VIVA SAFARIS NEWSLETTER MARCH 2012
Firstly, my apologies for the delayed newsletter – Steve was on a well-deserved leave !
I have recently received a number of emails from subscribers who are extremely concerned about the continued massacre of rhino. Clearly this issue is being publicised all over the world. Essentially the question I am being asked is : “ Why has rhino horn become more expensive than gold ? ”
I have alluded to the reasons for man’s greed in previous newsletters. At the risk of being totally blunt, I shall spell out what I believe is the fundamental cause of the problem : man’s vanity and man’s hope to overcome cancer.
The main motivator for dealers five years ago was vanity. In Yemen particularly, but also in other Arab countries, the wearing of daggers with rhino horn handles was a great status symbol. It was related to virility. The reason for this is that rhino holds the record for the most extended mating time.
More recently, the horn has been in acute demand for perceived medicinal purposes. The Chinese, in particular, have long believed that powdered horn may cure any number of ailments ranging from headaches to joint pains.
However, the most devastating blow to the survival of the rhino was a statement attributed to the Vietnamese Minister of Health who apparently said that his cancer was being cured by the use of the horn. Now we all hope that a cure for cancer may be discovered in our lifetime. All of us know friends and family who have suffered from cancer. So it is perfectly natural and essentially human for anyone who suffers from cancer to want to use any potential cure for the ailment, no matter how far-fetched or unlikely such a cure actually is. Their thinking goes like this : “ Just maybe the rhino horn can cure my cancer, so what do I stand to lose by giving it a bash ? ” We can understand that desperate people will pay enormous sums in the belief that they might survive.
What then is the solution to the problem of rhino poaching ?
I have been appalled that some internationally respected conservationists have been punting the idea of legalising rhino horn trade. I am reasonably sure that such an action will catalyse the processes towards the demise and ultimate extinction of the rhino. I do not wish to engage the issue here but essentially I believe that once we have a free market in rhino horn trade it will necessarily lead to further deaths amongst the rhino population, simply because we do not have enough rhinos to meet the market’s present and future demands.
Others recommend a more sanguine solution : shoot the poachers dead – not in the legs but between the eyes ! I recently learnt from an anti-poaching commander friend of mine that it is difficult to shoot a poacher if he is wearing a uniform ! What he told me is spine-chilling : even in the Kruger Park there are bad eggs amongst the very rangers who are meant to be protecting our wildlife. These buggers are the worst enemy of the rhino. I personally know a guide who is now in jail. This so-and-so took guests on a game drive and saw a pair of rhino in Kruger at around 20h00. He then returned to camp with the guests and drove back to the resting rhino with some armed friends who killed both rhino by 21h00 !
My solution to the problem is EDUCATION. We need to spend lots of money in setting up an internationally recognised research program. This team of researchers must include Vietnamese, Chinese and Yemenis and the brief must be to scientifically establish whether there is any truth in the hypotheses regarding mating prowess and cancer cure.
I trust the research will show that there is no truth in the above-mentioned hypotheses. If the research is credible and accepted by the man in the street, then a massive education campaign must be driven so as to convince the general world public that they are wasting their hard-earned money in procuring rhino horn and maybe, just maybe, my children’s children will have the great privilege of seeing these wonderful beasts gracing our African savanna.
The effect of rhino poaching is manifested also in the frequency of sightings by our Viva Safaris guides who tell me that they are seeing fewer rhino than before.
Monthly Report for BONGANI:
This month we have had many animals visiting the waterhole which is in front of the Lapa at Tremisana Lodge. Many guests enjoy this drier time of the year because, while the breakfast is served at the lapa overlooking the water hole, many animals like the Giraffes, Wildebeest, Jackal, Warthogs and Monkeys are seen every day coming to drink water. The monkeys like to cool themselves in the water – you even find them swimming in our pool.
