We are regularly requested by prospective tourists to advise the best time to visit Kruger Park.
There is no simple answer. Each season has its own attractions. The greatest concentrations of game are found towards the end of the dry season months. It is impossible to predict when the rains will fall – in the last few years this has happened from early September to late October. I always advise tourists who want to see large concentrations of game around the water points to visit in late August.
In fact, August 2019 set a new all-time monthly record in terms of visitors taking Viva Safaris packages.
There is no doubt that the chances of seeing lions are very high in the dry season. They are usually found near the waterholes where they wait for the thirsty prey animals to quench their thirst which they must do in order to survive.
In the rainy season, November to March, the larger animals are generally more dispersed, but there is always some game to be seen, even if numbers are reduced. Lion sightings are also reduced as the prides are now forced to work harder for their food, often travelling great distances to find their prey.
The rainy season, on the other hand, is the optimal time for bird sightings. As the breeding season approaches, the male birds come into full colour and are readily seen. Not only do we view the resident species, but we also then have numerous migrant species.
There is a spectacular regeneration of all vegetation in the Kruger Park after the rains, this being in stark contrast to the bleak, dusty and barely threadbare conditions in the latter part of the dry season.
As ephemeral pans fill up, the raucous chorus of frogs and toads deafeningly announces their presence and the number of snake sightings increases.
Summer is also the time when antelope such as impala and wildebeest drop their young and the veld is alive with the sound of music – beautiful bleats and glorious grunts !!!
GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
13th October 2019 : From Orpen boom gate to Orpen reception we saw general game including zebras and impalas. At the Orpen camp waterhole we saw wild dogs. On the S106 we saw a leopard crossing the road.
On the H7 we saw a big herd of elephants busy drinking water at the river. On the S36 at Rockvale waterhole we saw a male and female lion mating. On the S126 Sweni road we saw a huge buffalo herd heading south to Welverdiend waterhole.
After lunch we took the H6 to Nwanetsi picnic spot where we saw two white rhinos. On the S100 we saw three cheetahs lying down under a tree. On our way out we saw three lionesses and two white lion cubs at the Orpen camp waterhole. Ho hum…… big five, cheetah, wild dog in one day……….that’s Viva’s magic !
Bush walks have been good insofar as we saw lots of general game elephants, hippos and crocodile. Sundowner drives have yielded regular sightings of lions, elephants and 2 black rhinos. Sunset drives have been excellent : general game, elephants, leopards on Oxford and hyenas with pups.
There have also been excellent Buffalo sightings.
We have been very lucky with sightings in Kruger – every time I have gone there this month, we have had multiple lion sightings.
My Kruger Park highlight this month was a sighting of cheetah on the s100 approximately 1km from Shibotwana pan. The cheetah were hunting a steenbuck. Fortunately the steenbuck saw the cheetah from a distance and bolted.
Lions have been seen regularly on the Oxford and Cambridge properties and Rosy’s pan viewing has been quite spectacular.
We have seen numerous kills in Kruger Park – one that stands out for me is of a male lion on the s100 eating a buffalo.
It’s happening again at Tremisana – Nature will always surprise you.
We went out on our bush walk leaving Tremisana and bumped into a big pride of lions coming out from Tremisana’s property onto Olifants road.
Then we went back to Cambridge 1 and 2 cutline and joined Marula road and down to our bush walk area. On the walk we managed to see giraffes, kudu, hippos and crocodile.
Later that day on a Sunset drive, we got to see zebra, giraffes, impalas and we saw two black rhinos !!
On the way to Marula Boma, we saw genet and civet and at the Boma we managed to see porcupine and hyenas.
So it was really amazing.
On another day we got close to a breeding herd of elephants that included some young ones. One mother became a little agitated with our closeness, so I drove off and left them in peace. At Misi Kaya (that’s hyenas home), we managed to see the whole family of hyenas – my clients were very excited about that. We went to the Olifants River for our Sundowner. I took my clients to see the hippos – about 26 of them – it was amazing for them and then we went up to the Landcruiser for drinks and snacks.
While we were having our sundowner two elephants come toward our vehicle – my clients were very scared – I told them to be silent and we viewed them very closely but at the end we decided to leave them in peace before we might be left in pieces !
Then to make this so special, we saw one single wild dog running along the riverbank.
We have also had regular sightings of buffalo.
Nature will always surprise you.
7th : Kruger Park : 4 male Lions on a giraffe kill on S126 about five Km from Mundzandzeni picnic spot very close to the road. At S36 near Ximangwanana dam we found a mating pair of lions. At Ximangwanana dam there was a huge concentration of general game as well as big herds of buffalo and elephants. This is probably the very best dam in the whole central section of Kruger.
9th : Olifants West : we found a big pride of Lions at Dean’s dam. Shortly thereafter we found a White Rhino and a herd of elephants. Just before we got to Marula Boma we found a leopard.
