Some years ago, my sons, Anthony and Marc, bought me a fantastic torch on the occasion of my 60th birthday.
This torch has 3 levels of intensity and has been a great help in spotting nocturnal animals. The most useful feature of the torch is that it can be changed to diffuse mode. This is especially handy when encountering diurnal animals on a night drive. The belief is that most normal spotlights, that cannot be adjusted to different intensities, do these animals a lot of ocular damage. Our guides have not been shining their spotlights on these animals, often upsetting guests who would like to take nocturnal photos of all the animals they encounter. We have now bought these special hand-held torches for all our guides and this will allow all our guests to take photos of diurnal animals at night.
One of the most common nocturnal animals seen on night drives is the Scrub Hare. Of course, the average guest shouts out “Bunny” when they see them. I suppose this will be even more likely to happen as we approach Easter.
The Scrub Hare, Lepus Saxatilis, has large ears and relatively long legs, attributes that allow them to detect and flee from predators such as Leopards, Jackals, Caracals, Pythons and Eagle-Owls. Our guides often find them on the roads and they run ahead of the vehicle in a zig-zag fashion until they find a break in the bush. In summer, after the rains, they may not easily find this break as the grass is thick and high and our guides need a lot of patience while following the Scrub Hares.
By day the Scrub Hare hides in a thicket and is often flat on the ground. The young, called leverets, are precocial, meaning that they are born in an advanced state and are capable of feeding and moving independently almost immediately. They eat grass, roots, tubers and forbs and practise refection of their food – re-consuming vitamin-rich green partially-digested faeces.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
PATRICK advises that, although he cannot go off-road in Kruger, he does get very close up to the animals.
He sent the following photos :
ROCKY had a brilliant month tracking on Balule.
VICTOR sent the following :
GEORGE sent the following:
ANDY sent the following:
Andy quotes a thrilled guest : “To see lions and loveable cubs walk past us on both sides of our open vehicle will remain one of my very best life experiences “.
RAYMOND sent these :
ELIAS sent the following :
NHLANHLA sent the following:
QUINTON took these photos while on bush walks at Marc’s Camp:
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Nyarai sent the following report :
March has already come to an end and out here there is always something exciting to look forward to. The beauty of it all is not being able to determine exactly what the bush has in store for one. It’s always been the bush over the city for me. After being away for a short break it feels really good to be back. I must say i really missed ‘my second home’.
This month has been really busy and we have seen a significant growth in the number of guests compared to February. With Easter being around the corner I am certain we will be very busy.
The days are still hot so a splash in the pool with lots of sunscreen is a necessity. Most nights have been cooler. I know we all define cold differently. As we move towards winter now a light jacket always comes in handy during the evening drive. Especially on the way back to the lodge after the boma braai. The gardens at Tremisana are looking great thanks to our gardener Elvis. We have also been busy with thatching the roofs after the heavy rains that we were blessed with in February.
Animal sightings for the month of March around the lodge included the hyena in front of the lapa during breakfast. He comes out on most days and the guests love taking pictures of him.
There is also a family of warthogs that sometimes come into the lodge. The hippo at Tremisana dam. We have also had elephants around the lodge.
Overall it has been a good month. I am really looking forward to April. The optimist in me feels it is going to be a great Easter month.
Stay safe and take care.
KATEKANI, MARCS TREEHOUSES, MASANGO and DUMELA
Charl sent the following report:
Unfortunately it has been a quiet month for us again. But the bush never fails. We are very fortunate to have a regular sighting of a big male leopard walking through our staff quarters at night and are often soothed to sleep with the calls of hyenas and lions on a nightly occurrence.
The camp has been quite busy the last month the bush is still quiet green and lush after all the rains we have been having. I don’t think this winter will be too tough on the animals as there is still quite a lot of food in the bush for them due to the good rains.
