The Leadwood Tree, Combretum Imberbe, has a special place in many bushlovers’ hearts.
It may be its toughness or its imposing display, even once dead, that gives the Leadwood a primordial aura.
My good bush friend, Laurence Saad, owner of the Ezulwini Lodges, where Viva Safaris conducts its luxury safari packages, has an almost spiritual connection to Leadwoods and will not tolerate any burning of Leadwoods, dead or alive.
The density of the Leadwood is 2000 kg/cubic metre. This is double the density of water, so the leadwood sinks in water and this fact probably had some influence on how this magnificent tree got its name.
The Latin meaning of Combretum is “climbing plant” and Imberbe means “hairless” – a reference to its smooth ash grey skin. Because it is so dense, wood boring insects such as termites struggle to make any intrusions so the Leadwood will remain intact for many decades after its death.
Another good bush friend of mine, Wynand Britz, co-owner of Rome 1, where Viva Safaris conducts its famed Bush Walks, has personally shown me a Leadwood along the banks of the mighty Olifants River that he reckons is well over 1000 years old and thriving. I am told that Leadwoods flourish in alluvial soil. The leaves are eaten by many animals including elephant, giraffe, kudu and impala.
As a result of over-exploitation of this magnificent tree, the Leadwood has been declared a protected species in South Africa. Of course, elephants are not subject to any hefty fines for disobeying the protection laws and often break branches of the trees, leaving the remains on the ground once they have eaten the leaves. I am told that inhaling the smoke of burning wood is a cure for coughs and other respiratory issues. I would prefer that more conventional cures be used.
GAME VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES
Yuri reports :
September, the start of Spring here in the Southern Hemisphere, has been an absolutely crazy month as far as game viewing goes!
Cats popping up everywhere In Kruger this month, I mean, anything you can imagine. We had 2 big male lions just walking along the road. Then there was Casper the white lion just having a snooze…in the road and also 4 female lions…you guessed it…right next to the road.
Then there were also the cheetahs. It is always such a pleasure to see these critically endangered cats, and even better to get 2 brothers together!
Everybody’s favourite…the ever- elusive leopard. This month we were so privileged to get some fantastic leopard sightings. On two occasions we saw beautiful females coming out into the open and drinking water and on another occasion an awesome, very big male strolling across a rocky outcrop. Normally a leopard sighting would be very brief, because of their shy nature, but luckily for us, on these three occasions they decided to pose for a couple of pictures.
We were equally lucky with the rhinos this month, with both Black and White Rhino sightings on a quite regular basis. Please note that the difference between White and Black Rhino has absolutely nothing to do with their colour, but rather their feeding habits and mouth & head shape. The White Rhino is a grazer (eats grass) and has a wide, square mouth like a cow. The Black Rhino is a browser (eats leaves and twigs) and therefore has a hooked, triangular lip.
The Puff Adder (bitis arietans) is one of South Africa’s most dangerous snakes and accounts for the majority of serious snake bites in this part of the world. It has a potent cytotoxin (destroys tissue) and with its 5-cm fangs it can deliver a large amount of venom in one bite. The reason so many people get bitten is that the Puff Adder is a well camouflaged and is a lazy snake, so if it is sunning itself on a path or a track it won’t move out of the way. We were lucky enough to come across one doing exactly this on one of the dirt tracks in Kruger National Park.
Enjoy the pictures! Till next month…
On the 5th September 2022 we started our game drive from Phalaborwa gate to Letaba camp. We saw a herd of seventeen Elephants busy feeding on grass very close to the road 500 metres west of Nhlanganini Dam. After that we continued with our game drive on the H9 road. 50 metres west of Maswidzudzu Bridge, we saw a big herd of Buffalos busy drinking water. We then saw two big male lions lying down under some Mopani trees. After that we took the H1-5 to Satara camp where we saw three big male Elephants drinking water near Olifants bridge.
