My oldest grandchild, Seanna, turns 14 on 28 December and is at that stage of her cognitive development that manifests in her asking many questions. Her favourite is a one-worder : “why?”
Yesterday, we were watching a TV news report of the terrible suffering presently experienced in Gaza and Israel. I attempted to explain that, since the very beginning, groups of people have needed territorial tenure to guarantee their survival. I believe the two major wars in progress have this fundamental tenet as their underpinning cause.
It happens also in our animal world. On the 20 November, the resident hippo bull at Tremisana Dam encountered a challenger for his water and territory. In the ensuing battle, he killed the intruder. It took less than 12 hours for the main lion pride on Olifants West Reserve to get to the carcass. They spent the next 5 days at Tremisana Dam consuming the roughly 1800 kg of meat. Usually when hippos die in a river where there are crocodiles, the meat is quickly consumed. There are no crocodiles at Tremisana Dam so the lion pride had all the meat to itself.
The abundance of food and water resulted in the lion pride ‘camping’ at Tremisana Dam. Other lodges that do not have traversing rights on Tremisana struggled for five days to show lions to their guests. Two lodges trespassed and, as Luke was on leave, I had Charl attend to this unfortunate matter. The issue of traversing is problematic and, as I have written in earlier newsletters, a balance must be struck between sharing sightings and avoiding congestion.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Luke, Head Guide and Tremisana Lodge manager, sent the following:
Monthly report November.
The bushwalks have been enjoyable after the early summer rains, the bush is alive with flowers, new growth on the trees and one of my favourite insects the dung beetle.
Dung beetles play an important role in the ecosystem, breaking down dung and recycling it back into the soil. The strength of these beetles is incredible, rolling massive dung balls around, the size of tennis balls.
The bush is thick with new foliage, providing the elephants with a source of food and a great spot to relax in the shade. We have had a few great encounters with elephants, on our bushwalks along the Olifants river. This month, a favourite was a big elephant bull, making its way down towards the river for a drink and a splash.
A highlight during a sundowner drive this month has to be a close encounter with a pack of African Wild Dogs. We initially found them sleeping in the shadows of a marula tree, their incredible camouflage makes them hard to spot in the shadows.
The adults kept sleeping while the pups began playing, chasing each other. On closer inspection the Wild Dog pups had been chasing alates (flying ants) and eating them, a delicious protein snack. Amazing to see these rare animals and so positive that the numbers are increasing within the reserve.
Smiley, aka Elias:
On the 2nd of November we saw a pride of lions on H7 including a white lioness.
On the 15th of November we saw mating lions near the entrance of Satara in Kruger Park
On the 20th of November we saw a giraffe on Barnard property on our sunset drive
On the 23rd of November we saw this beautiful Roller at Tremisana Lodge
At Barnard property north of Gwenya Dam
Mating pair at H7 before H1-3 junction in Kruger Park
Big herd of Buffalo at Girivan waterhole in Kruger Park
Big herd at Nsemana Dam in Kruger Park
Marula road at Balule
Rome 4 Balule
Hluhluwe Game Reserve KZN
Hluhulwe Game Reserve KZN
Nyalas having a drink at breakfeast dam – Marc’s Camp
Small Spotted Genet sitting at boma while guests having dinner – Marc’s Camp
Guests enjoying early morning bushwalk, viewing of Nyala bull
Rock monitor seen at Masango Camp
Leopard hunting impalas crossing Barnard khaya to Olifant Road
Square lipped rhinoceros north of Xigamba dam Barnard property
4 African Wild Dogs at Tremisana property
Black rhino on Marula road in Balule
Very shy Leopard on Campfire in Balule
Pride of lions at Tremisana, dam in Balule
Zebra on Olifants road in Balule
Dwarf mongoose, Barnard property in Balule
Male Elephant with impalas west of Pagamisa Marula road Balule Nature Reserve
We saw 3 out of the Big 5 during this sunset drive
Three male Buffalos Sable road east of kamuzu Balule Nature Reserve
White lioness with a cub east of Orpen camp Kruger Park
Pride of lions just North of Satara Kruger Park
Hluhluwe never disappoints we have a new record of 45 Rhino in one day in the national park
Mating pair of lions 100 metres south of Satara for 3 consecutive days.
Baby hyenas less than 7km from Orpen rest camp in Kruger
Herd of elephants between Orpen boom gate and the reception
I spent a week at our lodges in early November. Game sightings were good and all the tourists with whom I interacted seemed very happy.
