April 2022 will be remembered as the month in which we had terrible floods in my home province, KwaZulu Natal. The devastation was severe and over 435 people sadly lost their lives. Thousands are homeless.
I have no doubt that the floods were a direct result of climate change. Climate change impacts the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. This will increase the frequency of violent downpours instead of steady showers when it does rain. At my home in Umhlanga Rocks we had 300 mm of rain over 36 hours and at Pumusa Bush Camp in Hluhluwe 335 mm were recorded.
I was sent the following photo of a crocodile that was washed out of a pond at the Croc Farm near Ballito and into the sea :
Heat waves, droughts and record temperatures are being recorded throughout the world. I recall that the severe drought in Cape Town a few years back had a significant effect on tourism to South Africa at the time.
Ecosystems are changing and this is indeed a global challenge. A lot of talk has gone on, but it seems to me that there is an inertia towards serious action. Perhaps this is so because predictions are given for the years ahead such as 2100. We need to realise that our inaction in 2022 will certainly affect the people living in 2100.
South Africa is particularly sensitive to El Nino induced droughts.
El Nino refers to the abnormally warm conditions that result in a reduction of upswelling of colder water to the surface just off the coast of South America.
In 2015/2016 we experienced a devastating drought in Kruger Park that resulted in the drying up of many water sources and consequent deaths of many animals, especially hippos.
Even at the moment in Kruger Park there is a shortage of water in certain areas and we are concerned. The game viewing generally improves in dry conditions as the animals are compelled to go to dams and rivers. Our guides certainly have given our guests some fabulous sightings as evidenced by their reports.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
YURI reports :
We have now moved into Autumn and one can feel a distinct chill in the air, especially early mornings and evenings. Trees are shedding their leaves and the grass is starting to dry out, but the game viewing has been scorching hot! Here are some highlights:
I had some fantastic Black Rhino sightings this month. One was especially satisfying as it was the last game drive for a family from Australia and they desperately wanted to see one before heading home. As luck would have it, I found very fresh tracks and started following them. After about 40 minutes I started losing hope, but then, from behind a bush, appeared the rhino only a stone’s throw away from us and we were very lucky to be able to stay with it for at least half an hour.
A Game of Patience:
I was in Kruger National Park with clients from the USA. We have had some fantastic sightings during the duration of their stay, so we could afford to take our time. They had seen a leopard the day before, but it was only a glimpse, so we decided we would try to get a better sighting. I had heard reports of a leopard sighting in a certain spot the previous day, so decided to try my luck. After scanning the area for about 10 minutes with the naked eye and binoculars, one of the guests told me she thought she might have seen some movement in a thick bush. She passed me the binoculars and what do you know, leopard ears, barely visible! This is where the waiting game started. I felt that if we were a bit patient, the leopard might come into the open. After a few minutes, a lone lioness emerged not far away from where the spotted cat was hiding and started walking off in the opposite direction. It was then that our patience was rewarded. The leopard came out of its hiding spot and casually walked into plain view for all of us to see, crossed a dry riverbed, went behind another bush and came out with a huge chunk of meat! What a sighting!
Wonderful Wild Dogs:
It is always fantastic to see these colourful canines and we were lucky enough to find them on the road between Orpen Gate and Satara Camp on three occasions. It also appeared that the Alpha female of one of the packs is pregnant. Fantastic news!
A few days ago along the main Orpen – Satara road we were lucky enough to witness what you won’t see in The Lion King: a magnificent male lion and female mating.
These are but a few of the highlights and with the bush starting to thin out, I’m sure it’s only going to get better.
Till next time!
RAYMOND sent the following :
On the 1st we found a leopard walking towards us before the reception of the Orpen gate in Kruger Park. On the H1-3 we found lions with cubs. On the S40 we found a leopard trying unsuccessfully to catch an impala. Near Girivana dam we found big herd of Buffaloes. Elephants all over.
On the 3rd on the Sunset Drive we found Elephants right at Tremisana Lodge, Buffalo on Oxford main road before the second concrete dam, Black Rhino at Ndlovu dam and lions at 4/5 cutline. On the way back we found a leopard trying to catch an impala near Tremisana – what a brilliant game drive !
On the 6th in Kruger we found a big herd of Buffalo at Nsemane dam. At Welverdiend waterhole we found lions with cubs eating a zebra. A breeding herd of elephant came to drink and chased them for a short distance. They drank water and walked away and the lions returned to their meal.
