Friday, October 25, 2013

A Dinner Menu

Our Executive Chef....Kelly Liggett, and some of his creations.

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All Images the property of River Bend Lodge and may only be used with permission.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

No Normal Day at Acacia Dam

Patiently waiting beside a waterhole watching Elephants swimming and waiting for a photo opportunity is one great privilege in my book…..and when an incident, such as I witnessed this morning, occurs it makes all the patient waiting worthwhile.

In the past three years three of our, what we call Big Males, have been in musth. The one currently in musth is an Elephant whom we refer to as Steve who, in comparison with Konstalin and Hoepil who were his predecessors in musth, can be regarded as a relatively docile animal.

One of our Guides Mikey Mouton messaged me to say that a part of the Elephant herd were at Acacia Dam, which is a preferred dam for swimming, especially for the very young Elephants as there are some ‘shallows’.

I arrived and parked…..trying to pre-visualize and at the same time photograph any ‘big splashes’ as well as the youngsters trying to evade their mothers attentive trunks and get into the water.

After having been parked for about 10 minutes I sensed that this was maybe a little more than a day at the waterhole….Steve was paying very close attention to a young female and they were doing circles around the dam. The young female was clearly in oestrus, made visible by her very loose vulva. They must have made at least 4 circles around Acacia dam…each time disappearing from view for a few minutes. On her return to view for the fifth time the young female changed her route, moving off to the left of where I was parked to a distance of about 50 metres…all the while with Steve in tow.

She stopped…..and let out an loud trumpeting noise, something like I have never before heard from an Elephant before!

Now picture this if you will. I am parked between a female Elephant being harassed by a bull in musth on my left, and a herd of at least 40 to 50 Elephants in the water and near the waters edge on my right.

Nothing….but nothing prepared me for what happened when that female Elephant made her call. It was if someone had raised an alarm, as in FIRE with humans. The Elephants rushed out of the water as one….big and small. I had to think quickly and opted to remain dead still….sensing that should I move it would only add to the noisy, dusty the herd all rushed to the female!!

The Elephants rushed to the young female and surrounded her….swirling around for a few minutes after which she bolted out of this mass of bodies with Steve following at pace behind her and members of the family in tow. I managed to move to a position where I could see what was going on and was in time to see Steve mounted on the young female with members of the family all milling around.

In all Steve mounted the female three times….. the third in clear view of me and my camera, in the space of about 45 minutes.

Note the V on it's side of the females ear.

After the third copulation everything returned to normal as quickly as it had all begun and the members of the female’s family all returned to the waters edge, whilst the others moved off. Steve, as one can clearly see in the photographs, stayed in close attention to the female.

In this photograph Steve is the large Elephant on the right with his back turned..and the female is on the left with the V on it's side in her ear.

Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to update on the relationship.

(To view a larger version of the Images just Click on an Image for the Slideshow. All Images the property of River Bend Lodge and may not be used without permission.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

HERITAGE DAY...Surprise!

We celebrate Heritage Day on the 24th of September in South Africa. Heritage Day was formerly known as King Shaka Day in honour of the legendary King Shaka Zulu. One does wonder, strict disciplinarian that he was, what he would think of the morality of not only modern day South Africa but the whole World!!

Why am I writing about discipline and morals on this Blog you might well ask? Well, because I had a really special time on Heritage Day. The Elephants surprised us with a visit to the Lodge. The visit came as a surprise because the previous day Darlington had to drive all the way to what we call East Kloof, some 15 kilometres away to find them! It is hot and dry in the Eastern Cape at the moment and the Elephants enjoyed some time at a waterhole…and this is where morals and discipline come in.

It is very dry in the Eastern Cape....on their way to water

Every time we have these ‘special moments’ with the Elephants on River Bend where we are able to observe from close quarters one understands that all Elephant behaviour is founded on a bedrock of discipline. What a joy to watch the tiniest Elephant calf and the dominant bull in musth, and all ages between cavorting in the same waterhole…to those of you familiar with River Bend it is known as No Name Dam!

This sub adult male was the first to No Name Dam

We would do well to reflect on the words of Lawrence Anthony in his incredible book ‘The Elephant Whisperer’. He writes…” “Every wild thing is in tune with it’s surroundings, awake to it’s fate and in absolute harmony with the planet. Their attention is focused totally outwards. Humans, on the other hand, tend to focus introspectively on their own lives too often, brooding and magnifying problems that the animal kingdom would not waste a millisecond of energy upon.  To most people, the magnificent order of the natural world where life and death actually mean something has become unrecognizable.”

