I am always amazed at the amount of small wildlife that is present in our camps. Very often the curious tourist will find something special to enrich his wildlife experience over and above the seemingly crazy quest to tick off all Big Five.
We have contracted Tolli vd Berg to uplift the images of all our camps. Tolli worked as a guide for Viva Safaris in the late 1990s and the bar area at Marc’s has two collages of his brilliant photos of birds and animals. In my opinion, Tolli is one of the very best wildlife photographers around.
Tolli sent me some very colourful photos of the Painted Vine Moth. It is also called the Josephs Coat moth – lovely colours !
Both caterpillar and moth are shown below.
The caterpillar has added “spiky” protrusions which make it look less appetising to would-be predators. Generally in Nature extreme colour may indicate toxic qualities.
The literature indicates that the Painted Vine Moth originates in the Brisbane area of Queensland, Australia.
It is therefore quite amazing to know that it is found at Marc’s Camp.
Now that I am on Lockdown ( a premature foretaste of my intended retirement at the end of the year ? ) , I have spare time to do some research on how it got here. If anybody knows, please send me the details.
GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Bush walks this month yielded waterbuck, baboons, hippos and crocodiles along the Olifants river. Sundowner drives included sightings of buffalo, black rhino, elephants and giraffes on Oxford. Kruger park has been fairly good – lots of general game, elephants, hippos and crocodiles at Nsemane Dam – the GM tells me he was around when they built it in the late 1970s and that he has never seen it so full – and buffalo and lions. The Viva guides have had regular sightings this month of a young leopard on the s90. Rhino sightings have been few and far between in Kruger.
09th : Kruger : On the H7 about 14km from the reception we found wild dogs lying down in the road – more than 30.
On the S100 we found pride of lions with cubs. One of the cubs climbed a tree more than four metres high. It was unable to turn and had to reverse ! We all thought it was very funny.
12th : Balule : On Barnard property we found big Lion on a giraffe kill next to the road. We found white rhino rolling in the mud and at Ngwenya dam we found big herd of elephant drinking water.
15th: Kruger : We found a pride of lions near Kingfisherspruit. It was hot and one of the lions moved right into the shade of Patrick’s vehicle and collapsed there. The guests were happy and scared.
16th: Balule : On Barnard property we found one lioness with two cubs on the top of Ngwenya dam wall. On the way to Bejwana dam we found a white rhino.
On the 11th March we started off viewing general game including zebras and impalas. We took the H7 and just before Phelwana bridge we saw a big buffalo herd. At Ngirivana waterhole we saw two lionesses lying down under a tree. At Nsemane dam we saw four big elephant bulls.
After lunch we took the H6 to Nwanetsi picnic spot. We saw two cheetahs crossing the road heading north to Shishangeni waterhole. On the S126 Sweni road we saw a female leopard with cubs near Welverdiend waterhole.
I did the very last Sunset Drive at Tremisana before lockdown – and saw a leopard up a tree – thrilled guests.
March has been very good and I have enjoyed bushwalks and drives at Marcs Camp.
On one walk we saw a Schliegles blind snake, a brown house snake and a legless skink after the rain we had.
On Motlala there were many good rhino sightings. My favourite was where a Black Rhino bull, a cow and calf approached from the front and a cow with two calves at the same time from the back. This got the guests wildly excited ! Luca and I were equally amazed and both of us will one day tell our grandchildren !!
We also saw great birds including a white faced owl, a spotted eagle owl and an African Harrier hawk.
This is also my last month at Viva Safaris. I will be working on the Motlala Reserve so will still keep in contact – need to tell Jordan where to find the leopard otherwise he will miss it (joking). I would like to say thanks to all at Viva especially my GM. It has been a wonderful experience and a year where I learned a lot.
I took my long leave but since I have been back, sightings on Motlala have been great.
We had great sightings of the rare Sable Antelope as well as one temperamental black rhino. I don’t think he likes me as Charl, Luca and Bernard have no trouble with him.
The long grass has been hiding the leopards but their neat spoor is evidence of them moving through the camp and reserve.
Also the golden orb spiders have been eliciting high interest on bushwalks with massive females and webs to catch as much food as possible.
Sightings were exceptional again this month with most of the BIG 5 crossing our path on many occasions to the joy of all our guests.
