- Hannes du Plessis – artist of the painting, thank you for the information into your inspiration and creativity when depicting this magnificent elephant displayed at Makweti Safari Lodge.
- Andre Burger – COO of Welgevonden Game Reserve, who found Mandleve’s carcass in the Kruger National Park. We are grateful for your input of this memorable day.
- Mandleve Painting – Neil Davison
- Dining area, fire place, painting – David Ross
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
- Mix the flour, coconut, oats and baking powder together
- Melt the butter and sugar together, then add the golden syrup and mix
- Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until combined
- Press the mixture down into a baking tray, keeping the mixture about 1.5cm thick. Make sure it is even and pressed into the corners and sides
- Place in the pre-heated over and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown
- Cut into squares while still warm and then leave to cool
- Personal observations by the author on Welgevonden Game Reserve and other Reserves in Southern Africa
- Mammals of the Southern African Sub Region, J.D Skinner & R.H.N. Smithers, Second Edition, University of Pretoria: Mammal Research Institute, Pretoria, 1990
- Smithers Mammals of Southern Africa: A Field Guide, R.H.N Smithers, Third Edition, Southern Book Publishers, Johannesburg, 1996
- Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa, Chris & Tilde Stuart, Fourth Edition, Struik Nature, Cape Town, 2007
- Beat about the Bush – Mammals, Trevor Carnaby, First Edition, Jacana, Johannesburg, 2007
- Elephant * 130+
- Lion * 10
- Leopard * 25
- Cheetah * 15
- Hippo * 10
- Giraffe * 70+
- Zebra * 2,100+
- Impala * 1,500+
- Wildebeest * 1,800+
- Words and photographs: Neil Davison
- Personal observations by the author on Welgevonden Game Reserve
- All the colourful guests who have passed through our doors
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 shoulder of lamb
- Trimmed and cut into 5cm / 2 inch chunks, about 1.1kg / 2 1/2 lb meat in total
- 2 large onions, grated
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp argan oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 570ml tomato juice
- 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 115g dried apricots, cut in half
- 55g dates, cut in half
- 55g sultanas or raisins
- 85g flaked almonds
- 1 tsp saffron stamens, soaked in cold water
- 600ml / 1 pint lamb stock
- 1 tbsp clear honey
- 2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Bark extracts are used to treat upset stomachs
- Smoke made from burning roots is inhaled and used to treat pneumonia
- Leaves, dried and crushed were used by the San people as a perfume
- The charred and powdered bark is used to treat bleeding gums
- Cold leaf infusions are used to treat eye ailments in animals
- In Namibia the trees are used as stock feed for cattle where areas are very dry
- The flexible branches are used for basket weaving and construction of roof trusses for grass and other huts
- Personal observations on Welgevonden Game Reserve and other Southern African Reserves
- Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa, Braam van Wyk, Piet van Wyk, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 1997
- Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, revised and update by Meg Coates Palgrave, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 2002
- Photographic Guide to Trees of Southern Africa, Braam van Wyk, Piet van Wyk, Ben-Erik van Wyk, Briza Publishers, Pretoria, 2000
- 3 tablespoons / 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tsp Thai (or similarly hot) curry paste
- 1 can coconut milk
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- 3 large potatoes
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 6 poached king prawns (to be poached in curry sauce)
- 1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into cubes
- 1 – 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
- Zest of two limes
- 6 small skewers
- Grate the potatoes into a sieve and set over a bowl
- Leave to rest for 10 minutes and season potatoes well
- Heat a little butter in a large frying pan over medium heat
- Drop teaspoons full of potato into the pan, flatten slightly with spoon to form a flat round
- Cook two or three minutes on each side until golden brown
- Remove and drain on paper towel until ready to use
- Remove prawn shells and de-vein the prawns
- Leave the tails intact
- On a low heat, place the curry paste and coconut milk on the pan until it comes to boil. Poach the prawns until just cooked
- Cut the mango into squares small enough to fit onto the rosti
- Using a skewer, thread the pieces, starting with the poached prawns, then mango and finish with a potato rosti
- Sprinkle with lime zest, fresh mint, sea salt and serve
- Garnish with cut limes for colour
Ladies and gentlemen, in the left corner weighing in at 69kg, standing at 2,36 meters tall and in ivory trunks introducing… and in the right corner weighing in at 73,5kg, standing 2,33 meters tall and also in ivory trunks, introducing one of the greatest match ups of all time, ever recorded.
While this may seem like the introduction to a middleweight boxing match, it’s far from it. Let me explain. This story has three key parts, as the title would indicate, all culminating in a magnificent piece of art that is displayed in the dining area at Makweti Safari Lodge.
