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November 2019

At long last the rains have fallen !

This year the rains have been extremely late and the grazers have struggled.

Before the rains, there was exceptional game viewing around the water points and our lucky tourists have seen numerous kills this month.

The grass has rapidly turned green and the grazers are looking decidedly happier.

 

GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES

VICTOR Reports

18th November 2019 : It was a very hot day (22C to 38C ) From Orpen boom gate to the Orpen reception we saw general game including zebras and impalas really close. On the S106 we saw a big herd of elephants crossing the road. Before Phelwana bridge we saw five big buffalo bulls heading to the river to drink water. Further on the we saw a white rhino bull together with a herd of wildebeest.

Victor and guests near elephants

Victor and guests near elephants

After lunch we took the S100 and we saw a female leopard lying down under a tree in which there was a dead impala. On the S126 Sweni road near Mudzandzeni picnic spot we saw two big male lions lying down under a tree. Guests were happy that we saw the Big Five in one day.

 

PATRICK Reports

3rd : Hot day, sightings good :  lions right on the road before Orpen reception. buffaloes at Orpen waterhole, more lions Ngwenya Kaya, white rhino s100.

8th : Sightings good : lions Ngwenya Kaya, 2 buffalo bulls h7, elephants s100, leopard Nyamarhi next to Ngotso, hyenas h7, wild dogs Orpen road.

16th : Lions at Nsemani dam, lions at Girivana dam, elephants Nsemani dam, buffaloes and general game on h6 road.

Patrick does his thing month after month

Patrick does his thing month after month

 

22nd Lions h6 , buffaloes Sweni,  lions again at Ximangwanini Dam, white rhino near Muzandzeni, ostriches s36, southern ground hornbills there as well.

25th : Lions h6 , elephants Sweni bridge, buffaloes Welverdiend waterhole.

 

REX Reports

Bush walks on Olifants West have been good.  Elephants, giraffes and hippos are guaranteed ! We have also had occasional sightings of waterbuck, buffalo, hyena, zebra and kudu.

Hyenas feeling the heat enjoy a dip in Oxford waterhole

Hyenas feeling the heat enjoy a dip in Oxford waterhole

 

Kruger park sightings have been excellent : on each and every occasion I guided there, we saw plenty general game, elephants, buffalos, lions and leopard. White Rhino sightings have been scarce.

In fact, I have had better sightings of rhino, both black and white, on drives at Tremisana Lodge.

Patrick seems to have the luck with white rhino in Kruger. I think he is just able to be at the right place at the right time – the story of lucky and successful game viewing.

Of course, the best place to see leopard, buffalo and rhino is Motlala Game Reserve – I love going there.

 

FORTUNE Reports

My best day in Kruger went as follows :

Lots of general game as well as a big buffalo herd near Nsemane Dam.

Lioness crossing the road on S100, later we saw her cubs following her.

Lioness passes behind Fortune's vehicle

Lioness passes behind Fortune’s vehicle

 

On the same S100 we were watching a crocodile basking on the sandbank. Some thirsty elephants arrived and charged him because they wanted to drink water.

It was very dry at the beginning of this month and the Nwanedzi River, which the S100 follows, is the only river that has water. That is why the S100 is such a great road for game viewing.

Later, towards Orpen, we saw an elephant and two male lions walking very close to one another. The lions were ready to move away if necessary but the elephant simply ignored them and carried on walking on his merry way.

 

JANNEMAN Reports

What an amazing month we have had! Here are some highlights.

On one Morning Drive, while all the other lodge drivers were looking for the very elusive wild dogs, we saw them by pure luck, as well as the black rhino and 4 male lions at Rosy’s waterhole. We also saw 9 elephant bulls at the same spot. The water shortage before the rains ensured good sightings.

On the way back to the lodge one of the guests also spotted a leopard to the joy of us all.

What a Morning Drive !!!

Our Sunset Drives also produced lovely sightings and one evening we had the Wildebeest as well as the Zebras around Marula Boma. To everybody’s surprise on the way back to the lodge that same evening, we also saw a boomslang, 4 bush babies, a genet and closer to the lodge a civet cat. It was absolutely amazing and the guests couldn’t believe that these nocturnal animals can be spotted so easily if one just make an effort.

On one special Sundowner Drive we were lucky enough to spot a pride of about 20 lions. On Oxford we also spotted a black rhino with her calf and 9 giraffes at one spot.

