Making Elephant Dung Paper

At Sand Rivers in Tanzania, we always try and do something different, coming up with clever ideas, involving the local community.

Last month we invited some kids to come and experience a safari with us. This month we decided to go and visit them at their place. We came up with the idea to get the kids from the local school to create and design our honeymoon cards for camp. And as we are privileged enough to have elephant droppings on our doorstep, what better way than making elephant dung paper, using recycled paper and elephant dung. First and foremost, I needed to know what I was doing, or at least pretend I knew. A couple of tutorials on YouTube soon fixed that. With all my bits and pieces in hand, excitedly Simba, our guide and I set off on the two hour journey, collecting bags of dung along the way…

We were greeted by big smiles and waves, and got the kids stuck in straight away.

 

 

First step: “get some gauze to clean and drain dung” – an old recycled guest’s mosquito net worked perfectly.

 

 

Kids all gathered around to hold up the net. Next step: “clean dung at least 14 times, or until water runs clear” – The looks on their faces when I asked for 20 buckets of boiled water, made me foolishly realize that water was a precious commodity out here. Something I took for granted and hadn’t even thought about. We made do with 4 buckets of cold water collected from the village communal well and cleaned/ rinsed the dung to get rid of all the bacteria.

 

 

 

We tore up the dung taking out all the sticks and bugs that were embedded inside and even though it didn’t smell at all, some kids decided to leave the ‘workshop’ and have a go at football with a dry, round dung ball.

 

 

We encouraged the kids to go around the school and surrounds and pick up any litter that we could use for our paper as the next step was to “make pulp out of shredded recycled paper”. Something I probably should have prepped back in camp with a blender or guillotine, as it took ages to tear the paper up into small bits.

 

 

The kids ripped up the paper but it was taking too long so we went ahead and threw it in water to turn to pulp. A bucket of a grey, soggy swamp. Final step: “Mix the pulp and dung together and flatten on mesh surface” – I’d had our camp carpenter, Cornelius make up two frames to use. We flattened the ‘paper’ down…

 

 

..added some red food colouring (I thought a red tinge would be a delicate final touch) and then stand on the paper with newspaper to “absorb the water”.

 

 

As the kids picked it up to pose for the final photo the entire sheet flopped over into the mud on the ground! Wow – what a lesson I learnt, and although we said goodbye and I sheepishly jumped back in the vehicle and waved goodbye to a crowd of confused faces, having no idea what I was actually trying to achieve it’s left me with a burning desire to get back to show them what I wanted to do. So – the project continues and we will keep trying.


The Little Jackal that Could

As a ranger, one of the things that I love about the African bushveld is that that you never know what nature has in store for you on any given day. It might be a lilac breasted roller that you spot with its beautiful rainbow of colors brightening up a tree it’s resting on. Maybe it is a herd of Buffalo grazing together, slowing making their way to a watering hole on the Reserve. Or perhaps it’s something closer to the ground like a hardworking dung beetle, pushing its ball tirelessly to where it needs to be. No matter how many years I have been a ranger, you never know what surprise lies waiting for you, or what lesson you are about to learn from nature!

I left Kapama River Lodge with my tracker Colin and excited guests for our early morning drive, eager to be intrigued once again by the sights and sounds of our wonderful country. It was a cloudy morning which I was grateful for as the shade of the clouds offered some relief from the bright early morning sun. Even though its spring, heading into summer, the first rays of the morning can still be quite warm.

After our coffee break, a great way to appreciate and acknowledge the sounds of the bush, we came across a very intriguing scene. It appeared that a Giraffe had died of natural causes. At first, my guests got excited thinking that there would be a predator, like a Lion or a Leopard, feasting on the carcass. However, all that we saw was a lonely Black-backed Jackal.

The Black-backed Jackal is an opportunistic scavenger and predator. It will take food that is both abundant and easy to acquire, but it can also hunt for its own prey. On this particular day, I think the Jackal thought Christmas had come early, with the huge carcass of this Giraffe lying there for the taking, just for him. Or so he thought…!

We watched for a moment as the Jackal started to devour the rump of the Giraffe. Then without warning, a few moments later one vulture after the next began descending around the very same carcass, also wanting their fair share of the prize. One after the other they started advancing on the carcass. Perched on the highest part of the feast the now seemingly tiny Jackal, had his hands full. He tried to defend his kill and snapped and bit and yelped as the vultures advanced on him. With each snap of the Jackal’s jaw, the vultures would back off for just a second, giving the Jackal just enough time for another mouth full.