17th : Kruger Park : on H7 at Ngwenya khaya we found three of the big five altogether : Elephant herd, Buffalos and pride of Lion. On the S36 about 2km from Rockvale water hole we found a beautiful Leopard that had a steenbok up a tree.
25th : Olifants West : On Oxford buffalos and elephants . At Rosie’s pan we found pride of Lions. On Rome 1 we found a leopard.
26th : Olifants West : Big herd of buffalo at Oxford second concrete dam, Lions at Ross’s pan, herd of elephant next to Tremisana Lodge, Black rhino (Zulu) nearby, Leopard at Marula Boma. So we completed sightings of all the Big Five in two hours.
As always Motlala drives have been very eventful : Wild Dog sightings were a highlight as well as BIG male leopards. The roaring of these tom cats over territory disputes can be heard by guests in all camps and is a great treat.
Black Rhino, being the special animals they are, have been making their presence felt, coming closer and closer to the camp. With the rains still looming in the distance no significant water has fallen- times are tough for the herbivores in the bush with animals spending more time looking for food that isn’t dry and useless, tempers flare during these times and animals come closer to the camps.
Guests at Masango Camp have thoroughly enjoyed their stay. On most nights the whole camp was in the swimming pool after enjoying a braai dinner presented beautifully by Caroline. Masango has proved to be a successful quaint little camp. So far everyone has been happy. Everyone talking about the rain we are waiting for – the gift of life!! water!!!
With Charl on long leave, I have been at Katekani for 3 weeks. I enjoy it a lot on this side. Not only is Tiger’s food very good but Motlala is the best.
One night I will remember is seeing black and white rhino as well as leopard and wild dogs. Saw leopard with cubs twice and once saw 8 black rhino in 30min. While tracking for Jordan one day we saw a black rhino cow with calf after observing them for about 10min she started to approach me – I was sitting on the tracker seat. She ended up 2m from me and this was most definitely my coolest experience out in the bush.
Marco, our webmaster, has posted it on Facebook.
In my spare time I have done other work. I enjoyed building 4 tables. Jordan and I fitted a bull bar and tracker seat on his vehicle. We also cut and chopped a lot of wood for Masango, Katekani and Marcs. Jordan has taught me a lot this month and he is always willing to give advice. Thanks.
3rd : Sightings good and easy because of shortages of water. H7 Ngwenya khaya three lionesses trying to catch old dagga boys (buffaloes). Buffalos chased them all over the place. Needed a male lion to catch buffalo. Elephants watching all this chaos. Leopard on s36, Ximangwanini dam hippo, elephants 2 male lions lying down.
9th : Sightings good, s100 lions before Xibotwana, cheetahs also s100, buffaloes. Hyenas on H7, leopard near Orpen and more elephants at Orpen Camp.
15th : At Orpen waterhole we saw cheetahs kill an impala, hyenas came and took the carcass and vultures descended, attracting lions including 2 white lions – all at Orpen camp waterhole – I have never had such an amazing experience and I am doing this for over 30 years !!!! Later we saw elephants, buffaloes and white rhinos.
21st : At Orpen waterhole elephants drinking, wild dogs there that caught an impala, leopard s36, lions s100, white rhinos H6 road, Girivana s12 road a lioness with 3 cubs.
25th : Hot day, windy, good sightings : lions all over : s100, Ngwenya kaya, Rockvale waterhole, Ximangwanini dam on s36 road. Lots of elephants on every road, white rhinos near Orpen.
I was vividly reminded of the beauty of nature that God created for man. I took one very special sunset photo on one of the Sundowner drives.
All the guests were so amazed by the beauty of the sunset over the river.
Most of this month’s highlights happened on Oxford.
We spotted Leopards on 3 separate occasions.
The guests absolutely loved it, as well as the 2 hippo bulls that were fighting for dear life in the river. We saw 4 male lions at Rosie’s as well as 8 bull elephants. A big herd of buffalo was at Oxford Khaya and we spotted 2 black rhino.
At Marula Boma we usually expect to see the hyenas, but one evening we got a big surprise when 2 elephants were there instead. The guests were very happy.
We have had a good month in terms of sightings in Kruger.
There have been lion sightings every time I guided in Kruger with numerous kills including buffalo, wildebeest and giraffe. The best sighting was at Orpen water hole where we saw a cheetah feeding on an impala, hyenas tackle the impala and lions tackle the hyenas. The best ever !!
We spotted 4 leopards in one day. One was feeding on top of a tree with the hyenas below waiting for something to fall down
We also found a pride of lions at Orpen with 2 white lions.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
We have had a busy month. We are waiting for rain – animals are suffering. The nyala are really tame and our guests are thrilled to get so close. In fact, Jordan is concerned that the one nyala bull will hurt someone.