On the 8th in Kruger at Nwamatsatsa we found a family of four lions – male and female with two cubs eating a wildebeest next to the road. On the S40 we found a big herd of Buffalo. On our return trip we found Wild Dogs at the Orpen waterhole trying to catch wildebeest. A big zebra stallion chased the wild dogs across the road in front of us !! Great sighting !
On the 25th on the H7 about six km from Orpen we found two pairs of mating lions just 100 metres from each other on the road – never seen that before in over 25 years of guiding .
As you know, I only do game drives in Kruger Park, where I have been guiding for 30 years.
On the 11th of April sightings were good with lions on h7 lying down in the road, buffaloes on h1- 4 before s127 junction, lots of general game on s100 road and wild dogs on s106 road.
On the 12th we saw lions at Nwamatsatsa waterhole, elephants on h7 near Nsemani dam, buffaloes at Rockvale waterhole, general game on s100 road and h7 road and a beautiful leopard 1km in on s125 near Kumana dam.
On the 13th we had lions on the h7 before Nwamatsatsa bridge, elephants at Nsemani dam and on the s100, buffaloes on the Sweni road, lions at Sweni bridge and loads of general game on h7 road.
On the 14th we had good sightings : lions on s100 at Xibotwana waterhole, elephants at Nsemani dam, buffaloes next to road near Satara.
On the 15th the day was cold and raining and it was difficult to see. We got a lion pride with white lions near Satara and one buffalo on the Nwanetsi road.
On the 16th lions near Satara, buffaloes near Nwanetsi and plenty general game on h7 road between Orpen and Satara.
On the 17th it was cold and raining again. Only good sighting was of lions at Satara and again on the Nwanetsi road.
On the 18 we had a great sighting of lions at Satara, lots of general game all over.
I am pleased that on every single day I went into Kruger, I was able to show lions to my clients.
ELIAS sent the following:
I do game drives and game walks only in Balule.
Back in the bush make me realize how much I’ve missed being here.
When I resumed working on the first of April, I saw a lots of animals – like it was a warm welcome for me and my guests. I did the morning bush walk and we saw lots of hippos, hyenas and a huge crocodile basking in the early morning sun. On our way back from the bush walk we come across 7 African Wild Dogs on marula road .It was amazing because you don’t see them often. My guests were very happy to see them.
On my afternoon drive we saw a pride of lions on Oxford main which was a nice surprise and we saw giraffes and zebra close by.
On my sunset drive we saw the same lions and rhinos with a baby. It was like a dream come true for my guests and myself also because it has been a while without seeing them.
When we arrived at Marula Boma we saw hyenas and civet cat. On our way back to the lodge on Olifants road we saw a breeding herd of elephants and I was using a spotlight because it was dark.
We had an amazing experience. Seeing 4 out of 5 the first day of your night drive – consider it very lucky. My guests couldn’t believe what they saw. The bush will always surprise you. It’s a game hakuna matata.
One day on our way from the lodge we saw a black-backed jackal. We saw a black mamba during the bush walk. We also saw 4 male elephants and the one elephant decided to come towards us but we managed to give him space. But my guests were very scared so I decided to take them back to the Landcruiser.
It is good to have that amazing experience with nature rather than hearing lots of stories.
So come and enjoy with us
VICTOR sent the following report :
On the 16th April we started our game drive between Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw three old males Buffalos crossing the road. After the reception we continued with our game drive along H7 and we saw five wild dogs heading to Nwamatsantsa waterhole. Before the S36 turnoff we saw a female leopard eating a steenbok. After that we took Sweni road and saw a herd of elephants drinking water at Welverdiend waterhole. After lunch we took the S100 road to Xibotwana and saw a male lion lying down under a small tree. We saw four of the big five in one day.
On the 17th April we started our game drive between Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw a herd of Elephants crossing the road hearding to Ngala waterhole. After Orpen reception we saw general game including zebras, wildebeest and impalas. We took road S40 to Timbavati picnic spot and saw two lionesses hunting near Ratelpan waterhole. At Ngotso south we saw a herd of Buffalos crossing the road to Ntomeni waterhole. After lunch we took road S100 and near Shibotwana waterhole we saw a female leopard with two cubs lying down on the riverbank. Fantastic!
