I watched a program yesterday on Al Jazeera TV that was about an attempt to keep the Northern White Rhino species from going extinct.
Since 19 March 2018 there are only two known rhinos of this species still alive : two cows called Najin and Fatu.
These are protected 24h daily by heavily armed guards in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Sperm samples from Northern White Rhino bulls were collected before they died.
The plan is to have in vitro fertilisation but the two cows are unable to keep embryos full term (the gestation period is about 16 months).
So younger Southern White Rhino cows will be used as surrogate mothers.
This effort to save what has been largely accepted as an extinct species is an extremely praiseworthy exercise and comes after a decade of research.
Our hope and our prayer are that it is successful.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
I have asked all our guides to shorten their reports and describe a few highlights only.
At the insistence of the G M , I completed a course and qualified to conduct safaris in Kruger. I must admit that there was merit in his recommendation to do the course as I now have wonderful sightings of far bigger herds of animals and prides of lions than we have in Balule.
On 6 December in Kruger we drove on the H 7 between Orpen and Satara and saw many vultures. My guests knew what this meant – a carcass somewhere and the possibility of predators. We stopped and tried to listen for the crunching of bones and, sure enough, we found two huge male lions.
On 26 December, I conducted a bush walk in Balule. We were thrilled to find 5 big buffalo bulls. They were concealed in the reeds of the Olifants River and were too close for comfort. It is common knowledge that these are the most dangerous of all animals to encounter on a bush walk. We carefully retraced our steps while, with rifle at the ready, I got us out of what may have been a tricky situation. Later we saw Ezulwini, the famous Big Tusker.
On 7 January we did a Sundowner Drive and at Campfire we saw a pack of hyenas chase a leopard off its freshly made impala kill.
NHLANHLA reports :
I was a full time driver with Viva Safaris. During the terrible Covid times I decided to study. The GM encouraged me and committed to using me on game drives if I embarked on a wildlife course. I am now just about qualified as a guide and I am now doing tracking as well as driving to Dullstroom and back. I am passionate about wildlife and report my highlight as follows :
My highlight happened on 26 January. We spotted two lionesses and a male lion walking on the road. We followed them to a dam where a Black Rhino was drinking. I thought there may be some interaction but the lions waited their turn and drank after the rhino left.
VICTOR reports :
On 17 December in Kruger we found Casper, the White lion, and his three brothers stalking impalas at Nsemani dam near Satara. These four lions constitute a formidable hunting unit and we were surprised that they were unsuccessful.
On 26 December in Balule we found a pair of mating lions at a nearby dam. A big elephant bull arrived and wasn’t impressed with the honeymoon antics and charged at them. They ran away in two directions but got together again when the elephant went for a drink.
On 8 January in Balule we found three Wild Dogs on the Barnard airstrip running towards a small herd of zebra. The zebra stallion wasn’t having any of this and ended up chasing the wild dogs all over the place. There was dust all over and my guests took a brilliant video.
On 24 January we were exceptionally lucky.
At the start of the safari while I was giving the whole lecture about Balule and expected guest behaviour while on game drive, I asked everyone what they would most like to see. One noisy German couple informed us that they had recently been on an overland trip to the Serengeti in Tanzania, Moremi in Botswana, Zimbabwe’s Hwange Park and to Etosha in Namibia and had some brilliant wild life sightings including a lion kill in the Serengeti but NO LEOPARD !!
I said : ”Don’t worry, with Viva we will get you a leopard – if not In Balule then surely in Kruger”
They laughed and said they really hoped I wasn’t talking past my mouth. Sure enough, within the hour, we were looking at a big male leopard up a tree on the Barnard property. He had an impala kill and was asleep when we arrived. The tourists were so excited that their squeals of delight woke up the leopard and he started eating. Those German guys were so impressed that I received a great present from them.
RAYMOND reports :
I had some great sightings over the last 2 months :
On a Sunset Drive, a big male lion at Rosies Pan that had finished off an entire Kudu.
