World Ranger Day

July 26th, 2011, posted in Educating You

31 July 2011 is World Ranger Day and we’ll be taking time to honour our Field Rangers on the reserve.

Rangers have pledged their lives to their environment, rangers spend days and nights learning from nature and many choose to share their findings with the world. Rangers also put their lives on the line when they choose to protect animals, plants and soil.

Every month we read reports of rangers who have died in their struggle against poachers, plant collectors, witchdoctors, loggers and other harvesters of marine life.

Our rangers on Grietjie have done a great job of finding snares which has resulted in the arrest of two suspects within a month. We salute all the rangers of the world and thank you all for dedicating your time to looking after our wildlife and their homes!

Out of Zambia – back into South Africa

July 23rd, 2011, posted in Uncategorized

Our time at Mvuu came to an end after a wonderful short-term contract.
We were hoping to see another season through in the Lower Zambezi Valley, but alas, it was not meant to be!

Where in South Africa are we now?

Pieter is now Warden on Grietjie private nature reserve. The concept of Grietjie is interesting in that the Plot owners got together, took down a number of internal fences to form a reserve and the result is that they have now been included into the Greater Balule bordering Klaserie and the Kruger National Park. The Olifants River is a natural border and from where we are currently staying, is about 800m away!!

Phalaborwa is our closest town for those looking on a map!

Joshua’s head down into his home-schooling and says he likes it here! I (Jennie) am a Nature Conservation student about to start my practical experiential learning phase here on Grietjie! It’s going to be interesting to apply my head-knowledge into the field at last! Tourism has been my passion for years, but wildlife, wilderness and nature have always been the driving force behind the tours I have organized or the areas I have promoted and now, I can put my energy into a cause I feel strongly about!

View over part of Grietjie, Balulue

elephant neighbours

Bush trail in a sedan

June 11th, 2011, posted in travel

A true bush trail is conducted on foot, where you smell the fragrances of the plants and/or dung, taste fruit, herbs or roots, cower from majestic elephant and rhino, observing social behaviour and locating nests or dens. However not everyone is able to take a walk on the wild side, for phobias, fitness levels (or lack thereof) and other physical or personal reasons.

There is no such thing as a bush trail on tarred road – read the words – BUSH (plant) TRAIL (track). The Beauty of taking a bush trail in a sedan lies in the absence of traffic, the raw grinding of your tyres on the gravel as you slowly drive, windows open, looking and listening to the sounds made by the creatures that inhabit that piece of earth that surrounds you. It is about being yourself; sitting the way you would like to; eating when you want to; watching a bird or tortoise for as long as you want to; without having to appease a game viewer full of other persons. A bush trail is using your senses, sometimes hearing the roar of a lion and feeling the vehicle vibrate is more powerful than seeing them – but seeing your front windscreen filled with the most amazing view of wilderness is better than hearing about it!

A bush trail is not simply off the beaten track, but rather a gravel or two-track road that leads you into an area protected or land conserved for its plants, animals, historical value, wilderness or all of these combined. There are many bush trails that are scenically beautiful, others are remote and others to suite individual preferences – all are accessible by most sedans. Just because you do not own a 4X4 does not mean you can’t take a safari – you need to approach it a little more carefully…

We have selected our five best bush trails to drive – not in a 4X4, but in a sedan not a low slung car:

1) The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
2) Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
3) Nylsvley Nature Reserve, Limpopo
4) Cederberg Conservancy, Western Province
5) Weenen Game reserve, KwaZulu-Natal

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is all about wilderness, wildlife, birds and taking your time! It is not a reserve to visit over the weekend, it is a destination and 7 nights would be doing it justice for a first-time visit. Teaming with wildlife, there is no need to travel every corrugated road in search for a sighting, it would be more rewarding to drive short distances, stopping frequently that’s how our discovery began, watching the “vlei-rotte”, then watching the fat African wildcats stalk them, then watching jackal, vultures, sociable weavers, honey badgers, gemsbok, listening to lions roar…
Many of the gravel roads are corrugated, so unless you want your kidneys rattled, do not attempt to drive more than one road a day!

Ndumo is a birder’s paradise and does not need as much time to explore it and can be visited in 2 or 3 nights, depending on how much action you see or hear from the hides – we could not get enough from the sunset’s themselves so each to their own….

Nylsvley is a RAMSAR site – again more for those interested in birding but like Nduma there are other animals about and due to the limited roads, 1 night or a full day would be good enough for novices!

The Cederberg conservancy is very large and can be explored in bits and pieces or you could take you entire leave and envelop yourself in wilderness, rock art, waterfalls, flora and scenery for weeks, your eyes will not grow weary and there are more than enough bush trails to take your sedan along – although permits are required for the activities and to see attractions. Keep the time of year in mind as when the rivers are in flood you will have to take alternative routes and there is a section of road between Wupperthal and the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve that is rocky and better for a bantam bakkie rather than a sedan, however, we have heard Golf Chico’s have great ground clearance!