On the 18th April we started our game drive between Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw a spotted hyena crossing the road. After reception we saw two cheetahs busy chasing a warthog near S36 and S39 junction. After that we took road S36 to Rockvale waterhole where we saw a herd of Elephants drinking water. On the S90 to Gudzani dam we saw three male lions together with a white male lion lying down under an Appleleaf tree. The Satara rangers call this white lion Casper -maybe he looks like a ghost ? After lunch we saw a herd of Buffalos drinking water at Nsemani dam and the hippos were outside the water. We were amazed to see some buffalos chase a young hippo into the water.
On the 20th April we started our game drive and from Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw a male leopard drinking water at Ngala waterhole for three minutes. After reception we continue with our game drive on road H7 we saw three lioness hunting west of Rabelais road. On the S39 we saw three big male Elephants drinking water by Timbavati River. Later we saw a big male lion close to Leeubron waterhole. We saw Buffalos crossing the road to Ntomeni waterhole. After lunch we took road S100 to Shibotwana waterhole is where we saw two big male Elephants and at Nwamantsatsa junction we saw a pair of mating lions.
On the 27th of April we started our game drive from Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw giraffe, zebras and wildebeest. We saw a pride of lions lying down on the tar road. We took road S36 to Shimangwaneni dam where we saw a herd of Elephants drinking wate. On the S126 Sweni road we saw a big male Buffalo lying down under a tree at Welverdiend waterhole. On the H6 to Nwanetsi picnic spot we saw another pair of mating lions. After lunch we took road H7 to Nsemani dam where we saw a dead impala up a Marula tree. We stopped for ten minutes and then, very lucky for us, the leopard climbed up the tree and started to eat. Great timing ! On the S40 to Girivana waterhole we saw a lioness crossing the road very close to our Open Vehicle. She was busy calling her cubs. On the H7 before Bobbejaankrans viewpoint we saw a pack of wild dogs running o Timbavati river. On our way out we were busy taking photos of a stunning sunset and a White Rhino family crossed the road…we saw all five of the big five in one day !
PIERO guided 4 Czech Republic guests on the Hluhluwe/ St Lucia leg of their 7 day Kruger/Hluhluwe and St Lucia safari.
The Rubicek group were here at the height of the heavy rains so I changed the itinerary as the Hluluwe and Black Umfolozi rivers were in flood and the bridges were under water.
We were fortunate to see Samango monkeys at the picnic spot at Cape Vidal in the Ismangaliso Wetland Park. On the boat trip on Lake St Lucia, I was amazed to see all the hippo had left the muddy waters and were resting in the undergrowth near the banks.
The following day we were able to go to Hluhluwe as the waters had subsided. Despite my best efforts, by the time we had a lunch BBQ at Mpila Camp in Umfolozi, we had not yet seen any rhino. The group were very keen photographers and had seen a Black Rhino at Tremisana but wanted pics of fully horned rhinos. Thankfully our luck changed and by the end of the day, I had shown them a dozen White Rhinos.
We had some great pics of Kudu and Nyala.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Nyarai has sent her report :
April for me is Easter, Easter eggs, early chilly nights and family time. I love the idea of having chocolate and marshmallows and a cup of coffee without being judged. A lot of childhood Easter memories were formed in the church and big meals with my family. As an adult I get to create my own memories in the wild. When I was younger I never thought that I would be out here in the bush but life has a way of bringing us to a place where we had no idea we needed to be. I just added on my bucket list an Easter egg hunt out here in the plains of Balule. What an intriguing thought. Any way wild thoughts aside, winter is definitely coming through and the nights are getting really cold. By the time we get to 6pm the sun has already gone and it is a good idea to put on a warm jacket going on the evening game drive.
During wintertime, I become like a real lizard constantly being drawn towards the light. I am happiest working outside the office and I am honestly glad we have good Wi-Fi signal outside. I have chosen a great spot just outside the office and the moment the guests go on their safaris I quickly migrate outside next to my office door. The view is great as well with garden and the pool in my sights. Talking about the gardens I must commend our gardener Elvis who has done brilliant work with the ponds.
We had many guests during the Easter holiday. What a wonderful reminder of the memories pre covid season when the lodge was always full with guests. I am hopeful that we return to that time and we will have to have all our staff back onsite. The office has become really busy and it is promising to get better in terms of the numbers of guests booking. I am super excited.
