Summertime safaris are inundated with the excitement of new life showing itself in many ways, shapes and forms. The arrival of the rains promotes a surge in the growth of vegetation. New grass shoots propel themselves up through the old dead, dry grass. Trees begin to bud through with new leaves and initiate the blossoming of their flowers. A multitude of wildflowers beautifies the lush landscapes with bursts of colour. River levels rise and waterholes swell.
Accompanying the abundance of water and plant life in the bush-veld around us, we see the arrival of new lambs and calves and foals, food sources are more bountiful and weather preferable, making it a much better place for the introduction of new life into this world.
It is during this wet season that we embrace the overwhelming influx of young animals being born. Impala’s very intense mating season through the months of May to July sees their lambing season fall roughly seven months later to arrive just after the rains. The vast majority of females give birth and effectively flood the market with their adorable lambs. Although tiny and vulnerable, their long dainty legs get them up and running within an hour of being born. This in conjunction with sheer numbers helps the majority survive.
Wildebeest calves arrive on the scene shortly after the impala lambs. A slightly longer gestation means that the rutting of wildebeest happens at the end of the previous rainy season. Lighter brown than their mothers, they are also usually up on their feet soon after birth. The colouration may assist the youngsters in remaining camouflage by resembling an impala, (known to be athletic and fast), until the calves are more sure-footed and able to avoid predation.
In these first few weeks, it is such fun observing young wildebeests. Everything is new to them and they are working out how their legs really work, tearing off at high speeds, running in circles, bounding back and forth like a rocking horse. Life is exciting, so much more entertaining than the relatively mundane life of the adults just a few meters away, as they amble alongside the young, feeding.
Zebra foals are just as excitable. From a standing start, completely unprovoked, they hightail it in full gallop. Charging around nearby bushes, bucking and kicking their back legs as though they are kicking the air. Sprinting back to mum to check in before screaming off again. It is truly refreshing seeing the young energy and simplicity that many of these animals find amusement in.
Birdlife represents a major spectacle during the summer. Some of the migratory birds travel back to Southern Africa in order to breed such as the gorgeous Southern Carmine Bee-eater or cunning brood parasite Diederik Cuckoo. Whatever the strategy in raising young, birdlife creates stunning viewing opportunities. The males of various species are dazzled up in their breeding plumages or labouring away crafting a nest to impress the ladies, hoping to secure a mate. Once successful, mating ensues, eggs laid and chicks hatch. At this point I will be honest, young chicks are NOT cute, at least not until they don their first set of feathers. Immediately transforming them into these tiny little balls of fluffy feathers. Some so small they get blown over by the gentlest breeze. Birds do grow rapidly and soon are miniature versions of their parents.
New life permeates into every nook and cranny of Londolozi during the early part of the summer, accentuated by the copious amount of rainfall this most recent season. The bush is so lush and teaming with young life, whether it be the new grass shoots, flowers, impala lambs, wildebeest calves, frogs and tadpoles, fish and their fry, it is an amazing time to go on safari. So refreshing and rejuvenating to see and be part of all the new young energy that is saturating Londolozi at the moment.