Makweti Safari Lodge
Makweti Safari Lodge has a number of unique characteristics, which sets it apart. The unique, authentic and original pieces of art within the camp are special to the Makweti family, and each has its own story.
One cannot enter the main lodge and enjoy a gourmet meal without noticing the painting depicting an elephant with a tear in his left ear. It is the topic of many conversations around the dining table, and it sparks much interest as a result of the artwork itself, the story behind it and the subject: Mandleve.
This majestic painting spans the wall above the fire place and is magnificent. When designing the dining area at Makweti Safari Lodge, this painting was so special to the owners that the stone wall itself was measured and built so it would accommodate the painting in this exact spot.
The Elephant – “Mandleve”
It’s the 1980s, Kruger National Park, and ivory poaching is rife throughout Africa. The general public has little interest in matters not concerning them, but they needed to be informed of the plight of elephants in Africa, and in particular here at home in South Africa, in the Kruger National Park.
Dr. Uys deVillers Pienaar, the then Chief Warden of the Kruger National Park, commissioned the park to publicise the largest elephant bulls in the reserve each carrying tusks that exceeded 50kg each. His intentions were to raise awareness around elephant poaching and generate public interest in the park, while also highlighting their conservation efforts in protecting these incredible animals. The “Magnificent 7” were born. Named after the 1960s classic film, the “Magnificent 7” were recorded as the largest “tuskers” in the reserve at the time. The original seven were named after areas of the reserve they frequented or were descriptions of particular characteristics or behaviours of each animal. They were Dzombo, Joao, Kambaku, Mafunyane, Ndlulamithi, Shawu and Shingwedzi. They were instant heroes and reached much local and global fame in a short period of time. Unfortunately, this limelight didn’t shine for long and by the mid-80s none of them were left roaming the Kruger National Park. Dzombo was killed by poachers on the Mozambique border and Kambaku eventually suffered from the results of a septic bullet wound and had to be put down. The rest died of natural causes.
This initiative paved the way for future public interest in Kruger’s great tuskers, and since then, the emerging great tuskers have been identified and hailed as the greatest elephants of the Kruger National Park.
Mandleve, arguably the greatest tusker to earn this reputation, is depicted in the artwork on display at Makweti Safari Lodge. His tusks were the greatest of them all, weighing in collectively 142.5kg (315 pounds) beating the previous record held by Phelwana at 135.5kg. Mandleve was easily recognised by his large tusks but more so by the large tear in his left ear. ‘Mandleve’, a Tsonga word for ‘ear’ or torn ear’ is how he derived his name. He was also believed to be named after Louis Olivier, a senior official in the Kruger at the time Mandleve was around.
He died of natural causes and his remains were found on the 11th June 1993. His carcass was found on the power line road near the Paul Kruger Gate. He was believed to be between 55 and 60 years of age. Andre Burger, the current COO of Welgevonden Game Reserve, who was working in the Kruger National Park at the time, under Louis Olivier, found Mandleve’s remains while on a routine flight over the park. Andre recalls:
“I was asked one day to assist with the black rhino census in Kruger as the designated counter was not available. If I recall correctly, the pilot was Piet Otto, who had many thousands of helicopter hours in Kruger and knew the park and its animals intimately from the air. We were flying towards Paul Kruger Gate to start the count when Piet says we need to keep an eye out for Mandleve as the area along the Sabie River was the area he frequented but he hadn’t seen him in some time. I was excited at the opportunity of seeing this animal. Unfortunately, not long after we started counting, we spotted the skeletal remains of an elephant and Piet immediately identified it as the carcass of Mandleve, from the shape and size of the tusks. Piet immediately landed the helicopter and we loaded the tusks, which were flown to Skukuza while we were left abandoned in the bush. If I recall correctly, the skeleton carcass was only a few hundred meters from the road and only a few kilometers from Paul Kruger Gate. Later that afternoon, I took photos of the tusks in the back of a Hilux and they were too long to fit in the back of the vehicle. A sad day indeed.”
This beautiful painting of Mandleve was created by South African artist, Hannes du Plessis. The owners of Makweti Safari Lodge were intrigued by his artworks, and own three pieces produced by him. These paintings depict a kudu bull and two pieces of Mandleve, of which one is displayed at Makweti Safari Lodge.
The Mandleve painting at the camp depicts the elephant along a river bank, where he was frequently found. It includes an original photograph of ivory traders, which is indicative of the times when the Magnificent 7 roamed freely and the plight they faced with increasing poaching pressure on the larger tuskers. In the bottom left corner is a dung beetle, with the relief of a coelacanth fish to the right of it. The significance of these inclusions in the painting depicts the life span of elephants, being the largest land mammals with the longest life spans.
