Greetings from a dehydrated and parched Swaziland.
Month 12 of 12, 2015 – where is the rain? Every week without water from above systematically rewrites the record books for the past half century on drought severity. We must be close to the worst drought in the past 50 years! That’s a long time and things are not looking too good. Nowhere more so than Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal and South East Swaziland.
Heat waves gliding in on the North wind make conditions even harsher and the number of carcasses littering the roadside increase daily. I personally heard last month that over 40 000 cattle have died in Swaziland with the number still jumping.
I recently learnt on the radio about a non-profit foundation called Mars One looking to establish permanent human life on Mars and it went into detail about their selection process for candidates. I reckon come stay a couple months in a beehive hut in Swaziland over the drought period to condition yourself and you should jump into the top 50 contenders with ease!
Ok, so enough of my ramblings – let’s get down to some news. Well despite the drought, in what I guess must be testament to the carrying capacity of this fantastic reserve – we have had minimal game losses, and I mean single digits. The dam currently sitting at 51% still remains the life-source of our growing game population and certainly is producing the goods. The grazing is very dry but one can notice a general migration of game species to areas within close proximity of the dam’s edge and this does provide for some fantastic viewing especially along Mara Way.
Our buffalo herd are also well established in this area and are now sitting at a breeding herd of 10 with some big bossed males keeping guard. We also currently have a black rhino roaming big distances inside the reserve. Having crossed over from Pongola Nature Reserve, he will more than likely cross back when the reproductive instinct kicks in and he needs some female company. And I personally wouldn’t be surprised if we had some elephants join us who are currently thrashing around in the Pongola Nature Reserve – apparently they are fence trained but don’t hold your breath, fences are made to be broken!
The drop in the dam levels has obviously reduced the tip of the dam southwards leaving a line of mud kept moist by subterranean water. In the last fortnight we have had to pull 6 wildebeest from this mud, all but one galloped off towards freedom when finally released from the vicious grip. We continue to patrol this area frequently as there will no doubt be more. Furthermore due to this reduction in the Northern tip, the majority of our giraffe population from East Shore has crossed over. I can also say that I have in the last week seen week old impala lams frolicking around and smaller litters of up to 4 warthog piglets obediently following their mothers, so life does carry on.
I guess every cloud has a silver lining and ours during this drought has resulted in the RJB6 game reserve being lucky enough to have grass to sell to those not so fortunate. A venture which was supposed to be some pocket change on the side, ended up in us having sold over 1300 bales of grass and still counting. If you estimate that each bail is between 220 – 250 kgs depending on moisture content – we are looking at between 286 – 325 Tons of grass. Not only did it help local communities with their livestock but it has also assisted cash flow resources incredibly. Furthermore we allowed selected members from neighbouring communities to personally come in and cut grass in the North of the reserve under supervision. I am sure it is all appreciated and can only strengthen relations with our neighbours.
Moving onto boating – again dropping dam levels have been making it incredibly hard to keep an operational slipway but so far we have scraped through. Access to the dam now is by the marina and despite it being a muddy launch – one can get their boat into the water provided it is not the Titanic! I plan to get our TLB in before Xmas to excavate more mud and dump more gravel in an effort to make it easier over the festive season…… We have also moved the floating jetty to that area, but I do not recommend leaving your boat overnight as we have been experiencing high winds recently and you run the risk of damage to your vessel.
The other alternative especially for larger boats is obviously Pongola Game Reserve across the border, despite the schlepp of towing your boat there – the launch is right in the river mouth so there is a saving on fuel costs and travel time to the mouth as well.
With regards to fishing, the drop in water levels has done little to stop the fish biting and I hear of decent catches every couple of weeks from various contacts throughout the area. Anglers have been successful lately with sardines and to a smaller extent chicken hearts and livers. Lures have not been as effective due to some dirty water throughout most of the dam.
I did notify all investors previously that we will be moving our annual fishing competition to March of next year, although this is obviously dependant on rainfall received by then. I will keep you posted on that.
Moving onto our ranger team, it is currently sitting at 13 with 4 new additions being added mid-year.
Recently we experienced some minor poaching happening in the North of the reserve near the mountains and I am proud to say that our ranger team recently apprehended one of these poachers. He was taken to the Lavumisa Police Station and later convicted under the Game Act and Immigration Act receiving a sentence of 5 years or R5,000.00 fine. Unfortunately the Swaziland court system still imposes fines from the days of the Regan administration but nonetheless a lesson will have been learnt and a message sent to those entertaining the ideas of venturing illegally into our reserve in the future.
We have confirmed the date for our AGM, this has been set for Friday 5th February 2016, 11 am, Royal Jozini Big 6. Exact lodge / venue to be confirmed closer to the time. I will be sending out an agenda in due course.
Please take note as there are some new motor vehicle regulations to be made aware of, see below:
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has implemented new regulations that require drivers of cars with South African registered plates to carry certified documents proving ownership. The new requirement will be implemented at all South African border posts
Certified documents should include a certified copy of the vehicle registration/ vehicle license papers which must be presented at the border posts. This must be accompanied by a letter from the bank giving authorization to take the vehicle across the border and must indicate dates of travel. Both the bank letter and license papers should be signed by a Commissioner of Oaths. If the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the vehicle, an affidavit from the police giving authorization from the financial institution/ Owner to take the vehicle abroad is required. If the car is rented, the driver must have a letter from the rental company giving permission to take the vehicle out of the country. Customs officers have advised South African travellers to regularly check with the SA Auto Club for border regulation updates.
Finally I wish to say that we are experiencing higher volumes of visitors over the past months with some lodges hitting a 50% occupancy rate in December. I must say thank you to John and Lynda Van Niekerk for their continued work in promoting both Royal Jozini and the beautiful lodges already built. Please visit their website www.royaljoziniaccommodation.co.za for accommodation options and mention you are an investor, Lynda is very forthcoming with affordable rates. I would also like to take this moment to say thank you to the members of the RJB6LOA committee who have continued throughout the course of this year to put a lot of their personal time and expertise into the RJB6 machine – you know who you are.
Otherwise, I wish you all a fantastic festive season and we will be in contact in the New Year with some progress on our proposal to HMK and an update on where we stand.