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February 2022

The Crested Guineafowl, Guttera  Edoardi, is uncommon in Kruger Park, frequenting the forested areas in the north. It is common in KwaZulu Natal and even occurs in Durban, my hometown. It is often detected by its call as it is quite noisy but is not readily seen as it prefers being secretive and inconspicuous as it forages in the thick undergrowth of forests.

Crested Guineafowl at Pumusa Bushcamp.

Crested Guineafowl at Pumusa Bushcamp

Its cousin, the Helmeted Guineafowl, is far more common and is seen throughout South Africa.

There are no records of interbreeding. Interbreeding usually occurs under non-natural conditions. As an example, the Liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger, is bred in captivity. In most cases a female in oestrus mates with a male of another species.

From time to time, it happens in nature that a shortage of one gender may result in interbreeding. Marco, our Webmaster, sent me a photo of a cross between a Samango Monkey ( see last month’s newsletter ) and a Vervet Monkey :

I reckon that what happened here was that a female Samango monkey in oestrus could not find a male Samango and was covered by a male Vervet Monkey.
In some cases, the home ranges of birds is such that they do not overlap. For example, the Livingstone’s Turaco, which I have seen regularly near Cape Vidal in the Ismangaliso Wetland Park and the Knysna Turaco, which I have seen near my home, are very similar, but have no common home ranges.

Livingstone's Turaco

Livingstone’s Turaco


Knysna Turaco

Knysna Turaco



Tolli has again been asked to send his top 10 photos taken this month :

Cooling down at first concrete pan Tremisana lodge after a hot day

Young Lion at Dean’s dam close to Tremisana lodge

Having a drink with our best friend (look at the Ox-pecker next to the Rhino) second concrete pan Tremisana lodge

Baby Elephant enjoying the cool water

This African fish eagle caught a catfish at Dean’s dam

White Fronted Bee-eater at the Olifants River on a bush walk

The divergence between white and black Rhino. The white has a wide mouth to eat grass and the black has a hooked lip to eat leaves

This young hyena was at the hyena den close to Tremisana lodge, just posing like a super model

Big crocodile trying to catch a fish at Deans dam close to Tremisana lodge

Old male lion walking proudly with his bushbuck kill on lower river road Balule


I trust that you all have used Yuri’s recipes sent in the last newsletter and that there were no bodily complications – sorry Yuri, I know you are an excellent chef !
Yuri reports as follows:
The second month of 2022 has come and gone again so fast! For me personally it was a very good month as far as leopards go! 4 leopard sightings in 5 days is incredible. Therefore I’m going to dedicate this month’s report to answer a few FAQ ‘s regarding these mysterious cats.
1. Are leopards an endangered species?
No. In fact, of all the big cats, the leopard is probably the most common, even present in suburbs of towns and cities. They are extremely adaptable and can survive in almost any environment from forest to savannah to desert to mountains and will eat just about anything.

2. Why are they so difficult to find?
As I mentioned above, if they are so common then why don’t we see them on a regular basis? 
Leopards are very secretive, solitary animals. The fact is, they don’t want to be seen. As I often say to my guests, the leopards see us 10 times more often than we see them. A combination of this secretive behaviour with their fantastic camouflage makes it very difficult to find them.

3. Why do leopards drag their food into trees?
As mentioned, leopards are solitary unlike lions and hyenas. Once they’ve made a kill, it is dragged into a tree to avoid it being stolen by other larger predators.
Because they are loners they need to look after themselves very well. An injury due to a fight with a lion or hyena could be fatal to a leopard as it will starve to death if it’s unable to hunt. So to avoid unnecessary conflict and safely store its kill, the leopard drags it up a tree as quickly as possible.

4. How do leopards hunt?
Leopards are supreme stalk and ambush hunters. They use their fantastic camouflage and stealth to get as close as possible to their prey and then launch into a lightning quick attack, bringing the prey down with brute force and killing it by either severing the spinal cord with a powerful bite or suffocating it by biting into the throat.

5. How big are leopards compared to lions?
Even though the leopard is the second largest of our big cats, there is a considerable size difference between them and lions. An adult male leopard can weigh up to about 90kg, whereas an adult male lion can clock the scales at a whopping 250kg! No contest!

I certainly hope my luck with these stunning cats will continue and I hope this has given you some more insight into these mysterious beauties!
Hope to see you soon. 


Raymond reports :
On the 14th in Kruger on the S126 about 5km from Welverdiend water hole we found a leopard on marula tree. Near the Sweni waterhole we got big herd of elephant and buffalo together. On the S100, we found five female lions trying to catch some zebra. Fortunately the zebra saw them and ran off. 

On the 18th during the afternoon drive from Tremisana we found a big male lion feeding on a Buffalo at Oxford big dam. At Rosies waterhole we find two young male lions drinking water. 

