Last week, while I was clearing up my office, I came across the very first newsletter I ever sent. At that stage, the newsletters were issued quarterly and this one was dated 4th quarter of 1999.
Marco, webmaster extraordinaire, has printed newsletters going back to the beginning of the century and I have calculated that this month’s newsletter is very close to edition number 250 !!!!!
I am now well past retirement age (usually 65 in SA) and my close friends advise that it is perhaps time to slow down a bit.
Were it not for the multiple grateful emails and whatsapps I receive after every sending every newsletter, I would be tempted to reduce their frequency.
I include below the 1999 newsletter :
The zebra that is referred to was a tame filly that I procured from my friend, Brian Jones, of Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre fame. She was a great hit with our tourists at the time but eventually, as she approached adulthood, became difficult to handle.
We transferred her to a property across the road from Tremisana Lodge.
I am reminded of our first lawsuit at Olifants West Nature Reserve ( unfortunately there have been others ). One evening, Zebbie ( clearly we had an embarrassing lack of imagination/creativity to give her such an uninspiring name and eventually moved on to Debbie) was at the gate of the then Balule Nature Reserve. An exceptionally rich landowner, who owned property in the Olifants River Shareblock Reserve, entered through our Gate and found Zebbie in the way of his very fancy latest BMW. He then proceeded to slap Zebbie on the rump, ostensibly to get her to move out of the way. Of course, she wasn’t going to take this nonsense and promptly kicked the fancy vehicle, leaving a not insignificant dent. The lawsuit was eventually dropped and Zebbie was left in peace. It made for a good laugh at the time.
What is not a laughing matter is the continued war in the Ukraine. It is depressing for me to see such wanton destruction. We are told by our fuel suppliers that as of 6 April, there will be an estimated R 3-00 per litre increase in the diesel price. We shall absorb that cost and not increase our tariffs at this time. However, should there be any further increases this year, we shall have no option but to add a temporary fuel levy to our tariffs. I have contacted all our travel agent supporters and assured them that I shall personally see to it that there will be no cost-cutting in terms of the quality of our safari products : certainly no changes in the menus of meals or the distances travelled to see animals. If, for example, we get to know that there is a lion kill in Kruger Park and that the likelihood is high that the lions will still be there, then our guides WILL travel the extra kilometres to show the lions to our guests.
Our clients are on safari precisely to see animals and we shall never compromise their chances of doing exactly that !
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
VICTOR reports as follows :
On 20th we were welcomed at Kruger’s Orpen Gate reception by a breeding herd of elephants on their way to the Timbavati River.
We saw a lot of elephants throughout the day.
On the road to Satara, we saw 3 old buffalo bulls. We drove via Mudzanzeni picnic spot and on the Sweni River road we had great luck : two male lions were trying to ambush a zebra herd.
They got quite close but the herd stallion saw them and alerted his harem and they all got away. Later that evening, we had a great sighting of 3 hyenas resting in the shade of a nearby tree.
On the 25th I had even better luck : loads of elephant, two sightings of lions, plenty buffalo and even a good leopard sighting !
The interaction of a lioness and her 2 cubs brought tears to the eyes of my guests.
PATRICK reports :
As always, I conducted all my game viewing safaris in Kruger Park.
On 15th it was a relatively cool day after overnight rain. We still had great sightings : Lions and Elephants on the Sweni Road, Buffaloes on the S 100 and plenty general game all over.
On the 16th we found a pack of Wild Dogs on the Rabelais Road, lions on the Sweni Road, a huge herd of elephant at Nsemani Dam, buffaloes at Nwanedzi Bridge and general game everywhere.
On the 17th we found lions south of the Sweni bridge and again near the Nwanedzi picnic spot on S 41. Plenty elephants all over with a big concentration on the S 100. We were lucky to see the Wild Dogs again on the Rabelais Road.
On the 18th we found lions on the S 41, a big herd of buffalo at Mazithi Dam, White Rhino further on, elephants at Rockvale waterhole, wild dogs and Jackal on the H 7 and lions again in the Timbavati riverbed.
RAYMOND sent the following :
On the 2nd on a Bush Walk on Rome 1 we found a herd of elephants and many giraffes. We walked in between all of them. They were very relaxed – just looking at us continuing to feed. At the river we found the usual pod of hippos and one of them was out the water, allowing my guests a great opportunity for a good photo.