As with all our other lodges, we eagerly await the rains. The grass cover diminishes daily and the animals are travelling great distances to find nourishment.
Wildebeest have not been seen for a long time and other grazers such as zebra and waterbuck are in poor condition.
Riana sent the following :
Our little resident tortoise came back after a substantial absence and he is hanging around the fishpond and pool to the delight of all. We were also honoured to host a guest that celebrated her 21st birthday with us as well as many other guests that also celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and we had 2 honeymoon couples as well.
The garden is a lot greener after the little shower ( 1 mm ) we had, but we still need a lot more.
The heat wave we experienced had most of our guests in and around the pool.
The impala at the front gate also felt the heat and congregated under the Marula tree.
Every night the sound of croaking frogs can be heard around the lodge and the very scary looking
Red Romans (solifuges) come out and show off their speed and agility whilst running after a bite to eat.
The number of guests continues to increase. Clients that stay here have all booked the 3 day Best Value Affordable safari package and it lives up admirably to its name.
The young female white rhino has come past Masango.
We have been busy and our guests appreciate their plunge pools and outside showers in this heat.
The bushbuck have had a lamb and they are a lot more relaxed around guests.
We are seeing nyala more often at the Boma.
The guests really enjoy the night time calls of hyena, leopard and lion.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
I was interviewed this month by the editor of a travel magazine. My ideas on the future of tourism to Kruger Park are reasonably straightforward.
Firstly, the government must play its part in making SA an attractive destination. To this end, we welcome the lifting of Visa regulations for residents of various countries, including New Zealand. We urge the government to create new jobs – as mentioned in my September 2019 newsletter, the incidence of crime is directly proportional to the number of unemployed people. Crime must be reduced so as not to scare off prospective tourists.
Secondly, our tourism products must be affordable and offer excellent value for money. It is important NOT to compromise on standards. Under no circumstances whatsoever should there be any reduction in the quality of food, accommodation and game drives. We are thrilled with the comments on Tripadvisor by past guests – especially those comments relating to our attentive and hard-working staff.
Our staff needs to be content in their work environment. For example, all guides and drivers working at Viva Safaris have air-conditioned bedrooms. This is necessarily a big expense with the ever-increasing electricity costs BUT we cannot take a chance with a driver/guide having a poor night’s sleep because of irritating mosquitoes. Viva Safaris is very fortunate to have hardworking staff that often go well beyond the call of normal duty. Thank you for all you do !
The prospects of local S A tourists visiting expensive game lodges are not good, given the dismal state of the SA economy. I question the capacity of our economy and the fiscus to continue absorbing the consequences of long-term mismanagement – our economy requires effective governance to instil confidence for investment thus creating the growth necessary to build a sustainable country for all. The unfortunate consequences of inadequate government responses include an increase in unemployment statistics, significant levels of bond and equity sales by foreign investors, bankrupt and dysfunctional state owned enterprises (e g ESKOM, SAA) that constantly beg for bail-outs and a severely constrained SA consumer, who generally does not have spare cash to go on safari.
This scary scenario has thankfully thus far had a minimal effect on Viva Safaris. Over 99% of our tourists are from overseas. With the present monetary exchange rates, SA is still an affordable destination for them. We do not expect any slow-down in our business in the short term.
I thank you sincerely for your continued confidence in Viva Safaris as evidenced by extremely pleasing numbers of tourists.
I attach the following reviews posted in October 2019 :
“Top notch safari without breaking the bank!”
– mpdrager, Montpellier France
I booked the three day package with Johannesburg return, staying at Masango camp. In general, I highly recommend to anyone pressed for time or on a tight schedule. In the three days I was with Viva Safaris, I experienced so much-they really keep you moving! The drivers pick you up from your JNB hotel or JNB airport for the six hour drive out to the camps. Although a bit of a drive, the scenery is stunning, so it goes by quickly. I stayed at Masango camp, which is on the same reserve as Marc’s Treehouse camp. When I stayed, there were no other bookings for Masango, so Viva arranged transport and meals for me up at Marc’s Treehouse camp, so I could socialize with the other guests. On my first night, we did a sunset drive on the reserve, where I saw giraffe, buffalo, ostrich, and plenty of impala and nyala. The second day we left early for the drive into Kruger and were gone until sunset. We saw so much wildlife and it was definitely the highlight of my trip. Our driver knew Kruger well, and we saw countless elephants, giraffe, lions, zebra, crocodiles, impala, wildebeest, ostrich, kudu, warthogs, and many other antelope. Unfortunately I didn’t see rhinos or leopards at Kruger or on the reserve, but they seem to be more elusive and of course can never guarantee a sighting. You can hear the animals, including the leopard at Masango camp at night, which created an unforgettable experience.The third morning we had a morning walk throughout the reserve, and saw some interesting leopard kills and wildlife. Connie took amazing care of me at Masango and I had a lovely stay. Masango camp has chalets centered around a pool and a dining hall/bar. The beds were comfortable and I had my own shower and bathroom which was a welcome addition to my accommodation. The chalets give you a good balance of comfortable accommodation, while still being close to wildlife that wander the reserve. The roof and walls are a bit drafty so recommend warm gear in the cooler months. Meals were excellent and, next to the fire at Marc’s camp, were a great way to meet other safari guests. Monkeys and Nyala are common visitors, so was yet another reminder of how close you are to the wildlife. On the way back, our driver stopped at Blyde River Canyon where we got an amazing look at this South African landmark. I was back in Johannesburg by early evening on the third day. All an all an amazing experience. Knowledgeable guides, great food, comfortable accommodations, amazing wildlife- all in the span of three days without breaking the bank.
