There are two species of oxpecker in the Kruger Park. The red-billed oxpecker is common throughout the region while the yellow-billed oxpecker is most likely to be encountered in the Central and Northern Sections of Kruger Park.
Oxpeckers provide a real valet service to their hosts which include buffalo, rhino, giraffe, warthogs and antelope. As they scuttle over their hosts’ bodies, the oxpeckers remove fleas, ticks and maggots from all cavities that the host animal is unable to reach. However, oxpeckers are not an unqualified benefit. Blood is a significant part of their diet and they get some blood from the ticks they eat. If their host animal has a wound or a sore, the oxpeckers cling beside such wounds or sores and feed on suppurating blood. So they are doing their hosts a big disservice by prolonging the healing process. The practice of feeding on blood of another animal is known as Haematophagia.
Oxpeckers can be quite vocal and alert their hosts to potential dangers. Our guides doing bush walks are particularly aware of the hissing alarm call of the oxpeckers as a herd of buffalo or rhino may be close by.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
ROCKY sent the following:
NHLANHLA sent the following:
GEORGE sent these:
RAYMOND sent the following:
QUINTON sent these:
ELIAS sent the following:
PATRICK sent these:
ANDY sent a lot of brilliant photos. I was unable to choose only three:
TOLLI conducted a tour to Hluhluwe, Imfolozi and St Lucia (7 day Kruger and KZN safari package) and sent these brilliant shots of fully horned rhino :
GREAT NEWS FOR OUR FUTURE TOURISTS AND OUR TRAVEL AGENTS
This month, we have concluded two excellent deals that will substantially benefit and greatly improve the Viva Safaris operation :
- ADDITIONAL TRAVERSING ON ROME 3 and ROME 4 properties.
We are absolutely thrilled to advise that Viva Safaris has secured an additional 640 hectares of prime traversing on Balule Nature Reserve. We thank the Prinsloo family for granting Viva access to their Rome 3 and Rome 4 properties.
Both properties extend from the Olifants Road right down to the Olifants River. I am told that there is almost a kilometre of river frontage. It will make for brilliant game drives, with good chances of seeing leopards and hippos.
What makes these properties so very special is that Viva Safaris will have almost exclusive traversing. Apart from one other much smaller lodge that seldom traverses here, we shall be the only operator traversing on these properties.
I believe that Viva Safaris is in a much better situation now as compared to when we were traversing on the Cambridge properties. On Cambridge, we shared sightings with guests from 7 other lodges. There is a protocol in place according to which no more than two vehicles may be on a sighting simultaneously. When another lodge responds to a reported sighting, we are obliged to honour their request. We may have to vacate our place at a sighting. Clients have been very reluctant, even angry, to give up their places. This is especially so when we are looking at lions or wild dogs on the hunt. I know some lodges deliberately fail to report sightings on occasion and this led to a lot of unhappiness between the different lodges. On the Rome 3 and 4 properties, we shall not be asked to make place for other guests and Viva Safaris will have exclusive, prolonged game viewing.
As is the case on Rome 1 and Campfire, we have been requested by the landowners of Rome 3 and 4 not to drive off road. I had an interesting discussion with Laetitia Cronje of Campfire Academy. She reckons that the lions on Campfire are permanently there because off road driving is not permitted. Her thinking is that there are certain areas in the various blocks on Campfire where the lion pride remains undisturbed by vehicles that cannot come right up to them. As a result, Laetitia believes the lions keep away from other areas where off roading is permitted. Our lion sightings this month on Campfire have been outstanding, so perhaps she is right………
When it comes to leopard sightings, I have personally witnessed, on the last three occasions I went on game drives, just how the two-vehicle protocol is completely disregarded. The poor leopard is literally chased so that guests can get a good photo. The leopard is certainly not relaxed and clearly does not enjoy this harassment. It is my opinion that future leopard sightings will be compromised, even reduced, by this unethical conduct. If we do find leopard sightings on the new properties, these will be handled professionally by the Viva guides. The leopard will not be traumatized.
