The weather is a subject that rolls off the tongue of nearly everyone who visits Londolozi. Like a yacht in rough seas it seems to be listing from one extreme to the next. As I write this, the mercury has hit 40 degrees celsius (104 Fahrenheit), humidity is at 18% and the horizon is fringed by a dusty haze. Last week our guests were in gloves and beanies but this week it has been the complete opposite. To confuse matters more, the weather tomorrow is said to have a high of 23 degrees celsius (73 Fahrenheit), 49% humidity, a 40% chance of rain and no wind. The transition between winter and summer and vice versa happens rather quickly in the Lowveld and although September is not really considered summer, it is tantalizingly close.
For many, the approach of summer is viewed with some trepidation, mostly because of the imminent wave of heat and insects. For the habitat team especially, there is a certain disquietude regarding the threat of bush fires. Some will argue that the game viewing is ‘better’ in winter because there is less water out in the bush and the animals tend to concentrate around the waterholes that remain; that the grass is dry and the bush is sparse allowing one to see further into the bush and in turn increasing the chance of spotting one of Londolozi’s big cats; and that the sunsets are redder on account of the fact that there is more dust in the atmosphere. I would actually argue in favour of summer, but that is a subject for another time because now is the time to celebrate the fecundity of spring.
Although the bush is dry and thirsty and we don’t start to expect the rains until late October, the sights, sounds and smells of spring are all around us. A ceaseless symphony of bird calls in the early morning, the shrill buzzing of the cicadas in the midday heat, the Eastern olive toads that have joined the evening chorus and the characteristic ‘good-lord-deliver-us’ call of the Fiery-necked nightjar permeates the night air at sundowners. The Walhberg’s eagles, hard at work constructing their platform-like nests, have been back for a few weeks along with others that have spent the winter in northern climes. A pair of African fish eagles have already completed the construction of their nest and are now feeding their chicks in front of the Private Granite suites. The scarlet wings of the Purple-crested turaco and the faint flutter of an African paradise flycatcher are a common sight once again in the canopy of the large Jackalberry trees that line the Sand River.
As though seeing it for the first time, there is so much colour emerging in what has been a dry and wintery landscape. As we wave farewell to the Impala lilies that now bare velvety pink seed pods, we welcome the fleshy blooms of the sausage tree, the yellow magnificence of the Long-tailed cassia, the ruby red of the Weeping Boerbean trees and countless others. The fig trees have already dropped a boatload of succulent fruit, feeding dozens of species from Chacma baboons, African green pigeons and bushbuck. Impala ewes and zebra mares are sporting barrel sized bellies revealing growing life within. These pregnancies are perfectly timed to coincide with the first rains; a timely strategy that ensures adequate food for the mothers and sufficient cover for the newborns. As new life swells through this bushveld haven, the next question on everybody lips is: when will we get the first rains?