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June 2019

The Saddle-billed Stork, Ephippiorhynchus Senegalensis, is a striking bird. Not only is it the tallest stork in the world but it also has attractive pied plumage. It has a black and red banded bill with a prominent yellow saddle at the base of the bill.

Interestingly, the male has orange/brown eyes while the female has yellow eyes. In the breeding season males can also be identified by the yellow wattles.

It frequents large rivers, flood plains, dams and marshes where it feeds on frogs, crabs and fish.

Great shot of Saddle-billed Stork - courtesy of ex Viva guide Tolli v d Berg

Great shot of Saddle-billed Stork – courtesy of ex Viva guide Tolli v d Berg


I was literally gobsmacked some years ago when one of our guides referred to this beautiful bird as a “ Sadly-built ” stork !!  What an undeserved insult !!!

Pronunciation is key to successful guiding. Not only are our overseas visitors challenged by our South African accents, but we also need to make every effort to accurately and slowly articulate our words without adding to the guests’ confusion by mispronunciation. I am often stunned when I hear government ministers pronounce words such as “various categories” as “ Vahr- ee -ouce catt – egg – or – ease “.

We South Africans have grown accustomed to differing pronunciations but who knows what other Anglophone tourists from North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia comprehend ?

I urge all training institutions to see to it that correct pronunciation is insisted upon, especially for guides whose home language is not English.




June has been a great month for sightings.

On one morning walk we saw 2 lionesses and a lion as well as an elephant.

We later encountered a giraffe that refused to move out of our way so we quietly moved around it after the guests had taken good pictures.

Although it is very cold when we start the walks, the temperature rises quite quickly to a comfortable degree.

On the Sundowner drives the guests love to have their drinks and snacks on the banks of the Olifants river. We encountered a big male lion one afternoon and, after marking his territory, he belted out his mating call. He roared very loudly and the guests loved it.

On another Sundowner drive we saw a large herd of buffalo at Tremisana lodge dam. Two bulls were fighting in the water and the youngsters were playing on the banks of the dam.

Buffalo herd at Tremisana Dam

Buffalo herd at Tremisana Dam


The water level has dropped a little bit since the start of winter but on the upside, the animals can be spotted much more easily with the bush thinning out significantly.

Our Sunset drives are always packed with good sightings- from elephant to African wild cat.  One specific drive that stood out was when we saw a big male leopard near Tremisana Lodge.
At Marula Boma on that same drive we also saw 3 hyenas, a honey badger, a civet and 2 porcupines. What a wonderful way to end a bush braai!


ELIAS Reports

I have been on leave for three weeks but the day I returned back to work, I had a great first morning Bush walk with my clients. We left Tremisana and we drove along the Olifants road and close to Sable road we got to see lots of elephants and giraffes. Further on we come across a hyena.

Close up to Bull Elephant

Close up to Bull Elephant


On our Bush walk we saw giraffes and along the river we saw a big pod of hippos.

On a Sunset drive we saw a large herd of elephants including a very small baby. My lady guests were cooing with admiration – one wanted to take it back to USA !!!

After enjoying the breeding herd of elephants, I drove to Rome 1 where we found the pride of 20 lions – that was amazing – everyone was shocked to see them. I always say the Bush will always surprise you – we were all very surprised. Nearby I spotted a herd of 50+ Buffalos in the thick bushes I am sure that the lions were stalking them.

Driving back we saw a black Rhino – that was amazing.

Guess what ? :  4 of the big five. Hakuna Matatu !!



June was a wonderful month. With Elias and Shannon on long leave, Rex and I were responsible for most Bushwalks. I really enjoyed them. One morning we encountered a herd of elephants right next to a herd of buffalo.

Guest has to find a smaller lens as elephant is too close!

Guest has to find a smaller lens as elephant is too close!


My highlight was when we saw the black rhino bull, Zulu, walking in our direction while we were walking with the guests.

I saw an African Rock Python on one Afternoon drive – very exciting. Lion sightings were very frequent and elephants were abundant all month. I was very happy to come across a Southern Ground Hornbill on Rome 1.



1st :  Kruger, the day was windy, difficult to find animals but I tried my best.  Lions at Rockvale waterhole on s36, elephants Nsemane dam, buffaloes h7 Ngwenya Khaya.

12th : Lions on h7 road Timbavati riverbed, elephants Rockvale waterhole, 3 female lionesses on s100, buffaloes also there, general game h7 road and  3 white rhinos late in the day.

16th : Lions on s100, leopard on a tree near Nwenya Khaya on h7, buffaloes Bobejaankrans, loads of elephant everywhere.