- COLLABORATION WITH CAMPFIRE ACADEMY
As a result of anticipated growth in tourist numbers, Viva Safaris has entered into an agreement with Campfire Academy. From 1 July 23, all tourists booking the 3 Day Budget Tented Safari will spend their first night in tents at Campfire Academy and the second night in tents along the Klaserie River at Marcs. We are grateful to the Cronje family for making this possible. The tents at Campfire are located right on the boundary fence with a great view of the surrounding bush. We are certain that the wildlife experience will be amazing. This arrangement will free more rooms at Tremisana for guests booking longer safari packages. All meals and all activities for the 3 Day Budget Tented Safari package remain the same and we shall be using the Campfire tents for sleep over purposes only. As our guests will not be using relatively upmarket Tremisana Lodge accommodation, there will be a reduction in tariffs for this safari package. This will appeal to the ultra-budget tourist looking for an affordable 3 Day package.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
TREMISANA : Nyarai sent the following report :
The cold is definitely here. I find myself struggling to get up. It’s morning time but the sun is taking too long to come out. Imagine the battle to convince the mind that it’s time to get out of bed and face the day. The thought of animals instead of early morning traffic is a good enough motivation trust me.
This month has been busier than I anticipated. Tremisana has been getting the bulk of our long stay guests. I have noticed that this time of the year we have been getting more guests from Asia.
I get excited because it takes me down memory lane of my school time in Malaysia. Our most common topic is about food more than anything. Char Kway Teow anyone.
This month I was also blessed to meet American singer and author Blake Snow and his family. I must say I had a very good music listening session. The beauty of this job is the mix of the beautiful people I meet and the majestic animal sightings.
Talking about animal sightings, this winter has been awesome as always. Lions, elephants, wilddogs and our usual elephants.
Looking forward to next month. It’s going to be busy but worth every early morning.
Keep warm and stay safe.
Pretty, who worked as our Hostess for many years, came to visit. She now works at a Casino in Mbombela. Delina and Daphne were pleased to see her:
KATEKANI, MARCS TREEHOUSE LODGE, MASANGO CAMP AND DUMELA TENTED CAMP :
Charl sent the following:
MARCS: The big job of replacing the thatch roof over the storeroom, kitchen, lounge, bar area and Patrick’s room has started. We hope to have this work completed by the end of August, before the start of the rainy season. We have 3 teams of thatchers working simultaneously.
The Nyalas are ever-present and our Giant Kingfisher entertains our guests at breakfast. Apart from the usual diet of small Tilapia ( bream ), he caught a tiny crab last week – a first for me.
KATEKANI has been busy and we are pleased with our occupation stats. Given has completed a new tank stand.
We are seeing Nyala and Bushbuck regularly. A porcupine often comes to the Lapa area at night.
MASANGO CAMP is not nearly as busy and we are thinking of using this camp for groups. We have a big group arriving in mid-July.
A herd of buffalo is always at the Camp.
DUMELA TENTED CAMP has also been quiet – all 7 of our tents are now ready and a second kitchen has been built.
A Fiery-necked Nightjar flew into a tent and was rescued.
We are pleased that the bookings at Ezulwini have increased significantly.
Viva Safaris is grateful to Laurence and Tess Saad for having arranged additional traversing for Viva Safaris on the Ezulwini properties.
PUMUSA BUSH CAMP Hluhluwe
We were surprised to learn that the number of Nyala bulls was over 10. Due to their preference for dense vegetation at Pumusa, we were unaware that their number had increased so rapidly. We are also aware that Nyala compete with Suni and Red Duiker that also frequent Pumusa Bush Camp. Sightings of Red Duiker are common at Pumusa and are very special as they do not occur in Kruger. We decided to exchange 3 Nyala bulls for a herd of 3 Zebras (a stallion and 2 mares), We also have an offer of Bushbuck from Simbithi Estate and will have to remove a further 2 Nyala bulls as the Bushbuck need their own space.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
I managed to send out the 2024 tariffs on time – at exactly 12h00 on 15 June 23, as promised. Thanks to all those painfully impatient and long-suffering agents who made me work overtime! 😊
Overall, we have tried to keep the increases in our tariffs very reasonable. The average increase is less than 6 % which is probably in line with or just less than the inflation rate. Thanks to all our agents for their input in assisting us in our calculations. We have no doubt that the Viva Safaris products continue to offer fantastic value for money.