One day this month, while I was conducting a Bush Walk, we spotted a Black Mamba attacking a Slender Mongoose. The snake was very big and long. At first we only noticed the tail, because it was up a tree. After a few minutes we saw the head, as the snake was ready for action. The mongoose was relaxed and enjoying the sunrise on the ground below the tree. The mamba got closer and closer and suddenly struck the mongoose. A few minutes later the mongoose was dead. We left before the snake started eating the mongoose, as some of the guests were not happy about the kill. A few metres from there we saw another Mamba which was a little smaller than the first one. I told the guests that they were probably together, because they were close to each another. It might have been a male and a female.
On the 20-03-2012 we drove to Kruger and it was a wonderful day because we saw many animals. We found Lions eating a Buffalo very close to the road. On their left there were Rhinos walking towards a muddy pool to cool down their bodies, as the temperature was very high. There were Elephants also coming from behind – so we had a sighting of three of the Big Five simultaneously !! Wow ! We spent some time watching the lions having their feast. Two lions came out from the bush nearby to join the rest of the pride. There were many cars around and the lions pulled the carcass away from the road to hide it behind a nearby bush. This took them about 30minutes because the carcass was very heavy. It nevertheless entertained all my guests. The vultures where also waiting to get a share. This was actually four of the big five in one place ( including the buffalo carcass ).
22-03-2012 I went with Mayneth through Orpen gate and out at Phalaborwa. It was a long drive, but very good, because we saw a lot. We passed the place were we had seen lions eating a Buffalo, but there was nothing left. The vultures were feeding on the leftovers. We drove along the Olifants river and came across a leopard walking on the road. Very close to the gate there were lions with cubs eating a Giraffe and hyenas waiting for the food from lions.
Monthly Report for RYAN:
I will share with you the events of one day, typical of what I am experiencing at Viva Safaris:
Magic at Nsemani!
This particular morning, through the world’s largest diversity of wildlife in their natural environment, the Kruger National Park, we experienced a variety of birds and mammals enjoying the cooler cloudy weather around Nsemani Dam along the H7 road before Satara Rest Camp.
Our journey on the H7 road from Orpen gate began with a great sighting of a territorial Martial Eagle, one of the world’s most powerful avian predators for its size (81 cm; 4 kg). Among their diet of monitor lizards, rodents, mongooses, young baboons, francolin, guinea fowl, small bustards, and small mammals, the Martial Eagle is known to hunt the duiker antelope. Considerably heavier than the eagle, weighing about 35 kg, the eagle would return repeatedly to feed on the large carcass. On this occasion we witnessed the aftermath of the Helmeted Guinea fowl kill. The eagle was plucking out the feathers of its prey, and had already fed on the rear portion of the bird. From the side the crop bulged like a tennis ball. This muscular pouch along the oesophagus softens and regulates food flow through the digestive system by temporarily storing it. Below the Leadwood tree (Combretum imberbe) the remaining members of the flock of guinea fowl were sounding out a rather late warning alarm call. The weather became windier, and we observed numerous birds of prey, most noticeably the Bateleur Eagle, and the White-headed Vulture, both recognised as vulnerable species in Southern Africa.
Upon arriving at Nsemani Dam, we were greeted by a hippo bull swimming to the southern shore next to the road, exiting the water and marking his territory by flicking his tail as he defecated. One sub-adult elephant left the dam after a mud bath, and a group of impala carefully fed on the green grass shoots, ever aware of the crocodile’s presence. One Marabou stork walked over to the water to drink, whilst three others rested in the cool weather. After 30 minutes, David Harper, one of our eagle-eyed guests, spotted lions on the far eastern corner of the dam. There were six, two dominant males, with four females relaxing with full bellies, lying with disregard to the activities around them. After 45 minutes we headed to Satara for lunch and everyone decided that a journey back to the dam would be the best plan.