Last week I welcomed guests and there was a hyena in the parking lot. We startled the hyena that was obviously unaware of our presence. The moment he saw us he ran away – the guests were super excited. This day I had the fastest check in ever as the guests couldn’t wait to get going on their safari. At the same time I had elephants in front of the Guest House at the watering hole as they made their way to the dam. The fact that I do not have to go far to see animals is the awesome thing about working and living out here in the bush. There is always something exciting waiting to happen. We never run out of episodes of National Geographic in our backyard.
Until next month, stay warm and take care.
Paulina has been promoted from Tremisana to be in charge at Marcs Treehouse Lodge kitchen.
Thanks to Aron, the camp is looking a lot better. Damage done by the buffalo herd has been rectified.
Caroline has returned on a temporary basis and has tried her best to clean up the Bar area. It has not been used for over 2 years.
The rooms are looking good:
Margrett has also returned on a temporary basis and Katekani is looking good. It has not been very busy but the rooms are well looked after :
My friend, Laurence and I have enjoyed a glass or two of red wine over the 50+ years that we know each other. Perhaps we need to share more red wine so that we may age gracefully.
Ezulwini Billy’s Lodge has the best wine cellar in the Lowveld :
We had guests again this month at Ezulwini and they loved it !
PUMUSA BUSH CAMP is looking very good after the huge rains. The famed Waterpan, after which this camp was previously named, is 95% full.
I took a good photo of the rare Red Duiker in the camp grounds:
Thanks to a new employee, Nelly, the rooms have an added sparkle !
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
As the numbers of tourists increases, we have found that some competitors are trying their best to knock the Viva products. For example, I have had an issue in respect of cancellation policies. Another operator offers a 24 h cancellation fee, which, at first glance, seems more attractive than Viva’s policy that allows for unrestricted postponement/ extension of the safari at no extra cost. One of our guests who had booked a safari for 2019 and is now going only in 2023 was thrilled to know that the outstanding 50% balance was calculated on the 2019 tariffs and not those of 2023 !
Another matter to consider is that of delayed arrival or inability to go on safari because of last minute emergencies including sickness. Because we are the ground handler and the owner of the reserved accommodation, we are pleased to postpone your safari for a bona fide reason even if we are given less than 24 hours’ notice ! What needs to be kept in mind is that our Office assists our guests in respect of room allocation, requests for double or twin bed arrangements, special dietary requirements etc etc. Nyarai, our secretary, is a very caring and compassionate person who goes the extra distance to ensure all our guests have their specific requests meticulously attended to.
Another competitor believes that by not staying in Kruger camps, our product is inferior. I beg to differ ! It just so happens that I recently spent a night in Skukuza rest camp in Kruger Park. Apart from the hustle and bustle that goes with hundreds of other tourists that are encountered, I had the misfortune of being allocated accommodation not far from the new hotel. I was annoyed that the din from the hotel went on late into the night. I was shocked that no soap was supplied in the room. The communal kitchen was a complete shambles with no stove. I have been coming to Kruger Park since 1960 when I was a child and cannot recall being so disappointed.
By having our own accommodation, we can see to it that standards are maintained. The camps are small enough to ensure that, if there is a problem, it will be sorted out there and then.
There is a good balance of exclusivity and diversity in all our safari products and the fact that Viva has done well despite the Covid crisis speaks volumes to the determination to succeed by all our hardworking staff. We are very fortunate that our returning staff are so grateful to be back and are very passionate about their work.
I include the following reviews from Tripadvisor :
Tremisana Lodge 4 Tage Safari
“Wir haben vier tage in der tremisana Lodge verbracht. Unser zimmer war mit einem ventilator, air condition und einem moskitonetz ausgestattet und wurde täglich gereinigt. Das essen war abwechungsreich und es wurde dreimal täglich für uns gekocht. Die Guides mit denen wir die game drives gemacht haben waren sehr lustig und erfahren und wir haben sogar alle big 5 gesehen! Für uns waren das wirklich spannende Tage die wir dort verbracht haben und wir machen das sicher nochmal!!!”
Ein unvergessliches Abenteuer
“Wir haben unseren Aufenthalt in der Tremisana Lodge verbracht. Die Atmosphäre vor Ort ist sehr herzlich und familiär. Auch wenn aufgrund von Corona wenige Gäste vor Ort waren, wurden wir rundum versorgt. Das Team hat sich stets um alles gekümmert und alles gegeben, um den Aufenthalt unvergesslich zu machen. Wir haben uns von Beginn an sehr wohl gefühlt. Die verschiedenen Touren und auch die Transfers waren alle top organisiert.
