Viva Safaris enjoys strong support because we offer game drives both in the Balule Private Nature Reserve, situated in what is called Greater Kruger, and in Kruger Park proper.
All our guests get the opportunity to enjoy exclusive sightings in the private reserve and get to see the bigger numbers and greater diversity of animals that have made Kruger Park so famous.
On my last two trips to our lodges, guests remarked about the devastation caused by elephants in Olifants West Nature Reserve, our private reserve in Balule. Most of the larger trees have been pushed down and the landscape is very different to what we have in Kruger proper.
Part of our Tremisana property comprises a narrow conical piece bounded by the fence of the neighbouring game farm and the fence along the R 40 main road. In the past lions would herd the buffalos into this corner and then all hell would break loose. On many occasions the buffalo broke through the fence and we had lions, buffalos and vehicles all over the road.
About 10 years ago, we decided to fence in about 4 hectares of the apex corner of the conical piece. The fence is curved, not rectilinear. The lions still try to herd the buffalo but the curved fence allows the buffalo to move without smashing through the perimeter fence and landing up on the main road. This curved fence also prevents elephants from entering the area and there is now a very significant difference in vegetation cover on either side of the fence.
Landowners have tried to protect trees by various methods : a number of trees have rocks packed around them, just as we have done at Marula Boma; others have used chicken wire to stop the elephants from de-barking the trees; some have tried to introduce beehives and some have gone as far as adding chilli oil to the bark ! Research is presently underway to evaluate the effectiveness of other elephant deterrents and these include creosote, bee pheromones, Neem oil and Dung mud paste.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) has this month placed a temporary ban on the export of live elephants from Africa and has shut the door on ivory trade. Countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe that have been trading extensively in live elephants will feel the financial pinch. In 2016 Kenya burnt a stockpile of elephant tusks worth about R 2 billion. This not only indicated Kenya’s commitment to saving elephants but also incentivised other African countries to reconsider international trade in ivory.
It is a very complex issue. From a personal perspective, Viva Safaris can boast that not one of our tourists has EVER missed seeing an elephant on our safaris. Some of our guides boastfully offer money-back guarantees that elephants will be seen.
I wonder if we should add a codicil to these guides’ contracts that will allow the company to reimburse exceptionally unlucky tourists using money from the guides’ salaries !!
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
2nd November was a hot day in Kruger. Sightings were still good : leopard at second bridge on h7, lions on Rabelais road, elephants and buffalos Nsemane dam, white rhino on Sweni road, Rockvale two cheetahs and hyenas after reception at Orpen gate.
9th : Lions attacked but missed buffaloes on Rabelais road, leopard at Ngwenya Kaya on h7 road, cheetahs at the junction s36 and s39, elephants Nsemane dam and s100 road and wild dogs on return drive on Rabelais road, Leopard near Kingfisher junction, black rhino on h7 road and hyenas with the babies before the boom gate.
19th: We saw lions on h6 to Nwanedzi, buffalos Sweni road, lion crossing the road h7 near Second Bridge, Leopard at the first view point and hyenas before Kingfisherspruit, elephants at waterhole at Orpen and buffalo crossing the road after reception.
23rd: Casper, famous White Lion, near Nsemane, elephants drinking at Nsemane Dam , buffaloes on the far side of Nsemane dam, leopard up a big tree, nyala at Nsemane. This dam is giving brilliant sightings.
26th : Lions near reception at Orpen, elephants h7 road , s36 and s39 junction cheetahs lying down , lions on h6 road, buffalos on Sweni road, elephant herd at Welverdiend waterhole.
4th of November : Between Orpen boom gate and the reception we saw zebras and impalas. On the H7 we saw two cheetahs. We saw a lion and lioness mating very close to the road.
We then took the S36 to Rockvale waterhole where we saw two big male elephants. On the S126 Sweni road we saw five male buffalos at Welverdiend waterhole. At Nwanetsi Bridge we saw a leopard up in a tree.
