Walking around Makweti Safari Lodge during the day, one cannot miss the activity of the resident colony of little creatures living amongst and around the rocks, rooms and main lodge. This small ‘rodent-like’ animal is the Rock Dassie or Rock Hyrax.
These little mammals are nowhere close to rodents, other than in general appearance and their distant relatives’ evolutionary paths are linked to elephants and dugongs. They are unique little mammals and form the order HYRACOIDEAE within the mammal group. They have complex social structures, unique appearances, efficient daily feeding habits and digestive systems and live in well organised colonies with segregated areas for different daily activities.
For the past 18 years of my life in and out of the bush, I have been fervently searching for a jewel, and at last I have found one. It was late Friday afternoon when we were heading into a valley, south of the Taaibos River. Our attention was fixed on a cheetah female that we had not seen for some time and had been sighted about 10 minutes away from where we were. This is the female cheetah we featured in April this year on our blog. Her cubs left her on the evening of the 27th of June and became independent, and we have not seen her since then, although her cubs have been sighted regularly. I was keen to see how she was and if she was showing any signs of new cubs being born. But, I digress.
Makweti Safari Lodge has been proud to sponsor two very worthy charities over the recent months. These charities are close to our hearts and we know that every bit of support – no matter how big or small – has an impact.
It’s October 2016 and Jessica and I are sitting in our small rental apartment in Northern Johannesburg wondering why on earth we had decided to give the “big city” a try after so many years of living and enjoying the bush and game lodge environment.
We had been working in lodges and boutique hotels for 15 – 18 years, and had come to the realisation that we were definitely not “city people”.
There’s something incredibly exciting about a meal prepared in a tagine. It feels authentically African. This method of cooking originated in the Maghreb region of Africa, along the Mediterranean Sea coastline in the far North-West of our continent. Countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya are all known to infuse ingredients together like this in a tagine, creating an amalgamation of flavour that is second to none. Of course, Chef Phillip has replicated this method of cooking in his own way, bringing to life the Makweti Chicken Tagine. If you don’t have a tagine, you can make it in a regular casserole dish.
We are privileged to live in such an amazing environment and are reminded of this daily. Makweti Safari Lodge is not only home to our incredible team and a home-away-from-home for our guests, but we also share this space with several resident camp creatures.
On occasions at night whilst heading back to the rooms, guests will catch a glimpse of the shy Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit, which lives amongst the rocks and boulders of the camp and surrounding hillside. Like the other species of the Lagomorph Order of Mammals (Rabbits and Hares), they are mostly nocturnal, although not exclusively.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; the people of Makweti Safari Lodge are a huge contributing factor as to why guests come back time and again. We are so fortunate to have an incredible, dedicated and passionate team, even if they eventually do move on to other ventures.
Kevin Holroyd was one such person. He worked at Makweti many moons ago as a safari guide and lodge manager; in fact, it was where he began his career. He has always looked back fondly on those times, so we asked him to write an account of his experiences on the Welgevonden Reserve and at Makweti Safari Lodge.
One of our guests had this breakfast at Makweti Safari Lodge last month, and made a special request for the recipe. Since we are in the habit of sharing Chef Phillip’s culinary secrets, we decided to make this delectable breakfast our focus this month for the benefit of everyone!
Get your own taste of the Makweti magic by making this at home. We’d love to hear how it turns out so connect with us on our Instagram page for more recipes and interesting bushveld anecdotes.
1 perfectly ripe avocado (you’ll need half one avocado for two people)
2 eggs, soft poached
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
Cut the avocado in half, remove the pip
Expand the fleshy nest of the avocado scooping out a little bit of fruit to make space for the egg
Place the soft poached egg into the avocado nest and bake for 4 minutes
Serve hot with sun-dried tomato salsa
Tomato And Chive Salsa
150g sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 tbs chopped chives
Salt and pepper
Mix tomatoes and chives together
Serve separately to avocado and egg
It’s so simple, but possibly the most delicious breakfast you’ll ever make! If you want to savour this dish first-hand at Makweti Safari Lodge, then isn’t it time you made your booking?
Many guests are tempted to skip the morning drive and have the proverbial ‘lie in’, but few are willing to forego it in fear of missing out on whatever may be seen. Two days ago, one of our guests decided to skip the morning drive, but in doing so was fortunate enough to witness a cheetah kill, a mere three meters below the deck of their pool!