Porcupine at lapa
Nyarai in garden
Nyala outside deck at Katekani
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Tremisana Report November 2023
The month of November has really been a month to remember. The heat, the fantastic sightings. I am not sure if I should be happy or complaining. We have experienced a heat wave in the last two weeks of the month. Early mornings and the temperature was already a scorching 30 degrees Celsius by midday well above 40 degrees Celsius. The only way to survive this heat is by keeping oneself hydrated and apply a lot of sunscreen lotion.
I knew the heat would affect the number of animal sightings around the lodge in a positive way and I sure was correct. All my hope was in Tremisana dam bringing the animals close to home. The dam and watering hole did not disappoint. We had a hippo at the watering hole by the breakfast area as well as wild dogs, hyena, warthogs, lions.
Our highlight of the month was the hippo at the dam that was unfortunately killed in a bid for territory. The lions were quick to set in. What an awesome sighting it was. A very sensible reason to leave the office for a bit to get a few pictures. The guests were very happy . What a fantastic way to end a safari.
We also had a herd of elephants close to the lodge close to our guesthouse. I would term this one as close encounters of a beautiful kind. Despite living in the bush for years my love and reverence for elephants has not changed.
We are really looking forward to this festive season. If this past month is anything to go by then December will be quite busy and exciting.
Till next time stay safe and take care
The process of painting out the main building has begun amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to refresh a building. This month has been very hot with the temperatures averaging around 40 degrees during the days often at night we find the guests returning from Kruger and heading directly to the pool where they stay till dinner time.
Our resident hyena now makes a more frequent visit to us at the lodge at night quite often seen drinking water from our watering hole in front of the kitchen. This little baboon spider joined us for dinner one night after the rains as they live in burrows under the ground his burrow must have flooded and he was definitely looking for a safe place to spend the night. I removed him from the boma and safely released him close to a pile of dead wood to give him shelter for the night.
We have entered into an agreement with Anthony, my son, to erect a 6 tent camp on the property. It is called SEKEKAMA TENTED CAMP and will cater for ultra budget tourists. It makes business sense for both parties as his company, MoAfrika Tours, was paying for accommodation in a lodge in Hazyview, outside of any game reserve.
DUMELA TENTED LODGE
This lodge comprises 7 en-suite air conditioned tents.
It is located on the same property as the Cheetah Inn.
We have a contract with MoAfrika Tours, run by my son, Anthony, to offer this accommodation for his budget tours.
CAMPFIRE ACADEMY TENTS
Our 4 tents located on the Campfire Academy property have had a great November. Occupancy is the highest thus far this year.
Elephant near our tents at Campfire
Lions on giraffe kill near our lodge.
Newborn impalas outside Billy’s Lodge.
Craig, Manager at Ezulwini River Lodge, sent this pic of new wine cellar. I look forward to Laurence’s invitation for a closer inspection!
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
November was a good month and we are pleased with occupancy at all lodges.
This month marks the 32nd anniversary of the existence of Viva Safaris. I am pleased to report that, once again, there has been significant growth this year.
I hope this post-Covid trend continues as we anticipate a drop in international tourists if the war in the Middle East continues.
Both our properties on Olifants West Nature Reserve, Tremisana and Marula Boma, are dedicated to remaining part of the open system with the Balule Nature Reserve as our Management Authority. It makes eminent business sense to market our properties as part of Balule Nature Reserve, while at the same time, enjoying the protection afforded by a larger entity.
With the onset of the rainy season, we have decided to have dinners at Tremisana at the Lapa. This has been welcomed very warmly by our guests and we have had some excellent nocturnal sightings including leopard, lion, elephant, hippo, hyena, genet, porcupine and civet at our illuminated waterhole during dinner time.
I would like to, once again, congratulate all the Viva Safaris staff on another year of outstanding work. Your energy, enthusiasm and excellence have been fundamental in our success story. The fact that we have had departures from Johannesburg EVERY SINGLE DAY this year is both remarkable and enviable. We shall complete the year in the same manner, resulting in 365 departures for 2023. Take a bow, every single one of you. The quality of reviews posted by previous guests plays a big part in helping tourists decide to choose one of our packages. Without exception, these reviews bear testimony to the passion and energy that our happy staff bring to their workplace. Well done to all !!!!
Marco, webmaster extraordinaire, has selected the following reviews posted this month.
You really must book with Viva Safaris!
