The New Phinda Vlei lodge!

Escapism. Let’s be honest, we all rely on it in some form or another. By definition, it is the “avoidance of unpleasant, boring, arduous … or banal aspects of daily life.” So what’s your favorite form of escapism? How do you escape reality to recharge? For some it’s Netflix and music. For others it’s shopping and going to the gym. For us, it’s travel. More specifically, the call of Africa.  (and a nice glass of wine en route).

Earlier this month &Beyond debuted the highly anticipated reopening of  Bateleur Camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara as an ideal way to escape the humdrum of city life.

Well, great news for all the armchair travelers and escapists seeking relaxation, pampering and Mother Nature. &Beyond have yet another unbelievable transformation and perfect escape to showcase to the world, this time in South Africa. The gorgeous and much-loved Phinda Vlei Lodge on Phinda Private Game Reserve has undergone a magnificent and refreshingly dramatic makeover of its own.

Built in 1996, Phinda Vlei Lodge was originally inspired by the elegant plantation houses of southeast Asia. A favorite among so many guests for more than two decades, the lodge was in need of a refresh and a stronger sense of identity among Phinda’s five other lodges. Of course, the award-winning design masterminds, Chris Browne and Debra Fox of Fox Browne Creative, were once again appointed to give their magic touch to our beloved lodge.

In Chris’ words, “We always felt that the interiors were lacking a strong identity, so we wanted to maintain the good ‘bones’ of the buildings and set about creating a fresh, new KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) plantation narrative, giving it a more local sense of place.”

Chris and Debra conceptualized a strong, bold and vibrant story for Vlei Lodge, which is very different to that of each of its sister lodges, but which still retains a deep sense of place and relevance. Inspired by the lavish homesteads of the pineapple and sugarcane plantation barons that once dominated the surrounding KZN landscape, the subtle hero of Vlei Lodge’s new look is the cheerful banana tree wallpaper. The old and the new have been layered harmoniously, giving the lodge a bold new look that is homely and nostalgic. We’re talking quirky pineapples, vintage brass, antique furnishings, tropical accents, deep chartreuse velvet sofas and pale pink North Coast anthuriams.

South African Luxury Safaris

 

South Africa Family Safaris

The spacious ensuite bathrooms have been redesigned to provide a sense of old-world luxury, with antique mirrored walls , thoughtful lighting and of course those glorious standalone bathtubs. The room interiors on the other hand are very much an eclectic mix of classic lines and modern amenities layered with unusual collectibles. You really have to see it in person to admire its quirky charm and bygone elegance.

 

Luxury African Wildlife Safaris

 

The main deck has been redesigned to offer a spectacular 360 degree view of the amazing surrounds and the tranquil dining veranda has been extended to allow for covered al fresco meals with a sweeping view of the adjoining wetland. There’s also a fire pit for those festive pre-dinner fireside gatherings under the stars and late night recaps of a magnificent day.

 

African Safari Experts

 

 


Lions Return to Malawi’s Liwonde!

Nine lions made history this past week when they were translocated to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, returning the species to the park for the first time in 20 years.

On the 22nd of August 2018, conservation non-profit African Parks, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and with support from the Dutch Government, the Lion Recovery Fundand the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, announced the completion of a series of lion translocations from South Africa to Malawi. Wild lions have been reintroduced to Liwonde National Park two decades after a breeding population was present. Seven lions from South Africa joined two males brought from Majete Wildlife Reserve in March to re-establish the species in the park.

 

Liwonde landscape

Liwonde landscape © Micheal Lorentz

 

Their arrival also follows the recent reintroduction of cheetah to Liwonde in May 2017, as part of a wider initiative to restore predators to the region. This translocation also included introducing an additional five lions into Majete from South Africa to enhance genetic diversity of the founder population in the reserve, where the predators were also reintroduced by African Parks in 2012, years after being poached out.

These latest introductions highlight the ongoing restoration of Malawi’s natural heritage by the Malawian Government and African Parks for the long-term benefit of the people of Malawi.

 

Female lion in boma in Liwonde 

Female lion in boma in Liwonde © Frank Weitzer

 

“We are immensely proud of the restoration of our country’s parks and are committed to ensuring the ongoing protection of these extraordinary national assets” said the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa. “The reintroduction of lions and other emblematic species form a core part of this vision, enabling the rejuvenation of wildlife populations, enhancing tourism and socio-economic development, and contributing to the well-being of those living around the parks”.