Lion pride resting in the shade

Lion pride resting in the shade

 

 

CHARL Reports

This has been a month for the books with some brilliant sightings with lots of black and white rhinos seen on Motlala. Some amazing up close and personal sightings have been had. For me a sighting of a young female leopard seen at Jackalberry Dam stands out.

Beautiful shot of leopard drinking at Jackalberry Dam on Motlala Reserve

Beautiful shot of leopard drinking at Jackalberry Dam on Motlala Reserve

 

We followed her for over 300m while stalking a nyala that she unfortunately did miss, but what a special sighting for the guests who were all only on their second game drive.

I have also had some close encounters with rhino.

White Rhino near Charl's Landcruiser

White Rhino near Charl’s Landcruiser

 

 

BERNARD Reports

November has been another very beautiful and successful month. Everyone is very grateful for all the rain and the bush is all lush and green.

Something remarkable : we saw was two African bullfrogs in the road while we were coming back from Marula Boma in a storm. We also saw African Wild Dogs at Barnards which was very special as we got to spend at least 20 minutes with them – the guests were very happy. That was after they saw buffalo and 20 lions, all on their Sunset Drive.

On the 21st November, I did an Afternoon Drive and found a lion and a lioness mating. Not far away, 2 other lions and 3 lionesses were on a Waterbuck kill.  After I returned from my monthly leave, I did a Sunset Drive and we were lucky to find a Black rhino cow with calf on Barnards. She was extremely relaxed and was feeding within 10m of my vehicle for more than 15 minutes.

Black Rhino near Bernard's Landcruiser

Black Rhino near Bernard’s Landcruiser

 

 

JORDAN Reports

Motlala drives and morning walks had a shaky start this month but a wonderful humid ending.

Jordan leading bush walk among young nyala bulls

Jordan leading bush walk among young nyala bulls

While we were awaiting the rains, the bush was parched and open and a lot of animals succumbed to the lack of food. But the rains eventually came and the bush is alive with sounds of birds arriving from all over the world as well as a medley of sounds and sights from the mating frogs at night to the powerful buzz of the cicadas by day.

Sightings have been awesome : Leopards, Sable Antelope, Black and White Rhino and Buffalos are the specials among the great variety and number of general game. After the rains, we have seen a number of large  pythons.

Relaxed Motlala leopard looking at Jordan and guests

Relaxed Motlala leopard looking at Jordan and guests

 

 

RAYMOND Reports

29th : On the Sunset Drive on Olifants West we found a pride of 20 Lions at Rosy’s water hole. Further on we got two Black Rhinos. On the way to Marula Boma we found a leopard crossing the road – brilliant ! After a great BBQ dinner at Boma, on the way back to the lodge we found a herd of elephants.

06th : Kruger Park : We found pride of Lions on the H7 after Phelwane bridge. They were watching a wildebeest which was stuck in the mud. Later on we saw them eating the wildebeest. On the H6 two km from  Nwanetsi we found another pride eating a buffalo. We found a big herd of Buffalos and some elephants at the Sweni waterhole.

18th : Olifants West : We found a big pride of lions on Oxford lying next to the road.

19th : Kruger Park : We found white rhino near Orpen and a very huge herd of elephants ( 70+) on the S100. Nearby we found seven Lions trying unsuccessfully to catch a zebra On the Sweni we found a leopard eating a hyena next to the road – haven’t seen that in my life and I am guiding for 30 years !! At Sweni waterhole we found a herd of Buffalos so we had the big five.

Buffalo bulls

Buffalo bulls

 

 

ERNEST Reports

We saw a leopard feeding on a hyena.

Two weeks ago it was easy to spot many animals at waterholes but now after the rains it is completely different.

Buffalo cooling off

Buffalo cooling off

 

Some highlights of the month for our guests include elephants enjoying mud baths, a hyena swimming, as well as rhino sightings on four different days and three great sightings of wild dogs.

Elephant crossing the road in front of excited Viva guests

Elephant crossing the road in front of excited Viva guests

 

 

NEWS FROM OUR LODGES

TREMISANA

Riana sent the following :

Varanus Albigularis is the scientific name of a rock monitor lizard and was one of the exceptional sightings we had right outside our Tremisana office in the garden. Beautiful black and yellow coloured, this one was approximately 45cm long and just scavenging for a bite to eat in the lush garden. Truly a wonderful unexpected sighting.

