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February 2016

With the ongoing drought, animals are having to move great distances to find both grazing and water. Certain animals that are normally found in specific habitats are now forced to move away from their usual home ranges. Recently I saw a Klipspringer, Oreotragus oreotragus, very far away from its normal place of residence.

Klipspringer on rock

Klipspringer on rock

 

The Afrikaans translation of Klipspringer is literally “rock jumper“and originates from this antelope’s ability to nimbly jump from rockface to rockface with consummate ease. This allows the Klipspringer to depend on steep, rocky terrain to find refuge from predators. Even leopards cannot keep up with the surefooted and superior jumping ability of the Klipspringer. Our guides know very well that when they approach a koppie (small hill) or rock extrusion, it is always worthwhile to scan the rocks for this mustard-coloured antelope.

The dry conditions have resulted in many of our tourists seeing actual kills. Together with Sandra, I saw a sub adult lion catch an impala. The number of photos posted in their monthly reports by the guides showing predators and kills indicates it is tough times for the prey animals. The predators, on the other hand, are looking extremely well-fed.

GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES

BONGANI reports:

Normally this time of the year is green and wet, but this year is different. We hope to get rain before end of March. Most of the big dams are empty and hippos don’t have any place to stay. They may use a small pan that is not big enough to accommodate them. They also change the colour of the water by depositing dung. Most of the other animals don’t like the water because it looks dirty and smells bad.

03-02-2016 KNP Full Day
It was very hot and quiet for long time but the guests were still happy about the landscape and lots of general game like Giraffes, Impalas, Kudus and Elephants. We stopped at Girivani pan – nothing at all. After a few minutes two big male giraffes came down to drink water and later a group of elephants joined them. Around the reserve wall were three big male lions doing ambush. Lions moved away from elephants and walked towards the road near the pan. The giraffes saw the lions coming and walked in the opposite direction. On S100 there were four male lions eating a hippo near the road. The vultures were everywhere waiting for leftovers – the meat was a lot for four lions.

Along the Timbavati River we saw many Buffalos feeding and two white rhinos taking a mud bath with some warthogs.

28-02-2016 Bushwalk

We left the lodge early morning for bushwalk and just outside Tremisana Lodge was one cheetah walking along Olifants road and we followed it for almost ten minutes. He had come to drink at Tremisana Dam which is pumping as it is the only water in a radius of 5 km. During the bushwalk we saw four zebras, impalas and one elephant bull that was very relaxed. Late in the afternoon Tanya saw the cheetah eating impala right next to the road and she called us on the radio. We drove straight to the area and we found the cheetah busy feeding. It was very close and visible and also very rare to see a cheetah – it is one of the endangered species in Kruger – they estimate only 180 to 200 cheetahs are left.

Cheetah and impala kill

Cheetah and impala kill

 

LUKE Reports

The dry conditions continue. This has left animals in desperate need of grazing as well as fresh water supplies.

It has however made sighting prolific around the few places with water. The hippos have been the ones suffering the most, with such a major drop in water levels. They have been forced to share small puddles of water, which can lead to fighting amongst the mature males. In some cases, they have caked themselves in mud to survive the heat of the sun.

The elephant numbers are impressively high. When coming across most major water sources, you almost sure to find a herd. Elephants enjoy water a great deal and cannot survive without it for very long and it’s especially stressful for the young calves.

The one herd I came across had parked themselves around a cement man-made water hole. There were also several zebras, eager to have a drink. The elephants however had decided that this was their private water hole. As soon as the zebra went anywhere near the water hole, the elephants would rush forwards and chase them away.

The poor zebras eventually gave up and moved off in the opposite direction, leaving the adult elephants to suck up huge amounts of water with their trunks, while the calves just climbed right inside and rolled around in the refreshing water.

The buffalos are equally dependent on the water as the elephants and require at least a drink first thing in the morning and then later on in the afternoon. I’ve come across several big herds of at least a hundred individuals, mainly during the afternoon session.

The weaker ones not quite managing in these testing times and are often taken down by lions. When driving around Kruger, you are sure to see at least one fresh carcass of a buffalo.

The big cat sightings have been great – my most memorable one has to be several lionesses and their cubs playing in the rocks. We headed down south after stopping at Satara rest camp for lunch, mainly hoping to find a leopard. The leopard had unfortunately left its tree, only leaving scraps from an impala kill, nestled in the upper branches.

We however gathered information about a pride of lions not far away.

The lions were lying in the shade of a Natal Mahogany tree. We counted four females and at least six cubs. The cubs had split into two groups, the adventurous ones and the mommy’s babies. The adventurous ones had found a few large boulders in the river bed, and were have loads of fun climbing up and down then popping out from the gaps in-between.

