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November 2018

When I first started guiding, we used the word “ herd “ to describe groups of antelopes, giraffes, rhinos and zebras. More colourful and descriptive collective nouns have since emerged. For example we use the word “ dazzle “ for a group of zebras, “ crash” for a group of rhinos and “tower” for a group of giraffe. With a fertile imagination, one can understand being dazzled by multiple stripes of zebras running past, hearing a black rhino crashing its way through dense thickets and looking upwards to a towering giraffe.

The colourful collective noun for crows is a “murder “, no longer a “flock” ! Now please allow your imagination to do its creative thing. Why would we describe crows as murderous ?

I am told by farmer friends that our very own Pied Crow, Corvus Albus, is generally despised. It is known to kill and eat fledgling birds up to the size of hawks. It has been known to peck out the eyes of newborn lambs and I have personally seen crows at Tremisana Lodge attack and maim a young Vervet Monkey. Pied Crows seem to be on the increase and thrive around human habitations where they feed on scraps.

The Pied Crows at Tremisana nest on the predator-inaccessible cell tower from where they have an unparalleled view of the surrounding bushveld. The word “pied” describes the bicoloured plumage (in this case black and white). There are two other “pied“ birds seen at Tremisana from time to time that are also black and white : Pied Kingfisher and Pied Wagtail. Thankfully these eat fish and insects respectively and are not cursed by people for their murderous intentions !

By Lip Kee Yap from Singapore

By Lip Kee Yap from Singapore

 

GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES

RAYMOND Reports

3rd : We found 3 white rhino near Orpen. 8th : Balule game reserve on Sable Road we found 2 lions, male and female lying next to the road. On the 9th we found 3 male lions on Marula Road. On the 11th at Tremisana lodge a big herd of elephant came to the water hole to drink water as we were about to start our Sunset Drive. We then had a great sighting of 3 buffalo bulls at Tremisana Dam. We then found a black rhino cow and its baby – they came close to the open vehicle. On the Olifants road after Pondoro junction we found a big male leopard. What a drive !!!!

On the 18th at Shimangwanini dam in Kruger we found four male lions on the northern side of the dam while elephants were busy drinking water. 2 wildebeest approached from the south to drink water. As they were getting close to the water 2 lions came from behind them. The impala gave a warning call. The Wildebeest ran quickly and managed to get away. They owe their lives to the impala. On the S100 we found a pride of lions lying under a Jackalberry tree. Great photographic opportunity !

Male lions near the open vehicle.

Male lions near the open vehicle.

VICTOR Reports

ANOTHER GREAT DAY IN KRUGER

It was lovely weather – temperatures ranged between 29C and 35C. We started our game drive at Orpen boom gate where we saw general game including zebras and giraffes. We continued on the H7 where we saw elephants busy feeding right next to the road. On the S36 near Mudzandzeni picnic spot we saw a male leopard crossing the road. At Shimangwaneni dam we saw two male lions next to the water.

We continued our drive towards Satara on the Sweni road and we saw buffalos at Welverdiend waterhole.

Buffalo herd right next to open vehicle.

Buffalo herd right next to open vehicle.

After lunch we took the S100 to Xibotwana waterhole where we saw a male lion and a lioness busy mating. On our way out we saw white rhino – so we saw the Big Five in one day. Viva “Viva Safaris” Viva !

SHANNON Reports

A great month with amazing experiences. We have started receiving irregular showers here and there during this month. It has proven to be helping a little bit as the Bush is slowly but surely turning greener day by day. With the new greenery sightings are slowly starting to pick up again of plains game and big 5.

Morning drives
I have had only a few drives this month. Most were quiet with giraffe and other general game. However even though it was quiet, my guests still had a blast with me as their last drive before leaving to Johannesburg.

Bushwalks
I have been on mostly every Bushwalk this month – a great intimate experience with Mother Nature allowing us to focus on the smaller things. Focusing on birds, racks, signs and also having the privilege to encounter some elephant; giraffe and other plains game on foot was extraordinary. We also viewed hippo and crocodile in the Olifants River as we conduct our walks next to this beautiful river.

