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 News - February 2006

" It never rains, but it pours ". Whoever needs confirmation about the literal underpinning of this statement must visit the Kruger Park at the present time. We have received rainfall figures from the Warden of Balule. February was an extremely wet month : 236 mm after the 171 mm in January 2006. The normal annual figure for the region has been around 500 mm over the last 10 years, so this represents a huge increase. The effect is an unbelievably dense growth. The grass cover is better than anytime in the past 11 years during which we have been at Tremisana.

The increase in vegetation supports a bigger number of insects. We have noticed army worms like never before; butterflies in great abundance and more moths and bugs at night. Insect life was so active that we were forced to change the light bulbs in the bomas at Tremisana and Marc's Camp from clear to yellow. The insects are attracted not only by the light of the bulbs but by the heat generated, so we downgraded from 100 Watt to 60 Watt globes.

Of course the insectivorous birds are having a great time. The fork-tailed Drongos and the Woodland Kingfishers are feasting on the insects. You may be surprised to know that the Woodland Kingfisher does not eat fish ! Frogs are breeding like mad and the Tremisana Dam has been 100% full for the entire month.

On the game viewing front, our guides report that the dense bush precludes good visibility. Smaller antelope such as duiker and steenbuck easily avoid detection by standing still in the tall grass. Even bigger animals that are lying down are not easily seen. We are therefore conducting game drives on selected roads that pass through open veld. With the abundance of rain, it is no longer necessary to travel along waterways - in fact, the roads along the river courses are the most overgrown.

Thank goodness for our open game viewers - any vehicle that is lower is definitely at a huge disadvantage. On one of our safaris this month our guests stopped to look at a cheetah about 20 metres from the road. Another vehicle, a small sedan, driven by 3 German tourists pulled up alongside. Despite every effort on the part of our tourguide and our clients to help them view the cheetah, which was sitting in tall grass, the occupants of the sedan just couldn't manage to see the cheetah. Even when they illegally alighted from their vehicle (despite the protestations of our guide) they were unable to see it. It is definitely worthwhile being on an open vehicle at the present time with all this high grass.

The wild dogs are back. We saw a pack of 9 in splendid condition. They were running on the road about 9 km from Orpen on the tar road to Satara. Wild dogs are extremely rare. We believe that the presence of lions is the major determinant in the abundance of wild dogs. Lions kill wild dogs as they are competitors for prey. During the dry months, the wild dogs keep away from certain areas that have high lion densities, like the Orpen, Satara and Nwanedzi regions we visit. After the rains the lions are no longer able to remain at the waterholes awaiting the arrival of their prey. The prey animals can drink anywhere, so the lions have to disperse. As a result, wild dog packs can move into areas they usually avoid in the dry season. Being nomadic, the packs move around. With the big numbers of impala, wildebeest and zebra presently located near Orpen, they should hopefully be around for a while. Wild dogs usually den during June and that is probably the best time to see them as they never move far from the young pups in the den.

Other good sightings include a pride of 10 lions seen on a night drive and a leopard with a newborn cub seen early one morning on the Timbavati road. Sightings of White Rhino have improved in the wet season. The Kruger Park is now in a position to sell off white rhino and about 100 have been relocated in the past year. Rhinos cost about R 60 000 per bull, around R 170 000 per cow and
R 250 000 per cow/calf combination. Money thus generated is ploughed back into nature conservation.

NEWS AT TREMISANA

Night Drives have been real adventurous bush experiences. On our regular circuit we have to cross through 4 flowing rivers. Of course it adds a sense of excitement to the safari. Up to now, we haven't got stuck - thanks to our Warden, Wynand, who scrapes the roads every few days.

