“The meerkat is a small diurnal herpestid (mongoose) weighing on average about 731 grams (1.61 lb) for males and 720 grams (1.6 lb) for females. Its long slender body and limbs give it a body length of 25 to 35 centimetres (9.8 to 14 in) and an added tail length of 17 to 25 centimetres (6.7 to 9.8 in). Its tail is not bushy like all other mongoose species, but is rather long and thin and tapers to a black or reddish colored pointed tip. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. Its face tapers, coming to a point at the nose, which is brown. The eyes always have black patches around them, and they have small black crescent-shaped ears that can close to exclude soil when digging. Like cats, meerkats have binocular vision, a large peripheral range, depth perception, and eyes on the front of their faces.
Friday, January 17, 2014
A sign of a well balanced ecology is that there is an even increase in the population of different species and not just one dominant species, and it is with great pleasure that we announce a considerable increase in the population of our resident Meerkat group…..which now numbers nearly 30 with the recent arrival of a whole new generation.
I was fortunate to spot the Meerkats one evening when they seemed unusually particularly undisturbed by my presence (they normally scarper to the nearest tunnel or bush) and managed to get a few images of them going about their normal everyday business…..which includes foraging, looking after the young and, of course keeping watch for the ever threatening presence of raptors!!
Her also is a bit of information about Meerkats courtesy of Wikipedia!
At the end of each of a meerkat's "fingers" is a non-retractable, strong, 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long, curved claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. Claws are also used with muscular hindlegs to help climb trees. Meerkats have four toes on each foot and long slender limbs. The coat is usually fawn-colored peppered with gray, tan, or brown with a silver tint. They have short parallel stripes across their backs, extending from the base of the tail to the shoulders. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat other animals (lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes and, more rarely, small birds) and fungi (the desert truffle Kalaharituber pfeilii). Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert, unlike humans. They have no excess body fat stores, so foraging for food is a daily need.
Meerkats forage in a group with one "sentry" on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. Sentry duty is usually approximately an hour long. A meerkat can dig through a quantity of sand equal to its own weight in just seconds. Baby meerkats do not start foraging for food until they are about 1 month old, and do so by following an older member of the group who acts as the pup's tutor. The meerkat standing guard makes peeping sounds when all is well. If the meerkat spots danger, it barks loudly or whistles.
Meerkats become sexually mature at about one year of age and can have one to five pups in a litter, with three pups being the most common litter size. Wild meerkats may have up to four litters per year. Meerkats are iteroparous and can reproduce any time of the year but most births occur in the warmer seasons. The pups are allowed to leave the burrow at three weeks old. When the pups are ready to emerge from the burrow, the whole clan of meerkats will stand around the burrow to watch. Some of the adolescents might try to show off so they can have more attention than the pups.
There is no precopulatory display; the male ritually grooms the female until she submits to him and copulation begins, the male generally adopting a seated position during the act. Gestation lasts approximately 11 weeks and the young are born within the underground burrow and are altricial (undeveloped). The young's ears open at about 15 days of age, and their eyes at 10–14 days. They are weaned around 49 to 63 days. They do not come above ground until at least 21 days of age and stay with babysitters near the burrow. After another week or so, they join the adults on a foraging party.
Usually, the alpha pair reserves the right to mate and normally kills any young not its own, to ensure that its offspring has the best chance of survival. The dominant couple may also evict, or kick out the mothers of the offending offspring.
New meerkat groups are often formed by evicted females pairing with roving males.
If the members of the alpha group are relatives (this tends to happen when the alpha female dies and is succeeded by a daughter), they do not mate with each other and reproduction is by group females stray-mating with roving males from other groups; in this situation, pregnant females tend to kill and eat any pups born to other females.
Meerkats are small burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social, living in colonies averaging 20–30 members. Animals in the same group regularly groom each other to strengthen social bonds. The alpha pair often scent-mark subordinates of the group to express their authority, and this is usually followed by the subordinates grooming the alphas and licking their faces. This behavior is also usually practiced when group members are reunited after a short period apart. Most meerkats in a group are all siblings or offspring of the alpha pair.
Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behavior within their colonies; one or more meerkats stand sentry, while others are foraging or playing, to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark, and other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes they have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat is the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground. If there is no threat, the sentry meerkat stops signaling and the others feel safe to emerge.
Meerkats also babysit the young in the group. Females that have never produced offspring of their own often lactate to feed the alpha pair's young, while the alpha female is away with the rest of the group. They also protect the young from threats, often endangering their own lives. On warning of danger, the babysitter takes the young underground to safety and is prepared to defend them if the danger follows. If retreating underground is not possible, she collects all young together and lies on top of them.
Meerkats are also known to share their burrow with the Yellow Mongoose and ground squirrel, species with which they do not compete for resources. If they are unlucky, sometimes they share their burrow with snakes.
Like many species, meerkat young learn by observing and mimicking adult behaviour though adults also engage in active instruction. For example, meerkat adults teach their pups how to eat a venomous scorpion: they will remove the stinger and help the pup learn how to handle the creature.
Despite this altruistic behaviour, meerkats sometimes kill young members of their group. Subordinate meerkats have been seen killing the offspring of more senior members in order to improve their own offspring's position.
Meerkats have been known to engage in social activities, including what appear to be wrestling matches and foot races.”
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Our last Blog was what one can expect at River Bend Lodge so, to follow that up, a view from a family group of Guests.
In December we were privileged to host this whole family Group sharing a reunion at River Bend Lodge and what a great time was had by all. We are grateful to the Hardy Family who chose River Bend Lodge as their destination and we are pleased that we could deliver on their expectations.
Mark Hardy very kindly took a few moments off his busy schedule and shared these photographs and words with us. Thank you Mark and best wishes to your whole family from all of us at River Bend Lodge.
