With its bright red flowers that appear in early August, the Coral Tree, Erythina Lysistemon, is very easily noticed in the bushveld.
The flowers appear before the leaves. The flowers are carried in short, dense aggregates about 10 cm long and give the appearance of coral, hence the name.
The flowers have abundant nectar and attract birds such as sunbirds. In addition, insects are found looking for nectar and these attract insect-eating birds.
The beauty of the coral tree was such that it was regarded as a royal tree. In fact, I have learned that coral trees were planted on the graves of Zulu kings.
Of course, the red colour of the coral tree flower together with the green leaves remind me of the Italian flag. Given my Italian origin, I made sure that I wagered a bottle or two of red wine with various Englishmen that are landowners in Olifants West Reserve and other game farms around Hoedspruit. It was wonderful to see the Italians not only win the Euros but also clean up the opposition in the 4 x 100m men’s relay at the Olympics.
What is not so wonderful is to compare the number of Italian tourists we had in August 2019 to those we had in August 2021. Division by zero yields infinity ( except 0/0 which is indeterminate ) and I am sad to say that there were infinitely fewer Italian tourists in August 2021 compared to August 2019 – not a single Italian tourist ! I am told by my friends in Italy that next year will be a lot better – please God !
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Monthly Report for Yuri for August 2021
Wow! It is hard to believe that I am writing a report for August already! What has happened to this year??? In the words of Kermit the Frog “Time is fun when you’re having flies”.
Anyway, August has been good. It was really awesome to have guests on a regular basis and Balule did not disappoint:
HONEYMOON LIONS ON OUR MORNING BUSH WALK:
Tolli & I were just finishing up our morning bush walk, having for some unknown reason decided to deviate from our normal route, when we heard what we at first thought were elephants very close by, but when we heard it the second time it was clearly not elephants, but the distinct noise of lions mating, smack bang in the middle of our normal route. Later that afternoon my guest, Elize, and I decided to return by car for further investigation and…there they were! A beautiful male and his lady, busy securing the future generations of Balule lions!
INEXPERIENCED LIONS & A HUGE HERD OF BUFFALO
One afternoon, on my Sunset Drive with my two U S and two Canadian clients, we came across 3 young lions just minding their own business, when out of the blue appeared a huge herd (at least 60) Buffalo heading straight for the lions, blissfully unaware of the lions.
It was very clear that the young lions were very confused and had no idea how to handle the situation. They even looked at me, as if to say “now what”? Well, the massive bovines moved closer and closer as the cats made themselves flatter and flatter. Then, only a few feet from the cats, a huge cow saw them and raised the alarm! All hell broke loose as half the herd of bellowing, belligerent bovines descended on the future Kings of the Jungle who were forced to flee tails between the legs and bowel and bladder control completely forgotten!
These are only a few of the amazing sights during the windy month of August. I could write a whole book but, this is only a monthly newsletter, so we’ll leave it with this highlight.
As far as Tremisana goes: our maintenance schedule is moving along like clockwork and our spacious rooms are 100% ready for our guests!
Have a great September – Spring is here and my team and I are super ready to welcome you!!!
TOLLI sent us some prize-winning shots of hyenas to accompany his report :
Spotted Hyena: The cunning queen of the savanna
Because hyenas are mostly nocturnal, people do not know much about this peculiar and mysterious mammal. They are born black and become lighter with brown spots that get lighter as they grow older. Its powerful jaws, strong shoulders and front legs are perfectly designed for tearing hides, ripping chunks of flesh and crushing large bones (by eating bones their dung is full of calcium and appears white in colour).
Most people think hyenas are just scavengers but they are very good hunters. They mostly live in a den and have a matriarchal group structure and only mating males are tolerated near the den. The higher-ranking females have more cubs than subordinate females. They are extraordinary good caretakers of the next generation. They can have different size cubs in the den and will leave a nanny or caretaker at the den while the other females are out looking for food. The female is bigger than the male and it appears that she has a penis but it is actually an elongated clitoris to scare off other males.
Hollywood gave hyenas a bad reputation via the movie Lion King but hyenas are better caretakers of their young than most animals.
We were privileged to visit a hyena den a few times this month and I managed to get these photos:
Tolli has also sent the following wonderful photos – what a talented photographer he is !!!
Monthly Report for Patrick August 2021
On the 2nd of August I did a full day in Kruger, the day was cold and windy, sightings were very good. We saw lions before the reception at Orpen, elephants at Nsemani dam, buffaloes Ximangwanini dam, white rhino and plenty general game on the h7 road.
On the 4th of August it was Kruger again the day was cold and the sightings were good. The sightings included lions at Xibotwana s100 – very close, buffaloes on the s100 , plenty game on Sweni road and h7 road. There was a leopard before the last boom gate. We also had cheetahs on the s36 and s39 intersection.