On the 3rd on the Sunset Drive we found a pride of lions at York7 hunting for impala. They failed because the impala saw them and ran off. At Rome 1 we found a breeding herd of elephants crossing the main Olifants road. On the way back we found a leopard near to Tremisana trying unsuccessfully to catch an impala.
On the 7th on the Sunset Drive we saw a kill ! A pride of lions caught a warthog and within two minutes there was nothing left. On the way back we found a cheetah walking on the main road.
On the 8th in Kruger Park we saw a big herd of Buffalo near to Girivane dam. At Nsemani dam we had a great sighting of a big herd of elephants with some were swimming in the water. We then found five female lions with some cubs at Nwanetsi Bridge. They walked in front of my open vehicle towards Satara for more than 1km. We followed them until the last Bridge to Satara then they went into the bush.
On the 14th on our way to do a Bush Walk along Marula Lane we found three teenage lions.
On the 22nd during the Morning Drive we found a pride of lions on York 7. They lay down for 10 minutes and then started hunting, passing very close to the vehicle towards Campire. At Rosies Pan we saw elephants drinking water. Later we came across a Black Rhino with calf. We also found Wild Dogs on the Kumiyela plains .What a truly fantastic Morning Drive !
Tolli has sent his brilliant photos :
March was quite an exciting month – firstly because we could see an increase in bookings and secondly because the bush did not disappoint.
LIONS LIONS LIONS
These big cats were not shy this month and we had fantastic sightings all through the month, from young males to larger prides of up to 9 lions, mostly doing what lions do best: lying around.
The elephants are also back in large numbers. One afternoon I was driving along a narrow, winding road when I came across a large herd on the path. The very big Matriarch was obviously upset about something and decided to take out her frustration on me – immediately going on a full charge as soon as she saw my vehicle! I had no choice but to do a hasty retreat down this narrow, winding path full speed in reverse and she kept coming! Luckily after about 800 metres I found a side track down which I could escape, going forward! Looking in my rear-view mirror, she was still coming for us for at least another 500 metres. Close call!
BEAUTIFUL BLACK RHINOS
These majestic creatures also showed up a couple of times, and to my delight, posed for a couple of pictures.
My luck with the leopards hasn’t run out completely, as I managed to come across 2 lovely females and 1 big male. It’s always a treat to find these amazing cats.
As the winter months approach the bush will start thinning out again and I’m sure we can soon look forward to some more fantastic sightings.
Till next month. Yuri
Thanks to Brass of Campfire Academy who sent me this lovely shot of Tolli and guests close to the very famous Big Tusker, named Ezulwini.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Nyarai sent the following :
The bush has a way of taking a hold of you. The quietness it gives at times and then the delightful surprises of various animal sounds and sightings. After a while you might feel like you miss the city. A few days of dealing with traffic jams and a lot of noise you find your heart yearning to come back. I have seen a lot of animals over the years. It never gets normal or monotonous. It can be seeing giraffes or zebras or one of the big five, the truth is I am always intrigued by every encounter. One guest asked me if I ever get tired of seeing the animals. I will never get tired or bored. I am that person that still watches animal documentaries even when I am home. That is how deep my love for the bush is.
I took a break this month and I have to say what a pleasant welcome the bush gave me when I came back. I went on the Sunset Drive the day I returned and we saw seven lions at close range. They walked right past our vehicle. I was scared and excited at the same time. Afterwards we saw three elephants and one was busy pulling a tree down. We almost got a leopard as we made our way to Marula Boma for the bush braai. He made a quick dash into the thick bush and when we got to the spot he was gone. It was hard to drive away. I have come to realize how difficult it is to surrender from a sighting that one has missed. You want to wait in hopes that the animal will appear again. A double dose of patience that most of us don’t realize we have hey. We also saw a lot of general game impalas, giraffes, zebras and wildebeest.
The number of guests coming to our lodges has increased significantly over the past weeks. With the new adjustments to the national disaster management act in South Africa I am sure the number of tourists coming into South Africa will see an improvement. The next coming months hold so much potential and we can only hope and pray that things will continue to get better. I am certain that April is going to be our busiest month so far especially over the Easter weekend. It is very exciting and we are getting ready to welcome our guests. We are grateful to everyone who has continued to support Viva Safaris through the pandemic. We still have our doors open because of the trust you have in us to be your safari partners. We look forward to more adventures in the bush with you.