Afternoon drives
Extremely warm but always a great opportunity to view the game before greeting our guests that leave For Marcs. We have viewed multiple elephant, rhino and buffalo as well as numerous birds.

Great shot of elephant.

Great shot of elephant.

Sundowner drives
From lion to elephant to rhino to having a sundowner stop right next to a massive herd of buffalo. This is a great drive to experience all the different aspects of nature as it is a long drive with a lovely stop to view the sunset while enjoying a few snacks and drinks.

Sunset drives
A lovely way to welcome guests to their first Safari experience as they arrive from Johannesburg. We haven’t had many cat sightings but many sightings of plains game, buffalo at the dinner area at Marula Boma, elephant and rhino. Enjoy the night sky as well as the nocturnal visitors at Marula Boma : hyena; honey badgers and the beautiful melodies of the night.

We look forward to what December holds.

PATRICK Reports

3rd: Hot day temperature 36 C but sightings great : cheetahs before Orpen reception, rhinos at Orpen waterhole, buffalos also drinking there ,elephants Timbavati riverbed and general game. Lions hunting at Ximangwanini dam.

7th: Another good day : Lions crossing before Orpen reception, buffaloes drinking, rhinos further on, elephants Timbavati riverbed and general game, lions at Ximangwanini and again lions on s100 at Xibotwana windmill and a good leopard sighting on s147 road.

13th: Lions at Rockvalle windmill, elephants at Ximangwanini Dam, plenty general game on s100, buffalos Welverdied Waterhole, hyenas 2km north of Satara and cheetahs before the last boom gate.

Viva Safaris’ Patrick in pole position.

Viva Safaris’ Patrick in pole position.

19th: Sightings very good : lions eating buffalo before Orpen reception, rhino drinking, wild dogs sleeping on Rabelais s106 road, Lions at Ximangwanini dam and again at Welverdiend waterhole.

22nd: Good sightings : lions s100, mating pairs and more lions around there, buffaloes Rockvale windmill, leopard Mfene Khaya H7 road, elephants drinking Ximangwanini dam and general game there, hyenas before the last boom gate, elephants before last boom gate.

CHARL Reports

Motlala

This has been an amazing month for sightings : we started off the month with a lot of black rhino sightings on Motlala Reserve – always a good one to see as their numbers are so low. They are my favourite animals in the bush. However the most outstanding sighting for me this month on Motlala happened on our way back to Marcs when we found an Aardvark crossing the road. It took me a few seconds to register – figure out what I had just seen. When I explained to the guests how lucky we were to be seeing an Aardvark they really understood why I was so excited

Black Rhino on Motlala.

Black Rhino on Motlala.

Kruger has become very dry with most of the remaining dams drying up to muddy death traps for the animals braving the walk to the last remaining water that is in the mud pools. This has brought all the predators to the waterholes as they have a good chance to catch their thirsty prey. We have had a few good sightings with lots of lions on buffalo kills often very close to the road giving the guests the most amazing sightings and brilliant photographic opportunities.

A small-spotted genet has made its home in the thatch at Katekani – great for our guests!

ELIAS Reports

It will be a Beautiful month if we get a lot of rainfall.

My GM wants me to do the rain dance in my itsy-bitsy polka dot speedo along with Thandy in her teeny weeny polka dot bikini if it does not rain – imagine…………….. Halala !!!

After a few drops of rain the bush will change. We will see lots of the trees getting greener.

On my sunset drives we managed to see lots of giraffes and kudu and the usual impalas. Last week we saw 3 new-born impala lambs on Marula road. Then we went down to the river and we saw lots of elephants. My guests were very happy to see them on our first drive. When we reached Marula Boma we saw hyena while we were eating our BBQ – it was amazing.

