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Penny – USA – Kruger Safari

From the very beginning,Andre Retief was awesome about communication, which took a lot of stress out of the equation in booking my five day safari with VIVA, which I can’t say enough good things about,—they were incredibly organized in getting everyone to where they needed to be—and at various times, etc. It takes incredibly organized people like Thandy and Pretty to manage all the various groups from all over the world.
Saw all the Big 5, and I’m so glad I extended my Safari by one day because that’s when I saw the elusive leopard and rhinos, which were on a private reserve, that I believe backs up to Kruger.
Also making it simple is the safari team from Viva picked me up from the Mariott hotel in Sandton in the morning and dropped me off there at the end of the week! It appears they can pickup any where in Joburg area. We even dropped off a couple at the Joburg Airport as they had a 7 pm flight home.
I went single, but it’s more cost effective if you have a travel partner.
I stayed in the basic lodge at Tresminia, which was great as it has AC and private shower and bathroom. Also a nice pool for between times, where you can take a nap on the lounge chairs. The AC is awesome after a long Safari in Kruger, slept very soundly, but the monkeys do something on the roofs at about 530-600 am, which is a natural alarm clock! The tree houses also has a pool, but the lodging looks a bit more rugged.
At Tresminia lodge, baboons were out to greet us the first evening. At breakfast the next morning , the wart hogs were out in full force and were foraging behind the fence and the breakfast patio.
I would recommend you try all the foods, including impala stew, all the food was delicious, can’t say there was a bad meal the entire week. The fresh fruits and vegetables are incredible and the mangoes and papayas rival what we have in Hawaii! The cooks really try to accommodate vegans and GF people, but they need to know way ahead of time, I felt bad so many Westerners had pretty picky diets. Best to go on safari with an open mind and try everything, it’s experiential right?
It’s a packed full week, but there’s enough down time to relax by the pool too. All the guides were great, but Elios (also known as smiley) for obvious reasons, and young Shannon and Andy are incredible with great first hand knowledge of the Bush, having grown up there near Kruger. Shannon is a fourth generation guide in her family, and Andy’s family owns a private reserve and is also so knowledgeable about the environment and its animals there. I really feel I just lucked out getting on this Safari as I booked it only two weeks before I spontaneously left the states.
If you want four star lodging, Viva does have a new upscale lodge, but I never saw it. If basic lodge is okay for you, Tresminia is just fine.
Heads up: please bring extra money for tipping your guide and drivers, they really depend and need it. Wages are still not great out there. Viva suggests 80 Rand for each guide, per activity, per person, but if it’s great, then I would suggest at least 100, which in US dollars that’s under ten dollars.
Another suggestion: bring the Off Deep Woods insect repellent sachets with Deet, if you’re prone to getting bit, which I am! I tried the natural repellent and it did nothing, thankfully I brought the OFF sachets and those worked. Also take Malaria pills, Andy our guide had Malaria earlier this year and he grew up here, and still ended up in hospital for weeks!
Overall, this was such a great experience and having just retired I can check it off the bucket list, but would still love to return on another safari!

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