The Pel’s Fishing Owl, Scotopelia Peli, is a ‘top trophy” sighting as it is mainly nocturnal. It is a large light brown owl with rufous flecks on its plumage. It is found almost exclusively on large rivers that afford it nesting sites as well as prey.
I was thrilled in early January to see a pair and their one near-adult chick at sunset from a viewpoint on the beautiful Olifants River on the Rome 1 property. This is only the second time in my life that I have seen this elusive bird – the previous time was in 1999 near Skukuza Camp in Kruger Park.
Summer is not the best time to see mammals in Kruger Park as there is an abundance of water everywhere. The prey animals are scattered and predators have a more difficult time in hunting them. On the positive side, the birdlife is at its best with all migratory species easily seen. Our guides are grateful for the abundance of birds as we may travel for a while without any sightings of mammals. Nevertheless, judging by the photos sent in, it appears that our sightings have been great. Luke, Head Guide, advises that he believes that on every single safari in Kruger Park proper, we had sightings of lions and, of course, elephants. The Orpen-Satara- Nwanedzi region has the highest concentration of lions in the entire Kruger Park.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Please note abbreviations : KNP : Kruger National Park and BNR : Balule Nature Reserve.
LUKE, Head Guide, sent the following report and photos:
The months have been great for sightings in Balule, even with a few days of heavy rain. The animals still showed up for our guests, on game drives.
The bushwalks highlights for me this month, have to be the elephant encounters of which there were many and a few exciting buffalo encounters.
The buffalo encounter took place along the banks of the Olifants River. We had been watching a herd of elephants on the far side of the river, cooling off in the river. We headed off through some thick bush, when we heard commotion not far from our location. I stopped and listened and could hear a cow like sounds coming from in front of us. We made a quick u turn and headed up to higher ground, from which we could see the buffalo herd not far from us. We found a safe vantage point and watch the herd slowly moving along the river. An exciting experience for me and my guests.
The game drives have been great, an incredible month for leopard sightings in Balule.
On an afternoon come sundowner drive we managed to spot two leopards, both of which were enjoying the view from high up in marula trees.
The lions have been busy too, my guests and I enjoyed a duet between two lionesses right next to the vehicle, roaring under the moonlit sky.
Tremisana dinner area has also produced a few wonderful sightings with hyena, elephant and lion moving past while the guests have dinner. An incredible safari experience.
Lion cubs on tar road, 3 km from Satara in KNP.
Close up sighting of lions resting in shade near Satara in KNP.
Wildebeest and calf along with zebra near Orpen in KNP.
Really close to Elephant just outside Satara in KNP.
Casper, the White Lion, near Satara in KNP.
Really close to elephant and her calf on Rome 1 property in BNR.
Giraffe bull on Sable Road in BNR
Lion on Barnard property in BNR.
Very cute baby elephant, Sable road in BNR
Very relaxed leopard, Campfire BNR
Waterbuck, Barnards in BNR
Saddle-billed stork, Barnards in BNR
Breeding herd of buffalo, south east of Tremisana property BNR
Pride of lions between Sausage Tree and Kamuzu on Sable road in BNR
African Wild Dogs on Olifants road near Nonwana entrance, hunting a herd of impalas in BNR
Two white rhinos at Xigamba dam in BNR, drinking water while the hippos were yawning
Buffalo and calf – seen on bushwalk close to Marc’s Camp
Kudu cow, seen close to Masango Camp
Male white lion road H6 south of Satara KNP
Female leopard up in a tree in KNP
A pack of wild dogs on Olifants road just east of Tremisana Lodge, BNR
Buffalo herd south of Campfire dam, BNR
Female leopard hunting S36 just north of Rockdale waterhole KNP
ELIAS aka SMILEY reports:
On January 8 we saw a very nice male lion on Marula road south of Ndlovu dam in BNR. It was a very interesting sighting.
On January 11 in KNP we saw two male elephants playing in the mud on S126.
On January 15 in KNP we saw one Buffalo crossing the road near Ngwenya Kaya.
On January 17 we saw a white rhino on Barnard property on the southern side of the dam including the hippos. That was amazing.
At Marula Extension in BNR on our way to bush walk
Big herd of elephants at Sable road towards Ezulwini entrance in BNR
Leopard on H7 about 5km from Orpen reception in KNP
At Rome 1, Leadwood Pan in BNR
On S126 in KNP
I had a good trip in early January. We had a great sighting of a hyena clan near Satara and some brilliant elephant viewing while enjoying lunch at the Lapa at Tremisana.
Got close to the famous Big Tusker, Ezulwini:
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
NYARAI sent the following:
TREMISANA LODGE Report January 2024
Happy New Year to everyone.
It’s a blessing to still be a part of this beautiful thing called life.
For most people January is a time to sit down and come up with the famous new year’s resolutions. Most of which we forget about as the year progresses and remember again year end. I believe that what a man thinketh so is he.
The new year’s resolutions should be more than what is written on paper but renewal of the mind. They always say tomorrow belongs to the one who plans for it.