He was soon joined by another...

and other members of.....

.... all ages.

Some of the babies were granted permission to get into the water

....others were not allowed and voiced their displeasure....

whilst still others thought it a good idea...but changed their minds.

We hope you enjoy these images taken yesterday…Heritage Day, while others were out braaing or just enjoying a beautiful Spring day in the Southern hemisphere. Our Heritage at River Bend includes the sheer privelege of being able to share space with these incredible creatures, a legacy of one of the greatest conservation stories that has ever taken place. May we do the same for the Rhino’s!


All Images the property of Michaelprice photos and River Bend Lodge and may only be used with permission.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Field Guides View....Spring is upon us!

"Spring is upon us and everyone is excited and waiting in anticipation for all the new arrivals.  Most animals will have their young during this time as the weather is mild, and we usually receive some spring and/or early summer rain.  That means that there is an abundance of food and shelter available for the youngsters as well as the parents who need to care for them. 
We have been spoiled throughout the year with new born Elephants and Buffalo, but now it’s time for the flood gates to open!
Leading the charge this year are the ostriches.  We have been entertained by their striking courtship displays for the past month or so, and have been counting the days (average 44 days incubation period) for the first chicks to hatch.  And finally it happened!  On my way back from the ‘bush’ I spotted a male and female with a clutch of 10 chicks, that probably hatched the previous day.  I was lucky enough to get a few shots of the new family taking a mid-morning siesta, a favourite activity at River Bend Lodge.
Ostriches are polygamous animals.  One dominant male will often mate with several females, all of which lay their eggs in the same nest-scrape, but only the dominant female will share the incubation responsibilities with the male.  The alpha female will also ensure that her own eggs are in the middle of the clutch of eggs, rotating the subordinate females’ eggs to the periphery, thereby ensuring her eggs receive the best incubation.  It also serves as added protection from predation.  The (grey) female will often incubate during the day, with the (black) male taking night shift due to camouflage.
Ostriches are not only the largest bird, but also lay the largest eggs in the world.  One ostrich egg is on average the size of 22 chicken eggs, and weigh in at 1.1kg.  The shell is 2-3mm thick.
Ostrich chicks are often called hedgehogs due to their ‘spiky’ down fashioning a resemblance to this small mammal often found in the same range as the ostrich.  This could possibly be a predator deterrent. 
We welcome our new arrivals and will keenly be monitoring their development."

Source: Beat about the bush: birds, Trevor Carnaby.

Written by  Mikey Mouton, field guide at River Bend Lodge.

Photos by Mikey Mouton

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Eve has an Aardvark sighting...and we had an interesting Guest!

Eve has left River Bend to broaden her Guiding horizons to include Walking Safaris.....but not before she had this wonderful sighting. Fortunately Eve 'bagged some shots', so we asked her to do a Farewell Blog!

Thanks Eve...and all the very best to you for the future. Thank you for the knowledge you passed on to everyone who crossed your path at River bend Lodge.

"There are a few animals that are so rarely seen in the African bush that when you get lucky enough to see one its like hitting the jackpot! 

I was driving out across the River Bend reserve looking for our elephants in the heat of the day when something caught my eye. It was not the usual zebra or kudu which we are lucky enough to see so regularly here at River Bend, but something altogether different. I stopped to take a closer look and on realising what I was looking at I screamed silently inside (so as not to scare the creature away). 

It was an Aardvark!! This was one animal that I have dreamed of seeing since I was tiny, they are so elusive and almost only seen at night time in the dark due to their nocturnal nature. It is incredibly rare to see an Aardvark at night so to see one during the day was a complete surprise!

I spent over an hour with this special creature of the bush, as he lay out in the sunshine snoozing on top of his burrow. It was such a special sighting and something I will never forget."

The Aardvark (Orycteropodidae Afer)

Aardvarks are also know as the African Antbear with its closest relative being the elephant shrew. The Aardvark occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa across savannah, grassland, bushland and woodland habitats. Their diet consists almost exclusively of ants and termites, which they obtain through digging with their long claws and reaching with their snake like tongue.