A big herd of buffalo on Tremisana Lodge property.
A leopard up a tree near Tremisana Lodge eating an impala. A piece of meat fell from the tree and two hyenas below had a noisy fight for it.
GEORGE reports :
On 18 December on a Sundowner Drive in Balule we found a young female leopard up a tree at Barnards property. She was fast asleep and was awakened when a herd of zebra passed right underneath the tree. There was a young new-born foal and we thought the leopard might be interested but she went back to sleep.
On 26 December in Balule we got to see a lovely pride of lions right next to the Landcruiser. My guests were absolutely thrilled to see 4 young lion cubs so close.
On 20 January I conducted a Bush Walk. We were just starting off when a Black Rhino bull, the famous Zulu, saw us and came towards us at a trot. The guests were scared and I did prepare to shoot a warning shot if he got too close. He came on slowly and had a good look at us and promptly turned away and walked off. I am told that Zulu is now a lot calmer than when he was first introduced to Balule. The other older guides that have been here forever told me a story about the GM once being treed by Zulu but he has not discussed this with me.
I sometimes do Afternoon Drives in Balule. Of course, Elias and Raymond may argue, but I firmly believe that you cannot beat Kruger Park !!
One day in Kruger, we found a few vultures up a dead tree. Other vultures were flying in. I realised there was a predator somewhere still busy on the kill.
We eventually found 2 lions on a zebra kill. A group of 6 hyenas were there as well but they never dispossess male lions of their kill so they, like the vultures, had to wait until the kings had finished their meal.
On another morning in Kruger, we had high drama. At Nsemani Dam we were watching a massive herd of buffalo. Casper and his three brothers along with another lion arrived on the scene and all hell broke loose !
Dust everywhere, buffaloes snorting and bellowing, lions roaring – like the movies you see on National Geographic.
When the dust had settled and my guests and I could see, there was Casper, famous White Lion of the region, on top of a young buffalo bull who was bellowing loudly. Before the other lions could get to Casper to help him bring down the strong young buffalo bull, an even bigger and heavier buffalo appeared out of nowhere. He was clearly a veteran of many lion attacks and went straight for Casper, who, at this stage, still had his teeth on the buffalo and was alongside him but unable to bring him to his knees. With head down the veteran buffalo crashed into Casper and sent him flying into the air. My heart sank into my boots as I thought this was his end. Remarkably he summersaulted and twisted his body while in the air and ran like hell. The young buffalo trotted off after his rescuer and the lions regrouped. None of the others had made a kill and I noted that this buffalo herd had many older and experienced bulls so I was not surprised that the lions had not made a kill.
My guests could not talk for about 5 minutes. One got a video of most of the action and the GM has asked me to get a copy to Marco, our Webmaster.
I have sent it to Marco to upload to our website under Video of the Month.
I include a photo below of a battered Casper. He will recover.
ANDY reports :
LION ROARING – what an amazing experience not only for my flabbergasted guests but also for a thrilled me !
On Balule we found a male lion lying on the side of the road. While we were watching him, we heard another lion roaring a far way off. He kept on roaring and it was clear that he was getting closer and closer.
He eventually got right up to the first lion. Their combined roars actually shook the car chassis. The loudness of their calls was unbelievable and some guests were terrified. In all my years of guiding, I have never had such a thrilling experience ! I assured the guests that the lions would not attack us. You need to personally experience the vibrations to fully appreciate our experience. WOW !!!!!
Towards the end of January, I took two lovely elderly UK ladies to KZN on their Hlulhluwe / St Lucia leg of their 7 day safari.
We saw 11 White Rhino in all and this is the lowest number I have ever seen. I am concerned that the numbers may be dropping because of increased poaching.
It will be a VERY sad day indeed when the Ezemvelo Wildlife Authority decides to dehorn the famous Hluhuwe / Imfolozi rhinos.
