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February 11, 2011

Uninvited Lions

It was that time of the year, summer time, where the weather allowed for fantastic bush dinners to be held. I was excited as I had a good game drive and now it was time for one of our chefs, Dirk to prepare a great braai for dinner. My two guests are an Australian couple, Kevin and Wendy, that farm with beef cattle in the outback and so far we’ve had a great time together. Only one problem still lingered in the back of my mind; we have seen many big and interesting wildlife in the past three game drives, but the mighty lions cease to show themselves. I was mildly irritated by that fact, but didn’t let it get me down. We approached the bush dinner site and saw the smoke of a fire Dirk already prepared. The sun was getting lazy now and we had about an hour of daylight left.

We seated the guests and I went to pour the G and T’s they had ordered from the back of my game vehicle. The day could not end any better. Lost in my own mind thinking of the successful series of drives we had, I heard Wendy calling my name in a mildly worried, but more amused tone: “Nadia…uhm…there are four lions staring at us…”

My blood froze in my body and a slight chill went down my spine that made the hair on my arms raise. I knew she was not joking as I could now sense the danger everyone felt in the air. We all from Gondwana have anticipated this moment for a long time. I just did not expect it to happen to me. I was still outside of the boma, but Dirk was already half way in the boma next to the guests. I rushed inside, cautious not to make a too sudden move and attract the attention of the one lioness I now saw in a crouching position. I knew I had to stay calm and get the guests on the vehicle as quickly and discretely as possible.

Before I could even plan my next move Dirk got adrenalin rush and charged at the lions at full speed while waving arms and screaming. It did remind me a little bit of the Springboks winning a final against the Aussies, but at that time I was just hoping that the lioness, that only trotted off lazily and turned around to look at Dirk, did not think of a springbok too. She did not. I could see they were scared and off course the “big and mighty” male was nowhere to be seen in a matter of seconds. We got to the vehicle safely, and I thought well done for my guests staying so cool and calm about it. My guests were excited but also bummed that they did not get a good picture of the lions, although they were merely 5 meters away on foot. So I had to go and see them from a slightly higher and safer perspective.

Dirk was a true hero in the Kevin and Wendy’s eyes especially after he brought them a delicious cooked meal from the safety of the lodge.  It was not the perfect bush dinner, in fact we didn’t ever make dinner outside, but this is something that they will never forget. One thing we do learn from this; if you are not invited to a bush braai, don’t mess with the chef, even if you’re a lion.

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February 8, 2011

Aardwolf

I was doing an evening drive; it is summer, so at six o’ clock it was still reasonably hot. We have seen the elephants and a rhino earlier on and we were now driving through the fynbos thickets. Usually seeing big animals like that tend to be the climax of the drive, so now it was quiet on the vehicle, everyone just appreciating the scenery and the slight breeze to cool us down.  I was thinking about the bush dinner later on and checking the feathery cirrus clouds above us to make sure they hold no threat of rain that might spoil the occasion.

Lost in my own thoughts I came around a corner into a small open patch. At that moment four furry bodies ameter from the vehicle caught my surprised eyes. It was an aardwolf mother and her three cubs. They must have been sleeping as they were all bundled up on top of one another before we surprised them. They scattered in all directions, except one that trotted off a few paces and arrogantly turned around to look at what disturbed their peace. It was the big female. Three meters away she stared at me for about 5 seconds and then gave an incredible display. Her hair rose high from her shoulders which were deliberately spread apart to make herself look even bigger. She stood almost side on to show off her enlarged body. I knew she was more scared than anything else as this is typical behavior for aardwolf under stress. But I have to give it to her, for something that eats mainly termites, she did look quite impressive.

That made me realize that aardwolf, like many other smaller African wildlife is so underrated. Although classified under the carnivora genera and hyaenidae family along with the mighty strong hyenas, they do not feed on protein from mammals. The skull and teeth structure differ a lot from other canines and has been especially adapted for the diet they prefer. The cheek teeth are much smaller in size and secondly the palate is much broader. They have a full set of incisors and formidable canines, but the rest of the teeth are poorly developed and peg-like. This allows the aardwolf to consume large amount of termites quickly. There is no need for chewing, because the mastication occurs in the pyloric region of the stomach. However, an even more important reason for the reduction in cheek teeth is said to minimize the terpine release when feeding which would be substantially increased if the aardwolf had to chew on soldier termite head capsules.

