Quite understandably, we are often asked about the dangers involved with going on safari.
There are occasions when guests may encounter snakes or spiders and I always recommend that every tourist brings a torch. Not only will this allow better visibility at night but it enhances the chances of seeing nocturnal animals that frequent our camps.
As far as larger animals go, Viva Safaris has very experienced guides. Our bush walk armed rangers know exactly how close to approach a dangerous animal without having to stress any guest or the animal. We very seldom are required to shoot. On those few occasions in the past 20 years, and I can count them on one hand, these have been warning shots to deter the animal from approaching any closer.
From time to time, one reads of a vehicle that has been badly damaged by an elephant. In most cases, it is private tourists in their own small vehicles. Our vehicles are much larger and I have insisted on keeping the canvas top on at all times. This has the effect of making the open vehicle larger. It also helps with sunburn and rain. Our guides are trained and know the warning signs that an elephant gives before it charges. Bull elephants in musth must be shown the greatest respect. Guides must not position the vehicle between mother elephant and calf as this can precipitate any unexpected maternal instinct reaction.
I have personally always kept a close eye on the elephant’s trunk. If it is feeding contentedly and is relaxed, then one can approach closely. If the trunk is constantly facing the vehicle, regardless of which way the elephant may be facing, then there is reason to be cautious.
The elephant is capable of inflicting extremely serious damage and our guides need to be constantly vigilant.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
RAYMOND sent the following :
On the 1st June in Kruger on the H1-3 about 1Km north of Satara we found four male lions eating a wildebeest. At Nsemani Dam we found a breeding herd of elephants and buffalo drinking water together. Along the H7 about 3km from Bobejaankrans we found wild dogs eating animpala in an open area and competition for feeding was very intense. At Tamboti crossing we found two cheetahs trying to catch an impala but the wildebeest defended them by chasing the cheetahs and one of them climbed the road sign block and they stopped moving back towards Tamboti and the cheetah got a chance to run away. During the last 2km we found a leopard crossing the road towards Manyeleti from Khokha Moya dam for a few minutes and then it disappeared into the high grass. That was the first day of the month and it was full of excellent sightings.
On the 2nd in Kruger, south of Satara we found four male lions and one of them was Casper (white lion) with one female and they were mating and the other one was just following them and went on to lie down in front of us .On our way back on the S106 we found wild dogs playing with the baboons before Rabelais together with hyenas walking towards Satara on the road.
On the 05th we found a mating pair of lions at Nwamatsatse Bridge. After 5km we found a leopard in a tree with an impala where the road is very close to the river (Mfenhe Kaya) means baboons house. At ( Ngwenya Kaya) which means crocodile house we found a big herd of Buffalo.
On the 17th during the Sunset Drive on Balule we found a pride of lions at Impala Bos west. When we came back from boma, about 100 metres from boma we found a leopard walking towards us then he stopped and went into the bush.
On the 20th in Kruger on the H7 about 1Km before Nsemana dam we found two female lions lying next to the road .At Nsemana dam we found a big herd of elephants drinking water and on the way back we found a leopard trying to catch an impala next to Kingsfisherpruit entrance. She was actually using our vehicle to stalk but was unsuccessful.
YURI reports :
Boy! We are half way through 2022 already and hopefully approaching normality. Temperatures are dropping and the bush is getting thinner, making game viewing a bit easier. Here are a few highlights.
A VERY LUCKY COUPLE
Middle June I took a young couple from the UK to Kruger National Park for the day. About 1km past the 1st checkpoint, in the buffer zone before Orpen Gate I noticed a figure walking down the road towards us. My first thought was hyena but as it came closer I realized it was most definitely not hyena but in fact a cheetah, and that beauty was heading straight for us. I switched of the engine & then we waited a bit and it came walking right past us. What a sight! What luck! That’s not where it ended though. About 20km past Orpen Gate I noticed an irregular branch in one of the trees, only it wasn’t just a branch, but a leopard on the branch! We sat and watched it for nearly 5 minutes before it climbed down and disappeared into the bush. After lunch we had another brief leopard encounter.
By their penultimate day they had seen just about everything except lions. On our afternoon drive in Balule I found very fresh lion tracks, but unfortunately it headed into a restricted area. The couple then took a gamble and decided to join me for the Sunset Drive, but by dinner time no lions yet. But I told them to not lose hope – there was still time. After dinner Elias was about 3 minutes ahead of me and halfway back to Tremisana. He radioed me to hurry up, which I duly did, and there they were…not 1, not 2, but 11 beautiful lions, right next to us!!! Jubilation all round!!!