And after dinner still at Marula Boma we saw buffalos. They like being around our property because we are have a small water hole. We also are fortunate in that Tremisana Dam is the only water within 7 km of Olifants River and the buffalo are often seen here as well.

Buffalo near back end of Tremisana Lodge.

Buffalo near back end of Tremisana Lodge.

On one afternoon drive, I decided to check our property using middle road at Tremisana and we saw 3 buffalos around Tremisana Dam and on the southern side of the dam we found 13 bull elephants. My clients enjoyed them and they were taking selfies – it was amazing.

On a bush walk with Shannon, we took Marula road and we saw impalas while we were driving and just before Phakamisa we saw 3 male lions lying down beside the road – it was an amazing morning.

I always tell my guests that the bush will always surprise you.

As we drove down to the place where we park our cars we managed to see a beautiful male waterbuck. When we reached the river we saw lots of hippos and one big crocodile. My guests were scared because of the history about the hippos. I did try to explain about hippo behaviour and they were all cool.

Late that afternoon we drove on Rome 1 and we a saw a big male leopard. Hakuna Matata!

So guys we have had a wonderful November. Halala.

REX Reports

Our Bush Walks have improved from last month. We are seeing impala, kudu, waterbuck, zebra and giraffe regularly. Now that the water temperature is higher, the crocodiles are found basking in the morning sun. Hippos are always present.

We have also seen Black Rhino from time to time.

Black Rhino mother and calf near Olifants River.

Black Rhino mother and calf near Olifants River.

Sunset Drives have also improved. On one occasion we saw 50 elephants ! White Rhino are seen not far from Marula Boma which never disappoints in terms of buffalo sightings. The lions killed a buffalo there last week.

On a recent SLEEPOUT, we saw hyenas, honey badgers, elephants and buffalos all drink from the waterhole at various times of the night.

On the walk the next morning, we got both Black and White Rhino – spectacular stuff !!!

NICO Reports

Good day to all and I hope you had an incredible month.

Kruger National Park

One of the days in Kruger was luck struck – we got BIG 5 plus Wild Dogs in one day. We started off on the H7 where we found good quality general game including Zebra, Giraffe, Greater Kudu and Loads of Impalas. Near Ximangwanani dam where we found a Troop of baboons. Elephant herds were busy drinking water. On the S100 we found loads of Giraffes and a beautiful lion pride sighting – whole pride lying down (flat cats) as it’s too much work to move in the heat. On the way back we got an update of a Rhino across the river bed – wow – the day just took such a twist already three out of 5 – amazing ! After lunch we took the S126-Sweni road – what a road – full of Elephants Buffalo and then a magical sighting the Wild Dogs ! Quick pit stop at Mzanzeni picnic spot and off again towards the S36 back to the H7.General game plus Ostriches. No Leopard yet…..On the way back towards the lodge past the big black security gates one of the guests spotted a female leopard sitting comfortably in the grass ! Great day !!

Another day in Kruger

So the day started off quite chilly at about 20C. We got Buffalo on the fence line near Marc’s walking and grazing – what a sight. Still on the way to Kruger we had multiple troops of baboons and Giraffe, Zebra, Elephant and just a few kilometres before Kruger a whole pride of lions lying down in the Grass – spotted by my colleague Raymond. All of this between Marc’s and the Entry gate – and some guys complain how far it is – they need to be watching all the way as there are multiple game reserves all the way. 3 out of 5 before we even paid – great value !

In Kruger General game on the H7. Near Satara, we found Buffalo walking alongside the road. After lunch, we drove south towards Kumana Dam where we found a female leopard with a fresh Impala kill in the Tree – myself , I was blown away – such a beautiful animal to view. She was very relaxed up the tree sleeping a bit and then moving getting up and lying back down again all the safari lovers would know the cat behaviour : not wanting to do much at that point ! On the S125 we found loads off Elephant breeding herds and general game plenty as the rains have filled up all the puddles again. At the end of S36 junction H7 we found a den of Hyenas where the little ones played around. Just in front of the last Boom gate we saw some Buffalo again – Excellent day in the Park 🙂

Loads of breeding herds.

