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February 2020 Sue & Gordon's Notebook

Calling all visitors, calling all visitors...come and see what we have for your excitement and entertainment here in the spectacular Madikwe Game Reserve (especially courtesy of the Bush House Lodge, of course).

With our amazing waterhole directly in front of the lodge and the superb Underground Hide right at the water’s edge, what more could you wish for…but then, you already know all of that because you are either here at the moment, have visited us before, or enjoy following us on social media.

The call of the territorial male lion, letting all of his adversaries know where he is and proclaiming his territory is an experience that touches the soul of everyone fortunate enough to witness this at close quarters. It is something you will never forget, and if in the early morning, the calling is often accompanied by “steam” coming out of his mouth as he exhales.

male lion calling

It is always great when any of the Big Five visit the lodge waterhole, and to have more than one iconic species here at the same time is extra special!

lions and buffs

These three lions, which are from a pride that regularly visits, were drinking at the back of the waterhole and watching the guests on the lodge lawn taking pictures. Fortunately, human prey is not high on their wish list, but rather a member of the herd of buffalo staying at a respectable distance in the background will be preferred.

The buffalo did eventually get to drink, but only after the lions, taking their time, eventually moved off.

Although still small in numbers, the cheetah population in the Reserve is healthy and doing well. We hope and keep our fingers crossed that one of these fine days there may be young cubs, which always adds something extra special to that favourite holiday photo.


This coalition of two male cheetahs, visited recently and was caught on the camera at the side of the lodge waterhole. Always alert to their surroundings, as they need to be to survive. Cheetahs are efficient hunters because of their ability to travel at high speed over short distance, 100 to 120km per hour. They are very fragile as a species, being fine-boned, slender and carrying no excess weight. Therefore, they need to have their wits about the at all times.

Since our last newsletter in October, the weather patterns have changed. It has been very hot and dry in our part of the world, that is until the 1st of November when the blessing of much-needed rains started.

buffalo beforeelephants before

Before the rains, you can see the herd of buffalo making their way slowly to the waterhole – clouds of dust behind them as they walk, the waterhole water level low even before they arrive and the cattle egrets waiting for them like vultures (You get the picture).

The large herd of elephants’ drink at the waterhole in the next picture. Instead of the bush looking lush and green, the water is green and 25% lower than normal. Everything around the waterhole is grey and dry.

Contrast this with the recently taken pictures below…

buffalo afterelephants after

It is incredible to see how nature reacts so quickly after a little rain. The bushveld is transformed within days from a seemingly “no hope” environment to the lush and beautiful landscape.

Although we have been fortunate that all the animals in the reserve survived well and looked in good condition throughout the dry season, it is spectacular how at this time of the year everything just comes “alive” and seems so much more engaging and inviting. From the smallest bugs to the largest elephants, all is renewed again.

We often hear the question – is it not better to come in the dry season from a game viewing point of view? This is fallacy remembering that all the field guides out in the reserve are in constant radio communication, so there are many eyes out there looking for that great sighting. Often, we find the sightings in the summer (wet season) are as good if not better than in the Winter (dry season). In summer, you have the additional benefit of seeing all the new young animals in the reserve, as this is when they are born because of it being a time of plenty.

full waterhole

The best possible news for the animals in the reserve as a whole is a dark sky with the promise of more good rain.

Speaking of a time of plenty, we recently had this pack of wild dogs, on the following page, stop in to check out the waterhole. They had just made a kill earlier in the morning just to the east of the lodge, and have for days now been in our area taking advantage of the many young impalas that is around.

wild dogs

Sometimes, unexpected creatures pop up at the lodge waterhole, and for this reason, you need to always have one eye on the waterhole when relaxing in the camp.

rock monitor

The rock monitor lizard in the picture above came with two of his friends to the waterhole – not for water, but to feast on the abundance of dead flying termites. These termites have swarmed around the waterhole light in the evening after a rain shower, and many had perished in and around the waterhole. You may notice many of their wings on the water surface in the picture above. A great opportunity for a very rich and nourishing meal did not go amiss here.

Hope that you all have a healthy, prosperous and great 2020, and please remember where we are when you next plan a trip in our amazing part of Africa.

See you soon,

Gordon & Sue