“We all had a wonderful time at River Bend just before Christmas. What an amazingly beautiful, sun-kissed corner of the world, and a great venue for a reunion of our family from the UK, Austria and Hong Kong. The 5.30am starts were well worth the pain, as your rangers always delivered! Steve and Mikey were very attentive to our group and always eager to show us and teach us about the nature and wildlife at Addo. And they were great with our kids and older folk alike! We had humbling close encounters with elephant families as well as loan bull elephants; there was challenging, wet-weather stalking of shy giraffes; we were honoured with an awe-inspiring half hour with male lions; we enjoyed entertaining moments with ostrich and zebras; and we even endured a few sombre and sobering moments with a poor dead baby elephant – closely watched over by a lounging lioness. Snacks on the game drives were just right (thanks for the introduction to Kudu Biltong!) and meals at the lodge were an extravagant reward for the hardship of the drive and hours of fresh air! Thanks for the introduction to South African wines and the photography tips. And please relay our thanks to your whole team for looking after us and making us feel so much at home. We will cherish our memories of our stay at River Bend for many many years.”
Black Headed Heron...on take off!
A view of River Bend Lodge from the East...looking West.
Zebra with foal
An Elephant encounter
An Introduction to South African Wines
Photographs courtesy of Mark Hardy.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014
One of the greatest compliments any Guest staying at River Bend Lodge is to say…”We absolutely loved our stay, it was just as we expected it to be”. And we are hearing that again and again.
So what can you expect? Here is a typical stay, and the choices you have…with some images to say what words cannot.
Upon check in you will be shown around the Lodge by one of our Hostesses’.
Assuming a late morning check – in Guests will have time to settle in to their rooms and after doing so come down to the bar area or western verandah for a drink and lunch. Guests have a choice of three courses which enables you to choose according to varying appetites and preferences. Anything from a light salad to something more substantial.
After lunch Guests have leisure time…swimming, afternoon nap, bonding with children or just doing as you feel.
Room 1 ....The Honeymoon Suite
Tea is served in the Lounge area anytime from three o’ clock to three thirty. You will be introduced to your Guide who will explain in detail your options during your stay and what you can choose to do. Your first Game Drive follows at around four o’ clock, (earlier in winter) and can last up until around eight o’ clock should you wish to view some of the early nocturnal animals. Should Guests wish to do a Night Drive this can be arranged and would normally commence after Dinner. Your Game Drive will include a stop over at a vantage point, which could include a view of Elephants and Buffalo grazing as experienced this week by Guests from The Netherlands.
On return from your drive you will be met at reception with a fresh towel and something warm or cool to drink…depending on the weather. Your Guide will again outline your options for the next day or day’s……
…….a morning drive and your choice of time of departure – beverages delivered or make yourself a Nespresso in the comfort of your room.
…….breakfast at your leisure on return
…….a day around the pool (which, with the temperature hovering around 40°C, is the popular choice today)
…….a visit to the Public area of the Addo National Elephant Park, just a 10 minute drive away. You can do this privately or arrange one of our Guides to take you. We normally arrange to take Guests in the event of it bring too wet on our side of the Park.
…….’walk’ with Giraffe
…….a relaxing Spa treatment
…….a Mini Rangers Course for the children (tailored to their age)
…….Introduction to Photography Course
…….evening Introduction to South African Wines presentation whilst on drive or back at the Lodge (in which case your drive will be cut a little short)
Our motto is “The Luxury of Choice”…….and we like to give you that.
We pride ourselves in our accessibility and personal attention….whilst we fully understand and respect the need for privacy and personal space.
River Bend Lodge is situated in a concession (Nyathi Concession) of the Addo National Elephant Park on an area of around 14 000 hectares. We have a herd (actually a parade) of Elephants numbering around 140 and counting!....Buffalo, Black Rhino, Lions and numerous other game which our Guides delight in sharing the viewing experience with you.
We can accommodate 16 Guests (plus children) at River Bend Lodge and 6 at Long Hope Villa, which is a separate self contained exclusive use Cottage which has been tastefully restored.
Summers are warm and the temperatures are normally around the high 20’s to mid 30’s (degrees Celsius)….although they can soar into the 40’s!!! Dinner can be taken on the Western Verandah in the summer and sometimes the additional pleasure of Buffalo wallowing in the waterhole below or Lions roaring nearby can make this a unique experience…..whilst enjoying Chef Kelly Liggett and his teams culinary creations and sipping on a glass of your choice from our carefully selected Wines on our Wine List.
Winters are mild although it can be fairly cold early in the morning and after the sun goes down…..and warm blankets are provided whilst on Game Drive for your convenience. Bring warm clothes. The period from around the beginning of April to mid July can provide some of the most glorious weather in the Eastern Cape….lovely sunny warm days and cool to cold nights.
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“River Bend Lodge is for you if you want a remote and real Safari experience. The Management care sincerely about each and every guest and their needs and requirements. The staff seem to really enjoyed their jobs and this makes for a really comfortable and relaxing stay in a small (8 room) lodge. The food is exceptional and guides knowledgeable...” 32 Gem on Tripadvisor
“A perfect safari experience - and far superior to staying in the main park. Gorgeous scenery, amazing access to wildlife (elephants, lions, rhino, zebra, giraffes, buffalo...), beautiful accommodation and delicious food. Our guide, Darlington, was very knowledgable and really made the trip for us.” LisaCSF Tripadvisor
“We visited the Riverbend Lodge for the second time and again we booked the Long Hope villa. And for the second time we were excited. It's a great place to stay. Darlington, our guide, has such a passion for nature and everything that lives and growes in nature. He showed us elephans so close by, lions and and all the...” PeterE Tripadvisor
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