As I celebrated my birthday last month, I realised with a rising panic that I was officially on the downhill slippery slope to 40! We have all heard the cliché’s, 40 is the new 30 etcetera etcetera (didn’t do much for the morale!) – but it’s clear that this year is flying by like a Bateleur Eagle on the wind of a busting South Westerly.
April Fool’s Day has come and gone and before we know it, the nights will get noticeably longer and the days shorter – where is that 25th hour in times like these?
I have had to re-read my past newsletters to make sure there is no repetition of the same opening remarks in this one, but whilst I struggle for new literary words – we can’t change the fact that the season’s come and go in the bush much like the clouds roll in over the Lubombo’s on a fresh Autumn morning – nothing gets in their way. The start of this year has been different in that the sun was baking everything beneath its powerful rays with rain just being a humorous notion until early March when the scorched veld was rewarded with 12 days of overcast weather mixed with a healthy dose of up to 150 mm of rain. We came off lightly in the water allocations as Pongola itself received over 100mm in one day and reports from the Limpopo and Gauteng provinces indicated flooding. Needless to say, it rained grass and going into early April the bush is looking as lush as I can remember if one considers that we should be in the clutches of autumn.
The Pongola River during this weather period was a mighty force to be reckoned with and we saw dam levels rise in record time in what one can only term as a complete reversal of the annual release. My contact at DWA confirmed that the in-flow during the peak was 429 000 litres of water per second! Imagine that, below is a picture of the river taken from the bridge crossing the N2, a lot of you will recognise this location and can appreciate the power. Mapivene Slipway still remains closed with the only operational slipway right now being the marina. It functions perfectly despite our breakwaters having taken a battering – but we will re-bolster these with stone harvested from the mountain when levels permit.
Pongola River in flood under the N2 Mapivene Slipway – non operational So let’s continue with the water component of our reserve – Jozini Dam. In an extremely rare moment of clarity, a few months ago I decided to take on the challenge of swimming across the Jozini Dam for a couple of reasons. Obviously this would be a personal challenge but more importantly the event would raise awareness for the Nsubane – Pongola TFCA of which RJB6 forms the Northern Swaziland component. It would give us an opportunity to get RJB6 into the Swaziland and South African media in a positive light and with no good deed being worthy without a cause – all pledges generated from fund raising efforts will be donated 100% to Project Rhino KZN in their continued fight to protect this magnificent species.
Being hesitant about obtaining the required permissions, I was surprised to hear that the RJB6 LOA board and DWA agreed to this event and was concerned when my wife also did the same. Better check the life cover policies haven’t been updated! Needless to say preparations are well underway and the date for this open water swim across the Jozini Dam has been set for the 28th June 2014. The plan is for me to enter the waters on the Western shores and exit at the marina slipway swimming along the international border line that runs through the dam. Depending on water levels at that time, I estimate the distance to be approximately 2,5km. Assistance from lodge owners for support boats has been tremendous and we will be sending out an electronic flyer soon to various databases including this one asking for pledges to aid rhino conservation. Your contributions would be greatly appreciated.
Again I want to re-iterate that 100% of all funding received will be paid across to Project Rhino KZN, any costs associated with the event will NOT be deducted from these pledges.
Still staying with water related activities – it is time to start giving some thought to the 2014 Tiger Fishing Spring Festival. Whilst we cannot set a date just yet pending information from DWA on their intended annual release dates – we hope to see a good turnout this year.
Feedback received from last year was that the competition might be a day too long since it requires all entrants to take 2 full days leave so consideration is being given to that. The other comment from a few people was that the biggest bag should be for the boat which would stop any cheating such sharing of rods to the person in the lead and it would also help with team spirit for the boat (no fingers being pointed but just input). The main prize could go to the boat for hard fishing and the biggest fish which is pot luck to an individual. But the biggest fish cannot be counted 2 times. If it is the biggest fish, it cannot also go towards the biggest bag. I would be interested to hear any other suggestions before we firm up the competition rules for 2014.
Finally on water related activities – soon we will be running a boat charter service on-site for those investors or guests who do not have the luxury of a boat. We are still sourcing something suitable but the brief is that the vessel must fish 6 comfortably and accommodate up to 8 for a sunset cruise. I anticipate that we will have this service up and running hopefully by 1st June – details of pricing options will be distributed soonest.
Moving onto land based activities – there is little to report. The game population steadily increases, the estate team wages war against vegetation growth, fence lines, stray cattle and any unpredictable situation that comes with operating a 14 500 hectare game reserve. Despite the sad loss of a white rhino last year in a territorial dispute, there have been little casualties – most fence related (i.e. small antelope getting stuck in the fence). No further sightings of the 6 buffalo that were sighted last year but it seems spoor have been found recently.
From an ornithological view point, I spotted the rare Palmnut vulture on our Western shores last month sitting side by side with an African Fish Eagle watching the sun rise. With perfect lighting conditions, capturing this scene on camera was one of those pictures that could win you a trip for 2 to Mauritius! But, it was not to be as I realised that I had taken my camera out the day before. Some highly irate words came out of my mouth and I was glad to have been on my own otherwise I could have been mistaken for a baboon in a straight jacket as I remonstrated with myself over this foolish error.
I did manage to capture what is probably the worst picture taken in a decade North of the Tugela River – using my Blackberry device with highly limited zoom. It is attached and please don’t laugh too hard but at least it quietened my doubters.
I have noticed an increase in visitors to RJB6 over the past months with lodges being rented out on a more frequent basis. Jon and Lynda have been hard at work promoting those properties signed up with their booking service and have recently revamped their website www.royaljoziniaccommodation.co.za. I urge you all to have a look and see what deals are on offer. Together with Lynda, we the LOA are also working on putting together some hosting weekends – effectively those investors who have not built will stay at an existing lodge with the owner who will host. There will be a minimal rate charged covering costs to give you the opportunity of experiencing 1st hand a stay in these beautiful lodges. I will via separate email give you more details on that offer soon.
That is all I have for now. We are moving into a very pleasant time of the year in the Lubombo lowveld and so I highly recommend a visit over the coming months to check out your investment.
Please contact me and I will be happy to assist in giving you a tour of the estate.
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