After lunch we took the H7 road to Nsemani dam where we saw twelve hippos out of the water. Two were busy feeding on grass and the other ten were lying down. 50 metres east of Nsemani dam we saw a big male and lioness busy mating after that we saw three white Rhinos. On our way out, 200 metres west of Phelwana bridge we saw a spotted hyena crossing the road. We saw four of the big five
On the 8th September 2022 we started our game drive from Orpen. Between the boom gate and the reception we saw two big bull Elephants east of Nghala waterhole. After reception we continued with our game drive using the H7 road. 100 metres east of Rabelais turn off we saw two lionesses lying down under some small trees. After that we saw two white Rhinos. We then took the S36 to Muzandzeni picnic spot where we saw two big bull Elephants drinking water while eleven zebras were waiting patiently. After that we saw a big herd of elephants drinking and bathing and wallowing in the mud at Shimangwaneni dam. We took the S126 Sweni Road and we saw three big old male Buffalos – one was busy drinking water and two were lying down under a Marula tree and then we saw five Giraffes drinking water at Sweni waterhole.
After lunch we took the S100 to Shibotwana waterhole. We saw a leopard crossing the road at Ngwenya Kaya 3 km west of S100. We then took road H7 to Nsemane dam and we saw eight hippos inside the water. 200 metres west of Nsemane dam we saw three big male lions lying down under a tree. One was the famous white lion, Casper, and his brothers. 500 metres west of Nwamatsatsa Bridge we saw a pack of seventeen wild dogs running on the road followed by three spotted hyenas. We managed to see all five of the big five in a day.
On the 23rd September 2022 we started our game drive from Orpen . Between the boom gate and the reception we saw Impalas and the wildebeest east of Nghala waterhole. After reception we continued with our game drive on the H7 and saw a big herd of elephants coming from the Tamboti turn off heading north to Orpen waterhole. After that we saw four old male Buffalos drinking water at Timbavati River north of Phelwana Bridge. We continued with our game drive going towards Nsemane dam where we saw twelve hippos inside the water and two big male Elephants drinking water west of Nsemane dam. After that we took the S100 to Shibotwana waterhole. A kilometre east of Shibotwana waterhole, we saw a pride of eight lions – two big males and six lionesses busy stalking some wildebeest.
After lunch we took the H1-4 to Nghotso. 600 metres north of the S147 we saw a leopard up in a tree with a steenbok kill. We then took the S127 to Timbavati picnic spot and 200 metres east of the Timbavati picnic spot we saw two male lions lying down under a small tree. We saw two Ostriches, a male and female, near the S39 and S36 junction. 300 metres east of Kingfisher turnoff saw two hyenas crossing the road heading to Nwamatsatsa waterhole. We saw four of the big five this day.
A SPECIAL DAY
We went out on a Morning Drive. Near the place where we park the Cruiser and start our walk, we saw a pride of lions. On our return we saw two white rhinos at Tremisana Dam and they were static, feeding and my guests were very happy to see them. Tremisana Dam is fed by a borehole and is the only dam in a radius of 6 km that has water – we have had excellent sightings of all Big Five and will continue to do so until the big rains come.
On the Afternoon Drive, we saw a herd of Buffaloes along Oxford Main near the second concrete pan and while we were driving we saw a black rhino that was Zulu and he did come really close to the vehicle which was nice for my guests to have a good view of him.
On the Sunset Drive we saw a big male leopard around Dean’s dam. We saw hyenas at Marula Boma and just when we left Boma we saw a breeding head of elephants which was very nice.
We saw one female lion on the way back near to Tremisana Lodge.
ANOTHER SPECIAL DAY
We saw one male elephant during the Bush Walk. It was nice to see him especially while we were walking.
On the Sundowner Drive on the same day we saw two young male lions on Cambridge 1 near the Olifants River.
We saw a leopard on Rome 1 western cutline just before the sunset. We saw hippos and a crocodile down by the river.
ANOTHER GREAT DAY
On a Morning Drive, we saw lions near Elephant Dam and we also saw 3 white rhinos on Barnard property. We saw one male lion and a female lion on honeymoon at Barnards. We were very lucky to see that. We also saw a couple of giraffes, impalas, kudus and zebras. We saw a head of Buffaloes around Campfire entrance.
