The second litter of cheetah cubs has successfully been born into the protected wild of Kuzuko Lodge as part of the joint “Breeding, Wilding and Release Project”, set up by Ashia Cheetah Conservation and Kuzuko Lodge, part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group, in 2018.
The four cubs were birthed by another captive-born female cheetah who forms part of this ground-breaking conservation programme, having arrived at Kuzuko Lodge earlier this year already pregnant.
The first-time feline mom delivered all four cubs successfully, however after a short while the project team, who had been keeping an eye on her from a distance, noticed that the cubs were not feeding.
Not wanting to interfere too quickly, the team decided to give them a couple of hours to see whether some privacy would assist with their bonding.
When the team returned and the cubs were still bundled together, it was time to intervene. It was discovered that the umbilical cord had intertwined the cubs together, not allowing them the freedom to feed.
The very protective mother was lured away with food and the cubs quickly released from the cord.
Despite being a first-time mom the female immediately took the cubs back and within no time they started suckling successfully. According to the team at Kuzuko, the are doing very well and have already tripled in size.
Graaff Reinet, the historical little town in the Eastern Cape, is the most delightful combination of small-town wonderful and golden countryside. Take a meander through the mists of time with me; to a time where streets were wide to accommodate ox-wagons, game wandered freely across the plains of Camdeboo and farmers, well, they farmed much as they do today. The town itself has grown and modernised while still retaining its old-world charm as South Africa’s fourth oldest. The architecture, including the unmissable NG Kerk, is incredible and visitors can choose from a selection of traditional venues including the restored Camdeboo Cottages and Drostdy Hotel for a few nights’ comfortable rest. Just strolling through the jacaranda-lined streets instils a sense of small-town bliss for a road-weary traveller. Take a walking tour of Graaff Reinet if you don’t want to miss a single treasure. Once you’ve freshened up, you’ll want to get out and explore the countryside, which includes superb scenery, private game reserves and the beloved Valley of Desolation at the Camdeboo National Park. Be prepared for golden and grey vistas, South African wildlife and some of the best sunsets in the Southern Hemisphere! Don’t discount this special Karoo town when planning your trip across South Africa. Here are five of my favourite moments from just 36 hours of exploring…
GAME DRIVE AT MOUNT CAMDEBOO
Just a short drive from town, you’ll find yourself in another world: the world of Mount Cambedoo. A place where cheetah laze under a tree, the vulnerable mountain zebra gallops the golden plains and the rare white rhino may just be closer than you think!
Our game drive started with a sighting of six rhino, moms and calves, just grazing within sight of the lodge – they were covered in red dust from a mud bath and completely unperturbed the vehicles. Our lucky streak continued as we were fortunate to spot a cheetah napping away after a hearty meal, and mountain zebra, before finally settling on a mountaintop to enjoy a golden sunset and a sundowner before heading back to the lodge for our al fresco dinner. That’s when things really got unforgettable. A Karoo traffic jam!
Our guide spotted some fresh rhino droppings on the mountainside road and, as we turned a corner, in the fading dusk, there he was: a beautiful, real-life rhino – just metres in front of us. What a moment. Hardly bothered, although incredibly insistent that he take his time, we did what anyone would do in a traffic jam: creep along and wait; although, the sights and sounds where a darn sight better than any gridlock I’ve ever seen! We spent 45 minutes following this rare and endangered creature, the hardest part was putting my camera away and staying in the moment, because you know that something like this will never happen again and you don’t want to witness it from behind a lens.
MOUNT CAMDEBOO is a private game reserve outside Graaff Reinet that focuses on the conservation of vulnerable and endangered species such as the white rhino, cheetah and mountain zebra. In addition to game drives, guided walks and stargazing, the reserve also offers accommodation in the form of three manor houses, a secluded cottage and a safari tent camp.
FLY KAROO OVER THE VALLEY
Where to begin? A helicopter flip over the ancient Valley of Desolation will leave you feeling both dwarfed and invigorated, somewhere between being awed by nature and thrilled at a heli-trip over, what could very easily be, Jurassic Park. You could expect to see dinosaurs wandering the plains of the valley! The Valley of Desolation has formed over 100 million years and is a sheer spectacle of 120m high Dolerite cliffs and columns. Fly Karoo offers an exhilarating flip over the valley and the Camdeboo National Park with beyond-breath-taking views. This short trip provides a birds-eye view of Graaff Reinet, the Ngweba Dam, the Valley of Desolation and the Camdeboo National Park. This is a must-do for first-time and returning visitors to the Karoo Heartland.