If you are going to do a safari in South Africa then you really must book with “Viva Safaris” some will say that a whole week of safari game drives is too much but I would strongly disagree. This company has it spot on. Each day a different activity and each well worth doing.
The staff are AMAZING. Viva Safaris use two different lodges, both are equally worth a stay, Marc’s treehouse lodge and Tremisana game lodge..The staff at each made our stay all the more memorable and I really hope our paths cross again.
Thank you so much Nadine, mama “T”, mama “B” and the once seen never forgotten “Smiley”
To sum it up, in a word, WOW!!! Big 5 seen and we even had a close encounter with wild dogs oh yes and we even got to meet “casper”
One of the best stays of my life!
Wendy Woo, Singapore
“Wow!” I believe that we really lucked out with our choice of lodge. Our stay at Katekani was incredible. The organisation behind the scenes was impeccable providing us with a relaxing and yet exciting stay.
The safari drivers, namely Viktor, Rocky and King George were friendly, professional and knowledgeable about the area, animals and plants.
They engaged with us, telling stories of their own (sometimes terrifying) experiences in the Bush.
Our chef Margaret was heaven sent as without her we’d have starved. She catered for our group, three vegans and a carnivore with kindness and care.
We met some wonderful people and made life long friends. Just wonderful.
Excellent Price and Service
I had the most magical trip to Kruger National Park with Viva Safaris. It was reasonably priced and the guides were very knowledgeable.
The food was also excellent and the accommodations were very comfortable. There was also a nice pool we could use. There was lots of wildlife right outside our lodge in the immediate surrounding reserve.
We went to Kruger National Park for 2 day trips and that was also amazing. I saw everything I wanted to see: lions, zebras, elephants, giraffes, hippos, impalas, etc. It was incredible.
They were also very organized about pickup at the airport. I was impressed by the management throughout.
I highly recommend Viva Safaris for your safari holiday. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!
I will never forget it! Absolutely magical!
It was a lovely experience! The staff is super kind and the food delicious.
Your private tree house is very comfy and while enjoying dinner you have the perfect opportunity to meet some other travellers 😊
I highly recommend it for a great Krueger experience!
An unforgettable 6 days with Viva Safaris
Melinda B, USSA
The whole experience was amazing!
The organization was seamless. Every day was filled to the max with a variety of adventures!
The guides were amazing! Rocky, George, Viktor all were dedicated to finding us The Big Five and were so informative and knew so much about the animals and plants and it was so educational!
Katekani Lodge was very comfortable and the rooms were huge with a walk-in shower and individual plunge pools! The highlight was the chef Margaret who made a special delicious meal for us every time we ate with her! Also all the people we met on Safari were so lovely!
We never met such awesome people!
We received the following wonderful email from repeat guests Bob and Linda DeMarco:
From: Bob & Linda DeMarco
Sent: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 7:59 AM
Hello Piero. We have been home for three weeks and have been so busy we have not yet written a review. We will!
Wonderful trip and outstanding Viva experience again! What a great team you have assembled, great folks! Quinton was our assigned caretaker this visit, wonderful young gentleman! We had such a great and rewarding time. We were able to accomplish so much more hiring three local folks to help us accomplish our work. Linda and I accomplished some tasks on the ground while our hired folks worked primarily on the church roof.
The church roof is in great disrepair all around the perimeter due to wood rot. I pointed this out to Fr. Chico. Fr. Chico was showing the roof wood rot issues to someone while we were there (not sure who). If some estimates for the roof repairs can be obtained we will be willing to contribute to the repairs. Your next visit to the church would you be so kind as to discuss with Fr Chico and perhaps collect estimates to repair the roof perimeter roof rot repairs? So sorry to ask you this but communication is so difficult it seems.
I have been trying to provide some funds to Sister Alpha for the orphanage. We don’t communicate well at all. I am so sorry to ask you once again to deliver some funds to some folks but would you be so good to do so one more time please?
If you will, would you have us invoiced for $600?
Would you please distribute:
$400 Sister Alpha for use for the orphans
$150 Maria Asumptia Church
$50 Ronnie, maintenance man for the church, for the birth of his daughter, Life, on (or about) November 14.
Thank you in advance, Piero. We hate to keep troubling you. We tried to establish a way to transfer money to the orphanage but were not successful after numerous exchanges with Sister Alpha.
Respectfully, Bob & Linda DeMarco
On behalf of all of us at Viva Safaris, I wish you a happy and holy Christmas. We hope and pray that the wars in Ukraine and Gaza may reach a speedy end.
Until the end of January,
With kind regards,