The bush will always surprise you. I compare guiding to Golf. You can spend hours on the course and play the worst round ever. You promise yourself you’re going to chuck the clubs in the bin and never ever touch them again, but then you Eagle the 18th and all of a sudden it’s the best game ever!!!
I went on my bush walk with my guesst teaching them about the beauty of nature and the history of Africa. While we were walking we saw ahippo just before we reached Olifants River, it was amazing and surprising to see that. And then he stopped and looked at us and then he ran away. My guests were very scared because they know the history of the hippos but at the end of the walk they enjoyed it. And just when we got back to the car we bumped into an elephant very close to the vehicle .It was an amazing day for my guests because they wanted to see the animals on bush walk and to have that experience. Another day while we were walking we saw African wild dogs on the other side of the Olifants River which was very nice because we don’t get to see them often. And when you try to explain to the guest how lucky they are to see them they think you are kidding while you are telling them the truth. You can drive for months and months without seeing them.
My afternoon drives were wonderful. We got to see a pride of lions on Oxford main. We saw lots of elephant, zebras, impalas, kudu and giraffes. We also saw buffalos on Van der Merwe property. We had a nice afternoon. We saw black rhinos on Rome 1. They were amazed at how close the black rhino approached the car.
I drove on my sunset drive with my guests and it turned out to be very exciting because we saw 4 males lions on Cambridge and while we were driving we saw a leopard near Campfire entry road and we saw 3 white rhinos which we were very lucky to see. My guests were very happy to see them and you can tell because everyone was taking pictures.
We saw a cheetah on Cabridge north of Olifants road. I was surprised about that because we do not see cheetah very often.
So we had a nice time in June
All my safaris are conducted in Kruger proper.
On 27 June we found lions at Ratelpan, leopard catching and eating an impala at the Rabelais Museum, elephants everywhere with big herds on the h 7 and at Nsemani Dam, buffalos right at the Timbavati picnic spot.
On 28 June we got lions on Rabelais, wild dogs near the h12 , buffalos at Rockvale waterhole and cheetah near the s36 and s 39 junction. Elephants for Africa ! A super day of brilliant gameviewing !
On 29 June we found 4 lions near Satara including the big white lion we have nicknamed Casper. On the Sweni road we found a mating pair of lions and many elephants. On the h 7 we found wild dogs eating an impala.
On 29 June we saw impala and wildebeest between the entrance gate and Orpen Camp. On the H7 we found a herd of buffalo at Nwamantsatsa . On the S 12 towards Girivana waterhole we found a pack of 17 wild dogs. At Nsemani Dam there were 8 hippos outside the water feeding on the nearby grass. Just outside Satara Camp we found2 big male lions under a tree close to the road.
After lunch, I took the Sweni road and had a good sighting of large herds of wildebeest, zebras and elephants drinking at Welverdiend waterhole. On the H 7 we found a pair of mating lions and just before Orpen we saw yet another pack of wild dogs.
On 30 June we saw a few giraffe between entry gate and Orpen Camp. On the H 7 just before the Rabelais turnoff, we found a pack of wild dogs. A big herd of buffalowas grazing at the S 36 turnoff. On the Sweni road we found a huge herd of elephants. At Kumana Dam we saw a lioness under a tree.
After lunch, along the H1-3 to Nwanetsi bridge we had a brilliant sighting of a leopard walking for over 50 metres next to us on the road. We found yet another leopard stalking a steenbok at Girivana waterhole. At Nsemani there were 12 hippos outside the water sunning themselves a it was cold. On the way out we had a good sighting of a hyena walking along the road.
PIERO reports :
I was happy to go on a few game drives towards the end of June at Tremisana. Viva has a lot of traversing and now that most other lodges are out on safari on most nights, we receive great updates via the radios about various sightings.
I had a close encounter with Zulu, the Black Rhino, who came up quite close to our open vehicle and had a good look and then very calmly walked away. Methinks old age is allowing him to be more gentlemanly and I do not think he has treed any tourists lately !
I also had some good sightings of elephant and buffalo.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
It has been inordinately cold.
Because of my cardiac condition, I have been taking blood-thinning medication for over 30 years and I really feel the cold!
On one occasion in June 2002 ( over 20 years ago ) I spent a night in treehouse 3 at Marcs Treehouse Lodge. It was so cold I thought I would die. Since that day I made a pledge to sleep in a treehouse only in months that contain the letter R. So from May to August, there is zero chance that you will find me in a treehouse. The reeded walls simply do not provide sufficient protection against the cold. Of course, the younger set that love Marcs Camp will always say they have blankets and each other to overcome the cold. In fact, I was horrified to see a group of 6 tourists swimming happily away 2 days ago in the Marcs Camp pool. When I enquired as to whether they were perhaps feeling cold I was told the pool water temperature is much higher than what they are accustomed to in Germany, Norway and the Netherlands !!!