It was around 8am on Wednesday morning. Jessica was busy in the office when the alarm calls from our resident Vervet Monkeys rang out from close to the kitchen area. As always, these calls pique the interest of everyone in the camp and soon the investigation began. Speculations ran high and it was decided it must have been the leopard that has been seen and heard around the camp in the last eight months.
It wasn’t until breakfast that we discovered the truth behind all the commotion. A sub-adult cheetah had come up the valley and killed a reedbuck right below the deck of room 3. Marius Botha, our guest in number 3, had missed the morning drive to enjoy some time in the room and on his deck. He was well-rewarded with this sighting. At breakfast he nonchalantly walked into the dining area and informed everyone about what had happened whilst we were out on drive. Needless to say, we didn’t believe it at first, but on closer inspection the details slowly emerged. Later during breakfast, the cheetah moved up the ridge in clear view of the breakfast deck and was then enjoyed by all.
After some time, it started location calling, a high-pitched bird-like yelp. Shortly after, two similarly aged cheetah came down the ridge and joined it. This reunion of these three cheetah was quickly realised as the sub-adult offspring of the mother cheetah we featured in our cheetah write up from April 2018. Having left their mother on the 27th June this year, they have been doing their rounds across the Northern and Western parts of the Welgevonden Reserve. This was the first time since then that we have seen them in the Makweti area again.
The three cheetah spent the day in the shade on the ridge above the camp and were seen on and off throughout the day. A great show enjoyed by everyone. The images for this blog were taken by Malcolm and Monique Ritchie, who are currently enjoying their honeymoon with us at Makweti. Thank you!
Words: Neil Davison
Photos: Malcolm and Monique Ritchie
Very few (if any) of our guests are aware of the “behind the scenes” activity that takes place as we while away the day or night in camp. There is so much activity that we miss and are unaware of.
Ever since I started guiding and conducting trails, I have been fascinated with the precision, commitment and consistency that the shy and seldom seen Brown Hyena goes about during its daily routine. Brown Hyena lead very secretive lives, which we hardly ever get to witness. Often, we will happen upon signs of their activity all over the Welgevonden Reserve, indicating just how active they are.
Tracks! Left clear on the sandy roads whilst they patrol their territories and forage for food. An easy way to know they have been around, their tracks are often seen early morning after a nightly prowl, and especially following the rains. Brown Hyena tracks differ from their Spotted Hyena relatives, in that the long shaggy hair of the Brown Hyena leaves its own mark. The hair on the Brown Hyena covers the foot like a sock and is noticeable as fine brush marks around the track (above right).
Some Interesting Facts About Brown Hyena
Brown Hyena, long believed to be solitary animals, have one of the most advanced carnivore social systems. They will forage alone and are known to ‘cache’ food from other predators, close to carcasses. They sometimes return to their dens with a stash of food in their jaws, usually a hindleg or something similar. They seldom predate on large game and, according to a few records, kills form only 6% of their total diet. They are still regarded as a large aggressive predator and rank fourth in the carnivore hierarchy in Southern Africa. They have little respect for Leopard and Cheetah, but will keep well out of the way of Lion.
With their advanced social system, comes an equally elaborate system of olfactory communication. Scent marking with a greasy, smelly anal-sac secretion as well as dung middens, indicate ownership of an area. Foraging individuals will stop every 300-400m to paste grass stems or bushes with this secretion.
Two secretions are noted, with different effects. First, the white pasting and then a dark brown or black pasting. The white pasting is longer lasting, whereas the dark pasting loses its odour quicker. The pastings not only denote territory for the clan, but are believed to be chemical messages to other clan members, indicating individuals and giving a timeline of territorial and foraging patrols. This helps clan members avoid foraging in areas that have been recently covered or checked.
Brown Hyena are seldom seen or heard. Unlike their vociferous Spotted Hyena cousins, Brown Hyena will seldom vocalise, giving small squeaks, grunts or growls that can be heard over short distances. These sounds are usually given to related clan members, or rival clan members who have ventured into their territory.
When next on a trip to Makweti Safari Lodge, take some time to notice the small signs of activity that indicate what animals have been up to whilst you lie blissfully unaware in our luxurious rooms or at the pool.
There is more than meets the eye!
Thanks to Neil Davison for this brilliant post and photographs.
- Personal observations on Welgevonden Game Reserve and other Southern African Reserves
- The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals, Richard Despard Estes, Russel Friedman Books CC, 1995.