The mommy’s babies found a safer option with their moms, just relaxing in the shade. A great lion sighting and awesome to see so many little cubs looking so healthy.

The leopard might not have shown up in the early afternoon, but we did get to see one five hundred metres from the gate. He was lying in the shade feeding on a warthog.

Leopard seen near Orpen

Leopard seen near Orpen

 

REX reports:

On our Bushwalks, we have had regular sightings of herds of elephants as well as white rhino. There is a herd of 4 white rhino – 2 bulls and 2 cows near where we walk. We have also encountered our Black Rhino friend and are giving him a very wide berth after his last encounter greeting and getting close and personal with Bongani. He seems a little calmer this month……….

Sunset drives have been great : a herd of elephants along the Olifants river and hippos in the Olifants river are seen daily. On 23rd we saw a pride of nine lions along the Olifants road. Lots of general game : giraffe, zebra, kudu and waterbuck.

PATRICK Reports:

On the 1st February, sighting were good. 2km after the first gate 2 white rhino’s crossing the road, hyenas at the den 3 km after Orpen lying in the water. Elephants, buffalos and white rhino futher along. Lioness at Timbavati riverbed (3) trying to catch impalas unsuccessfully. On the S100 three male lions in the riverbed. Leopard at the Baobab tree south of Satara.

On the 9th we enjoyed a double big five in one day. Lioness at Timbavati riverbed lying under the Jackal berry Tree, rhino nearby and at Girivana pan 2 male lions. Two Leopard 2 km after Nsemani dam and 4 lions very close under a Knob thorn tree. Sweni white rhino on the right side of the road and Buffalos at Mzandzeni Picnic area.

On the 14th TRIPLE big five in one day. Leopard 1 km after the first gate crossing. Elephant and buffalos crossing before reception. Elephant drinking at Orpen. Timfenene before the first view point leopard walking on the riverbed and rhino on the other side of Timbavati before S36 T-Junction.

Lioness and Waterbuck kill near Satara

Lioness and Waterbuck kill near Satara

On the 15th, Lions at S100, leopard after Kumani dam, Rhino S125, on S36 leopard crossing the road and lying down very close to the open vehice, Talamati road leopard crossing the road and 100 m from Orpen another leopard again crossing and lying down next to the road.

On the 22nd lions Timbavati Riverbed, rhino at S12, S100 lions again, rhino at S90, leopard Orpen road before reception (2) one on the tree and one next to the road. Buffalos the first view point Orpen Road. Lots of elephants S100.

On the 24th Leopard hanging the warthog on the tree at Timfenene, rhino at S12, 3 lions kill a waterbuck at S100, big fight between the lions and crocodile trying to take the meat. A lion dragged the meat into the bush, crocodile remained alone outside the water. Buffalo at the first view point Orpen road, elephants also drinking there.

On the 25th Elephant next to the lodge Orpen drinking, hyenas at the den lying down. The first view point at Orpen road 5 Wild Dogs lying down, lion male at Girivana pan lying down and 4 lions again S100, a big male leopard on the road. White rhino on Sweni. Baboons killed a young sized impala in front of our open vehicle. Baboons fighting over the impala but the big male took that impala and ate alone.

JAMES reports :

So I guess I should start off with the best first ?

On many of the Kruger drives I managed to find many rare sightings some of which I actually haven’t even seen before.

On a couple of the drives I was blessed enough to find all the big 5 in one day as well as the rare Wild Dogs. On one occasion the Wild Dogs were lying next to the road.

We were blessed to see many leopards throughout the month. Some days only one, some 2 and some days multiple sightings !.

So now for one of my personal favourites. Yap! Of course it’s the famous lion. We were blessed with some really special lion sightings this month, from lions mating, cubs playing, to failed hunts and even a crocodile fighting with lionesses after they had killed a waterbuck.

On many occasions we saw a couple of the resident leopards and even cheetah and spent a whole hour before we have even passed through the reception gates !

Then recently I managed to find one of the rarest species in Kruger. Certainly a first for me….. The SABLE antelope with its gorgeous black body with white markings and awesome large recurved horns it was a special sighting we had on our own !

So I guess I should move onto the great sightings in the Balule reserve. Well this month has been really exciting as I have on a few occasions seen new beautiful young lions that are starting to move on and around our traversing properties and on one of the occasions we were just wrapping up a sighting of 2 young male lions near a dam when I heard on the radio there were 5 more spotted nearby. While I was on my way they had disappeared into the bush and I thought I had missed the sighting. But when I got there something special happened! Suddenly the impalas were alarm calling and at least 300 impalas started scattering all over and behind them in the thick bush the lions were chasing them. It was an amazing sighting to see the lions work as a team.. I unfortunately couldn’t see whether they had caught anything as it was getting dark and there was too much dust all over and we were running late for our bush braai.