Hannes du Plessis was born in Hennenman in the Orange Free State in 1950. Educated at the Pretoria School of Art for advanced technical education, Hannes acquired the skills necessary to express his passion for life and the world around him. Working from his studio in Johannesburg, Hannes has been creatively involved in the arts since the late 70s. He believes that through observation, the spirit of a place can be portrayed, creating a narrative as you filter the visual experience through your own spirit and soul. In doing so, he aims to touch the heart of the observer. Hannes du Plessis’s naturalistic paintings are very well received. He has progressively made his mark on the international art market, with work in private and corporate collections throughout the world, including Japan, United States, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Great Britain and Australia. The work has evolved over the years in a meaningful way to display an integrity, maturity of style and technique, which underscores his commitment to his subject. Over and above his contributions to corporate and private art collections, Hannes receives commissions, parallel to his naturalistic work, for portraits of officials in government as well as a number of collectors and their families, producing some striking examples which reflect his intrinsic understanding of his subjects.
The inspiration of the Mandleve painting was to ‘capture the dimensions of the African bushveld and the essence of Africa’.
As magnificent as this great tusker was, so is the painting which depicts his lost spirit. It serves as a reminder to us of the true African experience, which is synonymous with Makweti Safari Lodge.
Special gratitude to the following people for providing more intimate insight into the painting, its story and to Mandleve.
Text – Neil Davison
It has been a while since we introduced you to a member of the Makweti family, so today we are only too pleased to get to know Confidence Chau a little bit better. Confidence is a member of the housekeeping team, and one of the reasons why everything always looks so pristine when you visit the lodge.
Confidence was born in Mokopane, which many local people might know as Naboomspruit. It’s a good 154kms from Makweti, which is now her second home. Confidence was born into a Christian family of four siblings. She has two sisters and a brother, and her father is a well-respected guide at one of the other lodges on the Welgevonden Reserve.
Wildlife and nature are in her blood, which makes her an asset to Makweti Safari Lodge. In her words, “I love nature itself and enjoy growing with what it brings working in this environment.” There is so much that it can offer a person, that words simply cannot explain.
Confidence enjoys meeting our guests from countries all over the world. She loves learning about their cultures and work experience. Mostly, she loves working with all the people who make up the Makweti family.
“My favourite thing is we are all different at Makweti, and we talk different languages and have different interests. We have to work as one happy team, which we do. Together we are one, experiencing the beauty of nature and the peaceful sounds of the animals.”
If that’s not a perfect description of the magic of the bush, then we don’t know what is!
Confidence is mum to a beautiful, young boy named Herbert. She is also engaged to be married to the love of her life, William. We wish her all the love and prosperity on this new journey with her husband-to-be.
This recipe comes as a special treat. Those guests who have been fortunate enough to taste these crunchies straight from the Makweti kitchen, always request the recipe, and we stand by our promise to deliver it. The best part is that they are so simple to make, that even a novice in the kitchen can pull them off beautifully.
1 cup of desiccated coconut
1 cup of flour
1 cup of brown sugar
2 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbs golden syrup
Best served with a cup of tea or coffee, while overlooking a beautiful view!
Aardvark Orycteropus afer
It’s a dark, chilly Winter morning and not much is stirring around Makweti Safari Lodge. It’s 2am, and the only sound is of the soft padding of a nocturnal animal moving around the open area close to the waterhole. His long, tubular nose, close to the ground, his long ears pricked, listening intently. We have caught him in the act on our trip camera. A split-second, small, red glow, barely visible from the undergrowth is the only evidence of this animal’s presence.
This was the first of a few images we would capture of this night stalker close to and in camp. Late February 2019, it’s close to 2am and again, this nightly wanderer has been caught on camera moving close to camp, behind chalets 1 and 2.
This is the aardvark.
Ask most people what they know about the aardvark and the usual answer is little or simply “it’s the first word in the English Dictionary”?
This unmistakable mammal with its pig-like snout, long, tubular ears, relatively heavy build with an arched back, thick, muscled tail and stout legs with long, sharp, spade-like claws, is unique and simply unlike any other mammal in the region. It is widespread throughout Southern Africa, and in Sub-Saharan Africa it is widespread outside of the equatorial forest regions.
The aardvark is heavier in hind quarters than the fore. They have very thick, tapering tails and unusually heavy, powerful limbs. The body is covered in pale hairs, with the hair on the end of the tail and on the limbs being darker. Males in general are darker than females, particularly on the head. They are often colour-stained from the soil in the area they live. Those living in areas where the soil is redder, tend to be stained a brown-red colour. The nose is a muscular tube with incredible movement. The nostrils are densely covered with a mat of hair, which closes the nostrils in, and act as a dust filter. Below and above the eyes are lines of bristles and lower down on the side of the head, tufts of these sensory bristles are evident. These alert the animal to obstructions when burrowing and foraging and protect the eyes from damage. They have excellent hearing and smelling senses with relatively poor eyesight.