Early morning drives was the best. In the coolness of the dawn the wildlife seem to be more active and we were lucky enough to spot white and black rhino, lions aplenty and buffalo.
Late afternoon on one sundowner drive we spotted zebra, giraffe and a warthog family taking a dip in one of the dams. The banks of the Olifants river was abuzz one afternoon while the guests were enjoying sundowners. The little bushbabies came to investigate and the guests loved the chameleon in the tree nearby. Klipspringers were spotted on the koppie and we spotted a Grey Hornbill as well.
A big bull elephant in musth was very entertaining one morning on drive to the bushwalk and showed us very quickly that he was not in a mood for spectators and we left him very abruptly.
A pride of 22 lions crossed our path on one sunset drive as well as a breeding herd of elephant not to mention the herd of buffalo and a white rhino.
Since the Corona virus started, it looks like the animals know what’s going on – we have been struggling with the sightings. However on one sunset drive on Oxford we saw the pride of 17 lions. At Marula Boma we saw 2 hyenas.
The guests were very fortunate as the hyenas came really close and some brilliant photos were taken.
On one Sundowner drive we found one bull elephant on fire looking for the ladies. Musth is a condition that is hormone-driven and the elephant can get very nasty.
He just came very close to the Landcruiser and wanted to hit us. I was very careful. My clients were very scared to see this, but it was an unforgettable experience.
We found a nice bush table where we had our nice sundowner, calming down.
The Bush will always surprise you.
I went out on my bush walk with Janneman and we come across a pride of lions on Marula road.
That was amazing just before the bush walk
Nature will surprise you. When we drove down to the place where we park our vehicles, a breeding herd of elephants were there – almost like they were waiting for us and we had to change our spot.
3rd : Kruger – the day was hot, grass too long, but sightings good : lions Orpen Camp, elephants Nsemani dam, leopard crossing road just after Nsemani dam, buffaloes s100 and white rhino after Xibotwana.
8th : Wild dogs near Orpen reception, elephants Nsemani dam, buffaloes Xibotwana , lions Rabelais road.
14th: Elephants Nsemani dam, buffaloes s100, wild dogs Rabelais, lions s36 road, secretary birds Sweni windmill.
21st: Lions s125, leopard s36 near Hamilton junction, buffaloes Ngwenya Kaya s100.
22nd : Elephants Nsemani dam, leopard Nsemani dam, buffaloes s100, white rhino on way out.
24th : Elephants Nsemani dam, lions on Sweni road near Welverdiend windmill including 2 white lions, buffaloes Sweni bridge.
The end of this month has been a tough one for everyone all over the world with this virus taking us by storm. We at the lodge have tried our best with the fewer guests we have had coming. We have had some very special Motlala drive sightings and I just can’t wait to get back to what we know best after this lockdown. One drive stands out for me with a record of 11 rhinos seen on one 2 hour game drive – 9 black and 2 white.
Yesterday morning at breakfast, I saw a guest taking the most beautiful picture of a Giant Kingfisher catching a fish in the dam infront of the breakfast deck at Marc’s Camp. I was determined to copy it today, I decided to take my “long gun” (a 300mm-800mm lens) but to my disappointment it was an over kill, a normal 100mm-300mm would have been sufficient. Luckily the big lens was noted by the guest and became a focus point of our discussion and some guests suggested we should have a photographic safari and workshop. We had a wonderful breakfast and I made some new friends.
I would like to thank our Giant Kingfisher for reminding me that you can plan your safari and your trip to the bush, but nature always have lovely surprises and like Forest Gump said; “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get” be prepared and expect nothing and you will get everything.
The Giant Kingfisher is the biggest Kingfisher in the region with a long heavy bill, a spotted back and rufous breast. He’s also white under his wings, with a white belly with black spots, therefor this is a male. The female has a rufous belly and rufous colour under the wings.
When you look at the 2 photo’s you’ll see there’s a difference in the eye, this is the same bird and he possess some of the most complete & simple third eyelid in existence, it covers almost his entire eyeball and do not obstruct his vision. Clear vision is extremely important for birds during hunting-they need to spot prey miles away. It’s necessary to help them avoid obstacles as they fly at high speeds & when they hunt their eyes will be protected.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Riana sent the following :
On the 9th March we had one of the most beautiful sighting at Tremisana…. a Supermoon.