Monitor Lizzard in Tremisana garden

Monitor Lizzard in Tremisana garden

 

Apart from the rock monitor lizard, we also had a small egg eater ( snake ) on the veranda by the office. We caught it and released it in the bush. After the lovely rain we had, we are starting to see all the little newborn impalas as well and we are very grateful that the garden is really turning into a lush green paradise and it looks spectacular. The guests love spending relaxing time in and around the pool and garden.

At the waterhole we had many visitors. One of the highlights was the Wild Dogs that came for a drink one morning during breakfast and the guests were so excited. Needless to say everyone that saw them, thought it was one of the highlights of their safari.

The elephants and giraffes also came for a drink as well as kudu, buffalos and a lonely duiker.
There is a saying in Afrikaans: “Al die veld is vrolik”. Translated to English it is “All the field is cheerful” and with everything here in the bush and around the lodge turning green after the wonderful rain, it truly looks as if “All the field is cheerful”!!

KATEKANI

Charl reports:

It has been a busy month at Katekani with lots of guests coming to stay with us. The bush has finally started greening up after our first rains and is beginning to bring out all the babies : we have had a family of warthogs running around the lodge for the last few weeks and they now have 6 new babies – very special to see them running around the lodge. We also have a big male leopard tortoise that we rescued from being hit by a car on the road that we have seen a few times especially after the big rains some of our guest have been very lucky as well with the sunset drive being able to watch a leopard stalk and chase a nyala.

MOTLALA

Jordan reports:

Another busy month and another set of happy guests. This is a cosy camp and the way the chalets have been built around a central boma area lends a sense of togetherness.

All our guests love the BBQ area as well as the intimate bar and dining room. The buffalo herd walks right through the camp on the way to drink at Masango Dam.

We regularly hear lions roaring and the calls of leopard and hyena are beautiful and eerie at night.

MARC’S

Charl reports:

Two nyala died of hunger at the beginning of the month. Our guests were upset but that is Nature’s way…… With the rainy season, more grass and leaves are now available and the nyalas, impalas and bushbuck are looking better. We have checked all our thatched roofs. Treehouse 7 (due to a big Boerbean tree) needed its entire roof to be replaced.

We also added another borehole to our property.

 

CHRISTMAS PARTY

This year our Christmas party for the orphans will be held at the St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Acornhoek.

My thanks to Martin of Pick n Pay, Paul of Oasis Water, Berti of Drakensig Motors, Gerda and Wynand Britz of Rome 1 and Tess and Laurence Saad of Ezulwini Lodges for their generous support.

Thanks to my good wife, Sandra, who always so willingly organises this worthwhile event. It is appreciated.

I presented this prayer to the beneficiaries who are all parishioners:

Thank you, Father, for all the good people you send into our lives that are kind and generous towards us.

May they be blessed for all they do to improve our lives.

Teach us to be grateful for every generosity shown us no matter how small.

Let us not take our benefactors for granted and keep us from developing expectations.

Most of all never let us believe that we are entitled to their good works.

We ask this through your son Jesus Christ 

Amen

 

NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS

We have decided to discontinue the 4 day Sleep Out safari package. There was limited interest in this product and it simply was not cost-effective. We have replaced this product by a SEVEN DAY TREMISANA safari package.

We are looking into developing another 7 day package that will include visiting the KwaZulu Natal highlights of Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Saint Lucia, Sodwana Bay and Durban. More about this in my next Newsletter early February 2020.

2019 has been a very good year for Viva Safaris. We have been able to add another 8 permanent members of staff and this is probably the most pleasing aspect of our growth.

The SA unemployment crisis is exceptionally serious and every job added significantly reduces suffering and poverty. I have established that each one of our permanent staff supports another four or five people who are unemployed or unemployable. I shall do everything possible to continue supplying work to our struggling population.  Job creation is a national priority and ALL stakeholders need to support our initiatives.

Next year I reach retirement age (65). I have been working since I was 17 years old (giving extra lessons in Mathematics) and I am reasonably tired.

I am aware that many of our staff are desperately keen for me to remain on as GM. I shall see what the cardiologist has to say about the ticker’s condition and shall probably decide by July 2020. Chances are that I shall hand over some responsibilities to other capable members of staff and /or family.