Males and females are alike and differences in size are not noticeable. In a study conducted in Zimbabwe in the 1980’s, the masses of males and females ranged between 53 and 51 kgs respectively. There are few birth records, but females will give birth to single young, weighing about 2kg. The gestation period is around 7 months. The young aardvark will follow the mother after a period of +3 weeks in the burrow. The juveniles will dig for themselves at 6 months.
Formicid ants form the large part of their diet, which also includes termites. They locate their food by scent and will then spend time digging into the nest with their large claws, often in several searching spots, eating as many ants possible using a long, sticky tongue. The tongue appears impervious to bites from their prey. Termites, when having had their nests broken into will deploy their “soldiers” who have large bulbous heads and a fair size pair of biting mouth parts. The acid substance stored in the termite head acts to deter the aardvark, who will then move on to locate a different site, failing which it would most likely destroy an entire colony. The aardvark has teeth, but little is understood as to why, as they do not masticate or chew their insect food. The long ribbon-like tongues and large salivary glands allow the food to be deposited close to the stomach. The breakdown process is facilitated in the aardvark by the presence of a muscular pyloric area, which acts much like a gizzard found in birds, where it grinds up the aardvarks food mixed in with the sand and soil taken in during feeding. In drier areas, aardvark will feed on wild melons or wild cucumbers. This will supplement their moisture intake. Feeding on these types of fruit, will warrant the need for their teeth.
Relatively shy, almost strictly nocturnal mammals, they are seldom seen in the day and although common and widespread, remain mostly unnoticed except for the evidence of their nightly foraging activities. Heading out on morning drives we often come across their evidence of foraging from the previous night. Usually active from 9pm until early morning, where they will retire to their burrows to rest out during the day. Although a solitary species, the females are sometimes seen with single young, digging deeper burrows to protect them and their offspring. Males will often dig shallow burrows in which they will rest during the day. Newly dug occupied holes often have small flies around the opening of the hole. Activity in summer is strictly nocturnal, where the animals forage for formicid ants and termites. In Winter, feeding activity starts earlier and sometimes begins in the late afternoon as termites and ants go deeper in their colonies or nests during the colder parts of the winter nights.
Their front feet have four digits, with the hind feet having 5. Tracks of these animals clearly show 3 of the 4 front digits in the front foot track and 3 sometimes 4 in the hind foot track. The front feet end in large claws with sharp edges.
In the photograph I took of the tracks found on an early morning drive (below), 3 digits of the back left foot are clear (marked 1-3) with the 4th only just visible as a small depression (marked 4). The long arrow indicates the direction the animal was moving. The yellow arrow in this image shows 2 clear claw marks from the front foot, although the rest of the track is not clear, as the hind foot often overlays where the front foot was placed.
The photograph marked A (below), shows how well they are adapted to digging and shows how sharp their claws are, with the claw marks evident on the sides of the wall.
Aardvark appear to have 3 kinds of excavations, apart from the small exploratory diggings. The image with all the arrows shows various exploratory diggings in a small area.
The first excavation type are shallow diggings, deep enough to access the nest of their food. Usually in flat ground they can be deep enough for the head and shoulders of the animal to be covered, only sometimes deep enough to submerge the entire animal. These holes are not used for refuge and are not revisited.
The second type are dug ‘overnight’ and serve as temporary refuge holes. Usually dug by males, they are a couple of meters deep and are quite shallow. They may be used over a period of a day or 2 and sporadically revisited. They have a chamber at the end of the tunnel to allow the animal to turn around.
The third type of digging is a permanent burrow dug for the young to be born in. These burrows are dug quite deep, have extensive burrow systems and chambers and several entrances. The females utilise these burrows more, where the males are more nomadic within their home ranges and will tend to rest in burrows dug as described in the second type.
I particularly like the image I took where the hind feet and tail marks are clear in the sand excavated from the burrow (below). The hind feet (marked B and D) and the tail (marked C) are clear in the print this aardvark left at a burrow site near Andres Pan on the reserve. When the aardvark walks, it walks on its toes however when they pause, they will sink onto their haunches, as in this case showing the feet and tail prints clearly. When entering their holes, they do so head first as is evident in this image too.
