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May 2019

By now it is common knowledge that some of the private Nature Reserves around Kruger have decided to dehorn all their rhino.

Such drastic action is explained as “better a dehorned rhino than no rhino at all”.

I have serious reservations but accept that the action was done with the best intentions of rhino conservation.

One of my concerns is that Olifants West Nature Reserve has a healthy population of Black Rhino. Black Rhino cows are not much larger than big Buffalo bulls and may become easy prey for lions as the rhinos’ main defence mode has been removed. The Black Rhino cows will also struggle to defend their young calves.

It is really disheartening to see this development and once again we curse those involved in rhino poaching.

I took the photo below of a White Rhino at Tshukudu. His horn is due for re-cutting. I am told that the growth is about 7cm per year so the horn must be cut every 2 years or so.

White Rhino at Tshukudu

White Rhino at Tshukudu

 

I ask you to please assist in any way possible in combatting rhino poaching.

More depressing news is that the Botswana government has lifted the ban on elephant hunting. I read an article in which it was claimed that the new President has enacted this law for political expediency. He is under pressure from local farmers that claim that the elephants do a lot of damage to their crops.

Naturally there is a financial aspect here – ivory sales will no doubt enrich the politicians.

As in the case of rhino horn, I believe that legalising trade in ivory will necessarily lead to a bigger demand in Asia. This will again necessarily lead to an escalation of poaching and the beginning of the end for elephants in Africa.

Enough of depression !

I hope our guides’ reports lift our moods.

 

GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES

JANNEMAN Reports

Sundowner drive 1st May :  Started off with sightings of zebra, hippo and Impala. After snacks on the Olifants River, we saw a black rhino cow and calf. The calf was on its knees to drink from his mother. At one stage a big Black Rhino bull came along and tried to push the calf but the mother did not allow him to come near. She fought back and pushed him into the bushes. Then a radio call came through for a lion sighting at Campfire. The lions were busy pulling an impala that seemed to have drowned in the water. They battled, but after about 15 minutes they pulled it to the side and all tucked in.

Sunset drive on the 9th May  : We viewed 12 giraffe around Sable road and later we spotted a pride of lion around Naledi. They were hunting and with the abundance of impala it didn’t take long for a lioness to catch one. At the turn off to the Marula Boma we came across a herd of elephant. There were 15 including calves. The matriarch got a little irritated but she let us pass and they went into the bush eating peacefully.

Elephants at dam

Elephants at dam

 

Sundowner drive 27th May : We went to Barnards and all 9 guests were very happy to see 2 elephants playing in the water. Then the whole herd came to the dam for a drink. The guests were very excited and took memorable videos and photos. After snacks we were again fortunate to see lions at Campfire.

 

BERNARD Reports

May was a great month. The sun is setting earlier so our Sunset Drives need to leave promptly at 17h00 to see the sun set. My best sighting of the month was of 2 leopards on Marula Boma property. They crossed the road right in front of my vehicle. I assumed it was a male and a female.

I did more bush walks this month than ever before.  I really enjoy them. Rex and I were lucky to see a male lion crossing the river on one bush walk. Lion sightings this month were much better than in April.

I have realised how special elephants are. I love to spend time with them.

Bernard falling in love with elephants

Bernard falling in love with elephants

 

This month we saw a lot of chameleons, genets and civets on the night drives.

 

ELIAS Reports

Nature will always surprise you even though it’s cold.

On a bush walk with Shannon we saw impalas, kudu and zebra. As we reached the place where we park our Cruiser, we found a breeding herd of elephants right there on our parking spot. The guests were amazed. Shannon was sitting on the tracker seat so it was great to see her face. We just changed our parking place and we saw hippos and crocodiles along the river.

Good study of elephants

Good study of elephants

 

I went out on a sunset drive with my guests, driving down the Olifants road toward Campfire and we saw giraffes, impalas and buffalo. I received a call on the radio that there was a pride of lions at Naledi bush camp.  It was amazing to see a pride of 27 lions. As we reached Marula Boma we saw two honey badgers.