 

Lion in crate moved to boma in Liwonde

Lion in crate moved to boma in Liwonde © Frank Weitzer

 

In Liwonde, years of human-wildlife conflict and poaching eradicated resident predator populations, but, before bringing predators back, African Parks overhauled law enforcement to secure the park, constructed a robust perimeter fence, removed thousands of snare traps, established rigorous ranger patrols, and worked with local communities to prevent poaching and human-wildlife conflict.

With infrastructure and security in place allowing a prey base to recover, African Parks began the process of reintroducing wildlife.

 

Lion loaded on to truck for relocation

Lion loaded on to truck © Sean Viljoen

 

The latest translocation marks the return of an iconic predator to Liwonde but also represents a new chapter for Majete Wildlife Reserve.

In addition to the seven lions sent to Liwonde from South Africa, five lions were introduced into Majete, bringing the reserve’s population up to 17 while ensuring greater genetic diversity. The new arrivals, fitted with tracking collars to facilitate daily monitoring, were released on Wednesday August 15th into the wider park from enclosed bomas which supported their adjustment and social bonding.

 

Lion released in to boma in Liwonde

Lion released in to boma in Liwonde © Sean Viljoen

 

A century ago, Africa contained more than 200,000 wild lions but in recent decades, habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and diminished prey have caused Africa’s lion population to plummet to just fewer than 20,000, eradicating them from up to 90% of their historical range. Lions are now extinct in 26 African countries, but Malawi has become a bright spot among efforts to conserve the species.

 

Male lion in boma in Liwonde

Male lion in boma in Liwonde © Sean Viljoen

 

“Alongside Malawi’s Government and people, African Parks has shown what the pinnacle of lion recovery looks like,” said Dr. Jeffrey Parrish, Vice-President of the Wildlife Conservation Network, founder of the Lion Recovery Fund. “Rewilding Malawi’s parks and restoring this flagship predator to its past domain serves as a beacon of hope that we can indeed recover lions and their landscapes across Africa, with and for communities and economies.”

 

Liwonde landscape

Liwonde landscape © Frank Weitzer

 

Predators serve an important ecological function. “Bringing back lions restores a key species that is critical to the healthy functioning of the natural system” explains Patricio Ndadzela, African Parks’ Deputy Director of Conservation, “Symbolic of the Malawian Government’s commitment to revitalising its parks and wildlife, the translocation also contributes to the establishment of a significant national predator population and to the development of sustainable tourism economies to promote local livelihoods and socio-economic growth”.

“Parks are the cornerstones of conservation and rewilding parks with their top predators makes a park complete,” said Justin Winters, Executive Director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. “We are honoured to support the bold actions of African Parks through the Lion Recovery Fund.”

Watch the video, Lions Return to Liwonde, from African Parks below

 


Safari With a Purpose!

After the success of the first-ever African elephant collaring safari experience earlier in the year, we are thrilled to offer guests another opportunity to actively participate in a crucial conservation project at Singita Grumeti. Led by Executive Director of the Singtia Grumeti Fund, Stephen Cunliffe, guests will get close to the action, gaining a deeper and hands-on understanding of wildlife conservation. They will assist the conservation team and its integral partners in collaring six elephants in an effort to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

The personal participation and financial contribution of guests will have a profound and positive impact on the fulfillment of the Fund’s mission to conserve the Serengeti ecosystem for future generations.

 

 

 

 


Remembering a King

It was the year 2,000. Kapama Private Game Reserve had only been established a few years earlier in 1987. One of the rangers had discovered that a very old female lion had given birth to a litter of 2 cubs, one male, and one female. All those years ago, no one at Kapama could have imagined just how significant this addition to our animal family would be.

After 8 very short months of trying to keep up with her young cubs and their uncontrollable energy levels and growing needs, the elderly mom abandoned her darling duo. She left them to fend for themselves in the wide-open wilderness of the South African bushveld.

The days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. You could see brother and sister moving together, supporting each other, as they grew older. Against all odds, these two abandoned cubs faced the perils of the wild head-on.

 

 

With terrain of over 14 000 hectares as his playground, the young male lion was free to grow, mature and establish himself on the Reserve. By the time he reached his prime, he was capable enough to take over from another dominant male, who had sadly passed away. At this stage, there were three prides of females on Kapama and during his reign, the now fully grown male had fathered a fair amount of cubs. In 2009, the birth of a little male cub would slightly change his territory size. After about 4 years, his young son, who was now rather quite a fierce contender, stepped into a fight with Kapama’s big male. Even though the younger lion lost, the intensity of the fight split the big male’s territory in two. For years after that, he ruled the northern parts of Kapama while his son ruled the south.