Leopard spotted near Nwenya Khaya

Leopard spotted near Nwenya Khaya


24th Lions with cubs Girivana waterhole, on s100 we saw lions with a dead white rhino – I was told he had been killed by poachers – completely ruined my day – elephants on s36 and s100 and a huge herd of buffaloes at  Xibotwana waterhole.

26th :  A very good day – leopard on h7 after Nwamatsatsa bridge, elephants h7, buffaloes Rockvale waterhole, Sweni road plenty general game and elephants, cheetahs after Sweni bridge, 3 white rhinos on s36 road, hyenas on h7, lions Ximangwanini dam, 2 lions crossing right in front of open vehicle Sweni road and 2 more lions on the road between h6 and Nwanetsi bridge.

27th :  Lions  s100, elephants drinking Nsemane dam, buffaloes s100 , 3 lions s40.



On the 4th on Olifants West we found a pride of lions on the northern side of Dean’s dam on Imagine Africa property. On the way back we found a leopard walking along the fence towards the dam and after that we found 4 big bull elephants next to the dam.

On the 7th In Kruger on H7 near Nsemane dam we found the extremely rare Wild Dogs lying on the road. On the S100 we found two big herds of elephants. There was a confusion as calves got mixed up and the mothers were noisily fighting for their babies.

On the 9th in Kruger we found lions on a fresh giraffe kill on the S100. They were right next to the road and our guests could not believe their fantastic good luck.

On the 18th in Kruger we found 2 cheetah lying down. This was a good day as our guests managed to see 4 of the big five.

Towards the end of the month when doing a Sunset drive in Olifants West we saw a herd of elephants just outside Tremisana Lodge gate.

Guests have to wait for elephant before leaving vehicle

Guests have to wait for elephant before leaving vehicle



CHARL Reports

It’s been a quiet month for me as far as drives go as I have been spending more time around the camps doing renovations – the biggest being the pool at Marcs Camp.

There is one drive that stands out the most and this was a Sundowner at Tremisana where I watched a herd of elephants and buffaloes interacting together. We were very fortunate to have both herds come right up to the Cruiser and we got to view them up close and personal with the elephants almost right up against the vehicle. When we stopped for sundowners there was a radio call informing us of lions on the move. I placed myself where I thought they might appear and Bingo ! the lions walked out the bush right next to my vehicle !! They then walked the road in front of us what a lovely sunset drive !!

Lioness within touching distance of our open vehicle

Lioness within touching distance of our open vehicle




I have been on long leave this month. I did a lead rifle raining course at Campfire Academy.

Walks with groups have been informative and enjoyable. Sightings of hippo, bushbuck and numerous elephants. We focused on the medicinal and traditional uses of the bushveld and shared a few cultural stories about certain trees.

Sunset Drives
Sightings of lion, elephant as well as buffalo, giraffe and zebra. It was a good way of welcoming our guests after their long drive from Johannesburg.

I have recently qualified to conduct safaris in Kruger proper. It has been absolutely brilliant !

I took this photo near Satara.

Burchell's Starling watching elephant drinking

Burchell’s Starling watching elephant drinking



VICTOR Reports

We started our game drive from Orpen boom gate. We saw a lot of general game including zebras and giraffes.  On the H7 we saw a buffalo herd crossing the road near Nwamatsatsa waterhole. On the S40 we saw mating pair of lions very close to the road.

After lunch we took the S100 and we saw elephants drinking water from a pool in the Nwanetsi river.

Great photo of elephants and their reflections

Great photo of elephants and their reflections



REX Reports

Bush walks on Olifants West have been good this month with hippos seen EVERY time and crocodiles when it is warmer. Elephants have been seen regularly.

On our Sunset drives on Olifants West we have had improved sightings compared to last month.

There have been good sightings of elephant every day as well as lions most days with occasional sightings of Leopard, Buffalo and both Black and White Rhino.

Along with Shannon, I obtained my DEAT certificate and we are now both qualified to conduct safaris in Kruger proper.

What a difference !  There are so many more animals and I have seen Big Five every time.

We do NOT get the exclusive and private sightings that we have on Olifants West but, hey, we see so much. I understand now why the Viva products are so popular – the combination of Olifants West and Kruger Park proper is a guaranteed winner !

Another great lion sighting

Another great lion sighting



JORDAN Reports

The truly beautiful Motlala Game Reserve has the perennial Klaserie river still flowing and the animals are traversing making for exciting sights and sounds.

The mornings are chillier then ever but the perks of full blown winter are great : the bush is drying out and visibility is excellent.

The nocturnal specials are coming out even earlier in the evening as food is harder to find and more time is needed to search for nutrition to keep these animals going through the winter.