On a sundowner drive, we drove on York 7, now called Imagine Africa – thanks Richard – and we saw a big leopard up a tree. We then drove around Rome 1 and while we enjoyed our drinks, 3 big bull elephants made an appearance, playing around in the water. It was a great sundowner.

 

PATRICK Reports

3rd : The day was hot ,sightings difficult, lions on s100 near Xibotwana waterhole, elephants on Sweni road, white rhino near Orpen.

9th : General game h7 road, elephants h7 Ngwenya Khaya, lions Nsemane dam, buffaloes s100 before Xibotwana waterhole.

14th : Lions Nkaya pan, leopard 2km before Kumana dam  , buffaloes Sweni road  , elephants Sweni road and white rhinos and a newborn calf on the way out.

Lions resting at midday

Lions resting at midday

 

19th : Lions h7 Timbavati riverbed, wild dogs h7 road before s36 junction, buffaloes and elephants  s100 and great sighting of hyenas crossing the road before the last gate.

22nd : Lions s100, many elephants also, buffaloes crossing on s100 and more general h7 road, 3 cheetahs on h6 road and 3 white rhinos near Orpen.

Elephants in between the Viva vehicles

Elephants in between the Viva vehicles

 

29th  : Lions with a kill on h7 Timbavati riverbed, buffalo bulls near picnic spot, elephants Nsemane dam, lioness Girivane waterhole and hyenas crossing before the last gate.

 

RAYMOND Reports

On the 14th in Balule we found a breeding herd of elephant about one km from Tremisana on the Olifants road. They surrounded our open vehicle. We separated a calf from its mother. Our guests were scared with all the screaming. There was no way I could move. We stayed still and after a few minutes then they left us. Adrenalin everywhere. Guests and I will not forget this experience in a hurry.

On the 24th in Kruger on H7 about 800m from the Phelwane bridge we found an Impala up a tree – looked all around but couldn’t find the leopard. On S40 we found a breeding herd of elephant crossing the road. On S126 near Mudzandzeni picnic spot we found a big herd of buffalo – more than 200 crossing the road.

Big buffalo herd

Big buffalo herd

 

On S36 we found one white rhino with a very little calf – looks two months old.

On the 27th in Balule at Campfire dam we found two female and one male lion lying down. Later on another 15 lions with some cubs including two very little ones joined them.

Lions lying down at Campfire dam

Lions lying down at Campfire dam

 

SHANNON Reports

It has been a month full of surprises; lots of sightings ranging from plains game to big 5. We have observed the Bushveld change from lush green to beautiful golden colours as the autumn season advances. The mornings are crisp and the sun rises later than usual. It is a subtle but evident change.

Bushwalks
We have had great times on the walks as we focus on the smaller things and go into depth as to how Nature functions. Hippo sightings are guaranteed !

Morning drive 
Sightings of Lion and Elephant have been plentiful and leave us all with big smiles.

Afternoon drives
A bit quiet at times and on other occasions teeming with wildlife. Elephants all around and occasionally a few lazy lions lying about waiting for dusk to start moving.

Sundowner drives
The drive that stood out the most for me was when we saw a beautiful female Leopard lying next to the road relaxing in the shade eventually standing up and slowly moving into the Bush. We were in awe of its beauty and relaxed behaviour as this is one of the rarest experiences to have

Sunset drives
Welcoming of new guests and introducing them to the lowveld is great. We have experienced many sightings of lion, elephant, hyena, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and so much more. We then enjoy a beautiful dinner under the winter sky taking in all the peace and scenery of the starry nights.

Great photo of a leopard by guest Taylor Smith

Great photo of a leopard by guest Taylor Smith

 

Photo credit goes to Taylor Smith one of my amazing guests whom I shall remember and had the privilege to share this experience with.

 

VICTOR Reports

KRUGER PARK REPORT
it was a very good day 28 to 35 degrees. From the boom gate to the Orpen reception we saw  general game including giraffes ,zebras and kudus. On the H7 to Satara near Kingfisherspruit we saw 55 elephants crossing the road. At Nwamatsantsa bridge we saw three lionesses.