Great photo of lion

Great photo of lion

On one of our drives we were extremely blessed to see an amazing sighting of a cheetah that had made a kill not far away and we got to see it nice and close all alone – truly a special sighting when you see it alone with no one else around especially for the fact that they are extremely endangered. Then after that we even managed to find a beautiful lion on the road while making our way to our bush braai and of course then after dinner – even more rare – we saw an African Wild Cat.

Then on many other occasions near Tremisana Lodge, which is blessed with a full dam, we managed to get some awesome sightings of both black and white rhino, elephant and of course buffalos and many other awesome species. And that just about wraps up my awesome month doing the best job in the world.

MAYNETH reports :

The month of February has been amazing with great sightings. Once again nutritionally it’s still a crisis – water very scarce – most is at manmade water points helping out. S100 is extremely active with natural water hole and these invite general game and the cats are very concentrated.

Sweni water hole became very active with a pride of 17 lions hanging around and killing two Buffaloes in a space of a week.

The S 100 this is one of the best roads in Kruger Park – amazingly every day it changes its sightings every few hours due to the water holes which are there. Driving in the morning and afternoon you are always guaranteed to see amazing things. We came across two lioness chasing and trying to kill zebras near the water, but they failed and moved to the shade near the road, as we moved towards the hippo pool we found a male lion sleeping near a herd of elephants. While viewing the hippos we found the two lionesses running for their lives as elephants getting to the water with their calves.

Lioness and elephant share a water hole

Lioness and elephant share a water hole

We are often getting excellent leopard sightings these days because there’s no grass to hide in. Also they are killing at a high rate because the impalas are very weak and nutritionally not ok. Kumana dam had two leopards and a cub feeding on a carcass they killed in the morning and 3 km away another young male killed an impala next to the road.

Wild dogs are being sighted along the tarred road near Orpen gate. They killed a baby wildebeest – it was a pack of 15 altogether. They were moving on the road after having had a good meal and then jackals took over running around with the legs from the carcass. We managed to see this rare species four times this month.

PHILLIP reports :

Below is my monthly report compiled which I find so important on different occasions every time I went out for an activity either in Balule or Kruger.

The 04.02.16. I went out on the afternoon game drive. It was an extremely hot afternoon but guests managed to shoulder the heat of the day. We managed to see elephants by Xigamba dam drinking water; giraffes, zebras, gnu, hippos down at the Olifants river. Something exciting at Xigamba dam was an impala killed by cheetah. The kill took place close by the roadside and the cheetah was not disturbed as she continued to feed under the Weeping Wattle bush. So exciting to have seen this and guests were also fascinated about this.

On a bushwalk Luke and I nearly walked into a big herd of buffaloes on Rome 1. We managed to escape the animals the safe way.
During the day on the 10th and 11th I managed with guests to have some close encounters with big monster elephants while I drove with guests along Marula road – to mention but a few Shoshangaan and Ezulwini.

The 22nd marks the highlight of my sightings. Two leopards were seen on the H1 in Kruger by the Orpen gate. The weather was overcast as the one leopard was on the ground close to the road trying to accumulate some heat from the cement road. There was a big male giraffe kill by the roadside on the Talamati road. We managed to show our guests all the big five animals.

Lion and giraffe kill

Lion and giraffe kill

The 27th of the month we entered Kruger on a drizzling day. James and I had a wonderful sighting of lion cubs playing, big herd of buffaloes, mating pair of lions, white rhino, ĺots of general game including lots of leopard tortoises who came out to drink water on the tared road.

TANYA reports :

Bushwalk-Morning drives

This month was all about praying for rain… And finally on the 25th we got some!!! Although the bush was very dry we still were very lucky on walks. We have had some of the best bushwalks ever. On one occasion, we started walking and suddenly heard a snort in the distance – it was the buffalos so we slowly moved around getting the wind in our favour and making sure we have a safe exit. Right after that we got to see the most amazing thing ever! A honey badger!!!!

Afternoon Drives and Sundowner Drives

With the heat making sure we are done medium-rare it’s always a good option to go to the one place where you and the animals can hide from the sun… the river. We were very fortunate to always get amazing sightings of elephants especially the babies!! They would all just storm down to the water and take a nice swim while giving us a very good show! While we were there we also got to see a lot of hippos, crocodile and buffalo all relaxing in the water!

Elephants playing on the banks of the Olifants River

Elephants playing on the banks of the Olifants River

Sunset Drives
Evening drives have been very good – I am getting 3 out of the 5 on average. We have seen hyena quite often. Hopefully after the rain we got it might bring more predators back and we might get to see a lot of action along the dams and river!