Some of the specials our guests have been lucky enough to see on the Sunset Drives at Marcs are honey badger, porcupine, aardvark, white tailed mongoose, cape clawless otter and as always our resident princess : the young female leopard.

A huge male leopard, most likely the dominant male in the area, has been making himself apparent which is a brilliant sign, as male leopard’s territories are huge. He will only frequent favoured hunting grounds in his home range. Being at Marcs so often is a sure sign that princess leopardess is on heat –  yay!

Walks and drives have their own chilly excitement with common sightings of breeding herds of buffalo on the walks to black rhino sightings on drives.

A special perk for me was a brilliant sighting of a resident pair of Crowned Eagles very close to the camp – a truly powerful eagle capable of taking monkeys and young antelope.

Elephant at Tremisana entrance

Elephant at Tremisana entrance




Riana, Manager at Tremisana, has sent the following:

Wow!! What a great month June 2019 was at Tremisana. It started off with a BANG!!
These are just some of the highlights :

Early in June we hosted a wonderful volunteer group of American students from Archbishop Mitty High School. They came to do good work and have a fun-filled safari.

They did great work at the Roman Catholic Mission in Acornhoek as well as the Fungwa Orphanage.

They were treated to a very professional dance show by the Mafunyana Cultural Dancers from Acornhoek. The group left with so many good memories from Tremisana and they sure had a wonderful stay.

At our front entrance gate we have Masked Weavers nesting and also close to the gate we found a black mamba skin. Being their mating season now, everyone has to be aware of their increased activity.

A big herd of elephant visited our waterhole for 5 days in a row. They also came to nibble on our Boma leaves from outside the fence, to the joy of the guests.

Porcupines were also spotted at our waterhole one night. It is amazing what sound their quills make when they click against one another. In the quietness of the night in the bush, it sounds very loud.

The warm weather during the day makes up for the cold mornings and evenings but the smell of freshly brewed early morning coffee and rusks are very welcome before the bushwalks and morning drives!!

Charl, Manager at Marc’s and Katekani, reports as follows:

We have been very busy with the renovations of the pool area with a complete redo of the pool. We have also been very lucky to see lots of activity of 3 leopards in and around the camp

Our nyala population seems to be increasing around the area where the tents are. Perhaps they feel safer there as there is a lot of human activity so leopards keep away. At night our security guard patrols there as well.

We have had a quiet month. But we have been able to observe a thick tailed bushbaby hanging around the big knob thorn at the staff accommodation.


Thabo, senior Viva Safaris driver, sent the following :

02/06/2019 We picked up a group of 33 students and teachers in Magaliesburg around 6am in 3 Quantums. We had early lunch in Dullstroom then we did the Blyde River Canyon before arriving at Tremisana Lodge

At 5 pm we went for a sunset drive and we saw a pride of lions, a leopard, many elephants and many more animals

We then proceeded to have dinner at Marula Boma. What an excellent BBQ !! After dinner we continued with the game drive to the lodge

03/06 The guests took packed breakfast and went to Kruger park for a day. I was thrilled to hear they saw all Big Five !!!

04/06 After breakfast we drove with the students and teachers to the local Roman Catholic church in Acornhoek. As we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Father Aldrin. He opened with a short prayer then he gave us the go ahead to paint the church. The church organised us lunch after finishing painting.

Volunteers doing an excellent job of painting the church

Volunteers doing an excellent job of painting the church


After lunch went to play soccer : our team had students teachers and the Viva Safaris staff against the local soccer team of Acornhoek we won 3-1. The community was very happy to have visitors who painted their church and entertained them and played soccer.

05/06 We took the guests to Moholoholo rehabilitation centre in the morning then we had lunch at the lodge. After lunch went to Funjwa Orphanage centre where we were welcomed by the children from the orphanage by singing dancing and reciting poems for us. We even had our guest students sing and played a small guitar for the children. Even the principal welomed us with a speech and thanked us for coming to visit and support the orphans

She then gave us a go ahead to play with the children we even played soccer with them Some presents we donated to the children then we went back to the lodge

At 7pm before dinner we had the Mafunyane cultural dancers from Acornhoek to entertain our guests



We have introduced a new product – the 2 Day Blitz Overland Safari. It is designed for tourists who have very little time and will be ideal for visitors who have a free weekend. Transfers will be done by Ashtons and the safari will include both an Afternoon Safari ( 15h00 to 17h00) and  a Sunset Safari and Bush BBQ ( 17h15 to 21h00 ) on day 1. On day 2 there will be a choice of a 4h Bush Walk with armed ranger or a 4h Long Morning Drive. This safari package is very well priced and should be yet another winner !