After lunch we arrived back at Nsemani Dam and two giant elephant bulls were swimming in the dam! Dunking their heads and completely submerging their bodies, trunks held high, we were all in awe. This commotion continued for half an hour, which caused the lions to shift and move some distance away for fear of being chased by the six-ton pachyderms. After finally having its fill, one of the bulls moved to have a mud bath, covering every inch of its body, changing his clean, unique exterior to a rugged dirty mess! A Bateleur circled above and swooped down to land next the elephant for a drink. At the far northern end of the dam, a large herd of zebra and wildebeest built up the courage to quench their thirst, only to be chased away by a cheeky juvenile hippo within ten minutes. The young hippo had probably observed similar behaviour from the older bull, and decided to help him out this occasion. The young hippo investigated the disappearance of the herbivores and ventured out the water for a closer look. Fifty metres west of the dam, a massive herd of buffalo relaxed under Scented-thorn trees (Acacia nilotica). With so much wildlife behaviour unfolding at the dam, it was hard to look at it all at once, which made it one of my best game viewing experiences so far this summer.
Other highlights of the day were a coalition of two male cheetahs at Sweni pan, relaxing under a Knob Thorn tree (Acacia nigrescens), and a lone White Rhino feeding along the road.
Monthly Report for ISAAC
On 13th March around 09h30 we came across 5 lions which had killed a Kudu 2 km from the main Orpen gate. This was very exciting as the kill was only three metres away from the road. One big male lion was resting next to the carcass and the others were under a tree in a deep sleep looking very full. Vultures were around the sighting on trees waiting in vain. We spent almost an hour at the sighting.
As we drove off from the sighting two black backed jackals were walking along the road trying to take chances in getting the leftovers.
At about 11h45 we spotted some hippos grazing along the banks of Nsemani Dam and Elephants appeared from the bush coming to drink water. The Elephants chased all the hippos and dunked themselves into the water and they took a swim and crossed to the other side of the dam.
The next day on the 14th we found the same lions still feeding on the same carcass, but not much was left. The big male lion did not want to share the meat. Every time when the others approached and wanted to eat, he roared very loudly. When we left the sighting, a private car stopped us and informed us that a few km from that sighting there were two mating lions. We found these and then drove along the Rabelais road where we found another pride of five lions resting.
On our way back around 17h00 we found another kill and the Jackal and two hyenas were around trying to get some meat. The jackal managed to get away with a bone from the carcass. The hyena chased the jackal and took the bone from it. The hyena was too scared to get to the carcass fearing the lions.
On the 20th March it was a bit cloudy and it looked like it was going to rain. We drove 2km before the second gate at Orpen and there were six Buffalos resting in the mud. At about 12h30 two male lions and three lionesses killed a Buffalo just before the S127, about 16 km from Satara. We got to the sighting and there was one male lion resting under a thick bush 50m from the carcass. The carcass was very close to the road – only about 5m away. After twenty minutes they got up and walked to the carcass and dragged it to the nearby bush. Everyone in the car was happy to see them walking towards the carcass. This was a wonderful day for all the guests.
Monthly Report for MAYNETH
I have noticed a drop this month in Rhino and Leopard sightings. However there has been an increase in Lion sightings.
On the 14th and the 17th of March we had fantastic sightings of a pride of 11 lions near Orpen. The pride comprises one very powerful young male and five lionesses and the rest are sub-adult cubs. On the 14th we saw them feasting on a large Kudu bull not far from the road.
Our guests had another wonderful sighting of lions on the 20th. This time a pride of five including two big males had killed a buffalo just north of Satara.
On the 22nd I deviated from our normal program and decided to exit the Park from Phalaborwa instead of Orpen. Normally this zone is quieter in terms of cats but this time we were very lucky. Nearby to Olifants camp we found a Leopard on the road. It was right in front of our Open Vehicle and seemed very relaxed. On the way out, not far from the Phalaborwa exit gate, we had a lovely sighting of a lioness and two small cubs on a giraffe kill. The cubs were playing hide and seek in between the giraffe’s ribs ! It was a great way to end a brilliant day of game sightings !