Abandoned aardvark burrows are utilised by a variety of other species for shelter. Warthog, porcupine, honey badgers, reptiles and insects will use these open spaces. In the Kalahari where trees are in short supply, leopard have been known to use old aardvark holes to take shelter too. The little bee-eater has been recorded to nest in the ceilings of abandoned aardvark holes, burrowing their tunnel nests into the ground. I witnessed this on an afternoon drive late last year when we stopped for a break close to Sterkstroom Pan. A pair of little bee-eaters was flying in and out of this old aardvark hole and after a while stopped coming out. It was evident that they would spend the night in there. Having read about this behaviour before, I was pleased to have witnessed this first hand.
Photographs – Neil Davison
Text – Neil Davison
One can never know everything, and this is especially true for our wildlife around Makweti Safari Lodge and in the Welgevonden Game Reserve. The only way to evolve as humans is to constantly maintain the mindset of beginner’s mind, always being open and receptive to new ideas and information.
This is the exact stance that Makweti’s Neil Davison maintains as he sets about his daily work on the reserve. There is always something new to learn through observation, but also sometimes through discussion.
The following is a conversation that took place in February around a new and very rare sighting in Welgevonden that Neil was fortunate to capture. Enjoy the read!
“In February on a morning drive around Andres Pan I came across a bird I have not seen before. I identified it as a Eurasian Hobby, but was not completely convinced. I managed to get a photograph of the bird and decided to send it to Jonathan for verification as it would be an interesting sighting for the area for myself.”
Jonathan Swart is a Research Ecologist for Welgevonden Game Reserve. He came back to Neil with a positive response, also thinking that it was a Eurasian Hobby, but to be sure, he decided to send it to renowned ornithologist, Warwick Tarburton for confirmation.
Warwick was only too pleased to get back to Jonathan and Neil with his feedback.
Thanks for the e-mail and the interesting record. It is a Eurasian Hobby, yes, not yet fully adult as shown by the undertail coverts being mainly white, not chestnut. Seems from SABAP2 that it occurs very sparsely in the Waterberg whereas it was a regular summer visitor to the Nyl floodplain when we lived there.
Would Neil mind if we added his photo to the Waterberg website? And if he’s happy with this I’d need to have his surname to add to the photo.
Not only is that a first for Neil, but also for the reserve itself. What an honour to experience something so exciting!
What Does Makweti Mean?
The name “Makweti” refers to the woody tree with the succulent branches and leaves that is characteristic in and around the camp and is better known as the Bushveld Candelabra, or Euphorbia cooperi. It is believed that the local or traditional name in this region for the Euphorbia cooperi tree is “Makweti”, a Sepedi-derived name. Sepedi is one of the 30 recognised dialects of the Northern Sotho language group, which is widely spoken in the northern and western areas of South Africa.
The camp is built in an area of the Welgevonden Game Reserve that is referred to as the “Makweti Gorge”. This gorge lies north of the camp and is the area we look onto from our breakfast deck down towards the Taaibos River Valley. This was covered in our blog on the Makweti Tree in March 2018.
What Type Of Vegetation Is Found On The Reserve?
Makweti Safari Lodge falls within the Welgevonden Game Reserve in the Waterberg Region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. This game reserve forms part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, which predominantly consists of vegetation known as savannah bushveld. The biosphere reserve is dominated by different bushveld types characteristic with mountainous savannah. The Welgevonden Game Reserve, which has vegetation dominated by sourveld bushveld and mixed bushveld falls within the core region of the 654,000ha Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere reserve is home to 5,500 species of plants of which 43% are endemic to Southern Africa. It represents a considerable area of the savannah biome in Southern Africa, and is the only UNESCO-recognised Savannah Biosphere Reserve in the world.
The savannah biome is 1 of 7 recognised biomes of the world, and forms a large portion of Sub-Saharan Africa. Savannah is typically characterised as an African biome as the wide variety of mixed bushveld in savannah accommodates a multitude of herbivore species that form large grazing and browsing herds.
What Animals Come Close To The Camp?
We share the camp with a variety of local resident species of mammals, reptiles and birds. The resident Vervet Monkey troop are frequently seen and encountered. The Rock Hyrax or “Dassies” live among the rocks in which the camp is situated.
From time to time these resident species are visited by a variety of other mammal species found on the reserve. Sitting at the Indaba Lounge, overlooking the waterhole, one will witness the daily interaction between warthogs, impala, Burchells Zebra, wildebeest, kudu and chacma baboons. These regulars to our bushveld pub form the core of the groups of mammals seen at Makweti.
Elephant also frequent the camp looking for fresh water. Our waterhole supplies regular drinking water, but our swimming pools are also highly sought after. The pools found at chalets 2 and 4 are the number one choice for many elephant bulls.
There is a resident leopard in the mountains around Makweti, whose territory extends east of the camp and north into the Taaibos River Valley. She is shy and seldom seen, but we have caught her on camera and will often find her tracks on the road coming into camp. Jessica has been privileged to hear her on occasion on the hills behind the house.
