It has been a fabulous month of warmth and the Reserve is looking so pretty. We had some nice & unexpected rain this month, which has helped everything to grow. There are banks of pretty little yellow flowers as far as the eye can see. And looking down on the Reserve from the top of the ridge, it is a sea of deep green with new shoots coming up everywhere. The last drive I did, I saw four tortoises which is always a good indicator that summer is on its way.
I’ll start off with some different news for the month of July. For Nelson Mandela Day we decided to clear out cupboards and put together a nice load of things for the Paterson Orphanage. A huge thank you goes out to some of our guests that also sent us bags of clothes and food to add to our collections.
The Isipho Multi Purpose Centre is doing very well in their new buildings and the kids seem as happy as can be. Anything that is donated is always greatly appreciated by Cindy & David, the Managers & Caregivers there. Donated items that are not used at the Orphanage are put into their little shop and sold to the local community that surrounds them. So either way they make good use of everything that is brought to them.
We have also had some great day trips this month, and have had great success with a new format of day trip. Our guests come in for afternoon tea, followed by a great drive, sundowners in the bush with some light snacks, and end off with a 5-star dinner with delicious local wines. This is a nice way for guests to see the lodge and experience the evening ambiance of log fires, warm welcoming drinks, candle-lit dinner, flowing wine... Sounds good to me. They have certainly left happy, and we hope to have them return for an overnight stay next time.
The last day trip we did, they had a great drive with Stu & ended off with a Boma dinner under the stars. The cherry on the top was when the herd of elephants came down to the pool to drink. Happy, happy guests! Thanks to Arlene for sending us these great day trip guests.
You’ll be glad to know our Cheetah Cubs are doing very well. They are now five months old and growing so fast! They are already enjoying meat and we have seen them a number of times enjoying a meal with mum. We have been extremely lucky up at Bukela with some fabulous cheetah sightings. They are still loving the Bukela area and on most days are not too far from our access road. The great shots in this letter were taken at our waterhole just down from our outside lapa.
They are such active cubs, and absolutely love playing and racing around. Whilst Bukela has enjoyed the cheetah sightings, Hlosi has had the whole herd of giraffe there on most days and it is quite a sight to be seen. They are coming in quite close so it makes for wonderful pictures for the guests. The pool has been beautifully fixed since the elephant put its foot through the ledge. The herd has been back to inspect and are enjoying the pool once again.The buffalo herd also seems to love sitting on the other side of the lodge taking in the views!
We have had to call on Dr William Fowlds once again for some veterinary procedures. A few weeks ago we noticed that one of the cheetah cubs was limping quite badly, and after observing him for the week we decided that it wasn’t getting any better, so called on William to come and asess the situation. It was decided that we needed to have a proper look as our fear was that the injury in the foot may become infected.
Since we have to dart the mother to undertake any procedures on the cubs, Dr Fowlds advised us to administer a contraceptive to the mother while she was under. Because she has had two sets of cubs very close together, we would like to give her a chance to recover full health before she comes into season again. Administering a contraceptive to delay her next season also gives the cubs a full nurturing period. Her last litter left her quite early at 10 months old, and it’s quite likely that this was because she had come into season and fallen pregnant again.
The contraceptive lasts for 18 months from the time it is given to her. So at around 16 months when the cubs are ready to leave her side and make their own way in life, the contraceptive will be wearing off and she can then fall pregnant again.
So the day came where they were in a great clear place for us to get the procedure done. William and Steve set off on foot whilst two vehicles kept well back, but could see them – we needed to watch closely which way they would run once the dart went in. They were able to get fairly close, so a clear shot was taken to dart. The Mum was darted first, and once she was down we kept a careful eye out for the wounded cub. Luckily the cubs did not run too far, so we were able to get the wounded cub fairly easily. Work quickly began, and we were then allowed to come in close to watch and the vet students to set about their work. There were two teams and they worked quickly and carefully under Williams instructions.
Her procedure was quick and painless, and all went very well. The second procedure was the cub. William diagnosed that the cub had a ‘green stick fracture’ – a hairline fracture - to his leg. But it had already started healing and he felt it was strong enough to leave it as is and let nature do its thing. Whilst the cub was out, Raz & Natalie from the Conservation centre got all the data they needed – the sex, length, weight, etc.
It was an amazing experience to be so close and to feel its beautiful fluffy fur. When all was done and dusted the reversal drug was given and we waited in our vehicles fairly close by so that we could monitor them and make sure they would both be ok. The cub woke up first and went straight over to its Mum and licked her face all over. She woke up soon after him. As soon as she had her wits about her she immediately called for the other four cubs. It only took them a couple of minutes to come racing up to her and pounce all over her in a rough & tumble. The cub was very drowsy for a little while, which meant his back legs were quite wobbly. The others took full advantage of their brother and had him a head lock in no time, mock-biting and tumbling the wee guy.
It was fabulous sitting with them, as she let them get fairly close to us. On one occasion the cubs got too close to one of the Landrovers and she sat up very quickly and called them back in. From there they scrambled up the tree, down the tree, wrestled dried elephant dung like they were practising a kill, chewed and clawed a dead tree and really put on a show for us.
When William was satisfied that the cub and mother were back to normal and all was good, we left them to enjoy romping about in the sun. A huge thank you once again to William, who is always professional, always calm and in charge of everything. His vet students really get to experience an awesome time under his guidance (and so do we).
To end off the newsletter, I must mention the beautiful sunset photo I popped into the gallery for this month. Imagine it now....sipping on a gin & tonic, watching the elephant silently pass by and the gorgeous sun setting in the back ground. You’ll have to come and visit, to really experience it!
So that’s our excitement for the month!! It’s been a great month and as always, we appreciate and thank those for sending us the guests! Steve & I go on leave in a few days time until early September, so I will be doing a nice joint August / September newsletter when I return. Have yourselves a great month ahead, and we look forward to loads of guests coming our way!
Take care & Kind Regards,