Loads of breeding herds.

 

NEWS FROM OUR LODGES

Tremisana has experienced various upgrades. These are very necessary. We accept that Tremisana is an “old” lodge that has seen many tens of thousands, possibly more, of satisfied guests move through its beautiful gardens. We can only do so much – the reality is that it is an unpretentious, affordable lodge and it serves an important niche market – it offers budget-conscious tourists a clean and comfortable place with no fancy frills.

Notwithstanding the above, we have started a rejuvenation program : we have painted all exterior walls of the chalets, added wooden laths around the basins and have checked and serviced all air conditioners. The air conditioners are, in most cases, the originals (no remotes that guest may misplace and generally not know how to operate). They are made by Panasonic and, as is the case with Toyota vehicles, I cannot praise this make of air conditioner highly enough. By the way, the Old Lady Gogo 1974 Toyota Landcruiser that I so love to drive, pejoratively called “Skorroskorro” by the uninitiated and ignorant, has done well over a million km and is still going strong !

Tremisana Dam still has water and the elephants drink here daily. We have numerous bird species permanently at the dam including a pair of beautiful Saddle-billed Storks.

Elephants have been seen in our car park on a number of occasions this month just as the new arrival tourists drive into Tremisana – what a way to start a safari !

Elephant in Tremisana car park just as tourists arrive. Delina and Pretty and Old Lady Gogo in the background.

Elephant in Tremisana car park just as tourists arrive. Delina and Pretty and Old Lady Gogo in the background.

Katekani is a new lodge, opened only in 2016. So, of course, it is in better shape than Tremisana. We believe that guests that book Katekani packages are getting an extremely good deal. Yes, these packages are a bit more expensive than those at Tremisana but the finishes are probably worth the extra cash for those tourists that can afford to spoil themselves.

Marc’s Treehouse Lodge is our busiest lodge by bed nights. It offers a completely different experience. The treehouses are generally preferred to the tents not only because each treehouse has its own designated ablutions but the decks offer fantastic opportunities to look out over the river or dam and enjoy real Africa. The tents, on the other hand, are intended for the very budget-conscious tourist.

I am aware, and have been so for over 21 years, that some tourists feel downgraded when they move from Tremisana, where they had an en suite air conditioned chalet, to more basic accommodation at Marc’s. It is the “wildness” experience that makes up for the difference in accommodation. For the true nature lover, there cannot be anything better than encountering various animals on foot in their own space and listening to the calls of hyenas, leopards and lions that patrol the Klaserie River.

We have cleared the reeds growing at the Breakfast Dam as encroachment was evident. Nyala have been dropping their lambs and the “oohs” and “aahs” we hear are comparable to the same appreciative exclamations we note when our guests first see the candle-lit Marula Boma on their first night safari with Viva Safaris.

Nyala ewe with newly born lamb at Reception of Marc’s

Nyala ewe with newly born lamb at Reception of Marc’s

 

We have improved Marula Boma significantly. From December 2018 we shall employ yet another member of staff who will be permanently stationed at Marula Boma. Duties will include preparing the food for the famous nightly BBQ as well as cleaning our new buildings.

 

NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS

Marco, Viva’s outstanding webmaster, has loaded our 3 day Masango Lodge safari package on our website and we have called this product the 3 Day BEST VALUE AFFORDABLE SAFARI.

It is aptly named as there is no better value 3 day safari to Kruger anywhere on offer.

At R 6695 pp sharing in triple room and R 6995 pp in double bedded room, there is no doubt in my mind that this product, our 25th safari package, will be an easy sell. We plan to kick off in January 2019 but may have to bring this forward as I am told there is very limited accommodation available at any of our places over the festive season.

Accommodation is in double-bedded or triple-bedded brick and mortar chalets, each with en suite facilities and overhead fan. All beds have mosquito nets. We have already taken numerous bookings for 2019.