Other night visitors who come into camp when all is quiet include brown hyena, honey badger, porcupine, civet and rhino.
How Many People Work At Makweti?
We have an excellent team who work diligently to ensure our guests have the most amazing experience possible. We are privileged to work with such committed people and are proud of their achievements on a daily basis. We have been featuring our staff in our People Of Makweti blogs, so keep an eye on who is next.
Our team comprises of lodge manager couple, 2 x guides, 1 x administrator, 1 x head chef, 1 x assistant chef, 2 x kitchen assistants, 4 x housekeepers and 2 x grounds and maintenance gents.
A total of 15 exceptional employees!
How Big Is The Reserve?
The Welgevonden Game Reserve measures 36,000 hectares in total. This equates to 88,920 acres or 360 km2. The reserve falls within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, which is 654,000 hectares large in its entirety.
Welgevonden Game Reserve falls within the core of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, which is 104,000 hectares large. The Waterberg Mountain range is 14,500 km2. By comparison, the world-renowned Kruger National Park is 19,485 km2.
How Old Is Makweti And Welgevonden Game Reserve?
In 1987, the concept of a game reserve was born. With the commitment of the private sector in South Africa and local farm land owners, the Welgevonden Game Reserve was proclaimed a conservation area in 1993. Pienkes du Plessis, the owner of the original farm “Welgevonden” had the initial vision of this ambitious conservation idea.
“I wanted to remove all traces of human activity from this landscape and reintroduce animals that had been lost to the area over time due to humans.”
In 1993, when the reserve was proclaimed, the internal fences between the farms were removed, conservation and land management activities were implemented, and a unique conservation area started to re-establish into its original state.
Shortly after the reserve’s official proclamation, development of the tourism model for the reserve was established, and in 1994 Makweti Safari Lodge was built, being one of the first lodges developed on the reserve.
Makweti Safari Lodge has remained a key player since, contributing to conservation initiatives and the promotion of the reserve and area as a whole for its significant ecological value as well as socio-economic significance.
Have All The Animals Always Been On The Reserve?
Yes and no. Of the 50 mammal species found on Welgevonden Game Reserve, all of them are indigenous and naturally occurring in this region.
In the early 1800’s, many species were hunted mercilessly with pioneers moving through this region. By the early 1900’s, many species were extinct from the area. On re-establishing the area to conservation status, key species were re-introduced into their natural environment. These included elephant, lion, white rhino and many general game species. Species such as kudu, klipspringer, impala, brown hyena and leopard would have occurred here naturally during the previous farming era, although in low numbers. Being protected under the conservation practices of the reserve, their numbers have grown considerably.
Although historically, many species would have been found here seasonally, moving into more fertile low-lying areas around the Waterberg range in the drier Winter months, they are now found all year round on the reserve where they are protected.
Spotted hyena were never re-introduced into the reserve as part of the Reserves Predator Management Plan, however, nomadic individuals from surrounding areas in the Limpopo, have re-established a small population within the reserve, regardless. This is exciting, as it shows that the conservation practices are allowing mammals, birds, reptiles and insects to move back into previously occupied areas on their own.
In November 2018, black rhino were re-introduced into the reserve, the first black rhino to walk in these hills for over a hundred years.
Why Does The Soil Differ In Colours In Some Areas?
The soils on the reserve are mostly based from sedimentary sand-stone rock, and as a result are relatively infertile, unable to hold the nutrients usually found in more clay or loamy soils. The Waterberg Massif has an abundance of iron and magnesium within it, which lends its colour to the resulting soils on the reserve. When exposed to water and oxygen, the iron in the rock and soils begins its oxidising process, resulting in the beautiful rich orange and red hues. Similarly, magnesium in its oxidising process results in the purple colours found in some areas.
How Many Key Species Are On The Reserve?
A game census is conducted most years around September, with a primary goal of establishing trends in animal populations, rather than to give a definite number of the species on the reserve. The numbers of each animal indicate changes in the ecological process within a seasonal change. For example: it indicates the success of animals birthing each year.
What’s in a number? Knowing the actual number of the species is of little ecological significance but following the trends year on year provides interesting insights into animal population dynamics, which are influenced by disease, drought, floods, rainfall and predator activity.
Currently on the reserve we have estimates of the following key species:
The rhino population is monitored closely and although we have a healthy population, figures are held secret to ensure their survival. The current rhino poaching situation in Africa is more than concerning and significant measures are always being taken to ensure these species are well protected.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Makweti?
The answer is simple – any time! Although the seasonal changes are noticeable, there is no single best time of year to travel to Makweti. Finding game in all seasons is a challenge we relish, and this makes it so much more exciting than having anything guaranteed.