Absolutely spectacular… and the guests got the most amazing view of it after dinner when it rose from the bush. It looked so close and reminded me of this quote:
“Who says you cannot hold the moon in your hand?
Tonight when the stars come out and the moon rises in the velvet sky, look outside your window, then raise your hand and position your fingers around the disk of light.
There you go . . . That was easy!”
― Vera Nazarian,The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Being the first month of autumn which begins between 19 -21st March, the trees are starting to shed their leaves and the last rains for summer will bring relief to the dams and bush before winter grips. It is also time for hibernating animals to get ready for their snooze. You will often find a scurry of squirrels running around looking for food.
At the waterhole at Tremisana though, there was no snoozing to be done and it was exceptionally busy with elephants, buffalo, Kudu and warthogs visiting for a drink on many occasions. Spotted green bush snakes seemed to be very active in the lodge garden and we removed 3 safely to the bush.
Mealtimes with the guests became “get-to-know- each –other gatherings” and made for lots of laughs and interesting talk about sightings and all seemed to have had a wonderful time at Tremisana and lots of friends and memories were made.
Charl sent the following :
Marcs Camp Report March
Marcs camp has been very busy with upgrades throughout the lodge. Most of the time has been spent renovating the bar and laying paving from the main lodge to the treehouses and tents to help the guests out with moving their bags along the pathway rather than through the old paths that got a little muddy in the rain.
Katekani Report March
The lodge has been frequented by our local troop of baboons – seems like they also want to live a little life of luxury enjoying some down time swimming in some of the splash pools for the rooms. Even the animals enjoy the luxury of Katekani Lodge …………………
We have had a good month up to the lockdown.
Guest enjoy the fact that the camp is unfenced. On a number of occasions we have had the buffalo herd moving through. We love the sounds of Africa – most nights we hear hyena, lion and leopard calls.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
In my last newsletter, February 2020, I wrote that we were “bracing ourselves” for the effects of Corona virus.
Well, we have a veritable tsunami that nobody can brace themselves for. The international tourism industry is in very serious trouble.
I personally do not believe we will be underway until September or October.
To assist our guests who had paid their 50% deposits, we decided to allocate these deposits to any future bookings.
We generously refrained from setting any time limit by which to take the safari. To make things even easier, we offered our prospective guests the choice to transfer their bookings to friends or family.
Over 90% of our guests chose this option, thus not losing any money whatsoever.
In real terms, it means that Viva Safaris may experience a cash flow problem but, as my friends, family and staff all know, I am not renowned for wasting.
As a result, I am reasonably confident that, with proper cost cutting measures, Viva will survive this onslaught.
I am acutely aware of the staff’s concerns about salaries. I shall do everything in my power to ensure no-one goes hungry. The staff, after all, have worked extremely hard – read the numerous positive comments about the staff on all reviews on Viva Safaris, Tremisana, Marcs and Katekani. It would be a moral outrage to abandon these good people in their hour of need and I shall see to it that it does not happen !
Attached please find some really great reviews posted on Tripadvisor :
“The staff made our honeymoon unforgettable!!!!”
Everything about the lodge was perfect, it was very cozy and clean! Margaret was so sweet and informative! Tiger made the most flavorful meals; even better than we’ve had at a five star restaurant. His Brinjal tower with creamed mushroom sauce and a toasted cheese bread soldier was absolutely divine.
Charl and Bernard were amazing guides. I’d highly recommend a bush walk with Charl; he not only teaches you about the animals of the bush, but about the insects and plants as well! Bernard got us the perfect sunset photo and was extremely knowledgeable.
When we come back to the bush, we will be coming back here!
“Wonderful days in Tremisana Lodge”
– Lanfranco B, Stockholm Sweden
We just came back from a wonderful 6 days staying in Tremisana Lodge.
The room was spacious and filled with every comfort and we really enjoyed the common areas and the swimming pool.In addition the garden is freshly curated with palms and beautiful flowers.
The staff is really nice and fun, always available to help both during the game drive in the safari and during the stay, moreover the meals cooked were delicious.
Balule private game reserve it’s a hidden gem, where you will get in closer contact with all the animals compared to Kruger National park and where the big 5 sightseeing it’s really likely.