The Tremisana team is well prepared for the new year. We are looking forward to giving our guests an unforgettable experience. We have always believed in team work and that is what has been our driving force through the years. I expect that this new year will be great as always. They say “two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper”.
Talking about grasshoppers, this past month has seen Tremisana have a lot of them around. They are short horned and migrate long distances in destructive swarms. They are also considered an African delicacy which is my main point being the foodie I am. I was a bit sceptical at first but was I proven wrong! The best relish and snack in my books if I may say so.
The sightings around the lodge have includes, hyenas during dinner time. Elephants , giraffes, zebras . This year I think I should put my camera and binoculars to good use. A balance between the office and the bush.
The number of guests has been okay compared to December. The December rush has slowed down. The numbers are picking up in February and I am optimistic that it will keep on getting better.
From an optimistic woman in the Balule plains “May your new year’s resolutions not fade on paper. May they birth something tangible that when the year ends you are able to look back and marvel at the results.”
Until next month take care and stay safe.
CHARL sent the following:
We have been very lucky with lots of rain and the Klaserie River is flowing strongly through the camp. The last few weeks we have been lucky to have some buffalo join us at the camp guests were lucky to see them in a mud wallow next to the main road in and out of marcs camp. The big marula tree at the pool side is once again full of fruit the Nyala’s love coming in the early morning to eat all the fallen fruit on the ground even though they not 100% ripe yet they absolutely love them. A very nice welcoming committee in the morning before bush walk. I was fortunate to find buffalo and a hyena on bush walk with some guest the past week.
The bush is lovely and lush green after the heavy rains we have had. It rained so hard that we had two cars get stuck in the bush just dropping guests off at their rooms. The camp has been frequented by our resident nyala family, with Mandla also having a sighting of a big male leopard one morning when he went out to trim some overhanging branches. The leopard got up and moved out of his way very quickly when he heard Mandla approaching he moved off from where he was sleeping off into the bush closer to the main road.
Lion and our namesake Ezulwini the Tusker seen at Billy’s Lodge:
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
December 2023 was a very good month. January 2024 has seen a drop in number compared to January 2023. I am not sure why there has been this decline but think it may be because of the worsening conflict in the Middle East.
We have decided to increase all staff salaries by 10% as of 1 January 2024. In the past the increases were effected on 1 July and the percentage figure always left me confused. Officially the figure is dependent on the inflation rate as calculated by Stats SA and has been in the region of 5,5%. I have serious questions about how the inflation rate is calculated. In real terms our staff are spending a large percentage of their pay on food and transportation. These appear to be way above 5,5%.
Marc, my son, has spent his first month as my assistant. So far so good. Grandson Joshua is also getting in on the act, wanting to drive my favourite Cruiser, the Old Lady.
Some recent reviews from December 2023/January 2024:
Great safari experience!
We stayed at Tremisana and Katekani Lodges. The lodges has its differences in terms of facilities but both lodge’s staff are really really amazing hosts.
My husband and I are vegetarian/vegan and both needs are well catered for. We really enjoyed Margarets cooking at Katekani. Thank you so much!
The activities are well organised in our case which made us extended our stay. They will always give you a briefing the night before for your full day activities the following day which we really appreciate so we dont have to rely on our own notes.
We experienced game drives in Bulale reserve, full day game drives in Kruger, some bush walks and a lil bit of night drive after sunset dinner in the bush.
Price wise, I would say they are reasonable and decent compared to other safari tour agencies I’ve inquired initially. Overall, we both enjoyed our first safari experience and glad we chose Viva Safaris.
Great mix of private and Kruger
Maitreyee K, India
We loved our journey with Viva Safaris. We’d booked the 4 day safari. The pickup and drop was spot on with good and well maintained vehicles. Our drivers George and Welcome were professional.
The stay at Tremisana was good. If I absolutely have to point out one thing – need a doormat at the room entrance. Our point of contact was Piero and he was very helpful.
The safaris were really well managed. We loved the game drives in Balule more than Kruger. We could get really close to the animals and got good pictures. Since it’s peak season, there were queues in Kruger. Our guides Rocky, Nadine, Andy were very good and knowledgeable.
I would definitely recommend.
Excellent Price and Service
The 6-day safari was the highlight of our South Africa trip.
The local guides were friendly, always smiling and very knowledgeable.
The home-style cooking was so delicious that we gained a few pounds.
The wildlife viewing both in Balule Reserve and Kruger was beyond our expectations thanks to the excellent tracking abilities of our guides (Raymund, Smiley, Lucky, Rocky, Victor, and Luke).
Thank you Tremisana!
Amazing wildlife viewing!
It was a lovely experience! The staff is super kind and the food delicious.
Your private tree house is very comfy and while enjoying dinner you have the perfect opportunity to meet some other travellers 😊
I highly recommend it for a great Krueger experience!
After having travelled for decades either on business or on private occasions the expectation for a Kruger safari were relatively high for my wife and myself. Therefore we chose Tremisana Lodge for a 6 day Safari due to their long experience and the very good feedback on various sites on the Internet.
To make it short: Our expectations were exceeded by far. The whole Tremisana team made sure we were well looked after and spoilt us rotten.
