January 2018 News Blog
During January, we welcomed families, couples, tour groups, and solo travellers to our home here at Tshukudu. Plenty of people have heard about our story or rehabilitation and rewilding, and know that we have a special relationship with our three cheetah siblings: Ntombi, Floppy, and Hunter. In the mornings, our guides will take their guests on either a morning game drive or a bush walk, and if the cheetahs are around they will join in quite happily, as they like our company as much as we like theirs! Here is the Moura family, who got to have a wonderful walking experience with the two boys and posed for a few unforgettable photos with the snoozing cats. From left to right: José, Gabriel, Isabel, Giovanna, and Nuria (guide).
On another occasion, our guests were relaxing at the lodge and keeping close to the swimming pool (January is one of our hottest months), and it seemed like the cheetahs had the same idea! Floppy and Hunter frequently visit the lodge - much to our and our guests' delight - and most often we find them snoozing in the shade. They've been spotted on the shady verandahs outside the rooms, at the pool under the gazebo, and curiously poking around the workshop where some of our guides were working. It is always a pleasure to share our space with these magnificent cats, and we are thrilled to be able to create these unique memories for our guests.
The hot temperatures have not only been impacting the cheetahs, but the elephants too! These comical, playful, and intelligent giants are irresistible to watch as they splash and tumble around in the cool, muddy waters in a celebration of refreshment. Those trunks seem to come in handy when the aim of the game is to fling water and mud around as much as possible, while other herd members opt to flop down into the water and roll around in the mud itself. We spent a good amount of time admiring a herd at a waterhole as young and old indulged in some serious mud bathing, showing us just how much enjoyment they get out of this common behaviour. The mud is very useful to the elephants as it acts as a layer of protection against the sun, and as it dries it traps cool air close to the skin and helps to regulate their temperatures.
Some of our morning walkers headed out with their guide to investigate the reserve and read the tracks and signs of the bush at first light. This fun and interactive activity brings a new dimension to the Tshukudu safari experience, taking guests onto the very soil we share with our wild residents. The bush walks are led by an armed guide who knows and understands the area we are working with, and can translate what the "bush newspaper" says! Learn about animals tracks, dung, trees, nests, insects, and birds, while some of the most thrilling aspects of the walk involve approaching animals secretively and safely. The cheetahs are often guests on the bush walks, while the wild animals of the reserve make appearances when and where it is appropriate. On this occasion, our guests were led to the edge of a dam where they sat quietly and watched as a herd of Cape buffalo approached the opposite side of the water to drink.
During afternoon game drives, we have the opportunity to get closer to the animals we don't approach on foot (for obvious reasons!), and this is always a superb chance for photos as we can get up close and personal with predators like lions, which have developed an habituated relationship with the game viewers. The dominant male on Tshukudu Reserve is a handsome old man at the ripe old age of about 20!
Moving onto the human element of the Tshukudu experience, we turn to our fantastic host of staff! The team in the kitchen kicked off 2018 in style with some phenomenal New Year's Eve eats, which went hand in hand with a great party, excellent people, and a celebration to remember. Since then, the dinner plates coming out of the kitchen have been just as eye-catching as they have been tantalising on the tastebuds! A couple of highlights are as follows:
Chef Clerence and his melt-in-your-mouth crusted lamb chops, beef roulade, potato buttons, pea and butternut puree, with seasonal vegetables and a creamy black peppercorn sauce. This dish was a winner among the meat-lovers, and we couldn't have been more pleased to see empty plates and happy faces once it was done!
Chef Hazel's classic chargrilled beef sirloin served with broccoli florets, roasted butternut, and a luxurious pepper sauce.
A stand-out dish is this exotic combo starter of crispy fried tortilla chips, vegetable spring rolls, blistered baby tomatoes, and a dollop of tangy chicken salad.
Dinner time is a celebration of excellent food and good conversation, often shared under the open night skies in the boma, surrounding a crackling central fire. Before dinner each evening, we announce the occasion with the beat of an African drum! Past guests will know the sound, but to new guests and those we have not yet met, this is the kind of thing that goes on behind the scenes at daily dinner announcement...
We are looking forward to what lies ahead this year and we are excited to continue sharing our special moments with visitors who travel from all over the world to Tshukudu. We do what we do because we have an ancient history with wildlife and relationships with animals, and we do what we do for our guests, who are all a part of our magical adventure!