In all aardwolf is definitely one of the most interesting family members of carnivora genera and although small, rather brave for its size. I cannot help but to feel proud to have these fantastic animals roaming on Gondwana.

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December 16, 2010

Sightings

One particular sighting that comes to mind is one involving our male rhino. It was a warm afternoon, myself and three guests departed on evening Game Drive. We had struggled previously in the day to find the rhino so we went back even more determined to find him.

After a good hour and a half of searching our luck changed and we found him as he was walking out of the valley from below us. Myself and my guests sat in complete silence. He proceeded to walk right towards the vehicle as if he didn’t even know we were there. As I started speaking to my guests he realized there were people watching him and came charging towards the vehicle. I banged on the side of my vehicle very loudly and he immediately stopped in his tracks a mere 10 or so meters away from us, where he calmed down and even started feeding again.

This was a really exciting experience and great pictures were taken by all.

Another great sighting we had this month was with our Lions. We had not seen them for a few days previously so I was keen to try my luck. This game drive I had new guests. They were very interested in the lions which I knew might be a challenge as we had not seen them for awhile. We headed out on evening game drive and the lions were top of the list. I drove all over, up the valleys and down the valleys but there was no sign of any cats around, so we stopped to take a drinks stop, stretch the legs and watch the sun set.

Once everyone had enjoyed there drink and some snacks we hit the road once more to see what the night may hold for us.

Just as the last light was fading we were fortunate enough to find the lions all laying down close to one our small dams which we call stork pan. They were lying right out in the open area which is covered in grass, this allowed us to approach to within 15 meters of the pride which was exciting in itself.

We sat watching them for a good 10 minutes and just when we thought it could not get any better three of them started calling all at the same time – truly awesome. It is a sound that brings goose bumps to the back of your neck, you can physically feel your whole body vibrating. It is a feeling that cannot be described. We enjoyed the sighting for about 15 minutes more after that and then called it a day. We left them in peace with huge smiles on our faces to head back and enjoy a well earned dinner.

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December 3, 2010

Wild Cheetah Arrive at Game Reserve

Wild Cheetah Arrive at Game Reserve

It all started with Samara Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape who contacted Gondwana Game Reserve looking for a new home for three of their cheetah.  Cheetah naturally occur in this area of the Eastern Cape, so their population is truly wild, which is always so exciting from a conservation standpoint.  It was necessary to relocate the cheetah for genetic diversity and more habitat was needed to support Samara’s growing population.

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October 7, 2010

Mukani

Mukani
This is a story of a zebra that earned his stripes by proving his rank.

As some of us know, there is a Plains zebra on the reserve that does not particularly like hanging out with his own kind, in fact he has taken a liking to the rare Watusi cattle herd that grazes Gondwana plains. Everyone always thought that he had an identity crisis. However recently my fellow horsemen and I found out that this is not entirely the case.

One afternoon we were riding out on three of our biggest horses. We came across the herd of Watusi, including its strangest stripy member. We kept a distance as we didn’t want to disturb their peace. Peace, however was not on this zebra’s train of thought, because out of nowhere the zebra came trotting towards us on horseback. Now this is often normal for cattle to be inquisitive and I thought he must have learned it from his adopted herd. Under the circumstances this would’ve been normal if the zebra stopped and gave a vacant stare like cattle do. Unfortunately he did not stop, but rather flatten his ears and increased speed.

Naturally, I became mildly worried and when the horses spotted the charging zebra they became, well, a little more than ‘mildly worried’. This I could understand, I would also stress is something that looks like it escaped from jail ran angrily at me!

My horse gave a leap forward almost leaving me behind and bolted off, though I must admit I was reluctant to stop him. The other two quickly followed as the zebra continued to run after us for a while. Eventually he stopped when he realised his legs are after all three times shorter than those of our horses, but to keep his pride he gave a whinny that would have any stallion jealous; as if to say: “yeah, you better run!”.