2012 brought a few more additions to Kapama’s biggest pride. One male cub was born early in the January of 2012 and two more male cubs born around about May 2012. These additions pushed the pride number up to 12 by the end of August 2012. After another three years and constant new additions, the pride number was raised to 22 in September of 2015. Shortly after this, the pride started to split up into smaller groups.

 

 

Some of the pride moved towards the south while the three new males moved north with a group of females. For a limited time, there was peace amongst the lions of Kapama, but it was short-lived. The current ruler was not happy with the northern arrangement and chased the three brothers away from the females. With this separation and living nomadic lives, the three single males formed a coalition. June of 2016, brought the first uprising of this coalition. They fought their old leader, wanting dominance in the north. His age, fierceness, and experience seemed too much for the 3 younger lions and they were unable to defeat him.

For a time again, things settled down in the north. A few months later the coalition decided to give the master of Kapama another run for his territory. Time after time, the coalition continuously came back for more. Eventually, it seemed too much for him and he retreated into a small part of the north-west of the Reserve.

 

 

One evening in late August, the coalition decided they wanted to take everything from King Kapama and add his smaller terrain to their newly acquired territory. However, there was no way he was going to go silently into the night. With the last of his energy and power , the ruler of Kapama put up the fight of his life. With all the strength, might and intensity that one would expect from the King of the Jungle, he went into a final battle to stand his ground.

The next morning, my tracker Mateo and I left a bit earlier from Kapama River Lodge on a drive with guests. It was not long before we all heard a loud, intense roar.  Over the years myself and all the other rangers and trackers had come to identify this majestic king by his sound alone, and it was no doubt that this was him once again.

Little did I know that it would be the last time I would hear his gallant cry.  It appeared that the fight the night before had been too much for him. With seventeen years of dominant reign over the Reserve behind him, Kapama’s oldest male lion released his last breath of air during the midday hours of that fateful day.

 

 

Over the years this iconic lion had become the epitome of what Kapama Game Reserve represents. If you ask anyone from Kapama, without hesitation they will tell you when they see our logo or speak the name Kapama, the first thing that comes to mind is the grandiose image of Kapama’s oldest male lion.

It was a sad day for all our staff, especially our rangers who had all developed an indescribable respect for him. He never seemed to disappoint. Whenever spotted on a game drive with guests, he would flaunt his power and dominance, as only he knew how. Always giving our guests exactly what they expected from a lion sighting.

 

 

He will always be remembered, wearing his mane neatly, combing it as he walked through the bush before leaving an area, slowly and proudly walking down one of the Reserve roads, making sure everyone knew that Kapama was his domain.

Although now a fallen king, he will always remain a Legend of Kapama.


Women Guides

In previous decades the career of game guiding in Africa was always strictly reserved for men. The perceived image was rough and tough and definitely too dangerous for any woman to undertake. How times have changed in this new world of breaking barriers, where women are more and more entering into previously predominantly male dominated occupations. And in recent times women who are passionate conservationists are being welcomed, saluted and respected as highly competent field guides, with Sabi Sabi having taken the lead several years ago in training and hiring its first female rangers.

 

safari guides of sabi sabi

 

There are at present 6 female guides in the Sabi Sabi team. Nothing has been done to make the process of training any easier for the girls than for the guys. The courses are as tough, the internship as intense, the interview process still as demanding. Because, at the end of it all, if they are chosen to be Sabi Sabi rangers they will be driving the same high powered vehicles, leading their guests on walking trails through the same Big 5 bushveld and handling the same rifles which have a recoil that can knock you off your feet.

 

safari guides at sabi sabi

 

For many female guides, the dream of becoming a game ranger began in early childhood with a love of nature, animals and the environment, but career possibilities and opportunities of actually working in the bushveld were few and far between. And when the cherished trainings were offered, few candidates (be they men or women) realized how arduous and detailed that training would be. Besides needing an education in one of the natural sciences, the courses include learning about animal behavior – the little warning signals that could potentially indicate danger,  tracking, interpreting clues of the bushveld, and of course guest safety. And all of Sabi Sabi’s field guides must have empathy, a sociable nature and be able to impart their knowledge to visitors from all walks of life and cultures from all around the world.

 

safari guides at sabi sabi private game reserve

 

These 6 talented guides; Chanyn-Lee Zeelie, Kerry-Lee Roberg, Louise Murray, Lee Swart, Angelique Borlinghaus and Ally Ross, see their work as a privilege as much as a career. They get such joy in witnessing the excitement and wonder of their guests as they introduce them to our Reserve and offer them incredible close-up wildlife encounters with the bounty of Africa’s game. They don’t feel the need to prove themselves as good as their male co-rangers. As Lee put it “we know our capabilities and our Management Team knows we are just as competent as our male counterparts.” And don’t be fooled into thinking that being physically smaller means being weaker. These ladies are strong, committed, know how to multitask and also know when to ask for help.