Thanks to the Heuer ( Cambridge 1 property ) and Mia ( Oxford property ) families as well as Kjell Bismeyer of Naledi Lodge for obtaining further traversing for Viva Safaris. We will now enjoy a further 1300 odd hectares of traversing. It will also assist all the other lodges that traverse on these properties insofar as the Viva guides may find a special animal and call in the sighting by radio for everyone to enjoy.

We thank you, our loyal travel agents, for your continued support that has allowed us to experience an increase in tourist numbers this month of over 20% compared to June 2018.

On the downside, we have had a decrease in bookings at the excellent Ezulwini Lodge, our 5 star lodge partner, and at our own Katekani Lodge. I believe that, although these lodges offer outstanding value, they are not easily financially accessible to the average tourist who already has to outlay a large sum of money to cover long haul airline costs.

I attach the following reviews posted in June 2019 :


“Absolutely phenomenal”
– CocoElmo

This was the most unforgettable experience of my life. I can’t praise the company enough, we stayed in Tremisana Lodge and Marc’s Treehouse and we’re not disappointed with either, Tremisana was stunning, amazing staff, warthogs eating right near us at breakfast and lunch! And Marc’s Treehouse was unlike anything I’ve ever done, so authentic! Amazing food, amazing staff – Bernard and Rex were fantastic!! We saw an unbelievable about of wildlife – 4/5 of the Big 5 (we were in the vicinity of a leopard too so very cool!!) We were honoured enough to see four black rhino, and two male cheetahs eating a recent kill. I can not recommend this enough, who wouldn’t want to eat dinner in the African bush with hyenas only six feet away!!!!

10/10, thank you so much for the trip of a lifetime.

– Joan O

This is our 3rd time visiting and we will visit again, despite another lodge trying to spoil it for us. This just proofs that using the tried and trusted is the way to go.
I would like to see variation on the menu, however the food was great and the “wors” sausage the make on open flame at the boma was exceptional. The guides are really good and professional and showed us the big 5 multiple times, not seeing them last time was a disappointment, but this time made up for it. We had the most amazing places where we had sundown snacks and hearing the African nightlife gave me goosebumbs at times. Having the owner of such an establishment see us off was a great touch and the fact that he knew who we were and its not our first time was impressive. Is is sad that not everyone is so tourist focussed and a lot of SA seem to be more aimed to get a once off buck out of tourists for a penny product that to make tourists fall in love with the country and get them to come back, the parable of the pipeline have not sunk in yet at most places, but Viva is one it did. The overall value for money is hard to beat and we will be back. Can recommend this anybody who really want to experience Africa. Game move around so you wont see all unless you are lucky as we saw only on our 3 rd visit, but already planning my fourth.



“If you want more than a game drive and actually LIVe the safari around you then this is the place to be”
– Amir Ogdan, Gan Yavne Israel

Me and my friends have been at the treehouse camp for 3 nights and when we arrived we were like what the hell is this place when you walk at night you hear animals growling and making noises all over the place and after you get used to it it’s aswome you can actually see a troop of baboons passing by your lodge like its normal or you wake up in the morning to eat breakfast and you can see nyalas just standing in the way
the lodge itself was way better then expected then just wooden shack but was actually a very nice african styled hut with an aswome view to the river and plenty of space also you get a nice breakfast and dinner near a firecamp that you can really just seat there for hours and in overall the gemdrive was very fun we have seen a looot of animals and a speical thanks to the staff who are very friendly from the funny
rangers to the wonderful host and the entire lodge staff that gives you a feeling you are at home in africa
in overall the exprience was even better then expected and if you dont afraid of a little bit of getting closer to nature like finding a frog on your bad before going to sleep XD or hearing buffalos roaming around your hut and making weird noises
and choose to flow with it
Then this place is where you can look to africa into the white in the eyes
i really had a great vacation




Abbiamo prenotato il Safari di 5 giorni e siamo rimasti entusiasti. Tutto lo staff, dagli autisti alle guide, sono molto disponibili e accoglienti, tutte le escursioni sono perfettamente organizzate e sempre in orario. Abbiamo visto moltissimi animali da vicino con grandissima emozione. Il lodge è molto carino e la cucina è curata. Consigliamo vivamente una vacanza con loro.



“An Amazing Experience”
– PernilleDaub, Olstykke Denmark

I went on a 5 day safari with Viva Safaris in May 2019, and I had a great time.

All the Viva employees went above and beyond to take care of me and ensure that I got the most out of every day. I can only recommend their safaris.



Read more reviews for:
Viva Safaris,  Marcs Treehouse LodgeTremisana Lodge and Katekani Tented Lodge on TripAdvisor.


Until next month…

With kind regards,
General Manager
Viva Safaris