Dumela Luxury Tented Camp: we are busy with its final touches before we get ready to open our doors. We have painted out the pool area and gate for the camp. As the pool is quite a large attraction to the lodge due to its large size. I know summer time people will be spending all day chilling by the pool. We look forward to be able to cater to the self catering and self drive market.
Ezulwini, the elephant, made a turn at Ezulwini Billy’s Lodge to the great appreciation of our guests booked on the luxury lodge package.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
March 2023 has been a fair month with a steady stream of tourists.
Unemployment in the Tourism Sector is still quite acute. We are regularly inundated with applications for jobs. Unfortunately, these are all declined as we are obliged to re-engage all former Viva Safaris staff first. We advertised the position of Camp Manager at our associated Pumusa Bush Camp in Hluhluwe ( where we accommodate guests doing the 7 day Kruger, St Lucia and Hluhluwe safari package ) and had no fewer than 40 applications !
We are coming up to our quiet season so it is unlikely that we can offer any further employment until August, when numbers hopefully will increase.
One of the challenges that we have is the issue of keeping all tourists happy in terms of time deadlines. There is a delicate balance between keeping guests busy and allowing them time to relax. All our packages are designed for maximum game viewing so it becomes a challenge when some tourists simply refuse to adhere to our well-documented times of departure for various activities. It does sometimes create animosity between guests. For example, on the days we do a full safari in Kruger, we try to leave the camps so that we arrive at Orpen at around 09h00. It is a long day as we leave at the end of the day around 17h30, depending on the time of year. Some guests have a remarkably wayward sense of punctuality and may hold up the others by as much as 15 minutes. Similarly, when we stop at the Three Rondawels of the Blyde River Canyon, the guests are told that we shall be leaving after 30 minutes. There will always be a guest or two that cannot understand that we need to leave punctually for very good reasons including timeous drop offs at O R Tambo airport. With the large numbers of tourists Viva moves, it is our hope that we are pleasing at least 75% of our guests at least 75% of the time.
Further to my comments in last month’s newsletter, I received the following thought-provoking email from Laetitia Cronje of Campfire Academy. Laetitia has successfully run ranger training programs for many years. Viva Safaris has employed quite a few of her graduates. I personally have the highest regard for her and believe she is a doyen of conservation.
Thank you for raising the issue of off-road driving in your last newsletter.
Off-roading is part of the safari experience when the ranger deliberately drives off the road to follow wildlife into unspoilt nature.
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in off-road driving and the pressure on ecosystems is likely to escalate, according to soil scientist Dr Gerhard Nortjé.
The research done in the Kruger National Park by Dr. Nortjé suggests that uncontrolled off-road driving causes long term irreversible damage, that may last for 1000 years. His research concludes that 90% of the damage is done by the first vehicle off-roading.
Few tourists to South Africa’s protected areas know that soil is a non-renewable resource. They visit these areas hoping to see and interact with wildlife, unaware of the expense to Nature associated with off roading. Soil and climate are basic to any ecosystem, allowing plant life to thrive. If we do not protect our soils, then our wildlife suffers. Soil at a constant temperature promotes root development of all plants. Water retention is essential for plant growth and soil is the habitat for numerous invertebrates and fungi.
Most tourists hope to see lions during their safari. If the lions are deep in the bush, the tourist guide may carefully navigate through the bush to get closer to the lions.
What tourists don’t do is look back behind them where a double trail of destruction has been created. Inter alia, small insects may die and birds’ eggs may be crushed.
This is only the immediately discernible damage. Long-term damage includes massive reduction in both plant growth and water retention of the ecosystem, These have a direct impact on the wellbeing of the wildlife in the area. Was being that close to the lion really worth the damage done?
I suggest that conservation-conscious safari guests do the following :
• Prior to your game drive, ask your guide not to off-road and explain to other guests why you believe this is detrimental to fauna and flora.
• Book with safari lodges, agents and operators that “DO” conservation not just “TALK” conservation.
