Safari Lodges


December has been an incredible month for sightings and also a milestone for Umlani bushcamp with the rebirth of our kitchen, just over a year after the fire which destroyed our kitchen and office! Needless to say we are all extremely happy that our treks up and down the hill with food will be radically reduced – we just have to watch our waistlines now that we have less walking to do! All we need now is our new office – roll on January 2013!

In terms of sightings this has been an incredible month - not only on Umlani but also with the help of our traversing partners.

360I will begin with Marco’s Dam. Our guests find that our tree house overlooking the dam is a wonderful place to sit in complete safety but with the beauty of being in the middle of any action at the waterhole. During the day the tendency has been to get a lot of general game coming to the water and the occasional old male dagga boy! In addition, a male elephant may be there and sometimes a breeding herd of elephants will pass by to drink and bathe. Regardless of what animals visit there the tree house enables our guests to have a fascinating insight into the lives of all the wildlife in their natural surroundings and behaving perfectly naturally.

As December has been relatively dry and many of the pans in the bush have dried out, the more permanent water sources have become somewhat of an animal magnet! Our hippo has returned to keep the crocodile company and often lumbers out at night to the delight of any guests staying there in the tree house. At night our guests have also seen rhino – one guest counting no less than 8 rhino in one night! On two occasions as the guests were being driven there after dinner, rhino were present at Marco’s Dam. There were two spectacular highlights for Marco’s Dam this month. Firstly our guests had seen no less that 29 wild dog on drive in the general area of Umlani – believed to be the pack that generally occupies the Orpen area in Kruger about 30 kilometres away! One evening as the vehicles were returning to camp they came across all 29 dogs relaxing and playing around the dam. It was amazing to see this large pack so close to camp!

As I write this we are waiting for some much needed rainfall. The skies are grey though, whether they decide to deposit any water is anyone’s guess.  Sixteen mls fell on the 9th but we could do with some more. Although the bush is very dry the animals are looking in excellent condition and the grey storm clouds gathering each day will drop the rain any time now. Spring has now sprung! The first impala lamb on Umlani was spotted on the 9th November and since then they have been coming thick and fast! It is wonderful to see this new life and the joy they have in racing around – and looking very cute in the process! There are still many expectant ewes so with all these births we will also be expecting the predators! Another new arrival spotted by our guests was a newborn giraffe with its chord still attached.  Spring now well established means that the summer migrant birds are here. Woodland kingfishers everywhere and also the unusual sight of two Jacobin cuckoos mating in a tree near our bar! We are still waiting for our weavers t return to camp however! 370 The watering hole opposite the bar continues to be an animal ‘hotspot’  - as well as the regular general game and hyenas, we have also had two large male lions one evening, and a rhino at early morning tea! Another regular visitor is our resident marabou stork – often maligned for his less than handsome looks but a very elegant and graceful flier! Everything has their good points – just that some are easier to see than others – like people! Leopards have also continued to be spotted routinely on nearly every drive. Recently a new female  - very relaxed with vehicles – seems to have taken up a territory close to the boundary of Umlani and the main access road – and as she is often seen in the marula trees there she has the nickname of Marula Mfasi! Another exciting event witnessed by our guests was when they were responding to the sighting of one of the two large male lions. As they approached the lion in the vehicle a leopard was seen inadvertently heading in the same direction as the sleeping lion! Pretty soon the leopard realised the potential danger and zipped up a nearby tree – and was followed to the base of the tree by the lion! A narrow escape for the leopard – the lion getting frustrated at the base of the tree as he is a poor climber! Conversely the leopard is very at home in the trees and this particular leopard ended up very high in the canopy to be on the safe side!

How things change in a few weeks! Since the last blog we have had a significant amount of rain – cumulatively about 40mls – which has had a big impact on the bush. It has become green green green – and very thick! The animals have also duly responded – they are looking in fantastic condition and now are less dependent on the waterholes for water. One would think that this would reduce the action at our waterhole and also in the treehouse next to Marco’s Dam, but nothing could be further from the truth. 013b Starting with the ongoing saga of the lions… the end of September we had regularly seen the two new males mating with a female and generally making their presence felt in the bush with loud vocalization. This month they seem to have gone into hiding, but we have had some exciting lion sightings towards the end of October. You may well be aware of the story of the Machaton’s and the way in which the pride has split. We had assumed that the very old female who separated with a single cub had died in the bush as she had not been since the split for a long time. However she is still alive – but not in great shape - and alone. This is an amazing lioness as she has reached approximately 14 years – very old for a wild lioness – and she has passed on her amazing survival skills to her progeny. However we all think that her remaining time is very limited - it had to come sometime. Two nights ago we actually found her tracks walking right through the middle of the staff village! On a positive note her daughter, who is about 25km north, split with the two youngest Machaton’s  - now about 20 months  - and were found at the end of October looking fat and healthy with a wildebeest kill! It would be great if they could meet up with their old leader in the latter part of her life.

September has been a very hectic month – not only with the number of guests staying with us but also with many interesting sightings in camp and on the drives! With the onset of Spring looming we have started to see the occasional snake around the camp. I was showing one guest to their room on arrival one day and just as we walked past some aloes, there was a beautiful spotted bush snake – harmless- waiting to greet us! The reason this snake appeared so early was partly due to the 34cms of rain that we had over a five day period in early September. This unseasonal rain then brought on a stunning sheen of green across the veld with grass greening up overnight practically! However since then the weather has become increasingly hot and dry, and while the bush is looking very green still we are wondering if this will last given that the next rains are not predicted for another six  weeks approximately.