A Winter Wonderland! 

¨Winter is the time for comfort,
for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand,
and for a talk beside the fire,
it is time for home…¨ – Edith Sitwell

During the month of June, a sudden chill swept over Deception Valley Lodge. One moment we were still having warming Autumn days, with the most artistic hues of orange and yellow, and the next it was as if someone left a freezer open. The extremes that one experiences in the Kalahari, take your breath away. But, with the cold came new possibilities, incredible experiences and sightings!

The dry season is upon us. Due to the natural water supplies diminishing, animals are visiting the designated water holes on the conservancy more frequently. This has a tremendous contribution to breathtaking game viewing for every one assisting with the conservation duties. With the unfortunate reality of not being able to host guests, the Deception Family all love to join in on various tasks relating to conservation. And during the cold winter mornings, it is much more pleasant to work together and being warmed up, not only by the sun, but with laughter and love among co-workers. Making sure there is an adequate water supply for the all the animals, is a vital role and probably the most important in the daily tasks.

Recently, we had a few elephants that migrated from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve northwards, to the conservancy and the ascending reserves, in search of water. Due to their major consumption in one sitting, we need to check the waterholes every morning, as they can easily empty a waterhole and leave the other animals in the area without water. We are extremely lucky though! One of our most famous and beautiful pans, Toti-Toti pan, still has more than enough water! It is a Birders paradise early morning and late afternoon. From the tiniest Blue Waxbills, to the elegant Bateleur Eagle and powerful White-backed Vultures. Take a flask of steaming coffee with a pair of Binoculars, and you will be entertained for several hours.

June bought us one showstopper of a sighting! Many field guides in the safari industry dream of this experience and some wait years before they spot the ever so elusive Brown Hyena. On an afternoon stroll around the lodge area, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we approached the waterhole. This amazing, intriguing animal came to quench his thirst during daylight! I never ran so fast in my life to get a camera, and with such excitement, a stumbling fall does not even stop you! I was beyond blessed to get back in time to get a few shots. There were not enough words to describe the excitement, so instead a jumping up and down with a huge smile had to do! Unfortunately, later we discovered this Hyena was injured. A few nights before we heard quite an intense, vocal disagreement between two of them. For the next few days, Braam, who has been at Deception Valley for almost 26 years, monitored him closely. We are extremely relieved to announce he is healthy again, and visits the lodge area almost every night, even though it is during midnight hours nowadays.

All the other animals also make the utmost of the warmth the winter sun provides. During brunch time, the area in front of the main building is teaming with wildlife! Honestly, you are not sure where to look. Zebras, Blue-Wildebeest, Warthogs, Steenbok, Impala and Giraffes are coming to drink and then enjoy the sun, by lazingly standing or lying around to warm themselves. The Kudus are just simply too many to count, truly a Winter Wonderland! On one particular chilly morning, a Scrub-Hare was sitting and sleeping in the sun, he was so relaxed that he didn’t even realize I was approaching him. Fast asleep! The same goes for a few Cape Turtle Doves and Red-billed Francolins that cuddled tightly to each other to trap a bit of warmth. A group of Black-backed Jackals utilize the airstrip´s warmth to its utmost potential, as if they are awaiting to welcome you back! One in particular is very relaxed and has quite a unique, messy coat in comparison to the others. We named him Scruffy, in a loving and jokingly manner.

Of course the lions played their part as well. We were amazed and super proud to have discovered the sub-adults, who are coming up to 18 months now, made a kill on a young zebra by themselves! The Kalahari Lion´s bravery is astonishing! We had very special sightings of the 5 sub-adults with their mothers. After a hearty meal on a Kudu, even the youngsters wanted to cuddle with their mother, but she was not having any of it. Our guess was that her tummy was simply too full and that all she fancied was a peaceful snooze after a scrumptious meal. Unfortunately, our resident male was nowhere to be seen. He is most likely patrolling his territory or expanding his family…

After a days excitement out in the veld, monitoring the animals, it is heartwarming to come home to a fabulous slow-cooked stew or homemade soup. The evening air tends to get your jaws rattling, but the comfort provided by the glowing, cosy campfire is just what one needs. What is even better, is when an unexpected surprise comes to join you around the campfire. The resident porcupines that are always around the lodge area, decided to come close to the fire, lie down and warm themselves. Animal behaviour never ceases to amaze. It was the ultimate treat to end the day, and we were all too scared to move, as to not disturb their peaceful slumber…

A few times we had the comment that Deception Valley Lodge is a ¨Home away from Home¨. All of us, together with the Jackals, Porcupines, Lions and Hyena, cannot wait to welcome you back to your African Home, and to share the most interesting of experiences around the campfire. You will never know what might join us…

With loving warmth!

Janie Swart

Lodge Manager