NYARAI sent the following report :
Monthly Report for Tremisana for June 2022
Winter is finally fully upon us and it’s the usual short days and long nights. Have you realized how we as humans complain that it is too cold in winter and in summer time we complain that it is too hot. The best way to deal with every season is to focus on the positives than pay attention to the negatives. Even in life the same rule applies. They always say what a man thinketh so is he. We have the power to transform every situation simply by what we decide to focus on. Taking a moment to reflect on when the pandemic started everything came to a standstill. It was like being placed in a little box with limited movement.
The tourism industry was really hit hard and I often asked myself what would happen if this was to continue for a long span. I think almost everyone got a chance to evaluate what was important and what was the way forward. I for one decided to change my bucket list. What is on your bucket list? I think maybe it is high time to take that long overdue first time safari or that second safari. Trust me nothing beats seeing a pride of lions hunting, a breeding herd of elephants drinking water or simply sun bathing in the African sun after an early morning bushwalk. I have seen quite an increase in the number of tourists coming to Tremisana and most of the guests we have had this month were having their very first safari experience. We are expecting that the next couple of months will see a steady increase in the number of clients.
I remember that most of my past articles have been me expressing massive doses of optimism. I think my unfazed focus has paid off. Things are getting better and I know that they will keep on getting better. I mean we do not have to wear our masks anymore and the strict entry requirements due to covid are slowly being phased out. I think by the end of the year the tourism industry will be in recovery. This is me being focused on positive stuff as usual.
This month I have managed to do a couple of game drives and it has been fantastic. The sightings were so great that they left a warm fuzzy feeling inside my heart. The bush is a place that always keeps on giving and trust I have been seeing animals for years now but the excitement remains the same.
My standout sightings for the month included a breeding herd of elephants. I really enjoyed seeing the little ones playing around. We saw a rhino and I had not seen one in a while well most likely because I spend most of my time in the office or chasing the sun with the laptop. My love for rhinos almost had my heart burst out at the seams. We had our usual hyena at Boma and a lot of general game including zebras, giraffes and wildebeest. We always have the elephants around the lodge these days and as always I enjoy every moment.
That reminds me there is an Old Chinese proverb that says “Better the cold blast of winter than the hot breath of a pursuing elephant”. A little something to ponder on till next month, keep warm and take care.
MARCS TREEHOUSE CAMP is being used more frequently and Paulina is doing a great job.
The leopard is very active and guests are accompanied back to their treehouses.
I have insisted that the bar closes promptly at all our camps at 22h00. I also have asked our staff to keep an eye on the younger set who may have a drink or two too many.
The guests need to be sober before walking to their treehouses. If a leopard sees a person staggering, it may misinterpret this action as being a result of some injury and it may attack.
So I insist that those who may be potted up need a liberal intake of water and strong coffee before they are accompanied to the treehouses.
We are so fortunate that in people like Delina and Paulina we have the very best in the business. In their own laid-back way, they keep tight controls on the goings-on at the lodges. Both have been with Viva for about 25 years and know their game. They take very little nonsense.
MASANGO CAMP has had a complete makeover thanks to new manager, Jevan. He stays on the property and has made a significant contribution to the general appearance of all units at the camp.
KATEKANI LODGE has still been relatively quiet in terms of tourist numbers. Nyarai informs me that in August we have quite a few bookings for Italian guests.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
As you know, we have added a fuel subsidy to all our overland packages This is in an amount of R150 ( less than 10 US $ ) per person per day.
As I explained in my letter to you, we might have avoided this by cutting corners and attempting to reduce costs. But I felt that any attempted cost reduction would necessarily have impoverished our product which has been so massively successful for over 30 years.
Why change a winning formula ??
For example, we might have considered NOT collecting our clients from their homes/hotels/ hostels and airport and insisted on their getting themselves at their own expense to a fixed departure point. My experience with this is that invariably some clients will be late, possibly ( but not always ) through no fault of their own ( traffic congestion, heavy rains, traffic lights not functioning because of load-shedding etc etc). So the whole group is held up and tempers fray…….
Another example of cost cutting would be to limit our game drives to a fixed number of kilometres per day. Imagine a situation where our guides learn of a lion kill of a giraffe or buffalo where we know the lions will still be eating and the guide cannot drive the extra 40 km there and 40 km back because he has been restricted in the distances he can drive ! Madness – why are the guests on safari if not to see EVERY potential sighting ??