After lunch we took road S100 to Shibotwana waterhole. 100 metres west of Ngwenya kaya on the S100 we saw the white lion Casper. We then took road H7 to Nsemane dam where we saw twelve hippos. 28 elephants busy drinking water nearby. We saw wild dogs running and crossing the road heading to Bobbejaankrans. We saw a spotted hyena crossing the road heading west to Nwamatsatsa waterhole.
14th : From Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw zebras and impalas. After that we took road H7 and 500 metres east of Orpen camp we saw a big herd of elephants crossing the road in front of us.
We then took road S39 to Timbavati picnic spot where we saw five big male buffalos at Leeubron waterhole. On the S127 and we saw wild dogs chasing Impalas. We saw a male and a female Ostrich at Ntomeni.
After lunch we took road S100 to Shibotwana waterhole and saw a pride of eight lions busy feeding on a buffalo carcass. We took road H7 to Nsemani dam we saw twelve hippos in the water and twenty elephants busy drinking water nearby Nsemani dam. On the H7 near Phelwana Bridge we saw a female leopard walking along the riverbank. We saw a spotted hyena crossing the road heading to Nwamatsatsa waterhole.
25th: From Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw a pack of eighteen wild dogs. We saw two elephants in the Timbavati River. At Muzandzeni picnic spot where we saw then saw a big herd of Buffalos.
On the S126 Sweni road we saw a lioness with five cubs lying down under a Nyalaberry tree.
After lunch we took the H7 road to Nsemani dam and we saw a big male white Rhino. We saw a leopard up a big Jackalberry tree. Two lions were also there. Near Bobbejaankrans we saw two spotted hyenas.
My highlights are as follows:
We saw one black rhino at Rome 1.
We also saw a pride of lions at Leadwood pan.
We saw wild dogs at Tremisana property and while we were enjoying the wild dogs we saw 5 female lions that had killed a Buffalo. We were very lucky to see them especially at our lodge.
We saw 4 hyenas at Marula Boma while we were having dinner. My clients were very happy to have experienced that.
We saw 8 hyenas at Tremisana property.
We saw 3 black rhinos at Elephant Dam. We also saw wild dogs fighting with one hyena and at the same time they spotted a leopard and quickly left the hyena and chased the leopard. What an amazing sighting!!!!
We saw about 15 hippos on Olifants River during the bush walk. It was very nice. Also saw buffalo.
We saw many new baby impalas and I must say the bush is looking nice and green and the Olifants River is getting full which is good for the animals that drink.
We saw hyenas, hooded vultures and a pied crow at Tremisana concrete pan. We also saw one male elephant during lunch time at the breakfast area. We do get excited to see these animals around our lodge.
During the morning drive with Nhlanhla around south of Tremisana we were lucky to see 5 female lions at the dam drinking water. The guests were very happy to see them. We also managed to see a pack of wild dogs on an Impala kill and they were busy eating at Imagine Africa.
On an afternoon drive we saw a female leopard with two cubs up in a tree with an Impala carcass
We also saw two male lions on the Nonwane / Barnard cutline.. It was a great sighting. We also saw three female lions with eight cubs and giraffe, elephant and more zebra.
Also saw a White Rhino.
During a full day in Kruger we drove from Orpen Reception H7 and we saw giraffe, elephant and some zebras. We then took the S106 Rabelais and we saw wild dogs and H7 junction of 36 and 39 and we saw a male lion further before Nsemane dam. We saw Casper, the famed White lion.
We also saw a female leopard but seeing her was difficult because it was up in a tree. We also saw some hippopotami in the water in Nsemane dam and a big herd of Buffalos on S 100. We saw cheetahs near Manyeleti. At Timbavati we saw a pride of lions including Casper.
During the Sundowner drive near Singwe Boma we saw a pride of female lions on the move. At Charles hide we came across herd of elephants. We also saw a female leopard and a pack of hyenas as well as a lot of general game including more giraffe and kudu.
On the 2nd during the Sunset Drive we found 2 male lions at Barnard airstrip. On Rome 1 we found two big square lip Rhino.