FLY KAROO is Graaff Reinet’s first helicopter charter service, offering scenic flights which enable visitors to Graaff Reinet to visit popular sites in the surrounding areas. Charters are also offered to nearby locations such as game lodges and Port Elizabeth airport.
DINNER ON THE MOUNT
The sun sets at its own special pace in the Karoo, sliding gently towards the distant mountains and turning the light that special golden colour that feels unique to the Karoo Heartland. It’s magical and romantic. Couple this lovely light and fresh summer air with an al-fresco dinner at Mount Camdeboo and you have a recipe for an unforgettable Karoo experience. Following an afternoon spent game viewing and realising how close the wildlife is to your cosy dinner table, makes this doubly special. And here’s a not-to-well-kept secret: the Karoo folk really know how to cook! The talented chefs at Mount Camdeboo have taken inspiration from South African cuisine and recipes that date back to the early Cape settlers, reinventing old favourites with a light, contemporary touch.
STAYING IN GRAAFF REINET
An overnight stay (or three) in Graaff Reinet will reinforce the feeling of having stepped back to a time when porches were deep, floors were wooden, and hospitality was as warm as the wide streets in mid-summer. Graaff Reinet has a number of converted and restored guesthouses and hotels complete with superb cuisine, crisp linen and first-class service. As there is so much to see and explore in, and around, Graaff Reinet, settle in for a few relaxing days, unpack your bags and allow the folk of the Karoo Heartland to take good care of you. Next time, I’ll spend more time explore the museums and architecture.
SUNSET AT THE VALLEY
I’ll never tire of sunsets at the Valley of Desolation. Once you’ve seen the valley from the air, you can truly appreciate how vast and magnificent it is. However, sitting at a picnic bench, sundowner in hand and watching the rock formations change from fiery orange to black silhouettes against a navy sky is one of the surest ways to experience everything that is special and unique about the Karoo. In that dusty golden light, you can see forever.
Lions successfully released to roam within Samara Private Game Reserve. A key milestone reached for lion conservation in South Africa. In December 2018, Samara Private Game Reserve became home to a founder pride of lions – relatives of the majestic Cape lion that roamed the Great Karoo more than 180 years ago.
As part of a pioneering project to return the Karoo to the state of true biodiversity it once enjoyed, the lions were initially kept in an enclosure on Samara to ensure their wellbeing and to bond them together as a pride. On 15 January 2019, they were successfully released into the reserve – marking a major milestone not only for Samara, but also for South African wildlife conservation.
The team at Kuzuko Lodge, a member of Legacy Hotels & Resorts, are pleased to announce that Sylvester the most loved lion in South Africa and his lioness mate Angel, are officially parents of two lion cubs. The courtship happened during the first week of March this year.
Sylvester, who rose to fame after escaping twice and after walking more than 370km outside of the Karoo National Park and whose future was uncertain, has been at Kuzuko for more than two years and settled into a tight knit coalition with his male counterpart Fielies. Now, the proud father of two lion cubs, Sylvester and his lioness Angel, have showed us the true power of Mother Nature and defied all odds to become 100% integrated lions in the wild.
“We have two lionesses in the reserve with whom the two male lions have established a close bond,” states Gerhard de Lange, Reserve General Manager at Kuzuko Lodge. “Although both lionesses were on contraception we started to suspect that Sylvester’s lioness, Angel, had given birth between 15 – 20 June of this year.
“Angel showed all the signs of having cubs suckling her, but as lionesses keep their babies ‘hidden’ for quite a period while they are very young – we hadn’t been able to spot them. On Monday, 10 September our suspicions were confirmed, as Angel and her two little cubs started moving around together and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them.”
According to De Lange, the cubs are approximately 12 weeks old and in good health. Their mother Angel, is another Kuzuko success story as she herself was rescued at five months old with her sister as an orphan and instead of being tamed or raised in captivity, De Lange and his reserve team raised them to be 100% wild.
This lion and lioness are an incredible conservation story. Sylvester, who was during his ‘great escape’ almost euthanized because people simply didn’t understand that he was running for his life and needed a territory of his own and a coalition partner to join up with. And Angel, who by all rights shouldn’t even be alive, are now parents.