Lions on African savannah

Lions on African savannah

 

On the S36 to Mudzandzeni picnic we saw five buffalos drinking at the Rockvale waterhole. We took the S126 Sweni road and saw a leopard crossing the road. After lunch we saw rhinos on the Girivana road and on our way out we saw wild dogs running on the road. Big Five and Wild Dog in one day !

 

REX Reports

Bush walks have yielded giraffes, baboons and hippos every day. We often get Waterbuck on the riverbanks.

Sundowner drives always yield elephants. We had White Rhino and Black Rhino on one drive.

Elephants seen on Bush Walk

Elephants seen on Bush Walk

 

Buffalo and Elephant have been frequent visitors at Tremisana Lodge.

 

JORDAN Reports

It has been an exciting month at Marcs Camp.

With winter closing in, waking up to a crisp yet refreshing morning, a walk at the river is invigorating.

We have seen some secretive nocturnal animals such as aardvark, porcupine, genet and civet. These are becoming more apparent in the camp by occasional encounters and fresh foot prints every morning.

Small-Spotted Genet seen on night drive

Small-Spotted Genet seen on night drive

 

Motlala game drives have been great.

Recent sightings of the new black rhino calf have been amazing. The little one is just over a month old.

Our resident female leopard has been on the move. Seems she is in the process of establishing her territory. Every so often, we find her tracks and prominent territory markings on bushwalks and this gives the guests and me an exciting shiver.

She will also be successful in her hunting now because impala are in full swing rut. Male impala are so busy fighting, mating and impressing each other that they tend to be much easier to catch as they are distracted.

 

CHARL Reports

This has been a very good month for sightings. We have had some amazing sightings of elephants and one day we had over 140 individuals playing at Nsemani dam.

We have been able to see the female leopard on s147 with her year old cub that has returned and been seen hanging around with another big male from the area.

One day we had an amazing sighting of Wild Dogs running up and down the road amongst our safari vehicles. What a special sighting that was !

Wild Dog on tar road

 

 

NEWS FROM OUR LODGES

TREMISANA GAME LODGE

REPORT FOR MAY 2019 BY RIANA
During this past month we had so many exciting things happen at Tremisana Lodge.

We welcomed our new hostess, Collette, who seem to be a ball of energy, but we were also sad to see our lovely hostess, Pretty, move to Marc’s Treehouse Camp.

We saw our guide, Shannon, turn 21 and celebrated this memorable occasion with her.

Weather-wise it is becoming more and more cooler in the mornings and the evenings and it makes everybody appreciate the boma fire at dinner time.

At the boma, we had a visit from a spotted green bush snake that caught a frog and went its merry way.

Elephant came to the waterhole to the delight of all the guests and we also had giraffe and a very shy Marabou Stork that is nesting not far from our Lapa.

Bernard also found a Blind snake around the lodge. It had the most beautiful pattern on the back but is rather strange looking.

Warthogs also seem to find the grass much greener inside the lodge fence than outside. The whole family came for a “roots-feast “  inside the lodge one day.

A great highlight was when we were having dinner with the guests in the boma one night and all of a sudden we heard a very loud roar. It sounded as if the lion was right outside the fence.  So , with the fire crackling in the background, a hearty bowl of soup, freshly baked bread and the roar of the lion outside the fence, what more can you ask for in the bush!!

 

MARC’S TREEHOUSE LODGE

CHARL reports :
With the quiet season in full swing we have been able to get to some maintenance work done such as treating all the decks and bridges against termites. Also fixed one of our boreholes  that had been giving us some troubles during the busy times. The lodge has been frequently visited by lots of nyalas , kudus, buffaloes and a special regular: a lovely big male giraffe.

 

KATEKANI LUXURY TENTED LODGE

We have also used the quiet time to treat all our decks against termites. The staff and I were fortunate enough to have a lovely sighting of a young female leopard walking past our main gate the one evening. We have also noticed a lot of tracks for African rock pythons moving around the lodge. Pythons control any pests.