First: The game drive tours with the experienced rangers were excellent.
Second: The lodge itself with the very friendly crew, the food and the whole premesises with pool were magnificent and offered a wonderful time to wind down from the excitement of experiencing wildlife close up.
Third: The whole organisation, pick up in Joburg and the safe transportation were very well done and all in time.
We would book Tremisana Tour anytime again and recommend it to anyone looking for a well-rounded trip with a wonderful crew.
Edith & Markus Rupp
A wonderful stay at Katekani
I had a wonderful stay at Katekani lodge! I stayed for 4 nights as part of a 6 day Viva Safaris experience and I am super-happy with my choice of accommodation. The “tents” are huge and I really appreciated the air con as it was really hot. Also, the private pool was great for cooling after long safari drives. However, the best of the best are the staff, especially Margaret with her hospitality, care and cooking. Food was excellent!!!
I was also lucky with animal sightings and saw the big five by day two. I actually ended up seeing the leopard three times!!! This was my fourth longer safari trip (having been to Kenia, Tanzania and to other parts of South Africa before), and these were my first ever leopard sightings. The drivers / rangers on the drives and walks were knowledgeable and great fun.
Big thumbs up to Viva Safaris!
David V, Spain
Espectacular campamento en medio del bosque con los animales andando por medio…
El stuff super amable. Las comidas, bastante bien, en especial el guiso de impala.
Cruzarte el campamento en medio de la noche para volver a tu tienda con todos los ruidos de la naturaleza, no tiene precio, jeje…
Top locatie, gastvrijheid, en zeker een aanrader voor de afrikaanse sfeer en safari ervaring
Yvette I, Netherlands
Super mooie locatie: erg sfeervolle boomhut, afrikaanse stijl, mooi aangelegde tuinen in het natuurgebied, Njala’s en aapjes rondom de lounge, zeer vriendelijke, geinteresseerde en behulpzame werknemers, zalig eten, kamer verzorging en bediening zeer goed
Fantastic Safari with Viva Safaris
My partner and I booked the 6 day Viva Safari over late December/New year and had a brilliant time. The team at the accommodation and the various guides are all lovely and it was fantastic just being told where to be and when. The itinerary is action packed, and we were pretty tired by the end, but we had a fabulous time. The game drives around Tresmana is really special, and it is great that it is where you stay for your first night (or multiple if you book it). There are a lot of early starts and long days so it is nice to commute a bit less between the parks for the various activities. We stayed at Katakani for the rest of our nights and there was a lot more commuting between the parks/accommodation, which can be a bit tiring after a long day in the heat.
Over our six days we saw all of the Big 5 between Tresmana and Kruger parks. We did two days full day safari at Kruger, which seemed like a lot at first but every day is different there and we had Victor as our safari guide and he was excellent at finding the animals in their natural environment. You need to be prepared to be patient with some of the animals, we waited for a cheetah sighting for around 20-25 minutes while it dozed, obscured under a tree, but it was worth the wait and that is part of the fun.
The staff at Tresmana lodge are really lovely and friendly and accommodating. It is a good set up, the rooms are basic but nice and comfortable with everything you need. They have a great meals area where you can relax and see animals passing by at the waterhole while you eat. Smiley the guide is good fun, and the night drive and bush braai are a fantastic way to start your time there, also a good way to meet the other travelers in a relaxed environment. The night drive is really exciting as most of the prey animals hunt at night so we actually saw a lioness in action which was brilliant.
We only stayed the first night at Tresmana and then we moved to Katakani for the remainder of our stay, which is the more high end accommodation. That was really special. The cabin’s are really impressive and the aircon makes a huge difference over the summer period. The ladies there were also wonderful, food was always delicious and plentiful and they were great with dietaries etc. There was a bit less of a “vibe” at Katakani vs Tresmana or the tree house, however that may have been due to the timing of when we were there as it was a bit quieter over the new years days.
Overall we really enjoyed our time with Viva Safari. Communication in the lead up and throughout the trip was great. The south African hospitality is amazing and seeing the animals in their natural environment going about their day is so special. I would have stayed longer and would have loved to do another night drive. My only critic (and I am splitting hairs), would be just a bit more down time, we were on the go constantly and it would have been nice to have a bit more time to just relax a bit and enjoy the cabin a bit more and the pool etc but otherwise loved it.
Il cuore è rimasto lì!
Definire questa una semplice vacanza è troppo poco…questa è stata la più bella esperienza vissuta in viaggio che ci porteremo dentro per sempre.
La location è meravigliosa, in pieno contatto con la vera natura che ti regala ogni giorno colori ed emozioni incredibili.
Le persone dello staff….semplicemente fantastiche! Piene di attenzioni, di sorrisi, di cuore….grazie per tutto!
Salutiamo con affetto tutti i Rangers: George, Rocky, Victor, Hakuna matata, my friend Marc (scusate se dimentico il nome di qualcuno)…le splendide cuoche Mama D, e Mama Bella e tutte le loro ragazze e un abbraccio speciale alla dolcissima Ntombi, assistant speciale e piena di amore!
A presto Amici!
Until next month,
With kind regards,