In US Dollar or Euro terms, we have DROPPED our tariffs by about 10%. The average USD/Rand exchange rate in June 2022 was 15.77 and for this month (June 2023) the average exchange rate is 18.35 – an effective increase of over 16% !!!! The Euro has fared even better : the average exchange rate in June 2022 was 16.68 and this month it is 20.24 which translates to an increase of over 20% !!!!
What a bargain !!! Often we overhear our international guests at our bars marveling at the cheapness of the beers !!! Good Luck to them ! Cheers, Prost and Salute!
Notwithstanding the above, there are always those tourists who believe they can squeeze us for a better tariff. A very serious issue that needs to be addressed is that of discounting our tariffs. There are numerous agents that sell Viva Safaris packages. We have all agreed that we will be ethical and not discount any tariffs. In fact, all agents have agreed that when a client makes multiple enquiries with different agents for the same safari package, the FIRST agent contacted will be allowed to conclude the booking.
It does not help when a prospective client asks for our “best” price. There is no ”best” price – all 30 of our packages have a UNIQUE and NON-NEGOTIABLE price. It makes for unpleasant situations when a client does not accept that our tariffs are fixed for the calendar year. There are no ”last minute specials” nor are there any group discounts. Kindly accept our policy in this matter.
We have been thrilled to read the wonderful reviews posted on Viva Safaris on various platforms. These reviews are appreciated by every single staff member at Viva. It is evident that the reviewers have spent a lot of time writing such very detailed and meaningful reviews. The sentiments they express are clearly genuine and heartfelt. We firmly believe that the popularity of our products is directly proportional to the good reviews we receive.
I include some reviews posted in June 2023 :
7 Day Kruger, Hluhluwe and St Lucia Safari
My wife and I booked the 7 Day Tremisana/Pumusa Kruger Hluhluwe and St Lucia Safari package for our honeymoon. It was worth every penny. We saw the BIG 5 within 24 hours of our arrival (lion, water buffalo, leopard, rhino, and elephant). We even saw a cheetah a couple of days later. The staff – from top to bottom was extremely friendly, helpful, professional, and very importantly personable.
Our guides – Smiley, Victor, Rocky, Tolli – during our safari were all outstanding, friendly, and we felt completely safe throughout the safari – even during our Bush Walk with Smiley. You can tell that they all have a deep love and respect for the land and wildlife within the different reserves and parks we were taken too.
The staff at the Tremisana Game Lodge and Pumusa Bush Camp were wonderful and took very good care of us. You can tell that they all value their guests as both customers and people.
While this safari doesn’t offer the luxury accommodation that others may offer, I would dare say that their level of friendliness, professionalism, knowledge, and personality are A1 level and I’d be hard pressed to find a better safari group out there – in my humble opinion. Not to say that the lodging is awful – but if you are more of a “glamper” than a camper, you may be left wanting. However, in saying that, both my wife and I felt comfortable and completely safe within both lodges we stayed at.
We were lucky to run into the founder and General Manager of Viva Safaris, Peiro. He came up to us during one of our breakfast meals, introduced himself and asked us how we were doing and if we had any concerns. Even after we all said everything was fine, he gently pressed us to speak up – if we had concerns. His reasoning was “How can I fix something if you don’t tell me.” That comment reinforced my positive impressions of the company. Watching him interact with his staff, you could tell that there is a great bond between them all.
Since my wife and I were the only ones to arrive and have the 7-day package, when it was time to move from the Tremisana Game Lodge to the Pumusa Bush Camp, we were assigned our own personal guide – Tolli. Even though the drive from one camp to the other was about eight hours long, the time flew by as we were able to have a wonderful conversation with Tolli. It was amazing to have a great conversation with him and get a much better feel for the culture and experience of South Africa.
Because it was just the three of us, our last few days within the tour was very personalized. Tolli, hearing that I liked spicy jerky, made a side stop at a local butchery to introduce me to “chile bites”. He wanted me to get a real taste of the local jerky instead of the packaged stuff I had bought earlier. It was the small things like this that really showed my wife and I the effort and attention and drive he and Viva Safaris has towards making their customers feel important.
This company made my wife and my honeymoon extremely memorable and made the safari – a bucket list items of mine for over 40 years better than I could imagine. I highly recommend this company to anyone who is looking to experience a first hand, down to earth, friendly, professional, and safe safari to anyone.