On the 7th during the Sunset Drive we found a pride of lions with cubs at Mathlombi road near Singwe Boma.
They were trying to catch an impala but failed and then lay down next to the road. At Imagine Africa east of Dean’s Dam we found a big herd of elephants together with two big male white rhino.
On the way back from Boma we found a female leopard crossing the road right in front of us.
On the 9th at Kruger on H7 near Nsemane we found four male lions including Casper. On the S100 we found a pride of lions with cubs laying down next to road.
On H1-3 about 6km south of Sweni Road we found a big male Rhino
Near Kumana Dam we found a leopard in a tree and an impala in another tree. At Welverdiend water hole we found a big herd of buffalo drinking water to complete the big 5.
On the 13th on a Sundowner drive we found a pride of lions at Rosies lying down with cubs and a hippo inside the water hole. At Imagine Africa we found two adult leopard eating impala. Next to Ngwenya dam we found two male lions lying down.
On the 26th during the Sunset Drive we found a pride of lions including one male north of Elephant Dam. At the Olifants River we found a herd of elephants trying to cross the river but they failed.
Although I am only one of the two new trackers employed by Viva, I so enjoy my job that I want to share my best sightings with you.
On a Bush Walk we drove along Marula Road and saw some giraffe at the Mangwa entrance. Near the Nambu camp exit, we spotted two wild dogs. We saw 6 hippo in the water.
On our way back, we saw zebras with blue wildebeest grazing next to the road with giraffe browsing on the other side of the road.
During an extended morning game drive along Olifants road near Barnard khaya we spotted a mating pair of lions.
After that we saw a rhino on Barnards. We drove to Leadwood pan where we saw elephants drinking water.
We then drove straight to the Nyarhi Marhambu and found a leopard stalking a steenbok.
During the afternoon drive we went to the hyena den site and we saw the two bull elephants.
We drove on Marula Road and we saw 4 black rhinos, two adults and two calves. We drove back to Rosies pan and got 3 wild dogs sitting under a tree. On our way back from Rosies we got a radio update about lionesses and their cubs sitting under the shade of an acacia tree and we managed to see them. The guests were very happy.
Together with my wife, Sandra, we did our monthly visit to the lodges. I was extremely busy and went on my first game drive only on the fifth day of our visit.
The animals graciously came to see us at Tremisana. Within 24h of the splash pool being filled, it was turned a murky brown by the elephant herd.
Sandra again was restricted to walking along the paved paths inside the fenced Tremisana as we saw and heard lions most days, Even the veteran handyman, Aron, is nervous to come from the staff quarters to the lodge. On one occasion when a faulty toilet needed attention, we had to fetch him ( distance of 40 metres ) as the lions were hunting on Tremisana property that evening.
I conducted a safari in Hluhluwe with 4 guests from the Czech Republic. It is not often that the lion sightings at Hluhluwe are better than those seen over the 3 days in Balule and Kruger. So I have the boasting rights on this one…………………..
The lions were right on the road and driver George was a little scared.
He was a lot happier having a photo with a nyala bull at Maphumulo Picnic spot.
We also had great on the road sightings of Buffalo and White Rhino. I am always so thrilled to see rhino in Hluhluwe as they still have their horns. In fact, I always get a lump in my throat when I see the disfigured, dehorned animals in Balule. I struggle to take photos of these magnificent creatures that look so pitiful because of human greed.
I was pleased to see the number of young rhino calves.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Tremisana Lodge is looking good after receiving lovely rain. Tremisana Dam is 100% full.
Elephants were plentiful around the camp.
Marc’s Treehouse Lodge has had a few nyala born. One slept at the bar entrance and was a constant attraction to our guests.
A mother and baby were seen at Masango :
Of course, the mid-month appearance of numerous impala lambs also elicited the usual “Oohs” and ‘Aahs” from our guests.
