatre! Andrew Lloyd Webber would be proud of what nature conjures up.
The wind starts as the clouds come rolling in, and generally while the wind is blowing, you don't have too much to worry about. Dramatic lightning and thunder inevitably accompanies the storm, and usually as the wind drops, the rain falls.
Because the Reserve is in a fairly arid part of South Africa, ALL rain is most welcome. We often speak very nicely to "the big man upstairs", and ask that these storms do not interfere too much with afternoon game drives, but even if they do, our vehicles are well equipped to handle most situations, keeping our guests relatively dry.
The only downside to these thunderstorms is the lightning that accompanies them.Everyone is on high alert because of the potential of veld fires, and more often than not, the electricity supply is interrupted. Our stand-by generator, which powers the whole Lodge in such situations, is one of the best investments we ever made.
After the storm, that night and into the next morning, the air is fresh, cool and the smells of the African bush are even more pronounced and enjoyable.
*Image courtesy of Russell Owen Maclaughlin
The bush is lush as a result of the rain, and this is also the time of year when most creatures increase their numbers. From newly born Impala, Wildebeest and Warthogs, to all the birds nesting in the gardens at the Lodge. Even our resident tree Agamas are breeding and looking fat and healthy as a result of the increased insect population which comes with the Summer rains.
Our resident pair of Egyptian Geese have just brought their new family members to the waterhole for the very first time, as we write this newsletter. What a pleasure!!
The rains bring relief all around - the waterhole at the Lodge is full, the elephants and other game are content.
The predators in the Reserve are happy to have more variety and easier food on their menu as a result of all the new-borns. The Lion pride in our area has also increased. Three Lionesses individually had cubs in late November 2010, and teamed up again once the cubs were old enough. Eight cubs have all done well, and are now just over a year old. These eleven stick together, and are sometimes joined by the ruling male coalition in the area, making thirteen in total.
Sightings of these lions have been fantastic, and needless to say, they will be a formidable hunting force in the coming months as the cubs grow up and start contributing to the hunt.
Conservation for us is all about looking after the environment and the animals that inhabit this Reserve. We are proud that Madikwe is an extremely well managed Reserve, from the dedicated Parks Management staff to the field guides, owners and shareholders of the various Lodges in the Reserve. Co-operation and teamwork by all these individuals has contributed greatly to help curb what is a scourge in most of Africa today, Rhino poaching.
To date, three rhino have been killed in Madikwe because of "man's" greed and the ridiculous myths that surround the supposed properties of Rhino horn. The first was two years ago, and the last two in the past 6 months. These recent losses have spurred everyone on to work even harder and smarter to hopefully stop any future loss. Potential poachers must watch out - shoot first and ask questions later is certainly a principle we support!
Africa is not for "sissies" is a term we are all familiar with. Summer heat, the rains,frogs and a general greater availability of food means that this is also the time when snakes are at their most active. We, like everywhere else in the bush, get our fair share. Many of Africa's snakes are venomous and dangerous. When we are visited by Puff Adders or Mocambique Spitting Cobras, our philosophy is to capture and release these snakes some distance away from the Lodge.
We do not support or promote the idea of killing snakes because they do have a place in our eco system, and actually do a lot of good. In certain circumstances though, the rule has to be broken, for our own safety and that of our guests.
The Black Mamba is the deadliest snake in Southern Africa. The snake is not black,but grey in colour, and gets it's name from the fact that the inside of the mouth is black. This snake is very fast moving and aggressive in nature, and these traits together with it's deadly venom mean that it is a snake that few would be prepared to try to capture and release. Black Mambas are also highly territorial, so chasing them away also does not work - they simply return when "the fuss" is over.
So, you can imagine our horror when we realised that one of these "lovely creatures" had taken up residence in the ceiling of one of our Lodge buildings. It would appear occasionally in a nearby tree, but as soon as anyone approached, would disappear back into the roof. At over two metres in length, and having taken up residence in a ceiling void, there was only one solution.
Coenie, our senior Field Guide, positioned himself out of sight, armed with a pellet gun and suitable bait. The snake duly appeared, and the "deed was done." Sad, but necessary for the safety of all in camp. Thanks and appreciation to Coenie for his expertise from us all!
There are two packs of African Wild Dogs in the Reserve, one numbering more than twenty individuals, and the other being a pack of eight. The latter have been very active in the area around the Lodge recently. Hunting, using our fenceline to trap their prey, or just playing in the early evening, the dogs are a treat to see on a fairly regular basis. Impala are their prey of choice, and we have had two successful hunts on our fenceline in the last week! It is no wonder that these predators are the most successful hunters in the African bush when you observe the communication between individuals in the pack and their resourcefulness and tenacity.
'Grrrrrrrrr', the irritations of daily life! You have yours in the city - the traffic is backed-up or the cashier at the Mall is so slow, and you're needing to be somewhere in a hurry. Our "office" is much the same out here. Going out of the camp's fenced area to start a water pump or check the levels in a tank and having to put up with a spotted hyena taking his time sauntering down the road, or lions resting under a shady tree blocking the road you need to pass on,is just really not on. How inconsiderate and frustrating......
We suspect that our "daily irritations" are possibly a little less irritating than yours!
Do come visit soon - we promise to do our best to tailor-make the levels of excitement to those that work for you personally!
Have a fantastic 2012!!
Sue and Gordon.
*Some of the pictures above have been taken from our webcam.