Weenen game reserve is a place that needs a day, great for a weekend camping getaway or for those near enough, a day’s drive in the bush. It is a well kept reserve with interesting terrain, great birding and good game-viewing, the weather always tends to be perfect in autumn, winter or spring but becoming hot in summer, the aloes are exceptional in autumn and the scenery allows for great photography.

If a place says 4X4 trails only – don’t attempt it in a sedan – there is a reason for that sign, stick to the bush trail – it will be well worth it no matter how tempting it may be to test the limits! Having said that, learn a thing-or-two from the foreigners who rent cars and drive – anywhere with no regard for the time it takes to get to the destination they just have to experience it, or students who cant afford SUV’s so pile into a car to explore these places in freedom and more importantly take time to be quiet in this very busy life.

Mvuu in July

April 14th, 2011, posted in travel

Elephants drinking from the Zambezi River

Canoe docking, Zambezi river

Mwinga, the friendly, strong and excellent fishing guide!

Chongwe Falls - the Chongwe river runs into the Zambezi

Diverse vegetation

A hippo pod sandwiched between four layers of BLUE!

Elephants visit my office, whilst Joshua watches them from the steps!

Yes, elephants are the largest mammals on earth, but get a look at the trees in Zambia!

Camo or size? What would be the best to avoid detection?

Bulls prune trees in Boma!

Walking Safaris – Zambia

April 9th, 2011, posted in travel, Wildlife

Walking safaris are a personal favourite. Nothing beats being on foot in the bush. Apart from sitting at the camp or lodge and listening to the sound of the African bush, walking is the only other time you as a visitor get to be actively listening for bird song, frog calls, branches breaking or grunts. There is a constant adrenalin rush, there is always something new to discover and a far richer experience to take home than what a game drive can offer.

I have an adventurous family and my Aunt and Uncle though smitten with Africa’s wildlife, still want a bit of luxury, privacy and good food. They too enjoy wild walking trails and since I am the one making suggestions as to where they should travel to next, I had to also find a suitable lodge that catered for their interests in all ways.

I found a venue in South Luangwa, Zambia.

Puku

$550 per person per night for 3 nights inclusive of 2 walks per day, three meals a day, soft drinks, local wines and local spirits, national park fees and a laundry service.

For wildlife enthusiasts wanting to see more than the normal plains game, there are Puku, Thorncroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshay’s Zebra. Since there is a concentration of wildlife in the South Luangwa National Park, there are also predators in the form of lion, leopard, crocodile and on the rare occasion – wild dog.

The game trails often lead guests to places with far-reaching views and finding some of the 400 species of birds will prove to be a lot easier along the river banks or islands that are reached by canoe.

For a bit of a colonial treat, trailists are accompanied by a tea bearer!

You’ll have plenty sightings of hippo and elephant and you’ll be on foot most of the time, so your experience will be as close to an authentic safari as you will ever get.

Cooksons Wildebeest

Crawshays Zebra

Thorncrofts Giraffe

November at Mvuu

March 15th, 2011, posted in Climate & Weather, travel

The end of November is the end of the tourist season, with the number of insects on the increase as the air temperatures increase.

It’s 06h00 – just after sunsrise and already it is 24ºC (ºF). The ground is dry, thirsty and begging for rain. Sleep is hard to come by – the air you breathe is hot and trying to home-school Joshua has become a 06h30-08h30 rush – his concentration drops with every degree the mercury climbs! He’s in the pool at least 4 times a day – his little body needs all the help it can to prevent heat-stroke and of course we can easily drink 2 litres of water and still need something more – which when juice and sodas come to our rescue!

Breeding herd of elephants in camp

It’s a pleasure to watch the elephants come into camp for their daily mud-bath – its so crazy how relaxed they are, drenching themselves with mud to help keep them cool and I’m starting to wonder if that may be a better option than sunblock?

Elephant bull at Mvuu lodge

The fishing is still good and we’ve just hosted a team from the TV series, WildFly and Inside angling – super men who fished from sunrise to sunset every day, with them was Chris Bladen who only fly-fished, no compromise – no bait, no spinners, only flies! Yes the 2010 season has been quite an adventure, meeting people from around the world, making new friends and learning much from the creatures that inhabit the Lower Zambezi Valley as well as its visitors.

Chris Bladen

Chris Bladen's Marlin

River cruise into the Lower Zambezi National Park

November 7th, 2010, posted in travel

sunrise-on the way to the park

We left at sunrise for our river safari into the Lower Zambezi National Park…

Just after paying our park fees we saw lions, 2 lionesses – it was Joshua’s first sighting of lions and what a treat we had! We then slowly made our way down stream, marveling at the large number of birds on the islands and trying to remember the names of the islands as Justin, our guide named them.

lioness-sighting on the bank

The sun got a bit higher and my men-folk’s tummy’s started rumbling so we stopped on an island for a cup of tea and a muffin! I must interrupt the safari at this point to mentions the ISLAND RULES!