On behalf of all our Viva family, I wish you and yours a most Blessed Christmas. May 2020 bring health, happiness and fulfilment.

 

I attach the following reviews posted in October 2019 :

TREMISANA

“Amazing Safari”
– Jessica H

My husband and I booked the 4 day Tremisana tour with Viva Safaris through MoAfrika and we loved everything about it! We opted to book a private Panorama tour after the safari rather than returning to Johannesburg and they arranged this for us as well. The staff were very welcoming and helpful. The food was great; we especially enjoyed dinner the first night in the bush. We got to watch a beautiful sunset during our first game drive after arriving at Tremisana. The game drives were amazing and we really enjoyed the bush walk. It was very educational. All of the guides were very knowledgeable and went above and beyond to make sure everyone had an excellent time. The game drives were all in open air vehicles that allowed every seat to have a great view. The grounds at the lodge are very peaceful for relaxing during down time. There are nearly always monkeys, baboons, warthogs, and meerkats at the water hole to watch. One morning there were 3 elephants when we got up too! We really liked how the package included game drives in the Balule Game Reserve (greater Kruger) and in Kruger. There were a lot less people within the Balule Game Reserve so when we saw animals and wanted to stop and watch there weren’t a bunch of other vehicles to scare them away. Would love to return someday for longer than just 4 days!

“Great Experience at Tremisana”
– candiapples

Wow. We had a great experience at Tremisana Game Lodge.

Viva Safaris runs things very well in terms of logistics. Everything went smoothly and on time, from getting us to/from Jozie, scheduling our drives and activities, meal times and letting us know exactly what was happening, and when to expect it. For me, this is a huge part of having a stress free and relaxing holiday. I didn’t have to worry about a single thing, everything was planned and organized and that stress free feeling is very much appreciated.

Tremisana is a budget lodge. That being said, the rooms are clean and adequate and we were comfortable with the air con and slept well. My husband is a big guy so the shower was a little tight for him, but it made for some good laughs. The food was tasty and plentiful with good choices and eating breakfast overlooking the water hole was a treat to look forward to each morning. The first night, dinner at Marula Boma was nothing short of spectacular!!! It’s set out in the bush, away from everything and as you walk up it’s lit by candles under a huge Marula tree. The braai food was delicious and the star filled African sky was breathtaking. A few hyenas came to visit as well – but don’t worry the boma is enclosed by some boulders and they don’t come too close.

Now the best part. The game drives and the guides. Balule has excellent game drives and lots of animals, including a huuuuge pride of lions. The benefit here is that its not as crowded as Kruger proper and you drive on dirt trails so you can get much closer to the animals. We saw the “big 5” and lots of zebra and giraffe and game. At one point we were in the middle of a herd of elephants, it was quite amazing.

We got lucky and all of our drives and bushwalk at Balule were with Elias. I would like to extend a big thank you to Elias for making this experience something I will never forget. (We have been on safari’s before in other countries and I don’t even remember the guides’ names or anything about them). Elias is funny, engaging and made us feel like we were old friends. He did his absolute best to find animals and once he found them, made sure we had all the time we needed to watch them, was mindful of everyone on the vehicle seeing, and even made sure we had the best angle for taking photos. 

In conclusion, I would absolutely recommend Tremisana to my friends and family. It provides a great experience at a price that is affordable.

 

MARCS

“Great Experience!!!”
– kim_night, London UK

I’ve been on a few safaris in South Africa and this is one of the best! The team were lovely and we saw some great sights on the sunset drive and the Kruger drive. We also got to track a leopard on our morning walk which was exciting!

We booked it with Viva Safaris and for the price – it was perfect! The rooms were clean and had a great view of the river where we could watch the animals in the morning from our balcony.

The food was amazing too! We would definitely come back and recommend it!

“Your Safari Search Ends Here”
– FrommerGroupie

If you have been looking for THE best, most adventurous, informative, up close and personal, beautiful safari with the most animal sightings, comfortable lodging, friendly and caring staff and delicious meals, you have found the perfect vacation tour here. It does not get any better than what Viva Safari provides. After extensively traveling the globe and dealing with many tour companies, this one tops our list of favorites for far exceeding superior standards in presenting a unique, once-in-a-lifetime South African bush experience. Booking this tour was one of the greatest decisions we ever made.