• Ask ahead of time if they allow off-roading. If they do, let them know why you will not book with them.
• Create awareness of the dangers of off-roading with your friends and family.
Please take the time to read the introduction and conclusion of the research done by Dr. G Nortjé. (Nortjé, Gerhard & van Hoven, Wouter & Laker, Michiel & Jordaan, J.C. & Louw, Michelle. (2016). Quantifying the Impact of Off-Road Driving on Root-Area Distribution in Soils. African Journal of Wildlife Research. 46. 33-48. 10.3957/056.046.0033.) If you have any further questions please contact Laetitia at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Mother Nature might seem to lose the battle, but she will win the war”
I include the following Tripadvisor Reviews :
Don’t hesitate…just book!
Geoffrey L, UK
One of the most unforgettable experiences of my lifetime, courtesy of Viva Safaris.
Whether you’re traveling solo or as a couple / group, you’re bound to meet some great people and make memories of a lifetime.
ANIMALS: We saw all of the big five and a lucky group of us had a sublime encounter with about eight lions, five of which were cubs. Some of what we saw I will never forget. Be prepared to be disappointed on some trips, however – there’s no guarantee of a sighting.
STAFF: What’s remarkable is that some of the staff are working in 25-day blocks, with only five days off. New faces are cycling in and out every day, so you can imagine it’s not the easiest job. And yet all of them made us feel like we were the only people on earth. You can also tell they love what they do, and they’re very VERY good at it – these men have a sixth sense for tracking animals.
SCHEDULE: Another reviewer complained about a “tight schedule”… i.e., not having much downtime. I disagree. My experience was that the schedule was perfectly balanced. Yes, you’re shuttled from here to there and sometimes it can feel rushed, but the guides are trying to see as much as possible in a fairly short window. You also DO get quite a bit of downtime in-between some of the activities.
DISCOMFORT: This was my first safari, and if it’s yours too my advice would be to expect to be a little uncomfortable now and then. Much of the time you’ll be hot or cold or tired or hungry. You’ll have to pee or the mosquitos will be eating you alive. In those moments I tried to embrace the discomfort – it’s all part of the adventure!
COST: I genuinely felt like I had a priceless experience, so I think the cost is more than fair.
I am going to try to answer all the questions I had before booking my first Safari of my life. I randomly found this company online along with many others. This company is literally one of the best experiences I’ve had with any company in any field ever. The people are fantastic. The prices are great. They pick you up and drop you off. Absolutely anywhere to get you to and from the Safari. They are on time. The food is great. These are the most happy and kind people I’ve ever met at a place of business. They go the extra mile over and over again to make sure you are happy and comfortable and get the best viewings of wildlife. I have absolutely zero complaints. Trust me, if you’re interested in seeing lions and the big five, etc., you should take my advice and just book with this company.
GM Response: Hi Jason Immediately after I read your PERFECT review, I took a screen shot and forwarded it to all Viva staff as well as my 4 children. The latter group have been hinting, albeit indirectly, that I should be retiring soon, as I am well past retirement age. Reviews like yours motivate me to continue in what I do. The staff and I experience a sense of fulfilment when we read such kind words. Thanks for keeping us all very happy. Be well.
Safari under time pressure, but very friendly, supportive staff
We did the 6 day safari, and it was a bit of a mixed experience. The schedule was very tight, and it felt like we did not have time to actually fully enjoy the safari experience or breathe for a second. We were transported from one thing to the next one and if we wanted to take a picture, get water or go to the bathroom the staff became quite stressed, so a suggestion to Viva would be to maybe loosen the schedule a bit, so the staff/guests are not getting stressed out and the guests have a little more time to relax and enjoy the safari.
What concerned me the most was our transfer from the lodge to Kruger Park Orpen gate. The transfer was about one hour and happened with an open safari vehicle with no seatbelts whatsoever. The driver was going about 100+ km/h and it felt really unsafe being like this on a regular street. Also the wind/dust that came with the speed and an open vehicle was really unpleasant in the eyes/face.