Elephant activity is still ever-present and we see these giants regularly.  We recently saw Slade, a relatively tame elephant that allows the vehicle to come very close before he moves away. Slade has an interesting history: one of our neighbours, Tshukudu game lodge, had acquired 2 young elephant that were orphaned after a cull in Kruger some 15 years ago. These elephants grew up to become very tame and even accompanied guests on walks at Tshukudu. While we personally do not approve of such domestication or other aberrations such as elephant-back safaris, some tourists enjoy this kind of thing. When the young elephants reached puberty at age 13, the female's oestrus condition was noticed by one of our Balule bulls (later to be nicknamed "Slade"). He not only broke through the electrified fence at Tshukudu, but also chased the young male all over the place before successfully mating with the young female. He remained on Tshukudu, where the fence was fixed soon after his entry, and although not as tame as the other two at Tshukudu, did come into contact with humans to a far greater degree than his mates back in Balule. The result was that he became partly tame. He lost interest in the Tshukudu elephants once the baby was born. The story goes that he then broke his way back into his old haunts and is now permanently on Balule. In our opinion Slade does not constitute a problem animal, but there are those who believe he should be culled because of his affinity to people and lodges. We shall resist any move to cull Slade. We shall keep you posted on this one.

There has been an increase in the number of buffalo sightings. With the abundant grass these animals are moving throughout the Kruger Park.  Tremisana Dam is full. There has been a single buffalo bull that drinks at the dam on a daily basis. A pair of Egyptian Geese has started nesting and the raucous racket they make by day is equaled by the nightly cacophony of myriad
frogs and toads.

NEWS AT MARC’S CAMP

2 younger buffalo bulls have joined up temporarily with the Fearsome Five and they are seen regularly around the camp. More impala have moved into the Adventure Camp area. A herd of kudu (including a bull with near-trophy length horns) drinks regularly at the Obstacle Course Dam. The two nyala youngsters that frequent the Breakfast Dam are both males as evidenced by their starting to sprout tiny little horns.

Ronald and his team are working hard and the entrance to the Treehouse camp looks very beautiful. The Klaserie river is flowing strongly and there is evidence of a medium-sized crocodile that does its fishing between treehouse 1 and treehouse 5. We have 2 swimming pools on the property so there is no need to lose any tourists in the river – Ronald makes a point of telling guests to keep a sharp lookout and not to swim in the river.

We have decided to convert some of the chalets at the Adventure Camp into units ideal for self-catering guests. In each chalet one double bunk will be replaced by a double bed and another double bunk will be converted into a cupboard including a small refrigerator. So these units will now cater for a maximum of 6 guests – one double bed and two double bunks. We intend to have the units completed by the start of the South African winter holiday period.

NEWS AT THE CHEETAH INN

We believe that the Cheetah Inn is now in a position to be marketed effectively. To this end we have been invited to advertise in the AA (Automobile Association) Guide book to hotels and lodges. We expect a good grading to impact positively on our occupancy figures.

We have upgraded the hotel rooms : new tiles will enhance the bathrooms. New bathroom curtains have been made and ethnic mats will add colour to the bedrooms.

A striped polecat has made irregular appearances at the Cheetah Inn. It appears to be a young animal and enjoys pieces of biltong offered by patrons of the bar. Unfortunately polecats have a very disagreeable smell (used mainly for self-defence) so we advise everybody not to get too close.

PROPOSED NEW ITINERARY

We are presently conducting market research into a change in program. We have had numerous requests from agents and tourists alike who wish to book on our overland safaris but do not want to sleep over in Johannesburg. In the past, we could wait for them at Johannesburg International Airport until 09h00 at the very latest and then rush off to make God's Window and the Three Rondawels before these closed at 16h45.

The proposal is to make provision to collect clients as late as 10h30. We then drive directly to Tremisana Lodge without doing the scenic route. The scenic route will now be done on the last day on the return transfer.

One advantage, apart from catering for clients who cannot get to Johannesburg Airport early, is that we can now do a Sunset Drive at Tremisana. We should arrive at Tremisana by 17h00 at the latest. After a short break (swim, cold beer or relax in the beautiful gardens) we go on a late afternoon game drive .It affords our guests an opportunity to see the magnificent African sunset (and possibly toast to it with an appropriate liquid ‘Sundowner’). After dark, we will locate nocturnal animals using spotlights.

In the past we did our night drives after dinner, returning to camp around 22h30. This new program will make the first day a lot less strenuous than in the past.

Newsletter May 2006
Newsletter April 2006
Newsletter March 2006
Newsletter Feb 2006

3 Day Safari - 2006 - Price: R 2 595 per person sharing.

4 Day Safari - 2006 - Price : R 2 895 per person sharing

6 Day Safari - 2006 -Price : R 3 995 per person sharing


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