ROCKY reports :
On a Sunset Drive when we were very close to Marula Boma, we spotted two lionesses hunting impala. We were fortunate to see the actual kill.
They finished off their meal in 15 minutes. Our guests were very happy to witness this encounter.
I spent a week at the lodges in December.
We saw two lionesses on a Kudu kill.
Any plans to enjoy the splash pool at my house were quickly shelved thanks to the elephants’ appetite for clean chlorinated water.
In January I toured Hluhluwe and got a great pic of a White Rhino attempting to cool down.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Charl sent the following:
KATEKANI LUXURY TENTED LODGE is adjacent to and shares a fence with the 14 000 hectare Kapama Reserve.
From time to time, we get some of their animals checking whether the grass is, indeed, greener on the other side.
Bookings were low these last 2 months and the nyala are now tamer and are permanent residents and drink twice daily at our waterhole in front of the Lapa.
We have also seen a porcupine drinking regularly. Mandla saw the female leopard with two tiny cubs right outside units 4A and 4B. I moved my trail camera there hoping to get a photo.
I am pretty sure that it is the same leopard I got a shot of while she was drinking from the splash pool of 4B.
MARCS CAMP has been busy this month with lots of guests, most of whom are staying for longer periods.
Wildlife sightings have been great with a large herd of Nyala seen daily while they eat the fallen Marula fruits below the Marula at the swimming pool. It is wonderful for our guests returning from Bush Walk to see them at such close proximity.
On one night our guests were fortunate to spot a leopard on the big rock between treehouse 8 and 9. They shone their torch on the leopard and it quickly went off. Leopards are quite shy animals and generally get away from humans.
What has been pleasing to me personally is the number of tourists that report hearing animal sounds at night. The calls of lions. leopards, hyenas and the wailing of the thick-tailed Bushbaby add another very special dimension to this amazing camp.
We have built a new Lapa to replace the one that burned down.
We have also added two bathroom / toilets that are closer to the Lapa and the main Lodge.
DUMELA TENTED CAMP
I am personally involved with the development of this lodge. This will be the only accommodation venue that Viva Safaris will open to the general public at this stage.
All our other camps are frequented only by guests that book our very affordable safari packages.
We have been hard at work prepping the camp to open. We hope to be ready by mid-March in time for the Easter holidays.
Unfortunately some poachers and their dogs have been active on this property and we have had to be quite tough on them. Willis, our foreman, has seen leopards regularly. They prey on the impala, nyala, bushbuck and warthogs on the property. I believe there are some bushpigs as well.
TREMISANA GAME LODGE
Nyarai reports :
Happy New Year everyone. it is once again that we make our little or big lists of resolutions.
We usually start with so much energy at the beginning of the year. We hope to maintain the same pace as the year progresses.
The year gone by has ben a beautiful year. The fact is that we are still here despite having our ups and downs as a business. Our numbers have increased albeit very slowly.
For me the year started off on a good note. I remember the day when I first came to Viva Safaris as a student doing my practical component of my tourism course.
I had no idea about how much I would fall in love with the bush. The peace and calm of Tremisana Lodge is beyond compare. Little did I know that many years later I would be a mother wanting my own child to experience the deep relationship I have with this place.
A special thanks to Piero and Sandy for affording me the opportunity to bring my little one up here to experience his first ever safari. I will forevermore be grateful.
My son, Miracle and I have always watched National Geographic documentaries at home together. He always asked a lot of questions and I had to brush up on my bush knowledge. When he got here, watching his eyes light up when he saw the animals was beyond all my expectations. He has decided he will become a ranger and mum is not allowed to come home so he can come here.
I must say that it is a really good idea for you to bring your child along and experience the beauty out here. You will create lifetime memories for them. I can’t wait for our next bush adventure. I am writing this with a big smile on my face.
Let this new year be about experiencing all that you have not done before. Get over fears and stand strong in the face of adversity.