On the Sunset Drive, we saw hyenas on Marula road near Pakamisa eating an impala. We also saw one white rhino and her baby on Barnard property which was nice because my clients wanted to see them. So we were very lucky. To finish off a brilliant day of game sighting, we saw a young leopard on Imagine Africa property.
On the 2nd at Kruger we found a female leopard trying to catch an impala at Kingfisher. On the S100 about 10km from Satara we found a big herd of Buffalo crossing the road right in front of us.
At Nwamatsatsa bridge we found two male lions lying down on the road – their bellies were full and the females and the cubs were still feeding on wildebeest next to the water.
On the 6th during the Sunset Drive on Balule we found two square lip Rhino near Dean’s dam. At Shigamba dam on Barnards we found a lioness lying down alone. At Ngwenya dam we found a big herd of elephants drinking water and then a big herd of Buffalo on the other side of the dam. On the way back from Marula Boma after our BBQ, we found a male leopard hunting.
On the 8th Sunset Drive on Balule we found a herd of elephants drinking water at Leadwood pan, Buffalo at Campfire and square lip Rhino at Barnards.
On the 16th on Sunset Drive on Balule we found a pride of lions at Rosie’s pan lying down. At Ingwe walk next to Campfire and we found a big male elephant in musth blocking the road. We approached him very slowly and very carefully and he moved off. At Barnards we found two Rhinos with a baby.
On the 20th we find two female lions feeding on zebra and another five lying down with one young male. At Elephant Dam we found a big herd of elephants drinking water. We found two square lip Rhino on the Barnard cut line.
I have spent most of this month doing early morning bush walks at the tree house camp. We were very fortunate to spend a few of them on foot with buffalo moving through the reserve. It always gets your heart going encountering one of the big five on foot trying to get as close as possible without disturbing the animal. I have also done a few game drives and bush walks over at Tremisana this month and one drive stands out for me – a Sundowner drive where we encountered a group of 5 nomadic Wild Dog males busy fighting with a group of hyenas. The two different animals compete for the same food source so they will try to kill one another if the opportunity arises. Luckily this time the Wild Dogs were just showing the hyena that they wanted to be left alone. It was an amazing sighting !!!!
2nd : The day was hot, sightings were good, lions on Orpen road before reception, buffaloes on h7, elephants Nsemani dam, white rhino on s39, more general game on s100 road, leopards Sweni road and Rockvale water hole.
3rd : Elephants the first view point on Orpen to Satara road; lions on Nsemani dam, cheetah after Nsemani dam, buffaloes s100, more general game on s100 road and more elephants, hyenas on Sweni road and buffaloes there and 4 wild dogs after reception Orpen.
4th : Mating pair of lions after Tamboti turnoff, buffaloes Nsemani dam, elephants drinking and swimming Nsemani dam. Leopard on Nwanetsi bridge, more elephants Sweni road, more general game Sweni road, buffaloes Welverdiend waterhole, Rockvale elephants drinking.
10th : Elephants after the first boom gate, zebras and impalas before Orpen reception, buffaloes drinking at Orpen waterhole, lions before Kingfisher junction, more elephants on h7 ,more general game on h7, cheetah on h7 and a leopard s12 Girivana road.
12th : Lions h7 before Kingfisher junction, more general game on h7 road giraffe and zebras, elephants first view point on h7 road, lions at Nsemani dam with a white lion and hyenas before the last boom gate.
14th : Lions on s106 with a kill, elephants Timbavati river bed and lions at Nsemani dam, buffaloes s100 and more general game on s100. Hyenas on the road leopard crossing the road before the last boom gate.
15th: Lions Orpen waterhole near the shop, elephants h7 road and more elephants Timbavati river bed and crocodile in the pool in Timbavati River, white rhino on s39, Nsemani dam elephants drinking and hippos and elephants and buffaloes at Welverdiend.
21st : Elephants first view point drinking, buffaloes on h7 ,lions Nsemani dam, elephants Nsemani dam drinking, buffaloes north of Satara, s127 ostriches, on s39 view area 2 leopards sleeping in the river bed.
23rd : Lions on s40, elephants Nsemani dam, s100 more lions with zebra kill, leopard s12 Girivana road with a kill, more general game h7, elephants on h7 and wild dogs on h7 near Orpen.
24th : Lions crossing on s100 road, elephants Nsemani dam, buffaloes s100, Girivana leopard with a kill, more general game h7 road, hyenas on h7 road, elephants drinking on Timbavati river bed and hyenas before the last boom gate.
NEWS FROM OUR LODGES
Charl sent the following reports :
Katekani Tented Lodge
We have had a lovely month in the bush with bookings starting to pick up. I was on leave for 5 days and during this time there was a good amount of rain. I return to the camp by the time it was dark and the next morning I woke up to the bush just about green. It’s quiet amazing to think that the bush can go from a dull brown to green in just under 5 days hey. We have been very lucky this month to have a porcupine join us around the fire before dinner. Being nocturnal they are not often seen on Safari. Unfortunately we never managed to get a good picture of him due to it being quite dark at those times.
Marcs Treehouse Lodge.
We have had a group a giraffe that have been quiet frequently seen in the camp by guests on their way up from their rooms to breakfast in the morning they have often been seen just on the pathway less than 50m from the main lodge. The night sounds are also just amazing ever night we have the calls of hyenas and lions while sitting down for dinner in the Boma. I am quite looking forward for the river to come back up high with the rain season so that it can clear out some of the reeds in front of the river to give us a clear view of the water.
Nyarai sent the following :
This month we celebrated Heritage month or braai day. People wear different traditional regalia celebrating their roots. The vast array of beautiful colors in beads and fabrics is a marvel to see. We use it as a chance to meet up with family and share food over a traditional South African Braai. Our guests get a chance to experience this at our Marula Boma on the first night of arrival. There is something really nostalgic about having dinner in the middle of the bush under the African stars. It is an experience worthy of note on one’s bucket list. We also celebrated Mama Delina’s birthday on the 7th of September 2022. She just happens to share the same birthday with my late mother. I have to say it turned out to be a lovely day for us at the lodge. I think I have perfected the art of picking out cakes in the shop. It was going to be better if I could bake but I will leave the baking to our talented chef Mama Delina.
September has been one of the busiest months we have had so far. It brought to memory pre-covid days. October looks promising and it seems like we will definitely be having another busy month as well. It’s nice to always have people at the lodge and the best part is exchanging stories and learning about other cultures.
Animal sightings for this month have been great as usual. One afternoon we had an awesome sighting of buffaloes at Tremisana.
I had not seen them for some time. It was a very hot afternoon and I went to the Lapa for lunch. I was very happy to see them. They were just relaxed in the grass. I sat outside for quite a while just exchanging glances. It reminded me of the first time I ever encountered buffalos while talking a walk one evening. I can never tell what they are thinking or their next course of action. We had to wait for a guide coming from Kruger to take us back to the lodge. That is one of the reasons why I do not wander outside. I feel safer inside the lodge.
I have started my little adventures in the garden and I came across a leopard tortoise. These are widely spread out through South Africa. It is the fourth largest species of tortoise. They may live to between eighty and a hundred years, that longevity right there. We still have our regular warthogs visiting the watering hole and of course the usual elephants. I must say their timing is on point most of the time. I love the look of delight when the guests see them on arrival. I missed seeing the honey badger by a whisker one morning. I was really upset that day but one day is one day. I shall patiently wait for their return with my camera in tow. Remember” patience is the mother of a beautiful child”.
Till next month stay safe and take care.
NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS
Marco, our super-efficient Webmaster, has added a warning on our Payment page to all prospective guests in relation to scams. It is amazing to what lengths crooked people will go to steal innocent tourists’ money. PLEASE do not pay into any alleged Viva Safaris account without first establishing its authenticity. Payments should be made by credit card so that you are able to reverse your transaction in the event of your having been scammed.
I am still unhappy with the lack of support we get from our bank with whom we have been since 1995. There is a very strong likelihood that we shall be moving our accounts to another bank.
Bit by slow bit, we are getting back to pre-Covid levels. As of the beginning of this month, we have added another 3 permanent positions : Patrick as Tourist Guide, Connie as Housekeeper and Rocky as our new Tracker.
We are re-engaging our mechanic, Future, as of 1 October 22 and hope to be able to add a few more staff as our finances permit.
The Covid pandemic has had one positive result insofar as we have learned to become more aware of wastage. It drives me quite mad sometimes to know that people simply don’t care. I fight far too regularly with staff and family in respect of electricity wastage – I have been doing this for decades – long before the load-shedding crisis that we presently are enduring in SA.
Very simply, if you leave a room, then kindly see to it that you switch off all electrical items including, inter alia, lights, TV, air conditioner and fan. I trust our guests do the same.
Because of Covid, we have learned to “shop around” in respect of supplies. Gone are the days where we have an open account at, amongst others, a hardware store, vehicle repairs and food suppliers.
Nyarai, Delina, Paulina, Charl and Yuri are all worth their weights in gold for the savings that they have effected. For example, all too often Nyarai sends a list of supplies we need to all 5 hardware stores in Hoedspruit and then goes through the quotes, item by item. Our accountant, Pravesh Sookraj, will no doubt pull out what little hair he has left when we need to explain some cash purchases. Charl has sourced fresh fruit and vegetable supplies from local farmers that are way cheaper than products at local stores and Yuri has done a good job in terms of vehicle parts and repairs.
We sometimes go even further to save money by rejecting all the quotes from Hoedspruit suppliers and, as we have daily shuttles from Johannesburg to the lodges, we buy bigger-tag items in Johannesburg.
With the cost of living increasing internationally, I am sure that most people have learned to be more circumspect when it comes to parting with their cash.
We all need to know that we are getting good value for our money.
One of the most important issues for Viva Safaris is to never reduce the quality and quantity of meals at our lodges. I must thank Delina (Tremisana), Margrett (Katekani) and Paulina (Marcs Treehouses) for the great meals produced. The reviews we get never fail to compliment your food.
We received the following reviews in September:
Amazing Luxury Safari!
mtbflorida, Austin Texas
“We thoroughly enjoyed our 4-day luxury lodge safari with Viva Safaris in July 2022. Everything was well organized and their staff was amazing! We spent one night at Katekani tented lodge which was really cool. The next two nights we stayed at Ezulwini river lodge. Viva managed all our transfers, flights to-from Joburg, and game drives. Overall we had a wonderful experience in Kruger and the adjoining Balule game reserve. Victor was an incredible guide and very funny but all the Viva staff were great!”
Great Safari, Highly Recommend.
“Absolutely loved my 6 day Katekani Tour with Viva Safaris. This trip was booked pre covid and the integrity and flexibility shown by Viva through this period was excellent and much appreciated. I would highly recommend staying 6 days to maximise your game viewing opportunities plus staying at the Katekani is a must. I have reviewed this separately but this lodge is quiet, very comfortable and personal. Guest numbers at this lodge are limited which we enjoyed. All guides were excellent, friendly, funny and knowledgeable. They also tried their very best to find every animal possible for their guests. All meals were delicious and again the kitchen and service staff were excellent. Charl at Katekani needs a special mention, his service and stories of his experiences in Kruger was a highlight. Highly recommend this adventure.”
Spacious and elegant accommodations
“Everything you could think of for a romantic getaway in the wild – indoor jacuzzi, huge bedroom space with double sinks, private plunge pool, lounging area and indoor/outdoor shower on the back deck. But what impressed us most was the staff and their extreme caring and attention to every detail. Every meal was a special occasion, and we were welcomed like dear friends! Highly recommend Katakari for discerning travelers that want comfort and TLC.”
Must Stay Location
“This option with Viva Safaris is a must do. The rooms are large, peaceful, spacious and very comfortable. The private pool, plus inside and outside showers were nice features. The location for meals was comfortable and allowed all guests to mix and share their daily safari stories. This lodge was personal, extremely comfortable, peaceful and relaxing. All meals were delicious and super fresh. Charl and his stories and experiences made the stay even better. All guest really appreciated his service, humour and knowledge. Highly recommend and ensure to maximise your stay with the 6 day tour.”
Amazing experience with wonderful staff!
“We had a truly wonderful time at Tremisana and would thoroughly recommend to anyone thinking of staying there.
It’s arranged with small chalets dotted around a small swimming pool and oozes charm and character! The rooms were bigger than we expected and, although fairly basic, had everything we needed and were cleaned and tided daily. The whole place has a very authentic feel and is clearly well run.
The food was nice with cooked breakfast and three good meals each day. The staff were nice and willing to come up with alternatives if you couldn’t eat the main meal for some reason. Breakfast was served overlooking the bush and dinner was in a different place with a traditional campfire burning every night which really set the perfect ambience.
What really made our stay extra special were the staff, especially the safari guides who were soooo very friendly and went out of their way to make sure we had the best time. They were really knowledgeable and made sure we saw loads of wildlife on the game drives whenever possible. A special mention must go to Smiley and Victor both of whom were amazing funny guides and worked so hard to make sure our trip was everything we wanted it to be. We were sad to leave at the end and miss the staff. The kitchen staff Elvis and Mama D also both deserve a special mention and again worked hard to make sure everything is spot-on with the catering operation.
Our only slight area for any improvement would be the arrangements with the bar in the evening. Lovely little place to sit and enjoy drink before dinner, the only problem being you had to disturb one of the kitchen staff (who were busy cooking dinner) to get a drink. No criticism of any of the staff who were clearly working hard to get dinner ready, but just something we thought might be able to run a little bit different even just for an hour slot before dinner to get a drink.
All in all we had the most amazing week and we will definitely aim to go back at some point. Such a shame it’s so far away!”
Immersi nella natura africana
Arrivo all’aeroporto di Johannesburg,servizio di trasporto fino al Tremisana ben gestito.
Nonostante la lunga distanza da percorrere,ci sono fermate intermedie e un’ora di pausa pranzo con menù molto vario.
Appena arrivi al Tremisana ti senti subito immerso nella natura!
Il lodge è piccolo e intimo,le stanze sono semplici,ben curate, pulite e con tutto il necessario per un indimenticabile soggiorno.
Il personale è cordiale e disponibile, attento alle esigenze degli ospiti.
Il cibo è ben preparato,in caso di intolleranze o diete particolari basta riferirlo al momento dell’arrivo e avrete sempre un menù alternativo adatto alle vostre esigenze.
Safari…che dire del Safari???
Non ci sono parole adatte a descrivere tutto quello che potrete vedere!
Il tutto ulteriormente valorizzato dalla competenza,professionalità e simpatia delle guide!
I ranger sono preparati e attenti a cercate di farvi vedere tutti gli animali possibili, dando informazioni utili sulle varie specie che incontrerete.
Belli tutti i vari tipi di safari:all’alba,all’ora del tramonto e affascinante anche il bush braii,dove potrete assaporare l’emozione di una tipica cena africana.
Esperienza unica che consiglio senza alcun dubbio a chiunque voglia vivere la natura!”
MARC’S TREEHOUSE LODGE
Really amazing 6 day safari
“We stayed in Marc’s treehouse for 5/6 days, and Tremisana lodge for the first night. Both sites were absolutely beautiful. The whole trip was very well organised and all the staff were so friendly and welcoming. Special mention to JB for taking us out on the morning bush walks and making us feel so welcome for the 5 days we were at the treehouse. Highly recommend the whole trip! Thank you”
5 Day Tour
“Amazing place. The food is excellent and all of the staff is so nice. We lived in one of the tents and really enjoyed our stay. It is truly a special place and you feel like you make friends with all the antilopes greeting you in the morning.
Would definetely come back!”
Until next month,
With kind regards,