On the occasions that I went to toy shops to buy plastic African animals for my children (and more recently for my grandchildren), I never once found a toy pangolin or a caracal or a honey badger. Of course, the favourite toy animals were lions, elephants, rhino, buffalos and, of the non-Big Five, zebra and giraffe.
An analysis of the photos sent by our rangers for previous newsletters shows that over 95% of all submitted photos are of the Big Five : lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. Sightings of the Big Five have become the standard by which the success of a safari is measured. It has been so entrenched that some very fancy lodges issue a certificate indicating that a client has successfully viewed the Big Five.
In my opinion, this is bordering on idiocy. When another very rare animal is seen, the tourists are usually unimpressed. This month, George had a good sighting of a Caracal on the new properties we traverse, Rome 3 and 4. Luke, newly appointed Head Guide and Bush Walk specialist, found a Pel’s Fishing Owl on the same properties and Victor had an excellent sighting of Honey Badgers in Kruger Park. The guests were all reasonably bored with these unbelievably rare and special sightings.
I last saw a Caracal on Balule Nature Reserve in 1999 and I have only once seen Pel’s Fishing Owl – in 2002 near Skukuza in Kruger Park.
I am encouraging our rangers, perhaps with little initial success, to move away from this quasi-neurosis to show the Big Five to our guests. We need to stop and admire a close herd of impalas, even though it may be the 100th sighting of this beautiful antelope.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Ostrich on the Orpen – Satara road in Kruger Park.
White lioness near Viva vehicle near Open.
White Rhino near vehicle close to Tremisana Lodge.
Leopard near Xikamba Dam on Barnard property.
Elephants near Satara.
Buffalo seen on foot along Olifants River on Rome 1.
Casper the White Lion near Viva vehicle near Satara.
Lion and lioness right next to Viva vehicle on Orpen -Satara tar road.
Bush walk along the Olifants River
Elephant and Viva vehicle on Campfire property.
White Rhino on Tremisana property.
Elephants om Marula Road.
Dead lion cub seen on Imagine Africa property
Nyala ewe and lamb in Boma at Marc’s.
Lion near Satara in Kruger.
Close up and very relaxed leopard near Orpen Gate in Kruger.
Good sighting of Buffalo herd drinking at Welverdiend Waterhole on Sweni Road in Kruger.
Black Rhino on Barnard property.
White Rhino on Olifants Road.
Lioness and vehicle 50 metres from Tremisana Lodge.
Hippos seen along Olifants River during Bush Walk.
Giraffe seen near Satara in Kruger.
Elephant and vehicle near Campfire Dam.
Hippo seen on Lake St Lucia.
White Rhino at Hluhluwe Game Reserve.
Rare Tsessebe seen at Ismangaliso Wetand Park.
During June to August, there are whale viewing tours. Tolli took these photos with the last group:
Humpback whales off St Lucia.
Rhino drinking at Deans Dam
Sundowner drive on Rome 3-4
Lioness on Campfire
Lion on Imagine Africa
NEWS FROM OUR LODGESIn short: KATEKANI has been busier than last month and our guests appreciate the exclusive accommodation and a little more pampering than guests at our bigger lodges. Katekani is a neighbour of the huge Kapama Reserve. I spent a night at Katekani and was entertained by a series of night sounds including hyena, leopard, lion and a very close ostrich!
MARC’S TREEHOUSE LODGE has had more nyala antelope than any time in the past. A lamb was born right alongside the front porch.
My wife, Sandra, and newborn nyala lamb.
TREMISANA has had security upgrades in the form of a guard and improved lighting.
MASANGO CAMP is going to be upgraded next month by the addition of air conditioners in all eight units.
DUMELA LODGE, intended for self-catering guests, has had a second kitchen added. Eltoh, carpenter, has made lovely deck chairs.
New deck chair at pool of Dumela Lodge
PUMUSA CAMP: Delina, chef at Tremisana, went with Tolli to Pumusa Camp in an effort to share her recipes. She absolutely loved the St Lucia estuary boat trip.
Viva Safaris group on St Lucia estuary.
EZULWINI : Laurence sent this stunning photo of a Sunset taken from lookout point at Ezulwini Billy’s Lodge
Tremisana Report for July 2023
This winter month has seen us getting low temperatures most days. The days that have been warm I am convinced I can count on my fingers. Some days have been very brutal that I have to take my little blanket to the office. Summer how you are missed.