To all our guests and business partners, I thank you personally for all the kindness and support you gave me and Viva this past year. May we continue to share our love of sharing the African bush together.
Take care and live and embrace all the beautiful things in store in 2023.
Quinton reports :
On our bush walks we have seen wildebeest, kudu, zebra, giraffe, impala, buffalo, nyala and warthogs.
There have been some close up encounters with Golden Orb spiders who have come out in abundance.
Leopard and hyena tracks are all over the place.
One scary experience was with an old buffalo bull who was sleeping in tall grass. We stumbled upon him and he woke up in a seriously bad mood.
We retraced our steps very cautiously and he lay down again.
On another day, a female warthog flew out of her den in a disused termite mound. Three piglets followed her and her maternal instincts kicked in as she moved purposefully towards us.
The piglets ran the other way and thankfully she followed them.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
Viva Safaris has had a fairly good December and January. Our numbers are between 50% and 60% of what they were before Covid and I am grateful for that.
We have historically always increased our staff salaries at the beginning of July as is customary in the Tourism sector. I am going to deviate from that from now on. We increase our safari package tariffs on 1 January every year so it is perfectly logical to me to increase all staff salaries at the same time.
Our plan is to keep salaries up with inflation in these trying times and we hope to increase salaries by between 7% and 10%. We hope to have our minimum wage at least 20% above the national minimum wage in the tourism and hospitality sector.
We plan to alter the 5 day safari programs to include a second day in Kruger. As always, I shall first consult with our trusted long-time suppliers and get their valuable input.
I shall advise our joint decision next month.
What has been pleasing over the last two months has been the quality of reviews posted by guests. We do not get reviews “ in collaboration with the establishment” as some other lodges do. Of course they will have a greater quantity of reviews but what about the quality ?
I am indebted to two people who hardly receive the kudos they richly deserve : Marco, our Webmaster and Patti, our SafariBookings consultant. Nothing is ever too much for them and they work very hard to keep Viva where it is.
Patti recently visited Cape Town, where Marco translocated from Durban last year. Thanks to Nik, Patti’s husband, who sent this pic :
I include some reviews posted on Tripadvisor in the last 2 months:
Can’t Wait to Return!
As an avid nature and animal lover, I came to Viva Safaris Tremisana lodge to experience the African Bush and to view it’s wildlife. And that we did! We saw more animals than I can count… So many elephants, lions, impala, giraffes, zebra, hippos and many more. For my family, we were just one animal short of the big five, the elusive leopard. But we saw mating lions, mere feet from us, so that more than made up for it. Witnessing the creation of life in the wilderness was powerful and brought tears to my eyes. We have photographs and videos and memories that will last a lifetime. But what I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the most, was the human experience. The other guests become instant friends and comrades and the entire staff at Tremisana was warm and welcoming. Our guides were friendly, knowledgeable, and went beyond to make sure our views and lighting were just right for photos. If you have the pleasure of riding with Smiley, consider yourself lucky! His optimism and smile were infectious and his determination to find us our animals were bar none. Thank you Smiley (Halala!) and Rocky! Mama D and her staff cooked us amazing and comforting meals, never once leaving us hungry or unpleased. Thank you Mama D, and I still want your recipes! The accommodations were clean and the grounds were meticulous. Just walking around camp was a joy. Cannot recommend enough!
Alan F, United Kingdom
What an amazing experience!! Once in a lifetime, so pleased that we chose Viva Safari. We did the 5 day Tremisana Lodge safari, thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!
The staff were very welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable, making sure that every safari we did was unforgettable.
Tremisana Lodge itself is very clean and well maintained, the meals (thanks mama) were plentiful and delicious.
Although all the staff were brilliant, special mention to Lucky, Smiley and mama.