WESLEY gets this month’s floating trophy for delayed newsletter presentation. In fact he has set a new record.
Monthly Report for WESLEY:
This month has had its ups and downs like every month but thankfully there were more ups than downs.
My three top sightings on Balule were :
1. Male and female Leopards
2. Lions on a Sunrise Drive
3. Male White Rhino marking territory
1. The Leopard is the most difficult of the Big Five to find so it is a very prized animal. We were lucky to see not one but two ! And they were sitting side by side – probably on honeymoon !
We had been radioed about Leopard tracks not far from Tremisana lodge. I went out hoping for the best. We had just about lost all hope when one of my tourists screamed : “Leopard ! ” and there they were – a fantastic sighting !
2. The Sunrise Drive is about 1,5h long and serves as a farewell for our guests to the bush. Well, this is on farewell nobody is going to forget in a hurry ! Once again I was following tracks of lions near Tremisana. We drove and drove and as we came around a corner we saw a lioness crouched low on the ground. She was about four metres from an impala. She inched closer and closer and then went for it but missed by only a few inches ! We were completely surprised when five other lionesses appeared from the bush and joined her. That was one extremely lucky Impala !
3. It started off as a quiet Night Drive. I have begun to learn that these slow starts actually become the very best game drives. My clients really wanted to see Rhino as they had heard about the effect of the horrible Rhino poaching. I drove to a place where I had seen a fresh Rhino midden ( toilet ) the previous night. We were very lucky to see this massive White Rhino on the road doing his thing ! He was right in the middle of the road and was spray-urinating on all the bushes on both sides. He was certainly letting us know who was the boss in that area. Anyway we got some great photos.
TREMISANA LODGE is serviced by two boreholes that have recently been upgraded. As a result, we have been able to spray and keep the gardens green, notwithstanding that there was no rain during March.
The reduction in surface water in the veld has resulted in more animals using the waterholes in front of the Lapa. We recently had a full camp and I recall phoning the guides who were conducting game drives in various parts of the reserve to inform them that the lion pride was drinking water at the Tremisana waterhole.
I did not have a room for myself at the time so we moved a bed into the Hide at Tremisana Dam. This Hide has an en suite toilet. I had a good time, despite the cold. There is a floodlight which illuminates the Tremisana Dam which presently contains both a hippo and a crocodile. I enjoyed hearing the noises of the African night including some very close lion roars. Perhaps we need to consider offering this room to tourists who really want to feel close to nature.
Hide overlooking Tremisana Dam We are looking into the possibility of building some shelters for our staff’s vehicles.
In December 2011 Sandy and I noticed two impala ewes in the fenced off area in the southern part of Tremisana property. I did not overly concern myself about this sighting and believed that the impalas would exit in the same way that they entered the property. During my March visits, I noticed that the impala were still there. Aware that there is no surface water on this piece of ground, I reckoned that the impala would undergo a serious deterioration in condition. So I called our warden, Craig Spencer, and we arranged to try to herd them out through the small gate. Accompanied by two of his assistants and four of his students we set out to move the impala ewes. We made a fundamental mistake in that we parked the Warden’s Land Rovers too close to the gate and failed miserably in our attempt. I have devised another plan to attract them to the gate area via half drums filled with water. We hope it will work.
MARC’S TREEHOUSE LODGE has welcomed the birth of yet another Nyala lamb. The Nyala ewes seem to favour the area around the swimming pool to drop their young. Perhaps they do this as they know that the Leopards that frequent Marc’s Camp do not come too close to the areas where there is a lot of human activity.