Nyarai reports :
Time flies so fast and I cannot believe that the festive season is upon us. I am very excited we can start counting down to Christmas. The month of November is well known for celebrating Thanksgiving Day. It is a special time to focus on all the good things that have been going well in your life. I for one am grateful that I am able to wake up each day and do what I love. I am thankful that we made it through the pandemic, that we have jobs that allow us to look after our loved ones at the same time we are able to make people happy by giving them a once in a lifetime safari experience. It is a blessing that we remained open throughout the year and the way the numbers have steadily gone up things will only get better.
The rains have finally come and the bush is thick and green, the watering holes are fast filling up. I am happy that the animals no longer are struggleing to get water to drink. Tremisana dam is filled up and I am highly expectant of more animal sightings. I took a break this month and went back home. Trust me I would trade the city traffic for the bush traffic in the bush any day. I miss the quietness and the calmness the bush gives the most. It feels good to be back to my second home.
I am grateful for the awesome people that I meet daily out here. We had guests from the United States, Doctor Jakkampudi and his wife. They booked our 7day KZN /Hluhluwe package. While chatting with them I happened to share that I once lived in Malaysia. They surprised us by ordering an Indian dinner from a restaurant in Hoedspruit and they ordered my favorite Malaysian roti. It was a really pleasant surprise.
We spent the evening at the guesthouse with them, Charl and two other guests. Sandy and Piero joined us briefly. It was like we had all known each other for years. This was one of the most memorable days for me for November.
The week before I left for my break I had a very awesome week. We had a report of a lion sighting in our back yard at Tremisana. We took our lucky guests to the sighting before they went back to Johannesburg for a cherry on top to their already amazing safari. We were blessed to see the pride of lions feeding on a buffalo. A mixture of excitement and reverence filled the vehicle as we managed to get very close proximity to the sighting. The guests were very happy to close off their safari with such an awesome sighting. For me it was a reminder of why I wander within the confines of the lodge because outside surely promises unexpected surprises.
I have a feeling December is going to be a good month. Always sow seeds of gratitude every day. The universe gives back what you pour out. Till next month have a blessed festive season.
Piero, our GM, took a photo of a friend and I at Tremisana :
Marc’s Treehouse Lodge is also looking good. We are busy replacing the guest toilets and dining area that were burned down. In addition, the permanent tents have been upgraded and tent 7 has been completely replaced.
Katekani Lodge has had all the decks checked and fixed.
Charl sent the following Katekani Report:
It has been a quiet month. Since we have put in the water hole at the Boma, we are seeing the Nyala herd very often. Our renovations are just about done and we just have just two more decks to complete. The Nyala are ever-present.
Marcs Camp and Masango Camp
The rain has fallen making the bush green and lush. The building of our new Boma has begun we are hoping to complete it shortly. Masango Camp has been frequented by two young leopards that have just left their mother. Some of the guests have been very fortunate while returning from Kruger and being able to see two leopards at one time – exceptional luck !
PIUMUSA CAMP AND HLUHLUWE AND ST LUCIA TOUR
This month I was fortunate enough to take a couple on a tour to Pumusa Bush Camp, our Hluhluwe camp. This was a very special trip as this safari package was also one of my last tours I did before I left Viva Safaris. We had an excellent day in Hluhluwe with sightings of a whopping 20 rhinos and all with full horns !!!
We had a stunning day in the park with real quality sighting all nice and close. The tour also consists of a boat cruise to go and see hippos and crocodiles in the St Lucia estuary. We were once again not disappointed with lovely up close and personal sightings of these beautiful creatures
This is really a special trip as the KZN region in one of the only areas I know where you still can get an opportunity to see rhinos with their full horns.
Masango Camp is also looking good and new manager, Quinton, is doing a great job.
Quinton really enjoys the morning bush walks at Masango and Marc’s.
He sent the following :
The month of November was a great month for me as I started at Viva Safaris with great guests coming to visit us at Marcs Camp where we saw some of the most beautiful animals in the bush such as buffalo, nyala, zebra, giraffe, blue wildebeest and many more different types of animals as well as some fresh tracks of hyena. We also went into some details about different types of trees and African tribal beliefs related to the false thorn, buffalo thorn, knob thorn, sickle bush, magic guarrie, marula, fever tree and camel thorn. Some of the guests also participated in our bush competition where we spit impala droppings to see who can spit the furthest. At breakfasts we were often welcomed by an African Giant Kingfisher catching fish in the dam while we ate.