On 24th on the Bush Walk along the Olifants River we found a breeding herd of elephants and we were able to approach them very close to get good photos. On the Afternoon Drive we found nine lions on the Campfire property.




Nyarai sent the following :

There are so many things to love about February. I get to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the bush surrounded by the animals that have my heart. Love is the foundation of our existence as human beings. If we translate love into action we will find that it will become our nature to conserve the environment. One cannot destroy that which they love.  It would be bliss to wake up and not worry about our animals facing some sort of extinction. I imagine a time when we shall go on safari and see a rhino as frequently as we see elephants.  One day, please God .

I was doing a bit of research on animal behaviour when I found out that wild dogs mate for life.  According to National Geographic “African wild dogs live in packs that are usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair “. Monogamous, just had to repeat it, they could maybe teach us human beings a thing or two. Monogamy is a relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime.  This is not a very common behaviour within mammals and only a selected few species are known for this behaviour. The female has a litter of two to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack. These dogs are very social, and packs have been known to share food and to assist weak or ill members. Social interactions are common, and the dogs communicate by touch, actions, and vocalizations. African wild dogs hunt in formidable, cooperative packs of six to 20 (or more) animals.  Caring and sharing is the greatest expression of love.  If wild animals are able to do it, we should be able to do better.

Did I mention that February is my favorite month; I get to celebrate my birthday in the wild. We had a visit from a film crew that was doing a commercial to promote tourism in South Africa. They were working in conjunction with the Department of Tourism. Hopefully we will see the commercial being aired soon. My highlight this day was meeting presenter, actor, director Jonathan Boynton Lee. He used to present a very popular travel program on SABC3 called Top Billing. I was really star struck and excited. I am sure my smile says it all. If meeting your favorite TV presenter is not a birthday gift then I don’t know. I used to watch Top Billing religiously when it used to be aired. Heartbreak is an understatement to describe how I felt when the show came to an end.  Jonathan is very polite and was kind enough to allow me to have a picture taken with him. I was very happy. The whole film crew was nice and I realized that I under estimated the work that is put in to do a shoot. They had close to 80 people ranging from paramedics, makeup artists etc. It was a very educational day for me learning about all the different jobs that they do. Out of the month this was one of awesome days including my birthday of course.

The number of guests that we had was higher than January and most of my guests seem to love our 5 day package. This also gave me a chance to get to know some of them better and make new friends. The animal sightings were excellent in Balule. The gardens are slowly but surely looking better thanks to the guys and Yuri had his leopard radar on which was a cherry on top for the guests. Even though this is the shortest month in the year it still lived up to expectations in my books. I am really looking forward to March. I am sure it will be an epic month as well. Cheers to love not just for February but for the rest of our existence on this beautiful earth.


Caretaker Mandla was lucky to see a leopard catch and eat a young impala. Unfortunately he did not take any photos.


Paulina advises that she has seen numerous tracks of leopard around Marc’s Treehouse Lodge. There have been a lot more tourists at Marcs this month and Pieters has done a good job in thatching all the roofs.


The buffalo are now a permanent fixture and drink daily from the cement trough next to the swimming pool. Richard has reinforced the brandering around the pool to avoid a repeat we had about 20 years ago when a big buffalo bull landed in the swimming pool. I recall having to arrange for the warden to hire a tractor to assist in getting the buffalo out.


There seems to be a significant improvement in enquiries and bookings. I do not want to get too excited as I did in October 21, when we thought we were at last on our way to recovery and then we had Omicron.  Now, as I write, there is a terrible war in the Ukraine and I am not sure what effect this may have on international tourism.

What I am sure of is that the fuel prices will increase significantly. Of course, any increase in fuel price immediately has a corresponding increase in food, transport, commodities and service tariffs. Coupled with a near 10% increase in electricity tariffs from 1 April, this will have a very serious impact on our profits. For 31 years, Viva Safaris has NOT ONCE increased its tariffs during any one calendar year. I hope to be able to continue this amazing and admirable commitment, but there is always a possibility that, try as we may, the circumstances may dictate otherwise.

We are trying our best to employ additional previous staff but it is quite challenging. Thanks to Bob and Linda de Marco who are clearly very concerned :

Hello Piero,

I hope this email finds you and your family in good health! Linda and I really enjoy your newsletters, each one is interesting, brings up many great memories and keeps us focused on trying return some day while our health remains good. 

We hear from Frs. Aldrin and Ricardo every few months or so on WhatsApp, we so appreciate their contact. 
Wondering if Victor is still with Viva? We don’t see his posts. 
Regards, Bob & Linda DeMarco


Until next month,

With kind regards,
General Manager
Viva Safaris