On the 13th of August I did a full day in Kruger and the weather was very windy but the sightings were good : lions on s100 and at Nsemani dam, buffaloes on the s100, cheetahs after Nsemani dam lying down, elephants at Nsemani dam as well. We had more lions on the s41 and plenty general game on the s100 road, hyenas on h7 with pups.
On the 15th of August I was in Kruger again and weather was good : lions on north side of Gudzani dam, buffaloes s100, fantastic long-horned kudu bulls ,waterbucks, zebras, 2 cheetahs on h7, lions lying down before s12 Girivana road and a herd of buffaloes before the last boom gate.
Monthly Report for Elias August 2021
I went on a bushwalk down to the river and we got to see hippos and one of them came really close. Some of the guests were a bit scared about it so I told them not to worry and they relaxed. We really enjoyed just sitting and watching them. We also learned about the beauty of nature and it was very nice. While we were walking we saw a big crocodile lying in the middle of the river. As we continued with our walk we also saw leopard footprints. My guests were very happy and they really enjoyed our bushwalk.
I also did the sunset drive in Balule and it was very interesting because we saw a herd of buffaloes and a pride of lions and we also saw breeding head of elephants. When we were making our way to Marula Boma we saw hyenas which made my guest very happy.
So we continued on to Marula Boma and we had our dinner under the stars which made my guest feel very excited. You can tell that they were so excited as they took pictures of the stars and then they had hyenas making a huge sound calling one another from a distance. We also saw the Wild Dogs it was very surprising as we had not seen them for a while. It was a really beautiful sighting.
On another occasion, I saw a huge herd of buffalo on the road not far from Tremisana. Wild Dogs also on the road right next to the vehicle – only God knows how lucky my guests were !!!
Monthly Report for Victor for August 2021
On the 09th of August 2021 we started making our way to the park just after breakfast. Between Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw wildebeest and impalas. After that we continued with our drive on the H7 road. We saw a herd of buffalos going to Rockvale waterhole and we took the S36 road to Muzandzeni picnic spot. There we saw elephants drinking water at Shimangwaneni dam.
After lunch we continued with our drive on the S100 road on our way to Gudzani dam we saw a big male lion at Shibotwana waterhole lying down very close to the cement tank. After that we continued with our drive on the S41 where we saw a white rhino. On our way out of the park we saw a male leopard walking near the road close to Phelwana Bridge. We saw the Big Five in one day and it was amazing.
On 11 August, we saw the Big Five again !
Lions, Buffalos and Elephant on the s 100 and after lunch a brilliant sighting of a Leopard up a tree with its Impala kill.
Two White Rhino near Satara.
On the way out, near Orpen, we daw a Wild Dog on the road – stuff wildlife dreams are made of !!!
PIERO’S VISIT TO HLUHLUWE
I went up to Pumusa Bush Camp to have a quick look around as we are expecting Viva guests next month.
While I was there, I discovered a buffalo mounted head which had been hidden under thatching grass. It looks a lot better in the foyer next to the Bar.
I spent 2 hours in Hluhluwe and hope our Viva guests will be as fortunate as I was. Within 30 minutes, I had good sightings of White Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo as well as lots of Nyala.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
KATEKANI : The female leopard with 2 cubs has been seen regularly by Mandla, our caretaker. He estimates that the cubs are about 4 months old.
There are no more impala left and I understand that the nyala and bushbuck are very wary of the leopards.
MARCS TREEHOUSE LODGE : The buffalo are doing a fair amount of damage in terms of knocking over poles that have lights used to illuminate the pathways. Given has added reeds to a number of treehouses.
MASANGO CAMP : Given has replaced the latte above all the patios of all eight chalets. Work has been done on the wooden fence around the swimming pool as the buffalo have made a mess of things. There is a hyena that appears to have made a home somewhere near the Adventure Dam and both Given and Richard are convinced that this hyena is not scared of humans as it simply looks at them without any sign of fear.
TREMISANA : This has been our busiest camp in August and we are pleased that the gardens are looking so good. We have an elaborate irrigation spray system in place. The negative side of having green grass is that the warthogs and duikers enjoy fresh grass and come through our fence regularly. Martin has added thatch to the entrance gate.
As a result of regular visits from the 60+ strong buffalo herd, the water level at Tremisana Dam is dropping. Besides the water supplied via the solar-panelled borehole, Aron has had to fill the dam by using water from the main Tremisana waterhole. Good job we have access to water from four different boreholes on Tremisana property.
Tolli took a photo of a rare yellow-billed oxpecker on a buffalo drinking at Tremisana Dam.
Nyarai sent her customary excellent report :
Monthly Report for Tremisana August 2021
This month turned out way better that I had anticipated. The days are getting warmer but some nights are still quite cold. I always try to keep my optimism levels very high and this time around things were indeed awesome. Positive thoughts always attract good things as I always say.