Red chested cuckoo
Dung beetle ( how it created and rolled dungball)
Trees shown and information
LAURENCE SAAD owner of Ezulwini Lodges, where our luxury lodge safaris are accommodated has advised that a few new roads have been opened on a new property he acquired.
The sunsets on the Olifants River are quite spectacular.
At River Lodge, a new wine cellar is being built. He assures me it will be as spectacular as the one at Billy’s Lodge.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
I wish to thank all our loyal travel agent supporters for your commitment to Viva Safaris. Thanks too to the new agents that have started supporting Viva. We are now operating at about 60% of what we were pre-Covid.
We have now re-employed about 75% of our staff and hope to get to 100% sometime next year. It has been a tough process. I feel confident about the future of tourism to S A.
There has been a slight slowdown towards the end of November and early December and I think the FIFA World Cup in Qatar has had an effect on all international tourism.
Next year’s bookings are looking very promising.
I have chosen only one review from Tripadvisor posted this month:
From world travellers, BEST experience we’ve ever had!!!! Highly recommend!!!!
I don’t even know where to start! My partner and I travel often, several times a year and travel all over the world, so we try to make the most out of our vacations. Having flexibly is very important since “packages” don’t always fit want we want in our time frame. Well, this was not a problem for viva safari!!!! Talk about accommodating, customer service!!!!! Wow! From the first contact with the proprietor, Piero (an amazingly kind, intelligent, sweet person, but more on that later) we felt like our needs were being heard. He put us in touch with Rei, the property manager who called us in the middle of the night (her middle of the night, daytime for us) and answered all our questions and concerns and made us feel comfortable with our choice, seeing how this was our first experience in South Africa and we didn’t know what exactly we wanted/needed. So, before we even got into the country, we had personal contacts with actual people we later met on the property.
We were picked up from our hotel in jo-burg and taken to the first of the viva safari lodges we stayed at, tremisama. What an amazing place! It is exactly what you picture a safari lodge to be. Rustic, yet clean and quite and beautiful. Looks like Hemingway would be writing his books from our patio looking into the bush or at the desk in our room. Just lovely. Beautiful lagoon like pool; nice bar and lounge area where the staff and guests spend time eating dinner and hanging cocktails together in the evenings. The safaris themselves were just wonderful. You can’t be sure you’ll see anything because animals are animals but we did! And what viva doesn’t tell you is how skilled and trained their safari guides are!! These men aren’t just your guides; they’re highly skilled and trained men who have gone through rigorous arms training for safety and who are extremely knowledgeable in wildlife and all the vegetation. They also have a passion for what they do and where they live that just can’t be learned. We spent time with one of the guides, Rocky, who talked about being what it is to be a “tracker ” (following animal tracks) and his experience in the bush and his life in his country and his passion for what he does. In fact, all of the staff, like Rei, who I wish I had more time to spend with, talked about their lives and how it is to live on the property. You can feel their love for the bush and their jobs. Pierro, the proprietor, met us the first night we were there and made sure we were satisfied with our accommodations and did so throughout our trip. The last night we were there before we moved to another property, we had a wonderful dinner with everyone on the patio of our room (where we watched elephants eat the trees right from our room!!!). I can’t say enough about the staff. Amazing!
And then we left with the most amazing amazing guide there ever was charl, to Pimusa Bush Lodge. The 7 hour trip there felt like nothing because the road trip with Charl was part of the fun! We learned more about the bush, the country, and his absolute love and passion for his country and his job during that trip. We know we’d be friends for life. When we arrived at the lodge, Andre, our host made us feel like family arriving home. What a host!!!!! And every meal he tailor made to our tastes . And, again, the wildlife experiences were outstanding. Just outstanding. We were fortunate to see Pierro and his wife again and spend time with them, and what a pleasure that was. You can tell when someone puts their heart into something. Pierro’s love for the bush and his lodges shines through in the properties as well as his staff and customer experience, and we can’t say enough how much we appreciate everyone there. We miss you all.
