From time to time, we encounter keen and observant tourists that spend time in camp looking at birds and insects. One of the most difficult insects to locate is the Giant Stick Insect, Bactrododema Tiaratum. This is a large, slow-moving insect with very elongate, slender bodies and legs. It can remain motionless for long periods of time and mimics twigs that provide an unbelievably effective camouflage.
There are about 30 species of stick insects in South Africa. The most commonly encountered species is the Cape Stick Insect, Phalces Brevis, found in the Western Cape. In Kruger Park, a new species, Bactrododema Krugeri, was identified recently and the evidence indicates that both Bactrododema Tiaratum and Bactrododema Krugeri co-exist in Kruger Park.
All stick insects are nocturnal herbivores and are not easily spotted. Once disturbed, they sometimes perform a rocking, swaying movement.When provoked, they may raise their brightly coloured hind wings in a threat display and only rarely fly away.
At our lodges, we have found that the Giant Stick Insect is attracted to lights at night and is often found on the walls the following morning.
In May 2019, I noticed Paulina and Thembi catching large numbers of locusts in the long grass near their rooms at Tremisana. Subsequently, much to Sandra’s horror, I enjoyed an excellent meal of locusts fried in a garlic butter sauce served on a bed of maize porridge ( pap ). Unfortunately, the Giant Stick Insect won’t quite make it as a culinary delight – too few and too skinny.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Game viewing has improved from last month. The grass has not only turned yellow but is not quite as lush as it was in the summer months. Consequently, visibility into the bush has allowed for better sightings.
In addition, most temporary water pans have dried up and the animals are frequenting permanent water sources more regularly.
We have noticed the usual carrying on of impalas during the annual rut and early May brought the usual questions from our guests about the unusual grunts that are heard throughout the night. Bachelor herds are encountered frequently.
TOLLIhas sent the following :
This month we were privileged to see Wild Dogs. Some people refer to them as Killers in carnival suits.
This animal is the best hunter of all predators – they are fearless and they have a lot of stamina. They can run up to 65 km per hour and can maintain a speed of 45 km per hour for about 5km. They have a success rate of about 85 percent of all prey they run down and they kill and eat the whole carcass within minutes after the chase.
They have a well-ordered social structure and may be found in packs of 4 to 40 .
They have an alpha male and female and the whole pack takes care of the litter by regurgitating the food at the den after they come back from a kill.
These magnificent animals are endangered because farmers and small game farms will eliminate them. I believe it is short-sighted as they move around continuously, covering large home ranges.
Our guests thoroughly enjoyed these photographic opportunities.
PATRICK has had a great time and reports as follows :
On the 6th of May, I went to Kruger National Park for a full day game drive. The day was good with great sightings. On the h7 before Kingfisher we saw a leopard crossing the road. We had elephants on the h7 and at Nsemani dam as well as on the Sweni road. We saw lions on Sweni road before h1-3, buffaloes on the s100 and a lot of general game. We saw elephants on Rabelais road, Buffaloes at Rockvale waterhole, elephants on the s39 road. At the end of our day we saw hyenas after the reception and a honey badger crossing the road before the last gate.
1st of June was another good day in the park. We saw lions with cubs at Nwamatsatsa waterhole, elephants on s100, buffaloes h7,leopard crossing the first view point, ostriches on Timbavati river bed, hyenas near Orpen and plenty general game along Girivana road and h7 road. We were fortunate to see a Ground Hornbill close by.
Patrick’s comrade in the bush, VICTOR sent the following :
On the 17th of May 2021 I did a full day at Kruger National Park. We started our game drive from Orpen gate. We drove on the H7 road and we saw a pride of lions including two white lionesses crossing the road leading to the Orpen camp waterhole.
After that we continued with our drive on the S39 to the Timbavati picnic spot. We saw two big male buffalos and after lunch we saw elephants crossing the S126 as they went to the Welverdiend waterhole. On our way out we saw two big male lions lying down under the tree near the Nwamatsatsa waterhole. We were happy to see three of the big five in one day.
ELIAS has enjoyed his drives and walks :
I went to Tremisana for a sunset drive and bushwalk and it was amazing. On my sunset drive it was quiet at first and then it turned out to be very good safari. We saw elephants, buffalo and a lion just before we had our dinner at Marula Boma.
As we arrived at the Boma we saw a civet and my clients were very excited and I told them “hakuna matata the bush will always surprise you”. We had a wonderful dinner under the Marula tree and we saw beautiful stars. On our way back to the lodge I spotted a Leopard on a mission and it was very nice sighting.
We managed to get four out of the big on their first day. It was amazing and my guests were very happy and lucky to see that. The next day in the morning we went on the four hour bushwalk learning about the beauty of nature and we saw hippos, giraffes, impalas, kudu, and zebra.
LUCA reports :
We started the safari by visiting a nearby waterhole and found a herd of elephants. The guests were extremely excited. We then proceeded towards the Olifants and found a lot of general game, including a fine kudu. Luckily I saw the chameleon on the road and was able to avoid driving over it.
After sunset, we found some more elephants near Tremisana Lodge.
I went out with 2 Americans and almost immediately found about fifty elephants. I stopped the vehicle and waited while the animals moved around us. The guests were thrilled !! We also managed to see some lions close to the lodge
Piero’s visit to Pumusa Bush Camp and Hluhluwe
I personally took this photo of an exceptionally long-horned white rhino cow on my last visit to Pumusa Bush Camp.
I cannot recall seeing a rhino with a longer horn.