We defenitely reccomend Tremisana Lodge for everyone who is looking for a Safari, filled with fun activities in the wild nature but at the same time with all the comforts that you can have at home.
We can’t wait to come back there one day.
Lanfranco & Evgenia
– Mav M
I spent one night here as part of a 6 day Safari.
It was a long drive but I have never experienced a petrol station with a view of so many animals! Lunch was great and the drivers were happy to stop if needed to get snacks.
We get there and the accommodation are beautiful rooms with a bathroom, fan and mosquito net. They are set up nicely and clean.
We are taken for a drive and see the local animals, 2 out of 5 of the big 5 on the first day! Then a dinner under the stars with special local guests! The food and atmosphere was fantastic!
Slept really well (bed was great) and woke up refreshed and excited for the two hour bush walk.
The weather was great so off we went!
This was an amazing experience. Even if we never saw any animals (There were so many) the information and walking around was great! Our tour guides were funny and really great at their job.
We went for a drive again and saw LIONS! 3 of the big 5 by day 2!
The staff and tour guides are amazing and they catered to our younger members of our group beautifully! We were looked after and everything was very organised.
This resort did have a tipping guide for tour groups which was very helpful but I was not sure about staff, drivers or cleaners but I recommend if you are not from a tipping culture, ask and they will let you know.
It was a wonderful balance of comfort and wildlife atmosphere. The local monkeys were very entertaining and cheeky!
The attitude of we will see what we see it’s “The Name of the Game” was great! No animals antagonised and best game of I spy ever!
This lodge was a wonderful experience!
I booked the 6 day safari of Viva Safari and spend 5 nights at Marc’s Treehouse Lodge. Everything was wonderful.
The staff is great and and the food very tasty. It was so fun to meet some nyalas on your way to the breakfast. The tree houses are stylish (if you don’t matter with some bugs or a little frog in the bathroom. :D). Particularly the loud silence at night is unforgettable!!!
While my safari tours, I have seen a big variety of animals, espacially the cheethas have been great, I will never forget how I felt, sitting in the open vehicle and watching these big cats eating an impala…
All in all I had a perfect trip!!! Thank you so much!
“Incredible and complete experience”
– Thassio Rocha
The experience with Viva Safari was really good and very complete. The staff guys were very nice, helpful and prepared. The two guides, Luca and Bernard, formed a great pair always trying to share the best infos. Our Kruger guide was also super good, we saw that other guides in the park used his knowledge to find animals.
Moreover, the meals were very good, beer was cold and the wifi saved me.
About the accommodation, even a little bit far from the main lodge, my tent was super cool, with light and open space table. The hot water in the shared bathrooms was a surprise.
3 days maybe is not enough, I want to back!
– Mareike S
Absolutely loved my trip with VIVA SAFARIS! This was an absolute highlight of my trip to South Africa! After being picked up in Joburg, the drive to Balule/Kruger is 5-6 hours but the awaiting evening game drive will totally make up for it, incl. dinner in the bush with hyenas in the back! This throws you right into a wonderful bush experience! I spent one night at Tremisana and two nights at Marc’s – the only thing I regret is that I didn’t make it a 5 or even 6 day safari trip! We had two morning bush walks and one day in Kruger – it was quite hot that day, that’s also why I’d recommend a few more days for your safari if you can fit it in so you have enough days to actually try and get to see all the animals. 🙂 You get absolute great value for your money! I’d totally recommend it to anyone going to Kruger/ South Africa for a safari trip!
SPECIAL SHOUTOUT to Charl from Tremisana Lodge who showed us the wild dogs! Won’t ever forget that experience when we thought it’d be a slow tour after a rainy day and then we discovered these guys. BRILLIANT! 🙂
“Perfect 5 day safari”
– Julie V
We are extremely satisfied with Viva Safari experience. All the staff was very friendly and helpful. The activities were well organized and they were fun, never a time to get bored but ensuring also some time to rest near the pool with nature! The food was healthy and delicious. The rooms were very clean. The guides are local, experienced and provide valuable Information.
We especially want to thank Elias, Mama, Delina, Charlie for their friendliness.
So overall we would definitely recommend to go with Viva Safaris !
I usually end off with “Until next month” but now I shall say :
Until next time,
With kind regards,