Another example of cost cutting would be reducing the quality and quantity of our meals – for me who needs to have a decent meal three times a day this is completely unthinkable !In fact, because of the very cold weather, we have added a soup starter at the Marula Boma dinner. It has been so warmly welcomed that we shall continue to offer a soup starter throughout the year.
Should the fuel prices abate, we shall immediately remove the fuel subsidy.
I also have sent you the 2023 tariffs. I have tried my very best to guesstimate how costs will rise but with the end of the war nowhere in sight it is very likely that I have made some error. It nearly drives me insane to have to increase rates during any one calendar year as I know some agents print brochures and it is a big hassle to have to alter tariffs.
I am pleased to advise that Victor has been offered a full-time position as of 1 July.
Slowly and steadily, we are increasing the number of our staff that we re-engage.
A warm welcome to Thamia who is doing her practical experience and is assisting Nyarai in the office.
We had a visit from Fiamma Sandri and her dad Fiorentino and brother Federico. They were accompanied by the famous Dr Emmanuel Taban and his family. The late Bishop Joe Sandri was a friend of mine and he arranged for Fiamma to spend some time at Tremisana a few years back. All the staff were very happy to see her as well as Henco who did his practical work at Tremisana when Fiamma was here.
Dr Taban has a great inspirational background and has written a book entitled “ The boy who never gave up : A refugee’s journey to triumph “. This book gives his personal story of how he was able to overcome extreme adversity and walk from his home in South Sudan to Cape Town where, with the assistance of the then Father Joe Sandri, Comboni Missionary, he became a leading pulmonologist at the forefront of an important discovery in the treatment of Covid-19 patients in 2020.
A belated thanks to Bob and Linda de Marco for yet another fantastic donation to Connie, Catherine and Victor as well as money for the Catholic mission at Acornhoek. Fr Aldrin arranged to buy a new washing machine.
Tripadvisor Reviews posted in June 2022 :
“Awesome personnel working at Viva Safari. Everyone on staff went above and beyond. Saw soooo many animals, ate great food, met interesting people- AWESOME!!!”
Safari Trip of a Lifetime
“My first time in South Africa (and in Africa in general), and it was a memorable one thanks to Viva Safaris. I did a 6 day Tremisana Lodge tour and I had an amazing time from beginning to end. Transfer from Jo’burg to the lodge and back was smooth thanks to the drivers George and Sully. Nyarai, the lodge manager, was very welcoming and ensured that my stay was comfortable throughout. Elvis, Caroline, and Audrey were just the most exceptional chefs – breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all amazing. I really enjoyed the bush brais at the Marula Tree Boma under the beautiful, clear, starry night sky. And of course…the game drives…words cannot describe the excitement and beauty behind wildlife spotting here. Elias and Yuri are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about wildlife and ensured we saw every animal possible – their ability to spot animals (no matter how far or how hidden) is impeccable! Game drives were done in early mornings and late afternoons and thus the sunrise and sunset scenery was just spectacular. From a combination of tours around the vast Kruger Park and the beautiful Balule Reserve, I was able to see the Big Five and so much more. The guides made sure we could get as close to the animals as possible while maintaining and ensuring our safety. As Elias (who has the greatest sense of humour) says…hakuna matata…it’s a game, and the bush will always surprise you. Indeed, the bush did surprise me with all of its secrets and wonder. As soon as I left, I already started to miss the game drives and pondered my next visit back to Kruger/Balule with Viva Safaris.”
Full Safari Experience
“When coming to South Africa for work, I just had to tack on a holiday. No better place than the stunning location of Tremisana. Everything went off without a hitch (mostly- save for the truck accident in the mountains, of which we were not involved but simply delayed). I am Type A in the best of times and during travel is is at peak level. Rai was 13/10 at reassuring me when I worried about pick up and payment. She is a sublime hostess!
Our guides Elias, Raymond, and Yuri were all so knowledgable. One afternoon game drive, we searched for lions without luck. But…on the sundown drive, Elias saw them and rushed back to get our group so we could view the pride. Just one of the many thoughtful acts that were a common thread throughout this trip. Mama D’s lovely corn muffins, Raymond taking us to view the pride as they were waking, Yuri’s patience with our Kruger group wanting to watch a baby elephant be completely adorable, everyone was there *for* us and *with* us. The lodge is intimate and gives a homey, camp feeling. There are probably a lot fancier (and pricier) accommodations, but this was kind of perfect. Why would you want a Four Seasons in the bush? You go for the experience and Tremisana is definitely that- an experience. I will definitely be staying again on my next trip to gorgeous South Africa.”
Until next month,
With kind regards,