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.
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!
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.