 

NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS

We have had a departure from JNB every day in May this year. Last year there were 3 days in May when we did not have a departure. This year we shall have 365 departures ! First time ever ! Quite an achievement and well done to all concerned.

I took my long leave in May and the company did better than ever – ample and compelling evidence that retirement next year is a real possibility !

The 3 day Tent, Treehouse and Masango safari packages have done very well – again ample and compelling evidence that demand for very affordable safari packages from the budget market is on the rise.

I attach the following reviews posted in May 2019 :

VIVA SAFARIS

“They make an unforgettable honeymoon”
– JHOANAMVP, Mexico City Mexico

I would like to start my comment with the best part of all. It was to stay at Katekani with the amazing people you have working there. 3 of then make our stay a very pleasant one. Tiger’s food is delicious and you can see how much he loves what he does. He always surprises us and always with a smile. Nomsa and Madla always making sure that everything looks beautiful and organize and making such beautiful details for our honeymoon. They always made sure we were happy 100 percent. We are very thankful with them and always remenber them.
The safari was also very good. Always on time. We have the opportunity to see many animals from very close from the very first day.
One very important thing for me is that they are very trust reliable. From the moment they picked us from the hotel a Viva Safaris van pick you up with all the credentials.
In general a very good experience. We are looking forward to do it again with more family.

“Outstanding!”
– 895joshuad

I did the 5 day safari and it was amazing, well worth it! Staff were amazing, very hospitable and knowledgeable. Had so much fun, a good mixture between doing lots, but also having a little downtime. Food was excellent. Saw the Big 5 at Kruger. Rehabilitation Centre was interesting. Couldn’t ask for anything else! Everyone was outstanding but special shoutout to Jordan, Victor and Pretty. You and everyone all made my solo trip one that I’ll never forget

 

MARCS TREEHOUSE LODGE

“Viva Safaris package at Marc’s Treehouse”
– Megan Lynn

We had a wonderful stay at Marc’s Treehouse this May during our 5 day safari. All of the staff was very warm and welcoming, while also being so knowledgeable about the area and park. The treehouse was fun to stay with just a few uninvited lizards. All the food that was provided was delicious plus very accommodating if you had food restrictions. They were very well organized with the schedule for everyone coming and going at different times. Overall highly recommended package.

“Perfect Safari”
– selahak

From bush walks to night Safari, I experienced it all. Their staff was friendly and accommodating to my every need. I enjoyed my vegetarian meal, my favorite butternut squash, by the fire. Lions, hyenas, bulls, and mongoose at my tent’s door. Thank you for a fabulous memory!

 

TREMISANA

“Fantastic experience from start to finish”
– Andrew Fineberg

I had an amazing experience staying at Tremisana Lodge. My brother and his wife had stayed there during their honeymoon and had recommended Viva Safaris to me and specifically to stay Tremisana Lodge.
I have always wanted to go on safari in Africa and the 5 day safari at Tremisana Lodge was fantastic value for money. It was the best itinerary I had seen from my research, with a great balance each day. I was lucky enough to get to see the Big Five and many animals quite close up. I never expected to be so near to a Hyena while at the Boma the first night.
My highlights were seeing the herd of elephants crossing the road in front of us at Kruger NP, getting close to a cheetah at Tshukudu Game Lodge, the bush walk where Shannon provided great insight into animal tracks, local fauna and droppings (I wasn’t convinced to join in with spitting out the Giraffe pellets though) and finally seeing a lion on the last evening game drive.
All of the staff were very welcoming, friendly and helpful and the guides were great fun, approachable, knowledgeable, informative and made the game drives exciting every day. I just enjoyed being on the Sundowners and seeing what would come up each time:) A tip though, sit in the middle if you can, so you can avoid the tree branches!
Everyone knew what was happening each day, as you would be told your schedule the previous night and the day plan was always up near the lounge area.
The rooms were spacious, clean and had everything you needed. Plenty of hot water, great air conditioning and I had no problem sleeping every day.
The food was excellent and there was certainly enough to eat throughout the day. Being Jewish I keep kosher and Viva Safaris made specific arrangements to pick up kosher food from Johannesburg and transport it to Tremisana. They had a variety of options for me to choose from and that made a big difference to my experience. The food was delicious.
I was also at Tremisana Lodge during my 40th Birthday on the 9th May and they surprised me with a huge birthday cake. As I sitting down for dinner, all of the staff came out with a cake, singing Happy Birthday, as the guests and guides joined in. This was very special and I hugely appreciated the lengths they went to, to make it a special day for me.
Thank you everyone at Tremisana Lodge for an incredible experience. I hope I can come back and visit again some day and I would definitely recommend this safari to anyone who is still deciding where to go.