We spent 2 days at Kruger and both days we did the exact same route (Orpen gate, same route, same lunch place). It would have been nice to switch it up a little bit, to make the Kruger experience even better.
Also on the last day it was quite a long drive to three rondavels and we only had 30 minutes there to walk to the view point, go to the bathroom and get souveniers. It would have been nice to spend some more time at this beautiful place (again: very tight schedule and everyone got stressed)
What was really positive were our drivers from and to Joburg, especially George, who made the long drive really pleasant.
And our stay at the Katekani Lodge was really great too, what made the overall safari tour a lot better.
The rooms were amazing and the staff (especially our kitchen chef Margaret was doing a really great job).
So all in all it was a good experience, but there is for sure some room for improvements, since being stressed is the last thing you want on a vacation.
GM Response: Hi Kathi Thank you for taking time to write a review that certainly is thought-provoking. We are pleased that you found our staff “very friendly and supportive.” The issue of time regulation has been a problem since day 1 . Viva Safaris tries to offer an action-packed experience that maximizes game viewing time. While we appreciate that some guests regard their safari as a laid-back holiday, the experience I have gained in running safari packages for well over 35 years is that the VAST MAJORITY of safari-goers want to do just that – go on safari and see as many animals as possible. On our Welcome Letter handed to you on your pickup and at the various lodges we own, all departure times for all activities are provided. iI is made abundantly clear that wayward concepts of punctuality are most likely to offend all other tourists. It is simply bad manners to hold up other tourists raring to go on game drives. Like you, they may be stressed by other inconsiderate tourists. Our Kruger Park guides are tip-top. All are ex-Kruger Park staff and their huge networking allows Viva to show guests brilliant sightings, time after time. They choose the roads they drive each day based on intelligence of game whereabouts. Our vehicles all have safety belts – otherwise they would fail the annual COF ( Certificate of Fitness ).test. I understand your frustration at not having more than 30 minutes at the spectacular Three Rondawels. The scenery of the Blyde Canyon is indeed absolutely awesome ! However we need to remember that we promise to do our very best to be back at O R Tambo airport at around 17h00 and are not prepared to stress other tourists who have on-going flights by leaving things to the last minute. Also, by law, our drivers need a 1 h rest period during lunch. Again, by law, our vehicles cannot transfer any guests at speeds over 100kmh and the vehicles have been modified to do just that – an important safety aspect for Viva Safaris. Thanks for bringing up this matter – I have circulated both your review and my response to all affected staff. Be well.
I had the pleasure of staying at this Lodge the past couple of days and i must say…TOP CLASS!The hospitality of the lodges’ staff is on another level.Their ability to make you feel relaxed and welcome is second to none.
I had the pleasure of going on game drives,which in itself is on another level.The knowledge that the guides have are equaled to their passion for wildlife and their commitment to providing an excellent service to their guests
As for the food – top notch
As for the venue – top notch
As for the beds and amenities – top notch
I without any doubt,recommend this lodge(Tremisana Game Lodge)to anyone and everyone.
I am going to book my next trip right now.
A HUGE Thank You!
3 Night Stay on our 5 Day Safari
I just want to say that the staff members working here are phenomenal.
Connie and the kitchen staff were so friendly and helpful and the breakfasts and dinners were so delicious and freshly made – I enjoyed everything that was prepared!
Mr Patrick was our game driver for our day out in Greater Kruger and what a day we had with such a knowledgeable man!
Quinten is probably the most interesting person we have ever met – could have sat and listened to him talk about wildlife and his experiences in the bush for hours, so so interesting! Had an awesome early bush walk with him!
We were in a cabin and the accommodation was great and the rooms were brilliant and very clean.
We were so sad to leave this place, the people made it a truly unforgettable experience – we hope to come back and catch up with you guys soon!
Until next month,
With kind regards,