Tremisana has been the busiest lodge this month. We have been operating at close to full capacity and we are really grateful. We love doing little surprises for our guests here and there especially if they are celebrating a special occasion. We did a suprise for one of our guests for her birthday. Her partner arranged everything before their safari. The excitement and joy was priceless. I think a birthday safari is the best gift you can give.
The animal sightings have been great as well. Balule always gives the best and closest proximity when it comes to game viewing. The biggest suprise this month just after 5pm seating outside on the staircase we use to get on to the safari vehicles I was blessed to see three wild dogs. This made me forget everything else and made me smile.
Maybe I should have gone inside to be safer but the sighting was worth the extra minutes outside.
A special welcome to our new head guide and manager Luke Ovendale. We worked together years back when I started working at Viva Safaris in 2012. It’s awesome to work with an old friend. I believe Tremisana will have significant improvements going forward.
Till next time take care
This month has been a good month for Katekani with a visible increase of guests through our doors. This is great as we are now finally over the struggles of Covid I think. On one of the nights at dinner, while we were going through our load-shedding, I heard a noise of something walking through the bush I grabbed my spotlight to have a look and follow the noise – it was a hyena moving around the boma. We followed him to the dam where he had a drink at dinner time.
Marcs Camp Report
It’s been a very cold winter this year with strange weather patterns normally we get summer rains in this part of the country with the Eastern Cape having its rain season now. We had 3 days of rain and put a hold on our thatching job of the main building at Marcs Camp. The guys are hard at work pushing to finish off the job at hand as we need to be complete before the first rains come. The resident Nyala who always has her baby and hides it at the lodge never disappoints. This year the baby was born in the middle of winter. Nyala’s are one of the few antelope who don’t have a breeding season.
This month we had a group of school kids from Argentina come join us for a 3 day trip to Kruger. They are coming to learn English at a school in Cape Town the kids had an awesome time at the camp. The teacher, who had been on many Garden Route safaris said to me that they cannot compare to Kruger and that next year she will be back with us for another trip.
The guys were hard at work finishing off the kitchen for the outside rondavels. Vusi and Alton were hard at work sorting out things on that side – Vusi had the task of unblocking the drainpipes as the roots from trees had gone looking for water. Alton on the other hand had the task of making us some lovely foldable chairs.
LUKE, new Head Guide, sent the following:
I have recently rejoined the Viva Safaris team, as the Head Guide. I’ve been involved in many beautiful walks along the Olifants River. The highlight so far has been a Pels Fishing Owl, sighted from the banks of the Olifants River. If you’re a keen birder a sighting like this is a lifer, considering how rare they are to find. The elephant sightings have also kept us busy. It’s a different feeling altogether when you’re on foot, watching these magnificent creatures. I look forward to taking many more guests on foot in the future and introducing them to the wonders of nature.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
July 2023 has been a very good month. We have seen an increase in the number of tourists booking longer packages.
One of Viva’s strengths is the choice of 30 different safari packages that allow tourists of varying financial means to be satisfactorily accommodated. Our EXTRA BUDGET 3 day tented safari has had its first guests. Initial reports are that they appreciate the accommodation both at Campfire Academy and at Marc’s. I am pleased that we can offer a high quality, very affordable safari such as this to people who find our other products too expensive.
Guides visit to Campfire. New OWNR banner on all Cruisers.
I have decided to allow Marco, our brilliant Webmaster, to henceforth select all reviews posted on all platforms.
Awesome Viva Safaris
We (I and my husband) had a wonderful time on our tour in South Africa because of Viva Safaris. The only thing we can say, Viva safaris is just awesome tour operator for everything, from day 1 until the until the end of our 6 days tour.
We were a group of four who immensely enjoyed our 3-day safari – at all levels, really.
Communication with Viva Safaris via email, pick-up and transport from airport hotel to Tremisana Lodge + the Kruger Park.
The absolute highlights: the evening drive, the full day in the Kruger and the Blyde River Canyon stop.
Awesome Safari Company
Very reasonably priced and has multiple locations and accommodations. The guides are all friendly and will make you feel at home.