 

sabi sabi safari guide

 

During Women’s Month, Sabi Sabi salutes all women challenging the status quo and blazing trails for future generations to take an interest in the conservation of our incredible planet earth and all its inhabitants.


Great Migration Update!

The Great Migration in scattered across the Topi and Keekorok area in the Maasai Mara. More herds are coming through the San driver direction. – Michael Wachira

After some rain in the Serengeti, some of the herds that crossed the Mara River northwards are now moving south again. However, a big number of herds was seen in the Posse Plains area of the Masai Mara heading towards the Mara Triangle.

 

Wildebeest herds seen in the Posse Plains area of the Masai Mara heading towards the Mara Triangle. 

Image by Paul Kirui

Herds were spotted crossing the Talek River at Rekero Camp

 

 

Migration crossing visible at Rekero Camp 

Image by Pete Thompson

Safari guide, Peter Moshi captured one of the daily crossings at crossing number 4 in the Mara River.

 

Thank you to Herd Tracker for this week’s update!


Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Does It Again!

Struck with two poison arrows, this 45-year-old bull elephant faced a slow and painful death without intervention. Luckily, he was observed limping through Tsavo National Park in Kenya by a pilot from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) – which operates ten de-snaring teams in the region – who called in ground teams to treat him. After a dramatic and successful operation that involved a helicopter, fixed wing aircraft and numerous vehicles, he’s on the mend.

The elephant was initially observed late evening of 22 July 2018 as daylight was fading, making any operation to treat him at night too dangerous. Early next morning, DSWT pilots flew a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) vet to the scene while ground teams prepared for the challenging operation in dense bush, which limited access and visibility for the rescuers.

The elephant is doused with water to keep him cool during treatment

 

The elephant was moved out of thick bush and into a clearing where he was darted by the vet from a DSWT helicopter hovering above, ensuring the team could have enough space and time to treat the elephant. Once sedated, the vet cleaned the animal’s first wound, cutting away rotten flesh destroyed by the arrow’s poison, before rolling the huge elephant over with a road grader so they could access the second wound on the other side of his body.

It took one hour to treat his wounds, and after administering long-acting antibiotics and a revival drug, the elephant was soon back on his feet.

 

Vets clean the sedated elephant bull's wound

 

 

Says Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the DSWT: “Without urgent treatment, this elephant would have died a very painful and slow death. As we celebrate World Elephant Day, we are reminded that every day across Africa, we are losing elephants to poachers and conflict with humans and that every individual matters.”

World Elephant Day, celebrated on 12th August 2018, aims to bring the world together to help elephants and raise awareness of the threats facing the species. An aerial census estimated Africa’s elephant population to be around 400,000 individuals, with 144,000 elephants lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade.

 

The elephant's wound is packed with green clay to aid healing and prevent infection

 

Tsavo National Park is a safe haven for Kenya’s wildlife and home to more than 12,000 elephants – Kenya’s largest single population. Safeguarding this wilderness in support of the Kenya Wildlife Service is The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, East Africa’s oldest and most pioneering conservation charity. Their operations, which include de-snaring teams, aerial surveillance and a sniffer dog squad, patrol to stop wildlife crimes in the protected area, prevent habitat loss and work with communities to prevent human-elephant conflict – a growing threat to elephants across Africa. They also operate five mobile veterinary units across Kenya in partnership with the KWS, including in Tsavo.

Arrows and spears can be used to kill elephants for their ivory, but are also used by communities to protect themselves and their property when elephants leave protected areas in search of food. It is unknown how this elephant incurred his injuries.

Adds Rob Brandford: “Humans are the root cause of so many threats facing elephants. Veterinary initiatives are one of a plethora of solutions we have in place to save this magnificent species”.

 

 The elephant awakens after the revival drug is given


Seldom Seen Caracal Sighting at Marataba

 

Recently, I had a group of guests who witnessed a very special animal on safari. These guests are seasoned safari goers and thus on their game drives, were more interested in seeing the smaller creatures.

Out one afternoon, I heard a group of guinea fowl alarming. I slowed the vehicle to look for them and, hopefully, locate what they were alarming for. We found the guinea fowl cackling up in a tree. As we were looking at them, a crested francolin shot out of the bush on our opposite side. It had clearly been spooked by something in the bush…

I thought it might have been because of the vehicle, but when I looked over, to my surprise, it was a caracal! It had tried to hunt the francolin. Caracals are agile cats and good jumpers, making them experts in hunting birds. He remained by the side of the road, looked at us for about 10 seconds, and then turned around and walked away.

