I received an email last week from the Tourism Council that required my input re damage done to Viva Safaris in November 2020 by the virus.
I answered very simply as follows :
Number of tourists who took a Viva Safaris tour :
November 2019 : 496
November 2020 : 8
These figures speak dramatic and thunderous volumes.
As indicated in my last newsletter, Viva has opened for business. We have had a few safaris. In most cases, we have, in fact, lost a little money as there have been only one or two tourists at a time. I do not see that as critical – what matters is that the travel agents and the tourism industry at large know that Viva has not closed and is still alive. Most pleasing is the fact that some staff received their very first payments since April ! It is still not known when the UIF will do the honourable thing and pay out 18 of our staff ( mainly drivers, tourist guides and managers ) that have not received a single cent !!!
The corruption in this country is likely to drive me to levels of anger that are not good for my cardiac condition !!
All the drivers and tourist guides were thrilled to get back on the job. Sightings have been excellent and Janneman, Elias and Raymond were thrilled to show the tourists the Big Five at Tremisana. Raymond was exceptionally lucky on the Morning Bush Walk of 7 December as he saw 2 different leopards.
Amazingly, our very first booking was for our newest product – the 7 day Kruger and Northern Natal safari. Johan and Susan Fourie from Port Elizabeth normally book with Nomad Tours, but this company is not yet fully operational, so they booked with Viva Safaris. Charl handled the transfers and Janneman did the Kruger excursions.
I decided to offer my services for the Hluhluwe/Imfolozi excursion and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park/ St Lucia safari. Charl accompanied us and will testify that we saw a total of 21 ( twenty one ) rhino including a sighting of a big Black Rhino bull in Imfolozi.
The sightings were excellent as evidenced by the photo I took :
Of course my good wife and ignorant children say it was a typical Piero fluke but the conoscenti ( those in the know) will understand better !!!!
We also had brilliant sightings of hippo and crocodile while on the boat ride at St Lucia estuary.
The Fouries absolutely loved both Tremisana Game Lodge and Pumusa Bush Camp and I thank all staff at both venues for their hard work.
To date, we have had guests stay at Tremisana, Katekani and Marcs. The guests that stayed at Katekani could not believe that Tiger, chef extraordinaire, was collected and returned from JNB and travelled with them so as to prepare his culinary treats for them !
Drives in Kruger were excellent and Patrick saw 2 kills on 2 consecutive days ; a buffalo taken by 4 male lions near Nsemane Dam and a giraffe at Kumana Dam.
Tolli had some great shots in Kruger as well :
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
TREMISANA: Elephant activity has been high. Thankfully this time, no damage was done. The swimming pool has been repainted and looks wonderful.
Towards the end of November, two hippo arrived at Tremisana Dam which is 100% full.
MARCS : We have had a few nyala babies born around the lodge.
KATEKANI : After the rains , the tortoises have made an appearance.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
As you know, Viva Safaris tries to be as independent as possible : we have our own transfer vehicles from JNB to Kruger, our own Landcruisers used for game drives on Olifants West and Motlala reserves, our own OSV’s ( Open Sided Vehicles) for safaris in Kruger proper and our own lodges – 4 in total – run by our own staff.
This has made it easy to resume operating without relying on others and worrying about which company is no longer operating.
We are offering all 26 ( Twenty Six ) products as before. The concerns about Lodge/Tent safaris that offer guests communal ablutions have been addressed and proper sanitising is in place.
We are taking bookings even for 1 guest.
The only possible change to the program for one guest is that we may use a transfer company ( unfortunately Ashtons has closed down, but there are others ) should we not have an existing departure.
Similarly for the Luxury Lodge Safaris we may need to use a different 5 star lodge from time to time.
We understand that other airlines besides S A Airlink are offering flights from JNB to Hoedspruit, so no hassle with Fly-In safaris.
It looks like A for Away and we look forward to providing you with an unforgettable safari experience.
As indicated the volumes of tourists are likely to remain low and we hope to make enough money to keep going. I expect Viva to operate profitably only by July 2021.
Notwithstanding the very tight financial stresses, Viva has continued to support the Catholic church in Acornhoek. The Comboni Fathers receive twice monthly groceries from Pick n Pay. The communities around the church are suffering and the good priests are doing wonderful work.
I wish to thank Bob and Linda de Marco for their outstanding cash donations. Bob and Linda were tourists on our 10 day Volunteer Safari package some years back and had first-hand experience of just how terribly these good people are struggling. I appreciate the regular cash donations you have given not only to the church but also to various church and Viva staff. May God bless you abundantly.
This year, we shall not be holding our annual Orphans party. Instead, Viva Safaris will make a donation to a charity recommended by Father Aldrin.
I take this opportunity to wish you all a Blessed Christmas. We certainly need God’s blessings in these extremely trying times.
I wish you a better new year ( impossible to be worse than this 2020 – annus horribilissimus, if my Latin is correct ) and hope that you remain healthy and sound, both in mind and body.
Until early February,
With kind regards,