The change of seasons is a time of great adaptation in the reserve, as one of our rangers, Amy-Leigh, so aptly describes…
In the last few weeks at Sabi Sabi, there have been a number of changes. Some are noticeable within the lodges, with the increase of international guests able to travel to visit us, and who we are so excited to welcome back. There are other changes occurring in the very bush that draws the people to this area. These are changes we see each year, but they excite us all the same.
The terrain is slowly transforming from the bright greens of summer to our dry winter months. The rains we had this year were amazing, with the rivers full and the water tables high. Animals were spoilt for choice, with the vegetation being full and lush for the months leading up to now. However, as the temperatures begin to drop and the days grow shorter, the landscape begins to change around us.
Where once the drainage lines boasted water and the dams were full to bursting, water levels are dropping, slowly but steadily. The wallows with enough slushy mud to coat an elephant are now hardened, with only deep footprints as evidence they were being visited regularly by all those animals who enjoy a good mud bath, including the buffalo, rhino and warthog.
The vegetation that has been too thick to see through, is now starting to thin out as the seasonal trees begin to lose their precious leaves. This is an important survival strategy for trees and plants, because the leaves provide a large area for transpiration – a loss of water to the environment – which is fine in summer, when there is plenty of water to replenish what is lost, but not so in winter. This dormancy period allows the plants to survive the dry and cold, and thus emerge strong in time for the next rainy season. The grasses are also completing their life cycles, now that their inflorescence (clusters) of flowers have played their part. Gradually, their brilliant green long stems will turn to golden brown, and also begin to fall.
The animals we see will also change. Because of the drop in temperature, animals that are more ectothermic – relying on the heat of their environment rather than metabolic heat – will become few and far between. Thus, reptiles and amphibians will mostly fall quiet until the rains arrive at the end of the year.
As much as we love the summer months, with their vibrant colours, and, of course, all the babies that arrived at the perfect time to take advantage of the abundance of food, the winter months hold their own special appeal.
Firstly, the mornings have a crispness to the air, making that hot cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate we enjoy during our morning drives just that much more delicious… and even more so if you add a touch of Amarula, to warm you up just that little bit extra. It also means that the animals we are looking for might be active for a little longer during the day, because the heat of the day doesn’t set in and send them all into the shade. That being said, even in summer we are sometimes pleasantly surprised.
The days may be shorter, but we can still make time for delicious meals between game drives, a bush walk after breakfast, and even a relaxing massage to ease through the day. Game drives will depart earlier in the afternoon, to make sure we don’t waste the precious daylight as we search for the treasures the game reserve has to offer… including the stunning sunsets that announce the end to each day and ring in the cool evening, and a new opportunity to explore the night life of the bush.
As we head back out after enjoying a stop for sundowners, those blankets suddenly seem like a really good idea. Not so long ago, they were scoffed at when everyone climbed on the vehicle at the beginning of the safari! With the crystal-clear skies above showcasing an array of stars, you could almost forget about everything going on in the world around you. The cool evenings also make arriving back at the lodge to find a raging fire in the boma and a starter of hot soup all the more welcoming, and food always tastes better under the stars!
It really is something special to be able to witness the changes happening around us. Day by day, we notice even the small details, that over time build up and result in a complete transformation of the bush, to the point where you cannot fathom that you are in the same reserve. Nature is an amazing thing, which is why we are so passionate about protecting this environment and share it with those willing to open themselves up to all that nature has to offer.