NEWS FROM OUR LODGES

TREMISANA REPORT

We welcome Murray Harrison, our trainee guide.
I know his family who run the best pet shop in Durban. I hope he learns a lot and has a good time !

LEANA has sent the following report :

It was another warm month with very hot and humid days. Luckily we had a few showers as well. But still it didn’t rain enough. This means that we still have a lot of visitors at the water hole in front of the lodge: vervet monkeys, baboons, warthogs (3 females with in total 8 piglets) during the day. A Marabou stork is coming back on a regularly basis as well. A yellow-billed kite hangs around during the day. During the night we get visits from porcupine, civet, jackal, genets, hyenas, lions and elephants.

We were very lucky to see 3 baby genets at the Marula Boma!

Shoshangane, one of the big bull elephants, visited our lodge a few times this month with some friends. He came very close to the fence to feed on our nice green bushes and flowers in the garden. One of the staff members couldn’t come to work because of the elephants, they were blocking the gate! We had to fetch her with one of the vehicles.

Elephants at front gate of Tremisana

Elephants at front gate of Tremisana

February was a very busy month with a lot of new guests and some guests who came back for a second time and stayed with us for 13 days ! We also welcomed the Theresien Gymnasium from Germany with 25 students and teachers.

MARC’S CAMP

The Nyala are becoming totally tame – in their quest to find food, they come right into the pool area looking for something green to eat. Our guests are absolutely enthralled to be able to interact so closely with these dainty antelope.

The Klaserie River is still flowing but only just! In fact, we can easily cross the river as in most places it is very shallow.

The buffalos and rhinos are now being fed at the Warden’s place, so we are not seeing them very often.

KATEKANI TENTED LODGE

We are pleased to appoint Allan and Elena Hein as managers of Katekani.
They have had extensive experience in 4 star lodges in Zimbabwe and bring a wealth of experience.

Together with Tsakane, our Hostess, who has also worked at 5 star lodges in the area, and Gertie, our new chef, we have assembled a formidable team.

The Lodge now has 4 tents operational and by 31 December 2016, we shall add another two.

NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS

We are happy that Katekani Tented Lodge is now functioning.

Like any new lodge, it will take time before occupancies will be optimal. Our agents need to test the product and we thank those of you who have already made advance bookings. Your confidence is very complimentary !

The 5 and 6 day Lodge/Katekani Tented Lodge package will be unique in that, apart from visiting Kruger proper, guests will have safaris in 3 private reserves : Balule , Tshukudu and Kapama. One of our rather confident (perhaps big-mouthed ?) guides has advised that we should offer money-back guarantees on seeing all Big Five !!!

I include Tripadvisor reviews on Tremisana Game Lodge and Marc’s Treehouse Lodge. Hopefully we can have one next month on Katekani Tented Lodge !

Marc’s Treehouse Lodge

 “WOW WOW WOW”
Frau S, Zürich

I’ve spent a couple of nights at marcs treehouse and it was just amazing. The set up of the lodge is truly beautiful, everything is made out of wood and is in the middle of nature. Impalas, buffalos and monekys can easily cross your paths. my treehouse was just great, literally the only “real” protection you have is the moskito net, other than that the house is not fully closed, frogs, all sorts or insects and if you are not careful even monkeys can find their way in. but magret and her staff pay good attention and give information beforehand how to prevent at least for monkeys coming into your house. The staff takes good care of you and the guides also here are truly wonderfull, full of knowlege and expertise. It is amazing to be so close to the nature. I loved it and will come back one day. Well done to all of you and many thanks for that experience.

Tremisana Game Lodge

“Amazing everything”
Julientous, Terrebonne, Canada

We were 4 adults and took the 6 days Tremisana Lodge Safari. We enjoyed our stay so much, yes the schedule is busy but it’s worth it and the price for the money is excellent. The staff and guides are very friendly and knowledgeable, a special mention to Bongani and Morneo (guides) and Lianne (reception) who made a huge difference in our stay, they are amazing people! We were lucky to see so much amazing things, we will never forget our experience and it truly outreached our expectations.

P.S please make sure to understand that these people are really trained for their jobs and do it because of passion, and you feel it. Do not hesitate to tip your guides and staff, they will never ask for anything but it truly makes a difference for them.

Our thanks again to Ian and Pick n Pay for their generous contribution to the Orphans at the Mission in Acornhoek.

Orphans with goodies from Pick n Pay at Marula Boma

Orphans with goodies from Pick n Pay at Marula Boma

Thanks to Berti and Drakensig Motors for their contribution of Easter eggs for the orphans.

Until next month…

With kind regards,
Piero
General Manager
Viva Safaris