“Great service”
– Lori

We stayed at Tremisana for 5 days and 6 nights. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Food was really good (and considering we are Italians, this is great compliment as we are very picky). The room was essential and very clean. The staff and the service was superb. We strongly recommend this Lodge.

KATEKANI

“Katekani Tented Lodge…Best way to experience Kruger”
– eddiemac436, Windsor Ontario Canada

For this safari , I did my research on the internet and trip advisor. I was not disappointed by any means. This was an amazing safari. Having never been here before , it made sense to let Viva Safaris look after the logistics so the trip wouldn’t be a learning experience.
Viva Safaris is so organized. They keep you busy the entire time . Transfers to and from The airport in Johannesburg were flawless. This is done in a mini-bus.Very comfortable.They organized “Drives” in private game reserves and in Kruger National Park. A trip to the Moholoholo Rehab Center was a special trip. They did their very best to find as many animals as they can for you. Nature gets the final word but Viva Safari does its best.
“Hakuna Matatata” guided our first bush drive with Patrick. He also did the next morning bush walk. They were filling in for extra shifts , and they kept everyone entertained.
A shout out to Richard at the Tsushima reserve and introducing us to Tombie.
Patrick for doing the Kruger Park as someone couldn’t make it and he filled in for him.
Charl ,at the Motlala Game Reserve, took us out and made sure that we saw the black rhino before dark. That was an amazing night as we were the only two that night. His love for the animals is amazing.
Moses at the rehabilitation Centre.
Jordan did our last morning bush walk.Very interesting and a great guide.
There was never a moment when I didn’t feel safe. The bush guides and the security at the accommodation is top notch . I prepared heavily for malaria but I don’t think that i would again. The beds have netting ..it is my opinion that this is sufficient.
Accommodation; First night was at Tremisana Lodge…it is sufficient ,good food but basic.The second night, we were transferred to Katekani. This is an amazing accommodation …rooms are huge ,indoor and outdoor showers, soaker pool, private deck, not really a tent ..loved it. There are only several units so it is more private. Food was prepared by an amazing Chef ..TIGER. They are lucky to have him. He prepared gourmet food and asked for our input on what he would make. He is proud of his work and the meals are incredible. He works with MARGARET who is the manager of this lodge. She gets everything done ! On the rainy morning she had ponchos and umbrellas at our door. The first few days , POWER (Mandla) helped Margaret as well. They certainly , were one of the main reasons we had such a great experience.
I highly recommend the Katekani Lodge if you can afford the upgrade as it is well worth it !!
Leave all the organizing up to Viva Safari….They know what they are doing. I heavily recommend going with Viva Safari to make your Safari Experience one you will always remember.

“The most amazing safari one could dream of!”
– Stay824105

Katekani Tented Lodge is an extraordinary place to visit! We had our very own private deck looking out into the bush, with a splash pool to escape the midday heat. Gorgeous room and a big tub to soak in!
Apart from our beautiful accommodation, Tiger spoiled us with absolutely delicious food! One more reason for us to go back!
We appreciated all the patience from our guides who explained every detail on the questions we asked about the bush and the animals we got to see. Thank you Jordan and Charl!
The days were filled with us either going to Kruger National Park, a bush walk in the morning and a fantastic night drive!
Thank you Katekani!

 

Read more reviews for:
Viva Safaris,  Marcs Treehouse LodgeTremisana Lodge and Katekani Tented Lodge on TripAdvisor.

 

Until next month…

With kind regards,
Piero
General Manager
Viva Safaris