Eve Wood-Hill

River Bend Lodge Guide

We hosted an especially interesting person two week ends ago. Scott Ramsay tours Southern Africa every year visiting every SAN Park and tries to visit most Protected areas. Listening to Scott over dinner was fascinating it it is so comforting to hear some 'good news' stories. Scott is truly passionate about the Conservation of Southern (and indeed all of) Africa's very threatened Wildlife. You can follow Scott on his 'Year in the Wild' journey on the following Link:
Year in the Wild

Scott Ramsay (right) and Eve Wood-Hill

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wine at River Bend Lodge

In addition to our offering of 'An Introduction to South African Wines' at River Bend Lodge we also host Wine Tastings from time to time, and we recently hosted Pieter Ferreira the Winemaker at Graham Beck Wines.

Pieter presented two of the five Graham Beck Wines Method Cap Classique (the name in South Africa for what is known in France as Champagne) four Wines from their new Game Reserve range as well as a Dessert Wine.

From the Method Cap Classique range we tasted the Graham Beck Brut NV as well as the Graham Beck Brut Rose NV. These were followed by The Game Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and the Game Reserve Chenin Blanc. The two Red Wines were The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and The Game Reserve Shiraz. To end off the tasting we were treated to the Graham Beck Rhona Muscadel.

All of Wines tasted were accompanied by a canape prepared by our Executive Chef Kelly Liggett and his team in the kitchen.

Our Wine List philosophy at River Bend Lodge is to provide our Guests with a choice of Wines...many of which are not available in Supermarkets and Liquor Stores. Our reasoning behind this approach is that we try to balance the 'mass produced' Wines with those which are a little less easy to come by because they may be limited, for various reasons, but which express the Terrior of the variety in South Africa.

Guests at River Bend Lodge can call upon our very own Wine Enthusiast to help them choose their Wines or, on request, might wish to learn more about South African Wines by enjoying a presentation of our Introduction to South African Wines accompanied by a Tasting of four Wines....usually two Chenin Blancs and two Pinotages as they both have a uniquely South African story.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Caught in the Act!!

On the odd occasion that we have had to tell Guests that there is a water crises, and that it was caused by the Elephants, we are not too sure that we are believed!!

Here is the evidence...on a lovely warm winter's day this young fellow found his idea of how to cool down.......that is, before Darlington came and spoiled his fun!

What a discovery!

Quenching thirst and cooling down.......

.....until Darlington spoiled the fun!


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Is This a Once in a Lifetime Sighting????

An extremely rare and endangered Black - Footed Cat!!!!

One of our Guides Mikey Mouton had the most incredible experience last week...and here is his Blog on this amazing encounter.

"On the cold winter evening of Wednesday the 23th of July at 18h15,  I had the great pleasure of seeing one of Africa’s rarest inhabitants, the Black-footed cat, also known as the small spotted cat (Felis nigripes).
What made this sighting more special is the fact that the animal was very relaxed with my vehicle and that we were able to watch the animal for half an hour.  During this time I was able to take nearly 100 photographs, which is vital to prove to the other rangers that it wasn’t just a prank!
Interestingly Addo Elephant National Park is on the fringes of this animal’s natural habitat, and therefore very few sightings have been recorded in the parks history.
After watching the cat groom itself for what seemed like an eternity (typical cat behaviour!) my guests and I were even lucky enough to see the animal in action, stalking a Scrub Hare (Lepus saxatilis).
Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on which way you look at it) the hare got away.  After this bit of activity, the cat moved onto the road, where it was briefly interested in its own shadow.  More grooming commenced, and it was off into the grasslands on the next hunt.
After calming myself down for a few seconds, we gradually made our way back to the lodge under the beautiful African night sky, everyone quietly reflecting on the awesome experience.

Black-footed cat (Felis nigripes)
Smallest of the Southern African cat species, its natural habitat is dry, open grassland and scrub with 100-500mm rain annually.  It’s diet includes; rodents, shrews, hares, rabbits, birds, elephant shrews, invertebrates, reptiles and birds’ eggs, an unusual item for a cat.  The hare is a large prey for such a small predator.
The cat is solitary and nocturnal, and shelters during the day in disused springhare burrows, under rock slabs or in holes in termite mounds, from which it gets its Afrikaans name ‘miershooptier’ (ant-hill tiger).
The Black-footed cat is listed on the Red Data Book as rare.

Source:                                     Smithers’  Mammals of Southern Africa"

Blog by Mikey Mouton...thank you Mikey.

(Photo: Mikey Mouton)

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