 

The wake of vultures, now quite substantial, were not prepared to give up that easily on such a perfect meal. One after the other, they started to move in closer on the Jackal. At one point, one of the vultures swooped down, aiming directly for the jackal and pecked it just as the jackal sunk its teeth into the vulture, grabbing a bunch of feather with it.

 

Eventually, after tirelessly snapping, eating, grabbing, eating, biting, eating, the lonely Jackal abandoned the carcass and left the vultures to decimate the carcass as only vultures can.

He may have been defeated but he still managed to walk away with a full belly and a few battle scars to remind of his great fight.

What a fantastic, incredible display nature put on show for us and we all just felt privileged to have been witness to this wonderful scene.

 

Story and photos by River Lodge Ranger Rassie 


Maboneng Named Coolest Johannesburg Neighborhood by Vogue!

Maboneng, Johannesburg

Around the time of the legislative end of apartheid in 1991, Johannesburg was falling apart from crime and urban blight, and the South African city became known as one of the most dangerous places on earth. But in recent years, with the stabilization and steady growth of Johannesburg’s economy, crime has tapered off and previously abandoned neighborhoods have once again begun to thrive. The perfect example of this is Maboneng, located on the eastern edge of Joburg’s central business district. A handful of easily walkable blocks up, down, and around the main drag of Fox Street, Maboneng is South Africa’s answer to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

From a Sotho word meaning “place of light,” Maboneng has indeed brought new light to the city. It’s the best place to experience unique cafés and restaurants, exciting nightlife, and one-of-a-kind shopping. So next time you’re in South Africa, don’t just get off the plane and drive out of the city for a safari tour—take an afternoon or two to experience Maboneng and get to know a new “Jozi” that is anything but a stopover city.

Here, a sampling of Maboneng’s latest and greatest spots to eat, drink, and play.

 

Arts on Main

Arts on Main

 

Arts on Main The cultural hub of Maboneng, this multi-use facility was once a series of dilapidated buildings that have been renovated, connected, and turned into an atrium of smaller galleries, shops, and cafés. Come by around brunch time on a Sunday when the food market is set up and you can sample freshly made African cuisine and local produce.

Che Maboneng is a melting pot of the different cultures that pass through Johannesburg, and this Argentine grill restaurant has some of the best short ribs asado and sangria pitchers in town. Sample the empanadas humita salteña made with sweet corn, spring onions, and goat cheese—and be sure to visit on Friday or Saturday nights when a live band plays tango music.

Little Addis A favorite among locals, this hole-in-the-wall eatery serves up generous portions of spicy Ethiopian food. If you’re feeling brave, spring for the minchet beef—it’s smothered in a peri-peri sauce so hot that even the most seasoned heat lovers might break a sweat.

 

David Krut Projects

David Krut Projects

David Krut Projects David Krut has been a pivotal promoter of South African contemporary art for the last 30 years. Part gallery, part bookshop, David Krut Projects is the best place to discover Jozi’s rising art stars.

Tenfold Tucked away in a sculpture garden, this full-service beauty salon specializes in natural, formaldehyde-free, and cruelty-free products.

 

Living Room

Living Room

Photo: Courtesy of Living Room

Living Room A rooftop eco-cafe serving a range of salads, mezze platters, and other light fare, Living Room is the ideal spot to grab lunch or perch out for an afternoon. With some of the best views of Jozi’s skyline, you’ll probably want to linger over a drink here until the sun sets over the city.

Newbrow There are quite a few clothing vendors running the entire length of Fox Street selling everything from sneakers to batik textiles, but the street wear and basics you’ll find at Newbrow are among the coolest. All the streamlined sweatshirts, tees, and jeans you’ll here are designed and produced locally.

Origin A world-class coffee shop offering single-origin beans from around the world, roasted in-house.

 

 

Hallmark House

Hallmark House

Photo: Courtesy of Hallmark House

Hallmark House Equal parts trendy design hotel and neighborhood hub, there’s a lot more to explore here than its 46 rooms tastefully outfitted in artisanal African textiles. There are two restaurants (Eug’s Place and Pot Luck Club), a coffee bar, a speakeasy and barbershop, and a rooftop bar offering some of the best views in town.