Kaum waren wir an der Lodge angekommen, teilte man uns mit, dass einer der Ranger uns nun sofort abholen wird, da dieser mit einer anderen Gruppe Löwen gesichtet hat. So war es uns möglich, bereits nach 5 Minuten sowohl Elefanten als auch Löwen und somit zwei der Big Five zu sehen.
Das Essen war sehr lecker und wurde immer liebevoll von „Mama D“ zubereitet.
Die Anlage der Lodge ist sehr gut gepflegt und wird liebevoll durch die Mitarbeitenden erhalten. Die Zimmer sind schön eingerichtet und mit Moskitonetzen ausgestattet. Das Bad ist etwas in die Jahre gekommen, wobei man aber bedenken muss, dass man sich im Busch befindet. Aus unserer Sicht wirkt sich dies nicht negativ auf den tollen Aufenthalt aus.
Insgesamt war es ein unvergessliches Erlebnis. Da wir leider nur drei der Big Five zu sehen bekamen, würden wir jederzeit wiederkommen!
Vielen Dank an das gesamte Team für den tollen Aufenthalt!”
Like Coming Home!
“My 3rd visit with Viva Safari and as ALWAYS, it was a charm! What a joy to see familiar faces and new friends! Ri, we appreciate all that you did for us! Victor, Yuri and Smiley…every drive was fun and informative! Mama, and the whole kitchen/housekeeping staff – amazing! Felt like we stayed at a family house. We patiently waited through the pandemic and booked as soon as we were able. May continued blessings cover you!”
A happy safari experience!
“Viva Safaris and Tremisana Lodge…where do I start?
My friend Molly and I were picked up in Johannesburg on Friday and, beginning with our drivers George and Solly, every single staff member we met was beyond hospitable.
We chose to stay at Tremisana instead of moving to the Treehouse or other lodge after the first night, since we didn’t want to keep packing up and moving around on the trip. I’m happy with our decision. Tremisana is peaceful and cozy, with a small pool surrounded by lush greenery and 2-3 small dining/lounging areas. It definitely felt like Africa, with monkeys popping in, large trees and plants, and colorful artwork. The room was rustic, cozy, and very clean, thanks to Audrey.
Patti was kind and helped coordinate from the main office. Rai took amazing care of us from start to finish, and the rest of the staff was like a family. Every person knew who we were, what our schedule was each day, and went out of their way to provide a great experience. It was incredible to have home-cooked meals made by Mama D. Elvis prepared a braai meal fireside under the stars our first night. Uri accommodated us at Kruger and was a wealth of knowledge on the animal kingdom. Raymond determinedly off-roaded us to a couple of rhinos followed by a pride of lions on our night drive. And last, but definitely not least, Elias (aka Smiley, aka Halala, aka Hakuna Matata) made every excursion exciting and fun. We got up close and personal with elephants and hiked at sunrise to the water to find the hippos, but were always kept safe. Elias had a big personality, educating us while making everyone laugh. He definitely made the trip memorable.
Each day had at least a few hours of activities including local game drives, a tour of the animal rehabilitation center, and a day trip to Kruger National Park. We had some pool time in the sun between activities a couple days as well. I think our 4-night booking was absolutely perfect. Any less and you may not see all the animals you want or the “big five.” And you’re definitely tired after 4-5 days in the hot sun and a bumpy vehicle, though we were still sad to leave.
Unless you want a more expensive 5-star, more sheltered accommodation, I would recommend Tremisana Lodge and Viva Safaris to anyone. I am laid back and appreciative to be able to do things like this, but do have high expectations of my travel experiences. People who travel tend to take time off work and spend a lot of money and want to enjoy these trips. My friend and I were impressed with the organization, communication and daily processes so we didn’t have to worry about anything. Thank you to the company and staff for an unforgettable lifetime memory!”
Every month, I receive an email from my friend Father Christopher Neville OFM.
Looks like he wants me to keep going !
Thanks very much! It is always a treat to receive the Newsletter, the historical one was of great interest to me as I have visited Marc’s Camp many times with you and Sandra.
Thank you! Ja! You do need to slow down but….. not with the Newsletter please.
God bless you,
Until next month,
With kind regards,