This was very exciting to see, not only for the guests, but also me. The caracal is a seldom-seen species here. Surprisingly enough, this individual stayed in the area and sightings of it on the same road were reported three times that week.

Words and photos by: Adriaan Mulder


Nyala Dance

Setting out on safari you normally have no idea what to expect, is it going to be a day full of birds and plains game animals, or are you not going to see a hippo splashing about as we pass by one of the dams, or will the day be filled with the Big 5 – From Lion to Leopard? Well, that’s part of what makes a game drive on Kapama Private Game Reserve so special. Especially when you come across two Nyala bulls having a display of dominance trying to impress the females.

 

 

We saw a few Nyala off in the distance and I decided to give my guests a closer look. As we approached a herd of Nyala, two of the larger males were like boxers in a ring, circling each other showing off their size. This boxing dance is all due to dominance to get a potential mate. Unlike other antelope, Nyala bulls have a rather strange way of fighting. It looks more like a slow-motion waltz than it does a fight. They circle each other, with their faces trained on the ground but still keeping a beady eye on their opponent.  They circle each other broadside in a lateral display, attempting to make themselves appear as big as possible. They fluff up their tails and the dorsal manes on their back, whilst arching their heads forward with horns held high. It is in this rather contorted posture that they then deliberately circle one another, slowly high stepping their bright yellow/orangey legs as they go.

 

 

This is often done in the presence of females and in the hope that these potential mating partners will be watching to see who comes out on top. Typically the male who loses will drop his mane and wander off to groom or feed in a rather sheepish manner, appearing to have forgotten about the fight altogether. The winner will keep his hair puffed up for a while longer, making sure everyone is aware of who won the fight-dance. It ’s this particular male that will then be awarded the mating rights. Seeing this kind of behaviour is always special as it doesn’t happen very often, and just to see the beautiful colors being displayed is incredible.

 

 

That is why I love each and every game drive on Kapama. Yes, the Big 5 are magnificent animals to see in the wilderness, but on our search to find these bucket list African wonders, it is always nice to take a moment and marvel at all creatures in the animal kingdom. They can teach so much about life. In this case, nature shows us that not everything has to end in a big fight or argument; there are other ways to solve problems and in this case, it was… A Dance.

 

Story and main photos by Ranger Hancho – Buffalo Camp


A Big Lesson For Some Little Cats

It was a frosty early morning and the sun was yet to peek its head above the the Waterberg mountains. We left Marataba Safari Lodge, South Africa, wrapped in thick blankets, full of anticipation as to what the day would bring.

There were fresh lion tracks close to the river, so fresh they were still wet from the lions crossing the water. As I rounded the corner I found two lionesses and their four cubs in the middle of the road! The cubs were full of life; chasing each other and pouncing on their mothers’ backs. Seeing lions is a special sight on any day but to see four youngsters so energetic and and so playful is truly a privilege. The cubs didn’t have a care in the world. They tumbled over each other, running back and forth, completely ignoring us.

Lioness in tree with cubs

© Michelle Sole

After a while the mothers decided it was time to move on. They called their cubs with soft short hums and slowly began to move off the road. I moved forwards hoping to get one last look at the family before they disappeared into the thicker bush and then to my utter surprise spotted one of the lionesses in a shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca)!

Lions do not typically climb trees. Although quite capable of climbing up, they lack the elegance and nimbleness displayed by their leopard cousins when climbing down.

The lioness was precariously balanced in the fork of the tree whilst the four youngsters clawed at the base. It was fun to watch the cubs attempting to mimic her behaviour. Two of the them managed to climb a lower branch.

She didn’t stay in the tree for long as the other lioness had continued to move further into the bush. Her descent was exceptionally graceful (for a lion) and upon reaching the ground she was pounced on and chased by the four cubs. The family continued on their way and within moments were out of sight.

 

 


A Zimbabwe Safari!

Zimbabwe is back! Our ASC team holds a special place in our heart for Zim. Our Founder said his wedding vows on his wife’s parents farm there many a year ago, and our Africa Specialist, and co-owner, spent much of her youth on that same farm milling about, falling love with the sights and sounds that only African countries can offer. Furthermore, we consider ourselves extra lucky to have a friendship with the owner of Imvelo Safari Lodges, who has been dedicating himself to creating accommodations and experiences that truly highlight the soul of this incredible country that continues to stand strong through it’s struggles. Check out their new video, and let us start putting together your next Zimbabwe safari!