Richard, caretaker, advises that he has seen a leopard at the front gate on a few occasions and on one occasion, as Victor was bringing guests back to Marcs Treehouse Lodge.
Hyenas still frequent the lodge grounds and Richard stores all his clothes safely inside his room.
The buffalo herd has been destructive this month and has knocked over poles that have lights attached to them. They have also made a mess of the brandering lats at the parking grounds at Marcs.
Mandla and Margrett report : On the evening of the 28th, we had a great sighting of 2 leopards right at Unit 2a. It was a mating pair and they were more interested in each other than the group of staff and tourists watching them from a safe distance.
Maintenace work is ongoing and we do our very best to ensure the luxury tents are comfortable for our guests.
A lot of damage is being done by a troop of baboons and a herd of buffalo. Poles and brandering lats are being knocked over by the buffalo and the thatch roofs are always a great playground attraction for young baboons. They slide down with great glee grabbing handfuls of thatch on their merry way. We have added chicken wire to try to keep the thatch intact.
Aron, Richard and Pieters have their work cut out for them in maintaining treehouse, cleaning pathways and trying to keep the wild animals from doing major damage !
Aron is bust rebuilding the bridge at treehouse 7 which has been badly wrecked by these bovine brutes !!!
EZULWINI LUXURY LODGE
We recently sent a group of tourists to Ezulwini Lodge on one of our luxury lodge packages. They had great fortune on their day In Kruger Park and this good luck continued as witnessed by the photos I received :
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
We are proud to advise that Viva Safaris was rated as one of the “Ten Best Operators of all South African Tour Operators” by SafariBookings. Thanks to all concerned, especially Patti.
As mentioned earlier, we are experiencing an increase in our bookings and we hope that this trend continues. As we get stronger, we can employ more staff and this, for me personally, is the most pleasing aspect of increased tourist numbers.
I regret to advise that Tolli will be leaving Viva at the end of the month. His mother, Nellie, is struggling to run Matumi Lodge on her own and Tolli will bring the expertise he has acquired to remedy the situation.
He will still be available to assist us when necessary. We shall miss his brilliant photos !
Elias will replace Tolli and will be stationed at Tremisana. Elias is a great guide blessed with a wonderful sense of humour and revels especially in the 4 h Bush Walks along the Olifants River.
We are also pleased to advise that Elvis, our top gardener, has been reemployed.
As of 1 April, we shall offer permanent positions to Paulina, Margrett, Solly and Audrey.
Bit by bit we are getting there !
We had the following reviews posted on Tripadvisor :
Wonderful Experience from Beginning to End
Excellent service and a true pleasure dealing with every person I met along the way.
Guides Juri, Tolli, Victor, and Patrick were all extremely knowledgable and showed so much passion for their jobs. With their experience, I was able to have many animal sightings, including all the Big 5.
Wonderful staff also at the lodges – cooks, receptionists etc greeted me by name and were happy to chat.
Great logistics throughout the entire trip, I rarely had to wait for more than 5 minutes, which is totally acceptable given distances and unexpected road conditions. Spending hours and hours sitting in cars is of course not the most comfortable experience but unavoidable.
I read bad reviews out of curiosity and can‘t agree with any of them. I‘d prefer slightly less aggressive answers from the GM, though. Feedback is a gift, and even if you don‘t like the pair of socks you got from your mother in law, you shouldn’t lash out imho.
All in all one of the best trips of my life (>1 million KM flown and >60 countries visited).
Will recommend Viva and will be back.
Aaran and I had the most AMAZING experience! Once in a lifetime (well we actually hope to come back ASAP) the staff were exceptional. We felt part of the family. We really are so thankful to everyone who made our holiday so memorable. The drivers George and Sully were so professional and lovely. The safari drivers were all amazing especially Tolly and Ray. Thank you to Aaran for his amazing bbq. Thank you Pauline for our meals you are an amazing person! Thank you Ri for your insightful conversations and warming welcome. Please support these guys at Katekani/ VIVA safaris they are amazing!
I wish all our Christian, Muslim and Jewish readers a holy Easter, Ramadaan and Passover.
Until next month,
With kind regards,