“Viva Safaris gave us a fantastic experience”
Katekani Tented Lodge is luxury in the bush! The accomodations were so spacious and comfortable, yet exotic at the same time! The table was beautifully set for every meal and Tiger’s culinary arts were outstanding. A shout out to his helpers, Mandla and Margaret as well. Amazing to find such a gourmet chef in such a remote place, cooking in a tent no less, although it was a very glamorous tent with full bar. The camp manager dined with us several times and we really enjoyed his company and all the information he shared with us. Everything was well-planned and we saw wonderful things on every game drive we took.
We had an amazing time in Marc’s Treehouse Lodge! Never been closer to africa‘s game thanks to the cosy little houses widespreaded all over the place. All of them with a veranda where you can sit and watch buffalows, nyalas, impalas etc. grassing around the river. There are also two „real“ treehouses. There are moscito nets over every bed, even there weren‘t any moscitoes around yet at this time before raining season.
The pool was beautifully refreshing and clean, as it was the whole area and rooms.
The organization was perfect! We booked a 6 day trip with vivasafaris.com and had 6 wonderful days there with our fantastic mixed group from all over the world. From the pick up till the drop off in Johannesburg everything was neatly organized.
The staff was just amazing! Everybody was so friendly and the whole atmosphere so familial. The chef was beautiful! In our group there were some special intolerances and allergies, all of them were accurately respected by her and the food was lovely…
Thanks all of you for the outstandig adventure in Africa’s nature!
“Great for observers and photographers as well”
– David G
I had a business trip to South Africa and as a serious amateur wildlife photographer I simply had to get out and shoot African animals – so after researching and researching I settled for these guys based on the ratings and cost. I dont need a hot tub and luxury on a solo trip, so this budget safari looked good and it did not disappoint one bit. I read over a dozen of the more negative reviews and based a lot of my decision on the lodges responses, and based on my stay not a single of the “complaints” manifested themselves in my stay. The rooms are great – the beds nice and firmly comfortable, ceiling fans and air conditioners to boot – we had 100degF one day and some nights in the 40’s F and the room was always just right. The staff is great – the food totally rocked (fantastic soups to start) with pork chops and chicken type meals that were very good – breakfast as well was very good and plentiful – in short the accommodations could not be better for the price. Showers were fine considering pressure is gravity only – and the water is fresh from a well.
The guides were also all great – I had a total of 5 different game guides over the 6 days and all were very knowledgeable as well as friendly to boot – I would be friends with every one of them in any different setting. A fun personality must be one of the requirements for hiring! I was a bit concerned at first as there are other trips geared just for photographers (at much higher prices) that claim they will get the best light angles etc – but the truth is you just cant do much more than shoot from the road in Kruger and in the private reserves they can and will go off-road as needed but not always. There were times I had no choice but to shoot into the sun but no one could avoid that – especially in Kruger where you must stay on the roads only. The smart photog will wear 2 cameras – I shot one with a Nikon 200-400 f4 that I can shoot handheld and kept another with a 24-135mm for landscapes, close ups and video. Trust me – you do NOT want to be changing lenses dozens of times a day out there! In the end I got excellent quality pics of elephants, giraffe, lions, hippos, white rhinos, hyenas, warthog, kudu, impala, water buck, crocodiles, steenbock, ostrich, buffalo, wildebeest, a green boomslayer, and many birds including raptors and the lilac-breasted roller. No close up of a leopard, but I did get a great scenery shot of one in a tree with an impala kill nearby. One full day in Kruger resulted in the big 5 just for that day alone. The only major animals I wished I’d seen were black rhino (we saw tracks), wild dog, and cheetah – and more lions (total of 9 in numbers of 1, 1, 1, 2, and 4). Would also have liked a hippo on land or at least with its mouth open but overall I cant complain!
Would easily book again – and maybe do Marc’s Treehouse next time just for a little change of pace. Thanks to all the staff and guides and Piero for making me feel like I was their only guest all year! Tell then all “Mr. Dave” said thanks!
Until next month…
With kind regards,