Having missed winter in the bush last year, the crisp air we are starting to experience in the mornings gets me excited.
Growing up, I only got to experience the bush in winter so maybe that is when the love affair for this time of the year started.
You drive out of camp and the smell of the dust and grass hits you almost at the same time the wind chill wraps around your face, cozied up in comfy blankets. “Snug” is the word you’d describe yourself with.
It’s still fairly dark; you know there’s already one thing to look forward to, the shades of crimson red and orange that make up an African sunrise. More often than not you can’t help but stop to take a photo of that very sunrise that you eagerly await.
While you admire the sunrise, the stillness in the air allows you to hear the bush awaken. Impalas rutting sound like there’s an orchestra in each valley and crest but it is the lion’s roar that really grabs your attention. With sound travelling further in the cool still air, you know that male lion isn’t actually close. After silently listening to him announce his presence, as a team you – tracker and ranger – set off to find him.
You stop as you see the lion’s prints embedded in the soft, almost frosty soil. Clearly mapped out, you see the path he took through the bent dry grasses. The tracker is convinced the lion is going to drink at a nearby pan; with some swift driving, only making you feel the cold a little more, you get to the pan and wait…
The sunbeams begin to shine on the water and dappled light hits your face, slowly warming you up. Just as you close your eyes to embrace that warmth, your ranger shouts excitedly, “There! There he is.”
You witness this majestic male walk to the water’s edge and start to lap up icy tongue-fulls of water. After sitting with him for some time, having the opportunity to see him clearly with little vegetation blocking your view thanks to the season’s drier conditions, he slowly strolls to a thicker area for some shade. This creates the perfect time for a morning coffee stop.
Coffee and tea tastes – and simply feels – better on a cold morning.
Afternoons hold a whole new story with warmer conditions. You drive parallel to the Sand River and watch the herds of elephant feed and enjoy the coolness as they splash water amongst themselves.
As water becomes more scarce, you find a plethora of wildlife in and around the semi-full waterholes, keeping you entertained throughout the afternoon.
The sun starts to set.
Simply put, South African bush winter sunsets cannot be beaten.
As you sip on a gin and tonic and watch the sun sink behind the Drakensberg mountains, that same call that got you excited early that morning, vibrates across the plains on which you stand. It is time for that male lion to find the pride, and you hear them responding far in the distance.
The nip in the air comes back, you dream about being around the consuming fire back at Founders Camp, excited to share your stories of the most unbelievable day.
If that hasn’t sold you enough then I don’t know what will.