We have spend 5x as much money at top resorts and they can’t hold a candle to what we experienced with viva safari.
We highly recommend.
Other reviews have been sourced from SafariBookings.com and Google:
I had such an amazing time with Viva Safaris. I went for only 6 days and as a female solo traveler.
The airport pickup was a bit late but I never felt worried as there were others waiting with me, and I was in contact with Nyarai while waiting. The drive to the Safari lodge is long, but a was so beautiful that time flew by. Once we arrived at the lodge, we were given keys to our rooms and told to get ready for the first sunset game drive! I was so excited and they did not disappoint! I had the chance of riding with Hakuna Matata who made the experience wonderful! Within the first hour, we already saw Elephants up close, Lions, Hyenas, and so much more! Traveling alone was also really fun with this safari because I got to meet so many amazing people along the way. Each day was packed with fun adventures in the bushes, game drives, Kruger park visits, and the rehab center. I am studying zoology so seeing these beautiful animals in their natural habitat was really amazing. We learned about conservation, anti-poaching work, and information on each animal.
The room I stayed in was so perfect, with a working AC, windows everywhere, a clean bathroom, clothing space, a small couch, and a big bed. I slept great every night. I also want to shout out to Mama G, who was the cook, and prepared all of my meals vegetarian and amazingly. Some people were bothered that the power went out at night from 9-11 but I loved the adventure! You have to do everything with a positive mindset!
Very well organised, great accommodation, animals and birds and more galore
Jane and Bill
Husband and I were on our Silver Anniversary trip of a lifetime and the Safari experience did not disappoint. One night in a beautiful Lodge at Tremisana followed by our favourite Marc’s Treehouse for the following nights as part of a 6 day Safari. Food was excellent and varied and gave a flavour of African Cooking. Mama D’s corn fritters were so so delicious.
Our Treehouse had so much wildlife around it, it was a thrill to listen at night and morning and go quietly out to see what we had outside next!!
Only downside was the height of the Jeeps to get into – a more infirm person would have struggled and a mobile stepping aid would have made such a difference to the struggle especially when you are height challenged.
The trackers/guides/drivers were all good at their job and very informative but some were definitely better than others, allowing more time to take photos and actually listening to your requests. Victor and Smiley were excellent.
We made friends with so many people of all nationalities as the atmosphere lended itself to chat and mixing with others. All in all FAB.
I can’t even begin to explain how amazing this company are.
Absolutely everything was perfect. The lodge itself is beautiful, the people are absolutely beautiful, the rangers are hilarious and we did nothing but laugh.
The best memories will stay with us forever.
We have used viva safaris these past 6 days and really couldn’t fault them.
Absolutely amazing, these guys really go out of their way to give you the best times ever.
We stayed at Tremisana Game Lodge and Marcs Treetops. We also used the safari club sa near the airport.
Honestly there are no words to describe our weeks adventures.
Highly recommended for the time of your lives
Really good experience, it really worth it, they are well organize and guide are very good. Take at least 4 days minimum otherwise you going to be really tired. We have take 6 days/5 nights and it was wonderfull, saw the big 5 several times.
ORPHANS’ CHRISTMAS PARTY
It is good that we can, once again, afford to hold our annual Christmas party.
We were unable to hold parties in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid and its consequences.
Thanks to my wife, Sandra, for all her assistance in organising the Acornhoek Catholic Parish Orphans Christmas Party. I extend our sincere gratitude to all our business suppliers who so generously have agreed to supply goodies, food and drink. Father Chico Medeiros is back as parish priest and we remember him fondly from our early days.
On behalf of all of us at Viva Safaris, I wish you, readers of my newsletter, a Holy Christmas.
May 2023 bring you good health and happiness and may you be fulfilled in whatever you do.
Until end of January 2023,
With kind regards,