Tuningi Newsletter September 2007

By gavintonkinson on September 1, 2007

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Hallo again!

As all of you, who have been to Tuningi Safari Lodge will agree, we pride ourselves on the fact that we offer, not only some of the best game viewing opportunities in the world, but also exclusive fine dining, some of the most sought after wines available in our country, friendly service all round and most of all, homely comfort in five star surroundings.

Tuningi has officially turned three last month.
As a birthday present we received a GOLD award from the ‘Diners Club Wine list of the Year’ competition. We obviously feel extremely proud, as it was the first time we entered this competition. We were not only judged on the wines we keep. Points were given for the range of wine prices, the wine in harmony with the style of the food we serve, the choice of varietals (red, white, sparkling, dessert, sherry, port, brandy etc.)the districts in South Africa represented and even the standard of the glasses we serve it in. Remember to try some new names on the wine list on your next visit instead of just opting for the house wine! We have carefully selected each one for your enjoyment.

Out in the bush, it is still extremely dry. Although we are expecting Spring, we have not seen too many new shoots on the trees yet. Last year we had two thunderstorms early in September to settle the dust and boost new life in the plants. We have not had any signs of rain to date but have seen on the weather forecast that there is a good possibility of rain for the first week in October! We are all holding our breath, as this will change the reserve instantly into a brand new world.

Directly after the first thunder storm, green shoots will be seen every where, trees will start blossoming ,new grass will push through the sand, insects will start buzzing around in a frenzy and the migratory birds that left at the beginning of Winter will start making their way back home to Madikwe. It is truly a remarkable time of the year and a privilege to be able to see how thankfully the bush can transform itself from an arid dry land to a lush bush oasis in a matter of a few days after just a little bit of rain.

September 2007 will be remembered as the month of the wild dog.
We finally got a quick glimpse of the TEN new wild dog puppies we have been telling you about! Their mother is finding ways and places to hide them and keep them safe. They are now four months old and obviously on the most wanted list of sightings for every game drive going out into the bush. The mother has unfortunately decided to keep them out of sight for as long as humanly, or rather, doggedly possible. She keeps moving her den into thickets and rocky mountain areas where no vehicle ever ventures. The only reason why we got to see them was because she felt the need to move her den and someone happened to stumble across them at exactly the right moment. The rest of the pack have been hunting all over the place and providing for their extended family. They all eat their full on a kill and then run back to the doting mother to regurgitate some meat for her and the pups to eat.

Now that it is confirmed that they are all still well and alive, Madikwe as a Reserve is proud to announce that it continues to be a successful and viable habitat for the highly endangered African wild dog. The total wild dog population in Africa is only between 3000 and 5000. We are sure to see much more of them from now on as they will soon start accompanying their mother and the rest of the pack on the hunt.

On the other side of the Reserve we have been keeping three grown male dogs called Star, Scarface and Tattoo in a confined area for a while. We brought them to Madikwe from Venetia Game Reserve a while ago with the plan to form a new pack with brand new genes in Madikwe. Years ago when space was still taken for granted and the African plains stretched over thousands of hectares, dogs like these would have run for hundreds of kilometers to find different females of different packs with fresh genes to mate with. Unfortunately, in this day and age, all Game Reserves have to be fenced in to keep the animals safe.

After a long and hard search for some females to join these boys, we found five sisters in Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. One, of two and a half years, and her four younger sisters. It is an extremely costly project to move animals around but luckily the owners of Tuningi together with Federal Air offered to sponsor the project. In the beginning of the month, the girls were flown over 1400km from the verdant bush of their birthplace to their new home in Madikwe. They were placed in the same enclosure as our excited three males but were still separated by a fence. For a week the girls and boys were fed on each side of the fence in order to make contact and get to know each other and then the fence between them was lifted and to all the onlooker’s great delight the lot made friends instantly.

They will remain in the boma for another month to enable them to form a real pack with the correct behaviour and will then be set free to roam the plains of Madikwe. How awesome !! Ironically, as these dogs are starting a new era in Madikwe we are reminded of a sad event that took place exactly two years ago in September. We had to stand by and watch how lions killed the old alpha male (14 years old) of the then, 19 strong Madikwe pack, as he got stuck in the mud at Tlou dam. He was trying to assist one of the other dogs who got stuck in the mud earlier while trying to get hold of a piece of a lion’s abandoned kill. Unfortunately, the lion returned and killed both of them! What a great loss and a firm reminder of the harshness of life in the bush.

Luckily our new dogs came from game reserves where lions were ever present. They will know how to watch their step, and not to take any unnecessary chances once they are out there in the wild again. Soon we will have the Dwarsberg pack of 18 dogs as well as the Shamwari pack of 8 running around freely, turning every sighting of them into a great occasion.

If you go on to our Tuningi website at Newsletter Archives you can go back into the archives of our newsletters and catch up on all the exciting events that have taken place here at Tuningi in the past.

It is time to say goodbye again.
From the warm heart of Madikwe we greet you in anticipation, waiting for the first drop of rain in the dusty road……
Will surely keep you posted!
Until next month
The friendly T-team

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