Museum of African Design Although MOAD has no permanent collections, its exhibitions rotate every four months, highlighting the latest and greatest in African design from a variety of disciplines.

 

Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa

Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa

Photo: Courtesy of Saxon Hotel

Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa While technically in the posh area of Sandton just a short cab ride north of Maboneng, no trip to Johannesburg today is complete without a night, a meal, or even just a round of drinks at this urban oasis. The spacious rooms, newly renovated spa, and decadent villa offerings (perfect for groups) make this property a clear leader of luxury hotels in Africa.


Growing Up Wild!

It’s that time of year again in South Africa and the trees are just beginning to grow leaves after having appeared dead for the last few months while in their dormant state. The first leaves always appear to be the greenest and those that feed on them can’t get to the new shoots fast enough. Most of the females have been pregnant and needing to feed herself as well as a growing fetus from the little food that has been available. But now we are beginning to experience a spectacular change of seasons, with temperatures already soaring into the high 30’s. The rain has teased us with a few scattered showers and babies can be seen around almost every corner!

The long-awaited Impala lambing season has finally begun. Six and a half months ago, the Impala rams gurgling roar filled the air, enticing the females into oestrus. To our delight, it seems many males had successfully done the deed as we are now seeing more and more adorable impala lambs bouncing about. Their legs are so long one wonders how they manage to stand and wobble about within 20 minutes of being born. The mother helps it along of course by licking the new-born clean and in doing so also keeping it completely odorless, a way to keep predators at bay for the first day or two while the lamb and mother bond. Each ewe only has one lamb but the short breeding season means that every able female should give birth within about 3 to 4 weeks. After mother and lamb re-join the herd one starts to see small nurseries of Impala lambs as they huddle together for warmth and safety while allowing the adults to wander a short distance to feed.

 

 

Not too far away a mother hyena is laying in her burrow, dug out in an old termite mound, waiting for the first signs of daylight. She is not alone however and snuggled up close to her are her cubs. Hyena cubs are born with their eyes open. They can suckle for up to 12 to 18 months, which is unusually long for carnivores They start venturing out with their mother on hunting forays at about a year old. Until then, they are left at the den with a babysitting adult who keeps a close eye on them.

 

 

Unlike human infants, wild babies have to adapt quickly to the dangers of life in the bush. Prey animals like the Impala and Warthog have to be able to run within a few hours of being born and even predator cubs have to learn quickly how to avoid danger. Generally, the prey animals will have their offspring in the spring or summer months at the arrival of the first rains. The predators, however, have shorter gestation periods and most can give birth throughout the year. Their young are dependent on the mother’s hunting skills for roughly the first year and a half before the females mate again.

This year on Kapama, some of our predators have timed their births with the birthing season of their prey and we have been fortunate to have had a plethora of leopard and lion cub sightings over the past month.

Two of our Lion pride have recently grown in size with cubs being born in the last couple of months. Lion cubs are often born as part of a litter of up to six siblings. They‘re blind for the first week but can crawl within a few days, learning to walk at around three weeks. The first months are the most vulnerable and the mother hides her cubs in long grass. In the case of our one pride, she chose a narrow dry riverbed, while she goes hunting.

 

 

The biggest threats during this time are starvation and infanticide which can occur when a new male takes over the pride and kills the offspring of his predecessor. Luckily for our new Lion cubs, a coalition of three male Lions have taken over huge parts of the reserved and together provide ample protection for their offspring.

 

Unlike Lions which are social predators, Leopards being solitary, tend to have fewer cubs and are far more reluctant to bring their cryptically colored youngsters into the open for us to see. The determined guides of Kapama though, have had a keen eye and managed to spot multiple females each with their own cubs. They range in ages with the youngest estimated to be only a few weeks old. One our rangers from Kapama Karula, Andrew Taylor, managed to capture this rare photo of a young Leopard cub.

 

 

With all of these youngsters around on our reserve, we can expect to have amazing sightings in the future, with the cute factor leaving all our guests in awe as they learn what it takes for these little things to grow up in the wild.

 

Story by – Buffalo Camp Ranger Monika, Photos by Kapama Media Team


Kapama Photo Competition Winners!

In 2016, the first Rangers Photo competition kicked off. The competition was initiated to encouraged staff to unleash their creativity and explore the natural African environment around them, express their passion and love for nature and give guests a taste of the abundance of wildlife resident on Kapama Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

This year 2 photo competitions were held. The first one of 2018 concluded in June.