This is a great safari to start out with and the staff will make sure you are safe. I found the accommodations to be acceptable and actually pretty comfy. Food is great as well.
VivaSafaris was so fun!
We went out 3 different times to see the animals! It was awesome! As we were driving down the road at the night drive, we looked ahead and in the lights, we saw 7 sets of eyes coming toward us! It was 3 lionesses and 4 cubs! They walked right past us! Our guide was great and very accommodating. The food was good and we had a night bbq.
After we departed, I realized that I had left my IPad in the room! We were contacted almost immediately and they sent it to us. It took a few months, but I was amazed that they were so honest and helpful in this matter.
Thank You Viva Safaris!! Hope to make it back some day!
Awesome 5 Day Safari
Priscilla Seevathian, Mauritius
This was my first visit to South Africa and experiencing a safari.
My whole stay was just amazing. I saw so many animals that I only saw on TV till now. Saw the Big 5 but also saw zebras,giraffes, rhinos, warthugs,monkeys,different colourful birds,vultures …😊😊😊😊😊
The sunset drive and dinner in the African Bush was just a great experience on the first night there at the Tremisana Lodge.
Then we had the morning bush walk the next day which was amazing too.
Both accommodations were great but the 4 nights at the Treehouse was awesome. You can hear the animals at night (hyenas,leopard,water buffalos). My treehouse was perfect. i loved it. loved walking to it especially at night😃.under the stars and hearing the animals.
The view and sounds in the morning when you wake up …wowwww!!connected to nature.And when walking to the breakfast area, impalas walking next to you, kudus grazing away…
Awesome staff and guides as well and great cooking. The food was delicious.
Exciting and comfortable adventure
Great experience start to finish! We booked the 5 day safari and were able to see tons of animals during our drives and morning walks. Our guides Andy and Luke were excellent at answering all our questions and spotting so many animals.
The hosts at both the lodges were incredibly kind and attentive, and made wonderful food for us. The lodges are clean and comfortable as well.
Our itinerary provided before the experience was slightly different than what we ended up doing for one of the days, but it ended up being wonderful as it was a visit to the wildlife rehab center.
Highly recommend this for couples as this was a great honeymoon getaway for us.
All that’s needed is more adjectives
caposmith, California USA
My only problem with writing a review for Ezulwini is that I may run out of adjectives! Our family of five spent six nights, three at each lodge. We were delighted by the staff, over-awed by the game drives, and blown away by the quality, caring, and creativity of the dining. Two of our party are gluten and dairy intolerant, which can lead to problems in remote or small locations. NOT AT EZULWINI! Everyone’s meals were beautiful, tasty, and really just darn perfect. You will have a hard time leaving Ezulwini after your stay, because the staff and small facility give you a deeply personal safari experience. We loved our rooms at both locations, we adored the staff at both locations, and we had excellent animal sightings at both locations. Did I mention the great massage? Or the wonderful wine cave at each lodge? Oh, and the platforms for viewing the animals at the lodge? And the super-fun evening cocktails? What about the deck off of each room? Truly, the list goes on and on. Ezulwini also helped us by booking transport from the airport, and that was a very good provider. We first visited Ezulwini nine years ago, and all they have done in the time since then is get better.
I’d give 6 stars if I could!
Everything about our 6 nights between Billy’s and River Lodge were excellent. The lodge itself is clean, the rooms are spacious ( ours had a private deck!) and the shared areas provide ample hang-out space and animal watching areas from the lodge! Aside from the property, the food was absolutely divine. Each meal is 2-3 courses and the best part is how carefully the staff catered to our dietary restrictions. My sister and I are both gluten free dairy free and the chef surprised us daily with what creative and delicious dishes were served to our family (both the restricted and non restricted!) I loved learning about the great lengths the lodge takes to be sustainable and environmentally friendly in our many chats with the owner, Lauren, and their other stuff. Everyone else we met during our time was fabulous. Our hosts, Knox Sue and Glory treated us SO well and were the best, catering far too well to us with nightly cocktails, daily breakfast orders and everything in between. Our guide Chris and tracker Conrad were the absolute best and made each game drive memorable and exciting as well as informative. I can’t imagine finding a better place to spend a family vacation and am beyond impressed especially by the service and how incredible our dietary restrictions were met.
Until next month,
With kind regards,