What would’ve happened if we stood our ground is a mystery, but even if the zebra’s whinny is worse than his bite, you have got to admire his courage. That’s when I realized that this is no confused zebra, he knows he is a zebra but he has ambition, because he is the Watusi guardian. Come rain, hail or humongous shire horses, he will protect this herd.

We look at the photo of this herd at Kwena lodge and no longer pity a confused zebra, but we admire Mukani meaning ‘the one who fights’ in Shona, native language where Watusi originated.

Mark and Wendy can rest assured that their precious herd of Watusi is in the safe hooves of this brave little stripy warrior.

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July 22, 2010

Gourmet Evenings

Gourmet Evenings

Chef´s Table – 18 August 2010

Top South African celebrity chef Scott Ratray will be hosting a food and wine pairing dinner at Gondwana with winemaker / owner Stefan Basson from Babylon´s Peak. Scott assisted renowned chef Keith Floyd in England and then worked as executive chef for all And Beyond (CC Africa) lodges. He has just opened a new restaurant in Plettenberg Bay, Scotty´s. Stefan Basson from Babylon´s Peak will showcase his wines from the heart of the Swartland. R395.00 per person.

Shiraz Shoot-Off, 11 September 2010

Hosted by the celebrity chef Francois Ferreira with winemaker Gunter Schultz. You will enjoy the best of the Shiraz in South Africa!

A wine and food extravaganza, – a four-course dinner from Gondwana´s own Alessandro De Bortoli from Venice Italy. Vineyards featured will be Kleinood / Hartenberg / Raka & Boschkloof with winemaker Gunter Schultz, revealing the secrets of Shiraz. R395.00 per person.

Please contact Reservations to make a booking.

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July 21, 2010

Property Developments

Property Developments

Pam Golding Snap Shot

Pam Golding Properties has seen an exciting increase in interest and activity on the Reserve since December and as a result has sold 2 plots and 2 fully furnished lodges in the first half of this year. Prices have shown a decrease but compared to the rest of the market, Gondwana is holding its own.

Properties Sold:

  • Red Rocks 28 (Plot)
  • Red Rocks 26 (Plot)
  • Fynbos Camp 20 (Fully Furnished Lodge)
  • Fynbos Camp 15 (Fully Furnished Lodge)

The surge in interest and enquiry on Gondwana sees Pam Golding Properties finalizing two additional potential sales at the moment and communication with three other potential buyers.

There has been a great appreciation by potential buyers of the up market facilities such as Lehele Lodge, the quality of the homes, and the newly completed hotel as well as the vast beauty of the reserve which none of them expected to find.

Visit Our Private Ownership Page

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July 20, 2010

Bird Hide Completed

Bird Hide Completed on Gondwana

20 July 2010

Last year in May, Mark gave one of the field guide´s Albert, resident birding expert, the green light and budget to start the first bird hide on Gondwana.

Initially it was only Albert and Forget working on the hide, planting the anchor poles and the deck. It was slow going as they were both guiding and just had an hour here and there to
work on it.

Later in the year Cobus joined the guiding team and started helping. It was amazing seeing the birds getting used to the sawing and all the noise and even seeing a pair of little
grebe´s raising three chicks in the summer we were working there.

In December the birdhide was completed; it is a beautiful, cosy little spot by a dam that is easily accessible for any private owner or guests visiting Gondwana. Just ask your ranger.

View more Outdoor Activites on Gondwana Game Reserve

Bird Hide Gallery

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June 18, 2010

Winter Game Releases

Winter Game Releases on Gondwana

18 June 2010

Gondwana will be introducing 400 head of general game this winter including Springbok, Kudu, Zebra, and Gemsbok as well as 3 hippo into the Lehele Lodge waterhole and giraffe.

Stay tuned for photos and more details.

We would like to thank Rein and Arne van der Horst, home owners in Milkwood Valley for their kind donation of 2 hippo as part of Gondwana’s conservation efforts to reintroduce
endemic species to the reserve.

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