The second one commenced shortly after with last entries received 30th September.  The response was overwhelming and photos truly magnificent which made the task of judging for Professional Photographer Heinrich van der Berg, all the more difficult.  Heinrich had this to say:

The standard of the entries this time round in Kapama’s Ranger competition was exceptionally high. I enjoyed the variety of subjects and the skillful and creative way in which they were photographed.”

After careful consideration, the collection of almost 300 wildlife photos was first drilled down to Top 20, Top 10 and Top 5 before the winner was announced.

Heinrich went on to state that choosing the Top 5 was a tough task. So, not only are we proud to showcase the third place, runner-up and winning photo but also the two that made it into the Top 5.

The Owl:  I like it when photographers are creative and use the mood in an image. This kind of image is really difficult to capture. The lighting on the Owl is beautiful because it is not straight from the front. This gives the effect of added depth and texture. The contrast between the colour temperature between the warm light on the owl and the neutral light on the moon creates more depth to the image. Unfortunately, the head of the owl is not pin sharp, and the focus is on the body. But apart from that, this is a brilliant image, well done Ranger Albie.

Leopard: Sometimes it just takes something small to elevate an image from an ordinary image to a masterpiece. Here it was a branch. The branch frames the face of the leopard beautifully and because the leopard is looking up, it enhances the effect. The fact that it was looking up also created a beautiful highlight in its eye. The timing was perfect. The lighting on this image is beautiful. Bright overcast light is great for leopards. But what really makes this image pop, is the dark background. Normally during overcast days, it is difficult to get a dark background on which to place the subject, as everything is bright. But if you can find a dark background, like a dark shadow under a bush, then the subject just pops. Brilliant image, great job Ranger Andrew from Karula.

This left the following three photos to claim the awards of Third place, Runner-Up and Winner!

Third place went to the Lioness with the cub, taken by Kapama Karula Ranger Andrew Taylor

I like this image because of the lighting on the subjects, as well as the pose of the cub. The bright overcast lighting conditions also helped to make to bring out the textures on the fur of the animals. What could have improved the image would have been to turn the camera vertically so that there is more space below and above the lions. But a great photograph.

Second place was awarded to The two rhinos sparing captured by River Lodge Ranger Rassie Jacobs

There are two things that make this image unique: the backlighting and the action. Backlighting is a difficult kind of lighting to use as it only really works when the light is dim, i.e. during the last few minutes of the day or the first few. If the light is too harsh backlighting will change the subject into a silhouette. The backlighting works well because it brings out the dust being kicked up by the rhinos. And the contrast between the beautiful warm light on the dust and the neutral light on the rhinos create an image with colour balance. The backlighting also helps to frame the rhinos. The second thing is the action. The lifted foot, which stands out because of the warm coloured background is perfect to show the action. Rhinos are extremely difficult to photograph doing something and mostly look static, even though they are busy moving. So this image really works well to illustrate the action. The cross that the heads create is effective. The texture on the bodies are wonderful and overall this is an exceptional image.

1st  place – Sean Jones – Kapama River Lodge

Heinrich highlighted why this image made it to number one out of the entire collection.

“What I love about this image is the pose. The skill of photography is to capture the decisive moment, even though the moment might not be important. In the end, it is only the final image that counts. The pose in this image is perfect. The paw in the air, the bent back legs, the tail, and the face looking into the beautiful light, creating a highlight in the eyes. The angle of the shot is also good – the photographer was lower than the lion, which created a more intimate image because the camera is about eye height compared to the lion. When you find a lion on a dam wall or an elevated area, always try and position yourself lower than the animal, because a photograph taken from eye level is always better than a photograph taken from the traditional height of game drive vehicles.

But what elevates the image to another level is the framing. The tree on the left-hand side frames the image wonderfully and makes you look to the left – as if looking to see what the lion is looking at. If the lion were tightly cropped, the effect would not have been the same. To photograph an animal in its environment with the environment playing a part of the story of the image is really difficult to do. Here it was perfectly executed. This image just shows you that you don’t need the longest lens to create good images, and you can even photograph animals on roads or dam walls and get good images.”

Christiaan Basson, General Manager – Tourism, once again handed over the prizes to the deserving winners at the official prize-giving held at the brand new River Lodge reception area.

The level of photography of our Rangers is growing from strength to strength and we are looking forward to seeing what scenes of nature are captured in 2019.