I also had the incredible good luck to find a cheetah mom and 5 cubs :
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Aron has completed the work at Tremisana Game Lodge and has now moved on to Katekani Luxury Tented Lodge. I thank Wynand Britz of Rome 1 for his support in ensuring that Marula Boma (where we have our famous Bush BBQ) is inspected by him regularly. There has been a minor infestation of termites and Caiphus and Luca have successfully eradicated these destructive creatures. If they get into the roof of a building, it is quite possible that the supporting beams can be eaten away and the roof may implode.
Wynand advises that on a few occasions, he noticed lion spoor all around and in the Boma. With the major reduction in visits by tourists, the lions are emboldened and our chefs have a very careful look around before starting the fire for the BBQ.
If the present trend of increased tourists continues, then we will be able to reemploy Given, our master carpenter, in the future.
It is always very gratifying to be able to give relief to yet another of our staff, who have suffered tremendously because of Covid.
Tolli arranged a birthday cake for Margaret in anticipation of her birthday
Nyarai sent the following report :
Monthly Report for Tremisana Lodge May 2021
Winter has come and each day seems to be getting colder than the previous one. The sunset views are getting less but the animals are sure coming out to play. We have had an increase in the number of guests staying at Tremisana and the sightings have been nothing short of awesome. Most of our clients are from the United States of America. We hope that as more countries open up, we will see an increase in bookings.
The month of May has been incredible in terms of sightings. We have had guests seeing the big five around Balule Nature Reserve even before doing their full day safari in Kruger National Park. We saw a herd of elephants very close to Marula Boma and then they made their way up along Olifants road. They came quite close to the vehicle and the clients were very excited. The stand out sighting on the drives that I have been on was of the three lions that were 6mins away from Tremisana Lodge. They had a kill with them close to the road. The grass is too thick this time of the year and unfortunately it was difficult for us to determine what they were feasting on. The guests were very excited to see one of the lions come out with blood on his face just after he had finished eating. The previous night they had seen a leopard, buffalo, elephants, one lone lion and lots of general game.
Last week I started noticing holes appearing in the garden. It was evident that there was something busy at work during the nights. After going round the garden I came across a spike and realized we had either one or a prickle of porcupines as visitors. I had not seen them for the longest time and couldn’t wait to see them. At Tremisana we have the Cape Porcupine and they are heavily built animals, with stocky bodies, short limbs, and an inconspicuous tail. One day early morning Luca asked me to come to the pool because one of the porcupines was in the pool. We managed to get him out of the pool but unfortunately it was too late. I think he drowned during the night since porcupines are mostly nocturnal. My heart broke for the little guy. I really wished we could have saved him.
Here’s hoping that next month will be much better with more guests and more awesome sightings. They always say positive thoughts attract good things. Stay safe and keep warm.
Below is a photo of a group of happy American guests at Marula Boma:
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
I have managed to finalise the 2022 tariffs and these have been emailed to you already. Generally, the average increase is less than that of previous years. I believe that these rates are exceptionally competitive, especially for the 4, 5, 6 and 7 day safari packages.
The single guest rates are also way better than those offered by our competitors. The reason for this is that we have our own accommodation establishments and do not have restrictions on the available rooms.
You will notice that we have introduced 3 new products – all staying at Tremisana Lodge and Masango Camp.
The 4 day, 5 day and 6 day Tremisana/Masango packages offer tourists who do not like the idea of tents or treehouses an opportunity of having en suite chalets made of brick and mortar at a competitive price.
These Tremisana/Masango packages will be available only from 1 January 2022 as we are going to spend some time and money adding various improvements/upgrades to Masango Camp.
This means that Viva Safaris now offers 25 different overland safari packages. These cater for the full spectrum of guests :budget-conscious guests who can book the Tremisana/Tent options to guests that wish to enjoy the luxury 4 star Katekani options or spoil themselves with the pampered and personalised service offered at our 5 star lodge partners. With such a range of packages, it is no surprise that Viva Safaris is accessed by tourists of varied pockets.
In addition to our 25 overland packages, we also offer 4 different fly-in safari packages. We hope that the airlines manage to successfully negotiate this horrible period of reduced tourists. I am confident that they, like Viva Safaris, will survive.
I include 2 reviews posted this month in May:
Great safari with really nice staff
I had a really great time on this safari. The guides were really knowledgeable, and I learned a lot. We saw so many animals!! It was a dream come true. The stop at Blyde Canyon on the way back is a nice plus as well. All staff was nice and friendly; great driver Tabo, excellent cook Tiger, and super field guides and bushmen Raymond and Talli. Thank you to Nyarai and Luca as well.
I only have a small complaint: even for a “budget” safari, I find it absurd that drinking water it’s not included in the meals that were provided. I understand for soft drinks and others but water should be included.
Tyler P, USA
Viva Safaris was fantastic and this was an experience of a lifetime! When our South Africa trip was canceled last year due to covid, we didn’t know when we would be able to go on this adventure again. Luckily, Viva Safaris made is super easy from the beginning, giving us the peace of mind to reschedule whenever it was convenient for our group. That happened to be exactly one year after we were originally scheduled to go, and we are so thankful it all worked out!
The staff was amazing.. starting with our driver that drove us from Joburg, to the greeting by management upon arrival, the cook/cleaning staff and all the fantastic guides. They all went above and beyond to make our experience unforgettable. I would HIGHLY recommend Viva Safaris to anyone looking for an authentic South African safari in Kruger National Park!
Also included are some responses to our April 2021 newsletter – it is great to get some feedback- keep it coming please.
Hello and I am thinking of you and really hope and pray that your WONDERFULLLLLL COMPANY WILL BE BACK ON ITS FEET VERY SOON! – Stephanie Schuterman
Absolutely gorgeous! I sure do miss safaris with Viva! I love getting my newsletters and it sure makes me long for South Africa. xoxoxo – Penny McPeak
Until next month,
With kind regards,