 

KATEKANI

“Honeymoon in South Africa”
– jobjetsetter, Manchester UK

What a fabulous place. We had half of our honeymoon here at the end of October. The tented suite with outside decking and splash pool was just gorgeous. It was so nice lying in bed at night listening to the noises in the bush. It was so romantic we loved every minute. The food was amazing too, delicious meals cooked by the chef right in front of you it was a very special experience. As for the game drives we thoroughly enjoyed them all. WARNING please make sure you take warm clothes with you for travelling around in the jeeps. You are in them for most of the time and it is very windy don’t be fooled by thinking it’s hot South Africa it’s freezing on those jeeps. Loved the sunset drive with Bernard he was very knowledgable and made it interesting. The full day in Kruger was great too having saw loads of elephants including a 2 day old baby, giraffes baboons and lions. Viva Safaris were great throughout from the pickup at Tambo Airport to dropping us off at the Aviator Hotel in Johannesburg. For what we paid I would highly recommend both Viva Safaris and staying at the Katekani Tented Lodge although they do have two cheaper alternatives I would definitely pay the extra for this gorgeous accommodation. Thank you for making our honeymoon so special x

 

VIVA SAFARIS

“Exceeded Expectations”
– Mark T

Brian and I always wanted to go to Kruger and like everyone- “See the big five!” Thanks to miles and flight availability we were able to get to JNB but faced with the dilemma of finding a good tour operator. Prices are daunting when you search the web, and hard to middle through all the options. Viva had a fairly straight forward website, some nice reviews, and met our price point.

We wanted- a trip to Kruger- decent lodging with AC and limited mosquitos- some opportunity to see the Big 5. 9 of us took the mini bus from hotels near JNB (we didn’t go in to the city and no one gave it worthwhile reviews as a must see). The mini van picked us up at 0930 and we stopped once before lunch at 1200. After lunch, vans swapped and we had our final group of 9 who we would remain with most of the trip. On arrival, each of us were shown our rooms and prepped for our sunset safari. Rooms were nice, AC, clean and mosquito netting (not needed). FYI- after the first night groups are divided the next day in to those remaining in the Tremesana Lodge or going to the tented site or treetop site. Our new friends at the camp said it was hot- bathroom down the path and animals are all around (small and the site is not fenced as is the lodge). The treetop group thought that was cool with a small balcony overlooking the reserve.

Ok, so after the sunset safari back to a welcome dinner outside under the stars- very cool. Food was fine and really who cares- a pack of hyenas was eying is up, bottles of great South African wine for $9 and our new friends talking about our day. Our host Pretty kept us informed and our guide Fortune ensured we saw lions- and only because of his determination. The next day say a sunrise walk which was cool- not a lot is sightings on foot but cool to see the hippos along the river and learn some things. Back for a break then at 3p another 4 hour safari with a break for snacks in the bush (more wine). Dinner was great as we were exhausted and needed to get up for Kruger the next day. Full days in Kruger(about an hour away) and it was fantastic to see- long day. Final day sunrise ride, breakfast and ride back to the airport.

Here’s what we liked- defiantly enjoyed the accommodations with AC and bathroom- it can rain a lot- and mosquitos can be a problem- just be aware when you book your choice. Food was good- ok not 5star restaurant but more than enough. I am sure they will try to meet any special needs, but you are on a reserve, not home, so give them some slack. Staff was above average- better than many hotels or cruise ships- they go out of their way to ensure you are happy! It’s well organized and the logistics are well oiled to get you to and from each scheduled event. The ONLY downsides had was tipping. As the guides are dependent on tipping, you need to keep about $7US or more pp for each outing or driver. I do wish it could be added to the bill like cruise ships and you could adjust, as we didn’t bring enough cash. Bar bill is in cash as well- so be prepared. Final thoughts- I thought the 4 Day Classic was perfect- think 3 Day would be too short. Loved the options Viva provided on lodging- choices were great. EVERY staff member at Viva was great- from pre-booking questions on email, booking ease, information of pickup, drivers, vans, lodging, food and booze, organization all exceeded my expectations. The cost was reasonable and covers everything from our pick up at the airport to our return 4 days later. Thanks Viva

 

 

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

 

Until February 2020…

With kind regards,
Piero
General Manager
Viva Safaris