On Saturday, 8 December 2018 we shall be hosting our annual Orphans Day. We have invited Delina’s granddaughter to join 20 orphans from the Acornhoek area to enjoy a day to remember : We collect them from Acornhoek, drive to Tremisana, have breakfast and then take them on a game walk to Tremisana Dam. They then board our open Landcruisers and go on a game drive and get to Marula Boma for a BBQ lunch. Thanks to the efforts and generosity of numerous people including Pick n Pay, Roots, Drakensig Motors, Oasis Water and the Confirmation class at Blessed Sacrament parish in Durban, we shall present each child with a take home pack including various food items and toiletries. Each child will also be given a school bag and a lunch box. My thanks to Gerda and Wynand Britz of Rome 1 (where we conduct our Bush Walks) and Tess and Laurence Saad of Ezulwini Lodges (where we host our Luxury Lodge guests) who have sponsored sweet parcels and stationery packs respectively. It is always so gratifying to see those young big eyes get even bigger and then listen to their heartfelt songs of genuine thanksgiving ! Last year I saw sponsoring adults cry…………..

After lunch the kids usually all land up in the swimming pool at Tremisana and after tea and cake return to the orphanage. Thanks to my good wife, Sandra, for all her valuable assistance.

LATEST NEWS : We had a major cloudburst at Tremisana on Tuesday 27 November 2018.
It was so heavy that the tank that supplies water to our en suite hide was blown off and the DSTV aerial at the Gazebo was also bent. Both have been fixed.

We must be very grateful and feel blessed as the other dams nearby at Campfire and Barnards are still bone dry.

Tremisana Dam is now about 90% full – wow !!!

Tremisana Dam is now about 90% full – wow !!!

Richard van Schalkwyk has removed part of the vd Merwe fence. We congratulate you and assure you of Viva's total support in this matter. Well done !

Richard van Schalkwyk has removed part of the vd Merwe fence.
We congratulate you and assure you of Viva’s total support in this matter. Well done !

REVIEWS

I include the following reviews posted in October 2018 :

Viva Safaris

WONDERFUL SAFARI EXPERIENCE
Cindy M, United Kingdom

We really enjoyed our 4 night stay at Tremisana Lodge. The itinerary included transport to and from Johannesburg which was great for those of us not wishing to drive ourselves. Highlights were our day spent in Kruger National Park, a visit to Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, and a drive around Tshukudu Private Game Reserve. Africa’s wildlife were there for us to see for sure! Tremisana Lodge offered comfortable accommodation and the food was plentiful and tasty. The staff were friendly and helpful. This safari was very good value for money!

Katekani

WONDERFUL LODGE CLOSE TO KRUGER AND GOOD HOSPITALITY
Yasir Ansari, India

This a great place and the tented accommodations have all amenities in place. As it has only 5 tents in place you get a cozy feeling and also get time to interact with fellow guests rather than a place which has too many people.

The private splash pool with each tent is a refreshing delight after a day spent out in Kruger or in one of the private reserves.

The food is a 3 course meal served by the staff and the chef Tiger makes every attempt to ensure a delicious meal and we enjoyed the meals thoroughly.

The pathways are beautifully lit up in the night.

Overall a great experience and would highly recommend it to everyone.

Katekani lodge deserves all the praise that it gets.

Tremisana

5 TAGE SAFARI, ABSOLUT EMPFEHLENSWERT!
Ulla H

Durchführung von Abholung in Johannesburg, Transport zur Lodge sowie die Planung während des Aufenhaltes perfekt durchorganisiert. Wir hatten einen unvergesslichen Aufenthalt, sahen wunderschöne Tiere in einer traumhaften Landschaft, auf der Rückreise noch einen Blick in den Blyde River Canyon! Unterkunft eher einfach aber liebevoll gepflegt, sehr leckeres, afrikanisches Essen. Wir kommen wieder!