Highly recommend Viva Safari’s
Excellent Experience as a Solo Traveller
Genevieve W, USA
I went for a 3 day safari in December as a solo female traveler. I had an excellent time. The safari’s were well organized and all the staff were friendly and excited to make the experience the best possible. We went on three safaris, spending the entire 2nd day in Kruger, and they were well organized and on time. Food was ready when we got back to the lodge, and I especially enjoyed the Braai put on in the park on the first day. Accommodations were clean and comfortable, and I felt safe and secure at all times. Highly recommend Viva Safari and the Tremisana Game Lodge!
Highly recommend Viva Safaris
Luna di miele al Tremisana
Abbiamo soggiornato al Tremisana in occasione del nostro viaggio di nozze.
Il posto è davvero molto carino con tutti i servizi necessari, il personale è molto accogliente, solare e pronto ad ogni tua necessità.
Pulizia nelle camere ottima, ogni mattina dopo il rientro dal Safari la stanza era pulita, il letto rifatto e c’era un gradevole odore di disinfettatene!
Cibo tipico servito a pranzo e cena mentre la colazione è interazionale, e la pasta per essere all’estero è comunque accettabile!
Le guide sono semplicemente FANTASTICHE!!! Noi abbiamo avuto : SMILEY, GEORGE, LUCKY, VIKTOR, ROCKY; e sono molto preparati, simpatici e ti immergono a pieno in questo bellissimo game drive in mezzo alla Savana.
Noi lo consigliamo
Great Stay and More Than Amazing Staff
We had a great time in Marc’s Treehouse Lodge. Thank you Polina and Margaret for your amazing meals and your hospitality, big thank you Big Richard for caring about us, thank you for the beautiful flowers always presiding over the table and for keeping the garden like a palace. Big thanks to our friend Soli who drove us and made our stay fantastic, and special thanks to our beloved guides Lucky and George: thank you for sharing with us so much knowledge and passion about animals and nature, and thank you for letting us enjoy the animals search so much. You will be always in our hearts. Signed: The catalans
Un grande +
Ho trascorso 2 notti nella casa sull’albero ed è stata un’esperienza bellissima. I suoni, la luce dell’alba, la brezza leggera hanno reso indimenticabile questo soggiorno, già splendido grazie alla natura e al safari.
Lo staff è cortese, il cibo semplice e buono.
La camminata nel bush interessante oltre ogni aspettativa.
Grazie per l’ospitalità, la gentilezza e la competenza.
Atemberaubende Erfahrung – Breathtaking experience
Faszinierende Einrichtung, viel Liebe im Details. In die Landschaft voll integriert.
Das Personal war sehr zuvorkommend und wir haben unseren Aufenthalt dort sehr genossen. Eine einzigartige Erfahrung.
What a faszinating location, interior design really made with so much love and integrated nature in total.
Staff was incredible und we enjoyed our stay as a unique experience.
I also received the below email from Alan who kindly consented to its publication :
From: Alan Firth
Sent: Monday, 23 January 2023 11:35
To: Piero – Viva Safaris
Subject: Recent Safari with you
Hi Piero and Staff,
My name is Alan Firth, and my wife Sharon Firth.We did the 5 day Tremisana safari with you from the 28th December to the 1st January 2023.
We would just like to take the chance to thank you and all your staff for making our stay and safari with you so amazing and unforgettable!
Every one of your staff made us feel so very welcome, and safe. They all went out of their way to ensure that our experience of our safari was top class.
Special thanks goes to Mama, who made us feel very welcome and whose cooking was amazing. Also a special thanks to Lucky, who shared the love of his job, friendliness and knowledge with us.
This was a once in a lifetime experience, and we are so pleased that we did it with you! We have already shared our experience with you with family and friends, and highly recommended you, and will continue to do so. Our friends are looking at spending there honeymoon with you, so hopefully they will be contacting you soon.
Once again thank you so very much, please pass on our many thanks to your staff,
Alan and Sharon Firth ❤️
On a personal note, my second son, Marc became a father to Joshua on 23 December 2022.
Joshua is Sandra’s and my 10th grandchild – so one more and we have our cricket side!!!
Until next month,
With kind regards,