In this sub-tropical climate, the season of autumn comes and goes in the flash of an eye. Before we know it, winter is upon us. So many people believe that winter is a dreary and drab time but this couldn’t be further from the truth here. Every season has its own significant beauty and winter is no different.

Just a few days ago we experienced the winter solstice, a day marking the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. Solstice means ‘sun-stopping’ and marks the sun’s pause and then change in direction. It can be seen as when the sun reaches its furthest north position in the sky and starts moving further south. From this day forward the days become longer and nights become shorter until reaching the summer solstice, which occurs on the 21st or 22nd of December.

I love this time of year with its misty mornings and crystal clear night skies. Even though days get longer, the mornings seem to get colder as the land dries up. These bitterly cold mornings are spectacular before the heat of the sun burns away the cold and the day warms up considerably. And it’s actually now, at the heart of winter,, that we really see the landscape transform.

sunrise, mist, winter

A breath-taking scene experienced in the winter months. Mist filled valleys soaked in a golden hue.

June is a time when the bush transcends from mottled yellow and faded greens of autumn, to a landscape drenched in a golden hue – a time of spectacular colour and light. Dust from the drying land allows for the mornings and evenings to be filled with beautiful golden light, which soaks up the surrounds. No rainfall forces grass to dry a caramel yellow, leaves fall and animals spend much of their time moving to find diminishing nutritional food supplies as well as to quench their thirst at water holes and the spectacular Sand River, meandering past the camps. A time of predators; lions and leopards thrive in these drying conditions as prey weakens. For me the beauty of the winter is epitomised by elements of hardship, colour, light and beauty.

These next few months provide endless photographic opportunities at capturing wildlife and scenery soaked in a deep gold to orange haze. Aloes in camp have begun flowering, which attract some of the most beautiful sunbirds and photographers can be found enraptured for hours without even having to head out into the bush. The night sky becomes an awesome spectacle, the deep roar of a lion travels further with the crisp, bitter cold air and animals are active for longer in the mornings. The dawn of the winter morning evokes huge excitement and change.

We are being left to question though; have the good summer rains provided enough grass to sustain the herbivores through this time? Will predators flourish again as they did in the previous season’s drought? Let’s journey through this winter together and wait to find out!

Milky way, stars, AJ 2017

The clear night sky of winter allows for some of the best opportunities at star photography. The Milky Way is as bright as ever in the winter months.

nhlanguleni, yawn, morning, AJ 2017

Leopards often utilise termite mounds at earlier hours of the morning, soaking up the first warm rays of sun before moving into thicker vegetation to escape the heat of the day. The Nhlanguleni female leopard yawns before moving off towards the riverine area.

Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.

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Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

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2 known
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hooded vulture, silhouette, AJ 2017

A silhouette of a Hooded Vulture as it settles down for the night, backdropped by the setting sun. The golden sunlight allows for endless photographic opportunities. 

mosque swallow, sunrise, AJ 2017

A Mosque Swallow absorbs the gentle rays of the early morning sun after a cold night spent perched on a dead tree.

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Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

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About the Author

Alex Jordan

Field Guide

Born in Cape Town, Alex grew up on a family wine estate in Stellenbosch. Spending much of his young life outdoors, Alex went on many a holiday into Southern Africa’s national parks and wild areas. After finishing high school, he completed a number ...

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2 Comments

on The Winter Solstice: A Change of Season

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Alta ShafaianFard
Guest

I’m South African from Durban and live in Plano, Texas. Love reading your blog!! I share your blog with everybody here! Baie Dankie ❤️

Lea
Guest

A nice blog Alex. I appreciate the different parts of the seasons as you do. Each season has its own beauty. Thanks for pointing out the highlights and posting the pictures. Praying for rain for you all.

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