Marc’s

What an amazing experience!
Katie G

Every single staff member you encounter is friendly and go out of their way to make your stay incredible. The first night you stay at Tremisana lodge, what a cool place. There are monkeys all around in the trees just waiting to welcome you. The room was comfy and enough space for my two friends and I.

Marc’s treehouse lodge is just what the name entails, it’s a treehouse! So yes there are nets above the bed to keep the bugs away, because after all you are in Africa. Treehouse number 8 is exceptionally roomy and was very impressed with the patio and view of the stream and wildlife below. I also stayed in treehouse 6 which was also roomy and had a nice patio and view of the stream. I would lay in bed at night listening to the flowing steam and wildlife right outside the treehouse. The water did go out one night while I was there, but there are community showers to use so you’re not completely without running water, this is something the staff can’t control and they were very apologetic and had someone fix it as soon as they could. The toilet in our room was always working though.

The staff is amazing, as I said before. ivy will go out of her way to make you feel comfortable during your stay, you will not meet a more selfless person! . All the drivers, especially Kayfeers, had our best interest in mind and I always felt safe in their care. The guides who took us on safari were knowledgeable about all the wildlife and had great personalities.

There was always a warm dinner waiting for us, and clean rooms when we came back to camp at the end of the day.

I would 100% recommend this place to anyone thinking about going on safari in South Africa! If I ever make it back to South Africa someday I would defiantly stay here again.

Don’t hestitate to stay at Marc’s treehouse lodge, it will be worth every penny!

AN AMAZING AFRICAN EXPERIENCE
HeyMonkey219

If you want to be in Africa and truly feel like you are one with Africa stay here! You are surrounded by animals and nature at all times. The staff is absolutely delightful from the first driver that picks you up in Joburg to your hostess Ivy. She is an epic woman who bends over backwards to meet your every want, wish, or concern. She was available to me at midnight when I needed a favor, and never complained once.The next morning she had a smile on her face while serving me breakfast. I know she had to be so tired, but never let it show. They also have a mute gentleman on staff named Big Richard who does the work of 20 people and is as friendly as can be. The kitchen staff puts out some incredible eats, and if you don’t watch it you’ll leave 20kg heavier than when you got there. The cleaning staff without fail had our rooms made up every day when we returned from our outings and was respectful of our stuff and always made every effort to see to our needs.

The lodging as it states in the name is a Treehouse. So if you are expecting a five star resort, this is not the place for you. But on the other hand if you want to spend five days living in a tent or up in a tree hearing the call of the hyenas at night or hearing the mating call of the lion and don’t mind roughing it…..then I highly suggest Marc’s Treehouse.

There was a day when the water was out, which was inconvenient but you are in Africa after all. By no means did not having a shower in my room ruin my experience at Marc’s Treehouse. The toilet and sink still worked, so all I had to do was walk to the shared shower. It was like summer camp for adults!

As far as the safari experiences went they were outstanding! I I realised that Africa was not a zoo before I went, and that I most likely wouldn’t get to see all that I hoped, so I went on safairi without any expectations. Then in the course of 5 days I was enough lucky to see all of the big 5 plus many more. The nature guides at Viva Safari are so knowledgeable and skilled at what they do it really was a great pleasure just meeting them and hearing all they had to tell us about their beautiful county. Charl, Nico, Harrison & Shannon were all exceptional people as I’m sure the rest of the guides are…I just didn’t get the chance to meet them.

I wish I could have stayed longer. But I feel I must reiterate if you are coming to Marc’s Treehouse expecting a swanky spa or fine dining this is not the place for you. But if you want to experience something that you can get nowhere else in the world and meet some of the best people I have ever met (and I have been all over the world) and don’t mind roughing it (to some extent), then come and stay with people that made me and my friend feel like family.

 

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

 

On behalf of all at Viva Safaris, I thank all our loyal agents for their fantastic support in 2018. We have, once again, bucked the general trend and have had a very good year.

Until early February 2019.

With kind regards,
Piero
General Manager
Viva Safaris