Spring and Summer bring on the best in terms of the vegetation biodiversity, with plants flowering and fruiting and the reserve in vibrant, green splendour. Summer is a birder’s paradise with many migrant species returning to breed or simply overwinter in our warm climates as there’s an abundance of food available.
Winter brings everything we love about it: log fires, warm blankets, hot water bottles and the hearty fare that our Winter menus offer. The long Winter morning light provides great photographic opportunities and the wildlife look forward to the warm midday and early after sun as much as we do.
So, when is the best time to be Makweti? All the time.
1. Place the cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon into a small bowl, and mix to combine. Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss together with half of the spice mix. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
2. Preheat the oven to l50 degrees C / 300F / Gas 2.
3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp of argan oil in a large casserole dish. Add the grated onion and the remaining spice mix and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes so that the onions are soft, but not yet coloured. Add the crushed garlic for the final 3 minutes.
4. ln a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the cubes of lamb on all sides. Add the browned meat to the casserole dish. De-glaze the frying pan with 470ml / 1 pint tomato juice and add these juices to the pan.
5. Add the remaining tomato juice, chopped tomatoes, apricots, dates, raisins or sultanas, flaked almonds, saffron, lamb stock and honey to the casserole dish. Bring to the boil. Cover wth a fitted lid, place in the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
6. Place the lamb in a tagine or large serving dish and sprinkle the chopped herbs over your dish.
Serve with pride, because it’s going to be a delicious dish! Best enjoyed with friends and family.
PS: If you use the metric system, use this conversion calculator to determine the different measurements.
The early summer rains have left the reserve looking spectacular this year. The rivers are in full flow, the floodplain areas in the central parts of the reserve are filling, and the flora has responded to this with great enthusiasm. The Makweti camp hasn’t been this lush or in such glorious splendour since February 2017, and the healthy diversity of plant life is amazing.
We are fortunate to stay in a camp that boasts a wonderful diversity of the trees found in the Waterberg region. Within the small footprint of Makweti, some healthy specimens are revelling in the Summer rain.
Kudu Berry (Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia)
The Kudu Berry is well known on the reserve. Usually about 4 – 6m in height, it can grow to 12m in areas with favourable conditions. It is recognised by light grey bark, which is fissured into segments of squares or rectangles. The leaves are ovate, sometimes curling inwards. Yellow petioles are clear at the base of the leaves. The flowers are small, greenish-white with a faint musky smell. It is best recognised by its fruit, particularly this time of year, but usually from May onwards. The small spherical fruit is green with faint white spots, falling off the tree whilst still green and ripening on the ground to a yellow-brown colour with a wrinkled exterior. These trees are monoecious representing male or female flowers on a single tree.
Just outside the reception area is a magnificent specimen of the Kudu Berry tree. It creates a green archway as you approach the Indaba Lounge from the main lodge area and provides valuable shade. This deciduous tree is a welcome relief for the Summer heat, but allows warming sunlight into the office during the Winter months.
It is browsed on by kudu and elephant and the Vervet Monkeys are often seen playing in it, raiding the tree of its abundant fruit. There are many specimens of the species in the camp, particularly around chalets 4 and 5.
Traditional uses of these trees include the following:
The tree’s name is derived from the fruit being popular with kudu. The Vhavenda people used to use an infusion of the bark and leaves to wash traps they set to catch kudu and other antelope for their meat and pelts.
This tree is a also favoured host for the larvae of the butterfly species Abantis paradisea better known as the Paradise Skipper.
It is an attractive tree all year round. In Summer it is lush and green and in full foliage, but it will change into a fiery wonder in Autumn or Winter, displaying a multitude of earthy colours.
Lavender Fever Berry (Croton gratissimus)
These trees are synonymous with rocky ridges and are in abundance within Makweti. They are a small shrub or tree with discoloured green and white leaves, although sometimes a bright orange leaf emerges too. The leaves themselves are striking features with silvery undersides and an aromatic scent when crushed. The flowers are small cream, golden-yellow in colour and occur in long spikes up to 15cm long. The flower buds develop in the rainy season, remaining closed and conspicuous during the dry season as rusty brown spikes. The flowers open at the first rains of the following rain season.
The tree provides browsing material for antelope and livestock. Elephant wondering into camp will often stop past chalet 4 and feed on the Lavender Fever Berries growing alongside the boma perimeter. There is a magnificent Lavender Fever Berry growing outside the kitchen on the pathway to chalet 3, with numerous specimens growing tall around the deck of the main lodge.