The number of guests that we had at Tremisana was much better compared to previous months and I met some really wonderful people. I was very happy to see people lounging by the pool, going on game drives as well as the fact that I was able to make new friends. This brought about memories of the good old days and this made me really happy. I am a firm believer that if we can have a continuous inflow of guests we will be able to keep the tourism industry running. A lot of businesses are still struggling from the effects of the pandemic and one can only hope that we will all able to make a full recovery. The odds may seem to be against us but we continue to press on.
At the lodge we are doing repairs and we have started work on the thatch at the entry gate for Tremisana. Our aim is to complete our thatch work repairs before the rains set in. We are doing our best to maintain the gardens as well as keep everything neat and tidy.
The animal sightings this month have been awesome. We have frequently had a large herd of buffaloes at Tremisana dam. I had really missed seeing them. We also had elephants at the small watering hole just outside Tremisana Lodge. It is always breathtaking to see them so close. The perfect views of the watering hole are always from our Lapa during meals as well as the guesthouse which just happens to be my favorite spot for bird watching. We even had Wild Dogs (again and again !) and trust me – that kept me in the confines of the lodge till I was sure that they had moved further from Tremisana. I am really not sure how I would react in a face to face encounter. I must say that I love them and I absolutely marvel at their hunting skills.
I am hopeful that September will be an awesome month. Extra sunshine always puts a smile on my face. Sometimes things might seem to be slow to get better but always know that our attitude and how we react to the storms of life have a big impact on the end result. Like what Lilly Pulitzer said. “Despite the forecast, Live like its spring”. Always be happy but most of all, always be thankful of even the small victories. A big ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who has supported us and continue to support us. We appreciate you and we hope to continue working together as we rebuild what the pandemic has destroyed. We hope to see you soon this sunny side of the bush.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
August 2021 has been our best month since the start of the pandemic. Despite having no Italian tourists, we have had guests from USA, Canada, Hungary, Spain, India, Holland and the UAR.
In fact, on one occasion, we had two full OSVs in Kruger Park and, on another day this month, we had two full Landcruisers doing afternoon drives.
The bookings for September seem OK and we anticipate that Viva will struggle along gamely and will ultimately win. Our hope is that there will be an upswing around Christmas and that there will be a lot more tourists next year.
I am truly grateful to all our staff. They share my stresses and concerns about keeping this wonderful safari operation afloat. They give of their very best and ensure that every one of our guests has a lovely time on safari.
We are the only company that accepts bookings even for one tourist. We are probably better than all other Kruger Park Safari operators in that we offer a truly eclectic experience – the variety of wildlife experiences including Sunset Drive, Bush BBQ, Bush Walk along the mighty Olifants River, various game drives (Sundowner, Afternoon, Sunrise ) in Balule ( Greater Kruger) and full day safaris in Kruger proper cannot be equalled.
In addition, I support the efforts of my long-time friend, Brian Jones, in alerting tourists to the plight of endangered and orphaned animals at Moholoholo Rehab Centre. The Conservation Message taken away by Viva tourists on 5, 6 and 7 day packages, who visit Moholoholo, is very gratifying.
The reviews posted this month bear eloquent and incontrovertible evidence to the dedication of our staff and the uniqueness of our safari product. It is for all this that I am cautiously and confidently optimistic that the tide is now turning.
I include the following reviews posted on Tripadvisor in August:
We took a 7 day safaria and didn’t Want to leave. It was so amazing. Everything about it was fantastic…the people the food and the animals. We stayed at Marcs tree house and loved every minute of it. Or guides were awesome…one morning we saw the big 5 before 11:30. Thanks Victor for that. A amazing day..
Trip of a lifetime!!!
My husband and I just returned from our 6 Day Luxury Lodge Safari . Our son, daughter in law, and her sister from Sweden were with us. I use a wheelchair and all of the staff made sure I was able to get around. The accommodations were excellent! We ate gourmet food! The guides were very knowledgeable and fun. We learned a lot! We saw animals we had never heard of before, like a dykier and a skeenbok. We even saw a leopard! We saw many animals up close with their babies. This was a trip of a lifetime! I highly recommend Viva Safaris to everyone!
MARC’S TREEHOUSE LODGE:
Memories for a lifetime
2021 has been a year to remember. I finally got to go on the safari that I tried to go on in 2020. Everything got cancelled in 2020. I got to South Africa early June and got picked up on the 5th of June for a wonderful trip. Everyone was so friendly and helpful at the lodge. Food was good and very plentiful. And animals were everywhere. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.
Lovely getaway for a bush break, simple and homely. We felt very well looked after by all the staff! Loved the variety of activities offered from their package as this really set them apart from other options we considered.
Until next month,
With kind regards,