The Zambezi River is a wonderful river with the deep-water channel being the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Tourists are asked to remain on the correct side of mutual islands, but only to alight on islands that fall within the country’s boundary – so, its best you take a river safari with a licensed guide that knows which islands belong to which country and then which islands are safe to venture out on as some have large herds of buffalo and I’m told but did not witness that there is even an island on which lion live….

zambezi islands

Tummy’s satisfied we continued down the Zambezi River, watching elephant along the shoreline and marveling at bee-eater colonies and the ever changing vegetation!! I think that’s what makes a river safari so different – it’s a smooth relaxing ride, with no/few tse-tse flies and great sightings of wildlife!

hippo pod

ground hornbills

buffalo sighting 100+

Time flew and then we stopped for a picnic lunch before heading out to a spot to try our hand at catching Chessa…

Pieter, Justin and Joshua did very well, whereas I only caught 1! You’ll see from the pictures the delight in Joshua’s face and excitement at catching his first fish in the Zambezi! We now look forward to try Tiger fishing these same waters…

fishing for chessa

Joshua catches a Chessa


Our day came to an end, but before we reached camp, our good-bye present from the Lower Zambezi National Park was another sighting of Lions – this time a male and female, there they were on the shore of the Zambezi River lion and lioness and I just had marvel at the exceptional day we had all had. What a blessing!

Pieter fishing the Zambezi waters

Lion and lioness

Mystery at dusk

September 26th, 2010, posted in Climate & Weather, Creatures Great & Small

Just after sunset as the cooler night air began to flow into camp, the still September air was suddenly filled with sound of raindrops. There is no rain in the Lower Zambezi Valley during the hot dry months of September and October but there was no doubt about what I could hear – it was the sound of raindrops on the dry leaves that had been blown off the trees by the August winds.

I stepped out from under the thatched lounge area to feel the raindrops but instead felt nothing and only heard the rustle of leaves under my feet. The sound of raindrops hitting the ground stopped and now I was mystified! The following afternoon, just after sunset it happened again…

Pieter identified the tree that grows there as a “Rain Tree”, Lonchocarpus capassa . Early the next morning, I went to have a look at what the raindrops could have been but could not see anything. A few days later, to my delight there were thousands of tiny purple-blue flowers on the ground of which I have a picture to show you and for those interested, it’s not the flowers that are referred to as rain, but water from an insect…

“Many Africans are very superstitious about L. capassa for it is one of the so-called rain trees, and some specimens do ‘rain’ for a week or more during the hot dry months just prior to the actual breaking of the rains. This phenomenon is found in other unrelated genera and in this case is caused by the numph of a small insect, a species of frog-hopper, Ptyelus grossus, belonging to the order Hemiptera. As a protection against the sun, the nymph covers itself with a frothy substance similar to patches of foam, popularly called ‘cuckoo-spit’, caused by common, closely related species. The insects obtain nourishment by piercing the bark of the tree with their sucking mouth parts (stylets) and sucking up the sap at great speed. They eject almost pure water equally fast, and this drips from the tree in sufficient quantity to form pools on the ground below…

flowers from Loncocarpus

Why I like the cool dry season

August 20th, 2010, posted in travel

Aside from the romantic part of cuddling up to your loved one, sitting around a fire and drinking wine for as long as you want to without insects bugging you, there is very little discomfort…

I’ve just had the luxury of taking a bath in Luxury tent 7 (us manager’s need to check the condition of the rooms at times.. wink, wink). It was early evening and I heard the grunt of a leopard, nightjars singing the sun a lullaby and the rustle of leaves through the trees – there is no substitute for the sounds of nature and no health/beauty spa could have offered me a better option, that’s for sure!

The weather from mid May to mid August is variable to some degree with more wind in August and cooler nights in June, but each month have a nature-lover’s reason to invite you to the Lower Zambezi Valley… the animals that wonder through the camps, and all the sounds like the lions roaring, elephant trumpeting, hippo honking, baboon barking and genets screeching – these are some of the sounds I hear almost every night here at Mvuu Lodge …

The crazy-awesome Lower Zambezi

July 30th, 2010, posted in travel

It’s crazy-awesome staying in the Lower Zambezi Valley, I’m guaranteed of hearing Elephants every day and seeing Hippo at least once every 24 hours! I get to see vervet monkeys, samango monkeys and chacma baboons almost every day and I gaze out onto the Zambezi River every meal time.

The best part about my work is that I get to learn from the local Zambians whilst I assist them to improve their learned skills and natural talents! It’s all just a life we live that forms a part of our skills transfer programme.

The interesting part about spending time at Mvuu Lodge whilst we assist the staff working here, is meeting such a variety of people, those wanting to camp, those wanting to self-cater and those wanted to live the good life and stay in the tents with ensuite bathrooms and have meals prepared for them!

I’ve been surprised at the number of foreign travelers who simply hire a 4X4 vehicles in Lusaka and get going, arriving here without a booking and spending 3-4 nights exploring the Zambezi river, the surrounding Game management area and the Lower Zambezi National Park. It seems even the first-time-to-Africa German tourists get the hang of driving in four-wheel drive pretty quickly out here, patiently waiting for elephants who seem to wonder into the road and taking countless photographs of the numerous butterflies flying around at the moment.

I’ll wonder to the deck in a few minutes, have a cup of Zambian coffee and rest my soul before welcoming our next group of campers due in an hours time…

 
 
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