Traditional uses of these trees include the following:
The trees are beautiful and with their striking leaves and general pleasing shape and aroma, they are used more and more in gardens. The scientific name of this tree means “most pleasant” as a result of its overall character and scent.
This tree is a favoured host for the larvae of the butterfly species Charaxis candiope candiope. better known as Emperor Butterflies or Leafwing Butterflies, of which there are many varieties.
Pride of the Cape (Bauhinia galpinii)
This striking shrub is prevalent all over the camp, and Makweti boasts many beautiful specimens.
You cannot miss them when walking to the main lodge from the Indaba, as they flank the pathway all the way down. Chalet 1 and 2 have an abundance of them growing along their pathways too.
This species is a low-growing tree or shrub that is a vigorous climber, favouring hot areas of the country, mostly in the north and north-eastern parts of South Africa. It has become a popular garden species, and specimens are now seen all over the country. They are drought-resistant and able to tolerate poor soils.
Easily recognised by its leaf that is divided about ¼ of the length of the leaf and its almost heart shape appearance. The flowers are a bright salmon to brick-red colour, with paddle-shaped petals that are clustered at the ends of the branches.
Traditional uses of these trees include the following:
This shrub is a favourite host for the larvae of another butterfly species from the Charaxis Genus, Charaxis jasius saturnus, commonly known as Emperor Butterflies or Leafwing Butterflies. They are also known to breed on these shrubs too, laying eggs on the leaves.
Words and photographs: Neil Davison
We love introducing you to the people of Makweti, so that you can get a feel for who is standing behind the scenes, making all the magic come together! If you’ve visited us before then you will know these people, and will hopefully enjoy finding out more about them.
May we introduce Colin Smit; this is his story.
I was born in Zimbabwe, Harare (then still Rhodesia, Salisbury) in 1973. My mother was a tennis coach while my father was a school teacher. He had the dream of becoming a yacht skipper and actually built a thirty two foot ferro-cement sloop in our back garden. It was shipped to Durban, from where my father sailed it to Mauritius. It was here that my mother, brother and I joined him. We sailed to the Seychelles together, no mean feat for a mother with two children younger than two years old!
We lived in the Seychelles until I was six years old, at which time my parents separated. My mother met and married a farmer in the Eastern Cape and so the path towards my lifestyle became paved. My brother and I visited The Seychelles every so often, and then Mauritius once my father had moved there, probably paving the way to my brother’s lifestyle – that of a yacht skipper, just like our dad.
I went to boarding school, which was a big shock initially, but I came to enjoy it more once I’d made friends with the other farm kids. We’d regularly leave the school (illegally!) to explore the undeveloped land behind it. There we collected snakes and chameleons, and found as many birds’ nests as we could. I can’t remember wildlife actually being a passion then, but I do remember enjoying being “out there” immensely.
I wanted to be a veterinarian after school but failed my final maths exam and so ended up in the army in 1991. The discipline I learned there stood me in good stead. After working for two years (as a builder with my father who had returned to South Africa in 1989) I studied construction. Immediately after I qualified, however, I returned to the farm to work with my step-father. Having a direct influence on the wellbeing of the farm animals developed the love for the outdoors I had begun to feel when I was younger. After qualifying as a professional hunter I was almost happy.
My parents had to sell the farm and in 1999 I had to leave. Thanks to my experience gained while hunting I managed to get a job as a guide, something I thought I’d do until I could find a proper job. Twenty years later (I’ll never forget starting at Shamwari Game Reserve on 1 September 1999) I still haven’t left the industry!
I started as a low order jeep jockey, qualified to conduct walking safaris, became a deputy head guide and also trained my junior peers during the years I spent at Shamwari. I became part of the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve conservation team in 2008 where I met my Kenyan wife. We moved to Kenya in 2009 where I managed lodges and undertook walking safaris for Governors Camp. In total I spent six years in Kenya, working in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The people, many illiterate but mostly of an incredibly accommodating disposition, made the stay most memorable and in fact almost spiritual. It was clear to me I’d made the right choice choosing a career in the outdoors.
I returned to South Africa in August 2017 to work at Makweti, which is where I am still today. I have also developed a love for interacting with the guests who visit us, which is a huge part of the Makweti spirit of doing things. After all, we rub shoulders with people, literally, from all four corners of the globe. What a great way to gain a broad, informed perspective on life!
If you want to make something that is as exotic as it is delicious, this is your best bet. Plus it will offer a fond reminder of the cuisine that Chef Phillip and his team so lovingly create in the Makweti kitchen. Get the recipe here and make it at home. We’d love to hear how it turns out.
Get The Ingredients
Curry Poaching Sauce Ingredients
Prawns And Mango
Doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious? We know you’ll love eating these prawns as much as you enjoy preparing them. Enjoy!