Nyala lamb near swimming pool
Buffalo herd drinking at Breakfast Dam
We are still awaiting the payout from our Insurers after the January flood damage. In the meantime we have reinforced the walls of treehouse # 9. We are going to rebuild #4 on the ground and link it up to the existing ablutions. As a result of sustained demand for tented accommodation, we are considering adding two additional tents and two additional showers and two additional toilets. This would bring the total number of tents to six : three with double beds and three with quadruple single beds. Our clients are always pleasantly amazed when they first see the tents. Perhaps they are expecting small 2-man dome tents with thin mattresses and sleeping bags for hire. When they see the beds and bedding, the electric lights and fans as well as the supply of towels and soap, they are very
Comfortable tented accommodation
NEW MEMBER OF OUR GUIDING STAFF
We welcome Partick Zitha to our staff. Patrick has had extensive experience in the Kruger Park where he spent many years conducting Big Five Bush Walks as well as Sunrise and Sunset Game Drives.
New guide, Patrick, about to go on our Sunset Game Drive
Of course my halfwit friends in the industry continue their saga about the Viva Safaris video clip which appears right at the top of the Home Page of www.vivasafaris.com. Clearly it wasn’t sufficient to pass rude comments about how the Finnish filmmaker, Kimmo, had doctored the images to make me appear a lot thinner. Now they are on about the elephant herd that appears less than one metre from the electric fence and the front gate of Tremisana – see photo below. Questions such as “ Where did you hire the tame elephants from ? ” and “ Did you think we would not realize these are circus elephants ? ” are typical. I suppose the next thing will be questions about the exciting sighting of lions we got on the Bush Walk or the brilliant photos Kimmo and Andres took of Leopard, Cheetah and Wild Dog. I feel 50 years younger as I sing out to you : ‘Jealousy gets you nowhere ’. Anyhow it’s been a great laugh and I thank you all for the entertainment.
Elephants at Tremisana – really close and personal
NEW VIVA SAFARIS PRODUCT
We have decided to launch a new product : Safaris at Luxury Lodges. In conjunction with the two five star lodges on our reserve, we shall be offering a 5 day luxury safari.
Both Pondoro Lodge and Ezulwini Lodge offer luxurious accommodation, fit for the most discerning of clients. I am sure that the travel agents who support Viva Safaris will be pleased that there now is an upgraded safari that their more affluent clients will enjoy. The safari arrangements will still be organized by Viva and we will take all the guests into Kruger Park proper on the fourth day. Details are on our website www.vivasafaris.com
Comments from previous clients :
My husband, Mahesh Kappanayil, and I had taken the viva safari tour feb 11 to 13. Our experience with you and at the Tremisana lodge were absolutely amazing. We thank each one of your staff from the drivers who picked us, dropped us, our wonderful safari guides and Tremisana staff for all their work and making our stay and travel so pleasant and enjoyable. We also congratulate you on the nicely planned itinerary and punctuality. We would absolutely recommend your tours to family and friends.
Best wishes, Swapna Menon
“Viva Safari is great”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 18, 2012
Eric – Baltimore, USA
The staff was very courteous, and went the extra mile to make the visit stay. Very personal experience, and the game drives often are with few people which is good too. The drivers on safari also tried to make sure we saw as many animals as possible. Would highly recommend this company again, and would use again if I came back. We stayed at Tremisana lodge which was great.
“A life-time experience”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2012
Steff – Berlin, Germany
This was probably to most amazing and exciting time I’ve had on my travels!
The staff worked very hard to make the guests feel comfortable and made our stay unforgetable!
The bush has inspired me in so many ways, I can’t wait to get back there!
The lodge was clean and had all you need in the bush!
Dinner was always a great time to catch up with the other guests as well as with the rangers.
I love the outdoors and wanted to stay somewhere relaxed, exposed to nature and budget friendly.
The stay at the Tremisana Lodge fitted perfectly to our needs.
Thanks to everyone who made our trip so unique! It was perfectly organized and I will definately return!
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 4, 2012
Diana – Bogota, Colombia
Marc’s Treehouse Lodge is amazing! Walking back to my treehouse I saw porcupines and impalas. On the morning walk I saw a giraffe. The staff is very helpful and the food was delicious. The bonfire at night was a great opportunity to talk to other travelers.
Until next month… With kind regards,
Piero General Manager Viva Safaris