- Thank you more particularly for arranging my trip to nDzuti, at such short notice and against all the odds of stolen passport and therefore also no currency exchange! I did so appreciate the utter trust you placed in me when you paid for the entire trip yourself! I hope you did not have a sleepless night! In recommending nDzuti I think you interpreted my wishes exactly! The style of the place suited me perfectly and it was the most marvellous experience. The facilities, as you will have found, were fairly basic but quite adequate for a comfortable stay. Brett and Sherie were welcoming and hospitable. Sherie supplied plenty of nourishing food for breakfast, lunch and supper in a friendly, homely fashion. Brett was a great guide on our safari drives. The lodge was full for the first night, including a lively and talkative family group, but when they departed midday on Monday it was then calm and peaceful, with just a young couple and myself, and it was a real joy to be in the midst of the vastness of the bush with no other people within sight or sound! The wildlife, apart from fairly ubiquitous impala, was somewhat scarce (not that I have any measure of experience to go by!) but I liked the feeling that there was no guarantee of seeing game that was free to roam far and wide. Sometimes fleeting glimpses were all the more exciting for being so brief! We did get very good viewings as well! On the first evening we saw quite a wide range of wildlife, including a close-up of a very large rhino who was not in any hurry! On the way home in the dark we came across a lioness with two 6 week old cubs (what a great guide we had!). I was amazed how unperturbed she was by our presence and was moving in a very leisurely way, so we had extremely good viewing. Brett found them again the following evening, just as relaxed, with the cubs playing within yards of the landrover - fantastic! Talking of lions, that same evening, as we relaxed after supper, Brett heard a couple of lions roaring some distance away and said "Let's go and find them!" - so he did, and in the spotlight we saw two fine males unhurriedly patrolling their territory. Again they were totally unfazed by our presence, stopping for a scratch and a lie down. While the lights were turned off to conserve batteries, a roar from a far distant lion prompted a response from our two, and their roaring just a few yards from us in the darkness was a spine-tingling experience! We spent some time tracking a leopard which was stalking impala and which Brett was determined to find, but we had to be content with leopard tracks! Elephant were unusually elusive and it was only on the final morning that Brett located a fine 25 year old male after hearing a solitary trumpet from across the river, so I did see all the big five except the leopard. Together with sightings of many other mammals, birds and reptiles as well as the bush, the scenery and stunning panoramic views it was a wonderful and memorable safari trip! Some people might want slightly more sophisticated accommodation and cuisine but the style of nDzuti in the hands of Brett and Sherie suited me very well. With many thanks for your excellent arrangements of my safari trip, best wishes, Gervase.- Gervase .UK
News & Updates
Arachnid Alchemy- Golden Orb Spiders
This summer has certainly been a time of plenty, along with the abundant flocks of White Storks we are witnessing this year, there are also a fair number of Golden Orb Spiders. Their vast golden webs span almost every available gap between trees and shrubs. Reaching great vertical heights and stretching across distances of up to 5 m, these strong spider webs form an almost continuous network of yellow silk ready to ensnare any insect, bird or bat that is on the wing. The golden silk is thought to attract pollinators such as bees.
The big brightly coloured spider in the web is the female Nephila. She may measure 15-30 mm in length while the male is only 5 mm and weighs one thousandth of the female’s weight. A web of this magnitude must require constant maintenance. The weaving of a web takes up a lot of the spider resources and orb spiders tend to eat the silk of any damaged section of web to absorb and utilize the protein. The male of this species does not produce silk but what he lacks in size and in the home maintenance department, he more than makes up for with courage and ingenuity. The female will often eat the tiny male after copulation. Where possible he presents a meal to her and while she is feeding he will copulate with his preoccupied mate. In most webs one will find the oversized female, the puny males and tiny dewdrop spiders. These small silver spiders are
Kleptoparasites, they patrol the web picking off the smaller prey caught therein and avoiding the owners who will eat the house guest if caught.
The webs of the Golden Orb spiders are extremely strong. The female begins a web by sending out a stand of ultra thin sticky silk into the wind. With luck this strand will stick to an upright branch. Then she will release a much thicker line allowing the wind to slide it across the first. Once the line is thick enough to carry her she will cross to the second post and continue spinning the web.
The silk of the orb spiders is exceptionally elastic and can stretch up to 40% before snapping. Generally, spider silk also known as gossamer, has a tensile strength comparable to that of high-grade steel, so strong that a strand with a radius of 3 cm can apparently stop a Boeing 747. For years now research has been ongoing on how to manufacture, among other things, bullet proof vests out of spider silk. The stumbling block appears to be finding sufficient filament to weave the material. Silk is a protein, but unlike other proteins it does not decompose. We preserve other useful proteins by cooking, salting, drying etc. Spider silk has 3 ingredients that prevent its decay. Some of the proteins found in sour milk share a number of these properties. Researchers are now using a strategy called Transgenic animals to exploremaking synthetic spider silk. Transgenic animals are animals that have had genes from other species inserted into their genetic codes. In this case; miniature goats in New Zealand have had a silk producing gene added to their genome. Somehow the scientists anticipate producing spider silk from the goat milk of these Transgenic animals!
While all this research goes on the orb spiders have a busy time producing the golden silk and maintaining their remarkable webs. The genus name Nephila is appropriately derived from Greek, nen meaning “to spin” and philos meaning “love”- translated into “fond of spinning”.