To each and every one of the staff of Viva Safari – a very big thank you!
To Smiley – thank you for keeping us safe so that we could end each night “resting in Peace and not in pieces”.
To Victor – All I can say is “wow, amazing” and thank you for everything you did for us.
To Tolli – It was wonderful getting to know you and sharing many a conversation on all of the different topics we were able to discuss. Thank you for fine tuning and making minor adjustments to make our time personable – even a bit “off roading” of the actual package – but it was better than great.
6 Day Tremisana/Treehouse Safari
We just finished the 6 day safari at Tremisana and Marc’s Treehouse. We’re exhausted and happy and can’t believe everything we experienced. The drivers have so much knowledge about getting you safely up close to the animals, plus they’re so much fun! Andi, KG, Lucky, Smiley – we miss you already!
The schedule is busy and they really maximize your time.
Then, before and after every day out on game drives, you’re going to eat some of the best food you’ve ever had. Load shedding must make it tough, but Pauline and Connie have delicious, hearty meals ready. They are the loveliest women too, and make you feel at home.
The transfers to and from Johannesburg are long days, King George especially – thank you!
The price is super reasonable and I 100% recommend it.
Absolutely magical and unforgettable experience
We could not be happier with our safari experience. The staff was terrific. We always knew what was happening, where we were going, and what to expect, which I greatly appreciated. Everyone was super friendly and turned into familiar faces rather quickly.
We managed to see all of the Big 5, which is 100% due to the effort of our guides. They communicated with each other and tried their best to get to where the animals were that day when in Kruger and at the game reserve. We are so thankful for that, as it made our experience unforgettable.
I do not feel that we were ever rushed or unable to enjoy our safari. Everything was just the right amount of time, and we appreciated the structure.
Our accommodations were amazing, especially Katekani. The nights were magical. We heard hyenas and lions and even spotted a wild dog on our way to dinner just outside our room. At Tremisana, we watched the monkeys, elephants, and lizards in our downtime. The food was surprisingly great too. You will not starve.
The only slight not-so-perfect moment for the trip was waiting to be picked up at O R Tambo Airport. We were definitely being watched and our intuition drove us back inside until just before our driver arrived. I advise you not to get to the meeting spot 45 minutes early like we did if you stay overnight at the airport.
We’ve been home for a few days and still cannot believe how well it went. I left with a much deeper knowledge and respect for the animals, and I will never forget our time in South Africa. It was the most incredible experience of our lives, and Viva Safaris made it possible.
Superb Safari Experience
Was a breeze from booking to execution. Pick up and drop off at airport was as per advertised!
What was great were the guides, chef & admin staff that made the entire experience so outstanding!
Every game drive was different. If possible, highly recommend the 7 day adventure!
Special mention to the chief chef Mama D for the outstanding home cook meals. Also special mention for the professionalism shown by the guides who strived to make our stay memorable. Victor, George, Lucky & Rocky… you guys were great!!! Thank you.
Nyarie & Tuney….thank you for all the laughter and memories.
Viva Safaris…. You guys deserve a 100% thumbs up. Good job. Keep up the standards and good service!
Great people, awesome experience!
I chose this safari because of all of the fantastic reviews and I have to say that I 100% agree with every wonderful thing that has been said. I absolutely loved my safari experience. Everyone on staff was so warm and welcoming and went out of their way to make myself and all the other guests comfortable. It felt more like being welcomed into the family than just a guest. Everything was well planned out and the communication was excellent. The trackers and rangers were very knowledgeable and readily shared animal facts and stories. The tours were all incredible. I enjoyed the variety between the private game reserve where we could off road and have close up encounters with animals and Kruger. Kruger is a gorgeous and classic safari experience. The bush walk and the sunrise and sundowner drives through the nature reserve were my favorite activities. The lodge was super comfortable and safe. The food was so phenomenal. I always felt so taken care of and had a great adventure. I cannot recommend this safari enough. Would definitely do it all over again!
Excellent game viewing and guides
Best game viewing experience I have ever had, saw 4 of the big 5 on an afternoon drive. Have never been that close to lions in the wild, goosebumps!
Our guide, Victor, was amazing and knows the bush very well.
Will definitely go back.
Until next month,
With kind regards,