“Sylvester never fails to surprise me. Since I first heard of him through his jaunts through the Karoo – causing havoc during his time out of the protected wild – till today where he is completely integrated at Kuzuko, he is living proof that conservation, when done right, is always the preferred option.
“I can confirm that Sylvester himself has paid the mother of his cubs a few visits since they were born, so we are sure that Sylvester and his coalition partner will provide them with the protection they need. We can also confirm that the two little cubs have adopted their father’s good looks and are fit and healthy,” says De Lange.
De Lange also wants to thank SANParks for allowing him the opportunity to bond these four special lions together and this exceptional outcome is a reflection of their conservation vision.
Kuzuko Lodge is built high up on a hill in a 15 000ha private game reserve located in the Malaria free greater Addo area in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. This reserve is perfectly situated to start or complete a trip along the Garden Route. Guests are housed in 24 chalets of which three are wheelchair accessible. Children of all ages are welcome. Kuzuko is part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group and is a member of the Inqo Investments Social Impact Investment Group, which combines job creation, conservation and social transformation.
Mount Camdeboo advances its long-term conservation vision with introduction of elephantand lion in 2018Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve has announced that it will be furthering its long-term conservation vision with the introduction of elephant and lion onto the 14 000ha reserve in 2018.
This means that Mount Camdeboo will become home to the famed ‘Big Five’ as rhino, Cape buffalo and leopard are already present on the property. These species all historically occurred in the Great Karoo region and forms part of the reserve’s long-term plans to reintroduce historically occurring species in the area.
“We are thrilled to welcome back these majestic creatures to Mount Camdeboo, which will undoubtedly add great value to our safari experience” says owner Iain Buchanan. Records show that elephant have always been indigenous to the area, being an animal that can live in habitats ranging from deserts to forests, as long as there is clean fresh drinking water and shade. We are delighted that Mount Camdeboo meets all their habitat requirements and are confident that they will thrive on the reserve. In addition to the elephant, we will also introduce lion later during the year, which will complete our Big Five safari offering.
”Since the reserve’s inception in 1995, when the late Logie Buchanan purchased several properties making up the current 14 000 ha Mount Camdeboo private game reserve. The family’s long-term conservation vision included developing the property for the conservation of fauna and flora sustained by eco-tourism, with the view to expanding this further into the Karoo region. The recent approval by the Department of Environmental Affairs of the region’s Mountain Zebra-Camdeboo Protected Environment’s proposed management plan – which will see approximately 286 343 hectares of both private and public land in the Great Karoo protected and preserved for generations to come – was a feather in the region’s land conservation cap. Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve has played a pivotal role in this initiative, being the first property to sign into the Protected Environment in 2012.
“We are proud to continuously be working towards achieving our long-term conservation vision of ensuring sensible and sustainable utilisation of natural resources as a foundation for eco-tourism and wildlife conservation. With the introduction of elephant and lion, we are one step closer to realising our vision” says son Iain Buchanan.
MORE ABOUT MOUNT CAMDEBOO: Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve lies just to the east of the town of Graaff-Reinet, in the heart of the malaria free Eastern Cape’s Great Karoo area. Accommodating only 28 guests in 3 luxurious boutique manor homesteads and 2 sumptuous safari tents on 14 000 hectares, Mount Camdeboo continues to ensure sensitive and sustainable utilisation of natural resources as a foundation for eco-tourism and wildlife conservation in this region.
Elephants have returned to Samara Private Game Reserve after a 200-year absence, marking a conservation milestone and entrenching Samara’s status as one of the leading conservation areas in the Karoo.
Samara is delighted and privileged to welcome these gentle giants back to the Plains of Camdeboo, as part of our vision of recreating a fully-functioning Great Karoo ecosystem. Thank you to everyone involved in this historic translocation.
Sarah and Mark Tompkins, owners of Samara Private Game Reserve, explain that when they first established the reserve in 1997, their aim was to restore the area to the wildlife haven it had been before species like cheetah, rhino, Cape lion, springbok and elephant were eradicated by early farmers and settlers. “This is an extremely important area from an ecological point of view,” Sarah explains, adding that the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Thicket, where Samara’s 27,000 hectares of scenic wilderness are located, has been designated as one of the world’s 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots.