VIVA SAFARIS NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 2013
The waterhole in front of the Lapa at Tremisana Lodge attracts many species of animals. Pictured below is a Buffalo which frequents the camp.
Buffalo bulls can attain a mass of around 800 kg while the cows average around 650 kg. The buffalo herd at Tremisana Lodge is reasonably relaxed and we have had no indication of any aggressive behaviour. Nevertheless we need to remind all our tourists that Buffalo can be temperamental so it is best to give them a wide berth. On your bush walk please obey the armed rangers.
I have been requested by Bongani to bring the following to the attention of our supportive travel agents :
Please ensure that all clients doing 4, 5 or 6 day safaris are told to bring closed walking shoes – Bongani recently had 2 guests who wanted to walk with open sandals. Fortunately we had some spare walking shoes that fitted so we avoided any potential injuries / scorpion bites etc !
Bongani has also requested that clients do not wear brightly coloured clothes as the animals can see you the proverbial mile away !
Bongani also recommends that all guests avoid using deodorants on the walk ! Better be smelly and closer to the animals than chase them away with the eau de Paris !
Our walks are a highlight of our safaris and we are pleased to send two rangers per group of seven or fewer people. This ensures good safety as well as introducing additional trained eyes and ears.
BONGANI reports as follows :
The month of February was a good month for game viewing. Almost every day we saw lions, black rhinos or elephants. Elephants visited us many times at Tremisana Lodge looking for Marula fruits. During the bush walk on the 7th of February we spotted two white rhinos and they were very relaxed. They kept on grazing until the wind direction changed and they noticed our presence. Later on the walk we saw hippos fighting. We saw a large herd of buffalo at the dam.
On the 8th of February, I conducted another bushwalk. Before we could reach our walking spot we heard lions roaring and we decided to look for them. Luckily we found them feeding on a zebra. There were two lionesses and three cubs. On the sunset drive we decided to check if the lions were still there. They had moved the carcass far into the bush but were still close to the area where we had seen them earlier on. We sat there for an hour and half watching them eating and playing. One cub tried to climb a tree but there were some wasps which attacked the cub and he ran away. After sunset, we stopped in the middle of the bush and listened to the night bush sounds. After a few seconds we noticed a herd of impalas and all of them were relaxed. I turned on the engine and I looked on my left side there was a leopard very close to the impalas. It was about to attack the impala but unfortunately we had disturbed the leopard and it walked away.
On the 19th of February, we left the lodge early in the morning for Kruger. We used the Orpen gate to enter the park and came out using Phalaborwa gate. It was a long day but awesome. We saw many animals including the Big Five and lots of general game. The first sighting was a leopard walking on the road trying to get very close to warthogs. We spent one hour with the leopard. I drove the S 40 towards Timbavati. Before we got there, we saw three big male lions sleeping on the road. After lunch we found two white rhinos grazing alongside the road. Buffalos and elephants were everywhere along the way to Phalaborwa.
The following day my guests asked me to show them a leopard. I try my best to make them happy by finding the animal and it was not difficult. After driving for a few minutes from Orpen gate I spotted a leopard from a distance. It was unbelievable. It walked from the bush towards us until it got to the road and crossed in front of the vehicle. Along the same road we saw twenty one Wild Dogs sleeping on the road. A truly WOW experience !
MAYNETH reports as follows :
On the 5th of February we started the day very well with a sighting of 2 male lions lying down – they were on S126 Sweni road. We then saw a couple of impalas running very fast while making an alarm call. We drove for a few metres and we saw a male lion walking towards the shade. While we were watching this lion, another lion came and joined him. They both walked towards a big shady tree and both lay in the shade. In the afternoon I drove the S100 and we saw a lot of buffalos and elephants. When we arrived at Gudzani Dam we saw hippos close by as well as crocodiles.
We went back the very same way on the S100; we found a male cheetah next to the road. It was dragging a baby zebra to the other side of the road towards the river.
On our way back to Orpen gate we spotted a leopard walking next to the road and he then walked down to the nearby river. It tried to cross the river but the water was too high and he was really struggling to make it across. We followed the leopard and we saw him still trying to cross the river and he began roaring. We then spotted three leopards on the other side, walking very slowly. They started to roar as well, a call to their struggling mate. They continued walking for about 20m and eventually the lone leopard managed to swim across the river and joined the other three leopards. I reckon it was mother and cubs. When we got to Orpen Gate we found one Wild Dog walking on the road.
On the 8th of February near to the Orpen Gate there were lots of antelope grazing along with a few warthogs. The guests took pictures for about two minutes and one client spotted a leopard hiding in a bush next to one of the warthogs. The leopard jumped out of the bush and tried to grab the warthog. Luckily enough for the warthog, he was able to escape from the leopard. The leopard then started chasing the warthog. The warthog ran as fast as he could for dear life. The leopard eventually got tired and gave up the chase. He then came back to where we were and stood next to the open vehicle and watched us taking pictures of him.
On the 20th of February I did the morning drive in Balule. We found two lions mating on the road. On the 21st of February we found about thirty Wild Dogs in the Kruger on the Rabelais Road. They had just finished feeding on impala and there were bones on the road.
PATRICK reports as follows :
On the first day of February I conducted the Sunset drive. I was driving on Balule Plains and we saw a large herd of elephants at the Cement Dam drinking water. We also managed to see a large herd of Buffalo.
On the 2nd of February during the bushwalk on Oxford, we saw two big elephants busy eating Marula fruits. The elephants seemed not to be aware of our presence and they continued eating.
On the 4th of February we saw two black rhinos eating very close to the road. We also sighted two male lions that were approximately eight hundred metres away from the road.
On the 7th on Oxford main road, we first sighted two male lions that lay next to the road. We then saw two elephants busy eating Marula fruit. The guests were very happy.
On the 13th during the sunset drive we saw one male lion on the Tshukudu fence and one female lion on the Balule side of the fence. The two cats were lying very close to each other. On our way back close to Nonwane we saw six lions lying down in an open area. The guests were very happy and we stopped there for about thirty minutes.
On the 14th I conducted a safari in Kruger National Park. We saw two lions mating very close to the road on the H6 close to Sweni Bridge. We also saw some rhino just before the S127. We saw a large herd of buffalos along the Orpen Road close to Nsemani Dam. We also had to stop for some time when we encountered a large herd of elephants crossing the Orpen Road.
On the 15th of February I went to Kruger for the whole day. We managed to see two lions walking leisurely at Sweni bridge. The lions walked very close to the open vehicle and crossed over to the other side and lay down. On the S127 we saw four rhinos and when we got to Timbavati we saw a large number of elephants and hippos. There was one elephant that came very close to where we were parked. The guests managed to take pictures up close.
On the 19th of February we sighted two mating lions on Maroela road. We also spotted elephants along Sable Road.
On the 23rd I went for the bushwalk with Ashley and seven guests in the Oxford area of Balule. When we got to the river we saw a black rhino that was about seven metres away from where we were. The rhino turned around and looked at us. I could tell that the rhino was in attack mode thus I quickly told the guests not to run away. I took my rifle and looked straight at the rhino with rifle pointed towards him. The rhino started advancing towards us and I got ready to shoot a warning shot. Luckily enough he decided to change direction and went the other way. All the guests were excited and some were filled with fear. This day will always be remembered by them as a really scary day.
On the 24th I did the Sunset drive in Balule. I first spotted the spoor of buffalos and as I followed them I saw lion footprints. It seemed as though the lions were following the buffalos. I continued following the tracks and we came upon a pride of six lions lying down close to the river. When we got to the dam we saw a large herd of buffalo drinking water. The guests were very happy. On our way back to the lodge we saw two black rhino on the road. When they saw the Landcruiser they quickly ran into the bush.
Isaac reports as follows :
On the 24th of February the day started off cool in the morning. By midday the sky was clear. I drove through Rabelais from the Orpen Gate. Two km before we got to the main road we came across a herd of elephants crossing the road. A young male elephant remained behind on one side of the road and the rest of the herd had crossed the road. The young elephant became very scared and tried to scare us as well by pretending to charge towards us. He quickly took a few steps when he realized that we were not scared. He started trumpeting to get help from the other elephants but it was in vain. He eventually ran along the road and crossed the road about fifty meters away joining the rest of the herd.
On the Sweni Road around midday we saw one white rhino rolling in the mud about twenty metres away from the road. A lot of cars came by and the rhino looked around, got up and ran into the thick bush nearby. After lunch we drove towards the Olifants River and after driving for about 14km along the road we saw two lions mating in the middle of the road. We were about five meters away from them. After mating the lioness started rolling on the ground. After five minutes the two mated again. When we were about to leave they mated for the third time. When they finished, the male lion started moving around the lioness in a bid to protect her from the cars that were passing very close to them. On our way back just after the Sweni Dam we came across some Wild Dogs on the road. Some were relaxing while others were walking along the road.
A kilometre before the Orpen Gate around 17h45 we spotted a hyena and a black-backed jackal chasing each other. The jackal was carrying something in its mouth and the hyena eventually gave up and remained behind sniffing the ground.
On the 26th of February I went to Kruger and as we drove on the S100 we saw two herds of elephants. The first herd was splashing mud over their bodies. The second herd was a few metres away from the first herd. Within the second herd there was a large bull mating in the midst of the herd. Four hundred metres away from the T-junction we saw two lions walking along the road. We followed them for about hundred metres and they eventually disappeared into the thick bush.
On the S40 around 1500hrs we saw two male lions and two female lions resting about twenty metres away from the road. The four lions got up and we realized that one of the male lions was walking with a limp. It must have been an injury acquired in a fierce fight between himself and some brave prey who would not go down without a fight.
TEXSON reports as follows :
On the 8th of February around 10am at BobbejaansKrans View Point in Kruger, we saw thirty two Wild Dogs hunting impalas. Some of them were walking on the road towards Satara. At the Mudzadzeni Road picnic spot we saw a big herd of buffalos crossing the road in front of the vehicle. On Sweni Road we spotted two mating lions at the Welverdiend water hole. At the Timbavati picnic spot we saw two white rhino next to the road. On the S46 near the Windmill we saw two lionesses stalking zebras and blue wildebeest but there was no success because they were in an open area and their prey had a lot space to run away.
On the 14th of February in Kruger on the H6 we saw three cheetahs about fifty metres away from the road. At Nsemani Dam we saw a big crocodile lying on the bank. As the day progressed we drove on the S100 and we saw two mating lions on the road. On our way from Satara after lunch we saw a large herd of big elephants at Nsemani Dam bathing in the water.
On the 25th of February while driving through the Balule Plains we saw a cheetah south of Impala Dam. On the fence line of Tshukudu we saw a big male lion. On the west of Peter’s Rock we saw a female lioness stalking some zebras. We waited there for twenty minutes in the hope that we would see some action but unfortunately nothing happened.
On the 26th of February during the morning bush walk we saw a big crocodile lying on the river bank at Olifants River. We also managed to see two male giraffes fighting. We approached close to the two but they continued fighting and seemed not to be concerned with our presence.
On the 27th of February I went on the two hour afternoon drive in Balule on the western side at Hamerkop Dam. We saw three rhinos that were on the road. It was one male and two females. We viewed them for fifteen minutes. When I started the vehicle two of the rhinos ran away into the bush whilst one, the male, stood looking at us. We waited for another five minutes and the rhino still stood there looking at us. I started the car again and this agitated him and he started charging towards the vehicle. I stopped the vehicle and he stopped too. I started the car for the third time and he started advancing towards us. Eventually he decided to get out of the road and we were able to pass. It was a very scary experience.
ASHLEIGH reports as follows :
At the private family-owned reserve next door – Tshukudu (White Rhino) Game Lodge – they practise dehorning their rhinos’and thankfully it has saved their rhino population, but that is not always the case…
What characterizes a rhino? Some might say its huge size, immense power, thick legs, or prehistoric appearance, but I am sure the majority would say their horn. It is what symbolizes a rhino, so why the sudden increase in dehorning over the past few years?
The answer is obvious: over the past few years there has been a shocking increase in rhino poaching. At a first glance, it would appear that by simply removing the horn the problem is solved; rhinos should be worthless to poachers. However, the issue is a lot more complicated than it first appears.
For dehorning to be effective, it must be coupled with extensive anti-poaching security and monitoring efforts. With an absence of security, rhinos may continue to be poached regardless of whether they have been dehorned.
So why do poachers continue to target hornless rhinos? This is often attributed to the stub of horn that is left after removal. Current dehorning is estimated to remove 90% and 93% of horn mass in male and female white rhinos respectively. So during any dehorning exercise a stub of horn will remain: although poaching is made less profitable, the sad reality is that poachers will still kill for a horn stub due to its high value.
Poachers may also kill dehorned rhinos out of vengeance to avoid tracking them again. Furthermore, if there is thick bush or hilly terrain poachers may not see if the rhino has an intact horn prior to shooting.
Horns grow back over time, with recent studies claiming that the re-growth of dehorned rhino horn appears faster than growth in non-dehorned rhinos. With the current severe poaching threat, experts recommend that rhinos should ideally be dehorned every 12-24 months in order to be an effective deterrent.
Dehorning is an intrusive procedure and, like any immobilization, there is a risk to the rhino during the operation. While all efforts are taken to reduce the risk, there are sometimes veterinary complications while the animal is under anaesthetic that may result in death. The more frequently the rhinos are immobilized, the greater the risk.
In addition, dehorning is incredibly costly, due the effort of finding the animals and the costs associated with the immobilization process, especially if needed on a recurrent basis. The actual cost depends on several factors, but current published estimates for dehorning range from US $620 (Kruger National Park) per animal to US$1,000 (private land). It is estimated that it would cost around US$5.8-8.8 million for a one-off dehorning of all the rhinos in Kruger National Park. (In practice, one could never hope to dehorn 100% of the population: some will successfully hide away and one should never dart a pregnant cow.)
An important consideration in the dehorning debate is whether rhinos actually need their horns. The evolutionary significance of horns in rhinos is not entirely clear, and may include mate choice or anti-predator defence. It is known that rhinos use their horns for several behavioural functions, including defending territories, defending calves from other rhinos and predators, maternal care (including guiding calves) and foraging behaviour, such as digging for water and breaking branches. Male rhinos use their horns during disputes over territory or dominance, so removal of the horn may undermine the ability of a particular bull to retain territory or status. Dehorning may also decrease the value of rhinos, whether for photographic or hunting tourism or as a potential live sale.
If rhinos are to be dehorned, it should be done in conjunction with a publicity drive to ensure that poachers are aware that the rhinos have been dehorned. If not, there may be a lag effect whereby poachers continue to target rhinos in the area. There is also the possibility that dehorning rhinos in one area simply transfers the risk to horned individuals in other areas.
Dehorning has its place in rhino conservation and, although not a stand-alone solution, recent successes demonstrate that, used alongside other methods, dehorning can be used to protect rhinos. Due to the invasive nature of dehorning, it should only be considered as a last resort under conditions of severe poaching threat.
A first priority for all rhino conservationists should be to ensure adequate anti-poaching monitoring and security (including intelligence-gathering) to protect rhino populations, and only then should dehorning be considered, for is a rhino really a rhino without its horn?
On the morning of the 25th, while doing a champagne breakfast in Balule we came upon an amazing sighting: A big beautiful male leopard lazily making his way across Oxford Main road. After pausing for photographs he slinked off into the bushes and disappeared.
This beautiful cat is the arch-survivor of the animal kingdom: tough, resilient and remarkably versatile, able to adapt to pretty well any kind of environment. It is found everywhere from the southern tip of Africa right up the continent and across to the eastern parts of Asia, its habitats varying from high mountain to coastal plain and from desert to lush equatorial rainforest.
It is also the only large carnivore to sustain presence outside game parks and other protected areas, though in Southern Africa its numbers have been drastically reduced by urban sprawl and, in the great interior, by commercial farming. Nevertheless it has remained elusive and wily enough to sidestep human society, though now and again it turns up in some pretty unlikely places – on the outskirts of such large centres as Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, for instances, even in the gardens of some rural homesteads and the precincts of park rest-camps.
Lion sightings for me in the Kruger Park have been at an all-time high. The best of them? Coming across lions mating in the middle of the road!
Induced ovulation: in this case a female needs physical stimulation to induce ovulation and it mostly requires multiple matings, often in short succession to achieve this. This occurs in cats, hares and rodents. Mating occurs about four times an hour over a period of two to four days and lasts for less than a minute each time. The male uses a somewhat ritualized neck bite only in the final moments of mating and the female’s reaction to his withdrawal, though agnostic, is less violent than in other cats. After mating both male and female may roll on the ground, groom or rub against each other.
After my most recent visit to my Cardiologist, we have decided that I should discontinue long drives. Previously I had driven from Durban to Tremisana in one day. Now we fly to Nelspruit from where a Viva driver collects us and drives to Tremisana. As we arrived on the 25th Feb, we were welcomed by a large elephant feeding on the shrubs along the perimeter fence.
The next day we visited Marc’s Treehouse Lodge and took the photo of Ronald with a beautiful Nyala bull in the background just outside on of the units.
Both camps are looking good. Thanks Alice and Ronald!
Tremisana Lodge “I saw the Big Five” Mandie R, Lyon.
I just arrived home after a swift two days in Phalaborwa, I stayed at The Tremisana Lodge with Viva Safari’s. We visited a private game reserve nearby on the first day where we were able to get very close to the animals (of course a respectful and safe distance) and on the second day we spent almost 12 hours in The Kruger Park. Our guide was fanastic (Bongani), he has an amazing eye for spotting things and he really seemed to be concerned with making our experience as rich as possible. Along with the people that worked for Viva and The Tremisana Lodge, I also met some lovely tourists doing a similar trip to my own.
The Tremisana Lodge is just perfect for this type of trip, very comfortable and clean, lovely little garden surroundings that make it feel like a holiday. I can’t wait to do it again!
“One of my favorite places in the world” Jtolson210, Chicago, Illinois
I went to J-Burg on business and did the 3 day Safari in March 2012. I’m going back in Feb 2013 because of the experience of a lifetime @ Tremisana.
Value: Great versus the competition! Game viewing: Close to Kruger and the private game viewing on the property is fantastic. We saw 4/5 of the Big Five right around the lodge.
Lodge: There is a bar and fire-pit area where they serve dinner @ night… Great to chill under the stars…. There is a little balcony area for breakfast that overlooks a water hole. Fun to watch the monkeys play while you have coffee.
Service: Super friendly staff. Especially the game wardens. They go full stop to make sure you see the animals. I didn’t see a Lion on days 1-2. On the last day – my guide Wesley took me for a “last chance” morning game drive around the property. He found lion tracks and tracked them for 45 minutes…… In the last 10 minutes of my stay – we caught up to a pack of 5 actively hunting Impala. Amazing.
Marc’s Treehouse Lodge “Thanks Pretty and Margreth!!!” Susan H. Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan
Staying in Marc’s Treehouse Lodge was awesome! Our treehouse was lovely, very clean and cosy. In the morning we had a nice view out of our treehouse: looking at grazing impala’s just a few meters away. And in the evening we had company of a friendly, also grazing, buffalo in out ‘garden’. Amazing! The food we got served was really good and the staff was helpfull and friendly. At the time we were there, two ladies were in charge and they did a great job. Thanks Pretty and Margreth, you enriched our stay in Kruger Park!!!! Greets from Paul and Susan from the Netherlands.
“Kruger NP – Viva Safari/ Marc’s Treehouse” Matkat7, Oregon
It was interesting reading the reviews, both before my trip and now afterwards. I think the difference in the evaluations is expectation. My 5 day safari was an excellent value. The guides were good and Texan was just super. The treehouses are “funky”, but perfectly adequate and seeing animals all around was just great. Pretty, the hostess at Marc’, is very welcoming and tries very hard to make everything flow smoothly. I highly recommend doing the 5 day tour, or at least the 4 day tour. Three is way too short – it’s a 7 hour drive from Jo-burg, so 2 days are travel days, giving one only 1 full day in the park. The 5 day tour includes a visit to the Mohalohalo Rehab Center where there is an excellent tour.
Until next month…
With kind regards, Piero General Manager Viva Safaris