May in the bush or Lowveld is usually the time of transition. Everything starts to transform from its summer forms into its winter ones. Whether it is the towering cumulus clouds that decorate the summertime bringing with them the possibilities of a mid-afternoon thunderstorm or the crystal clear blue skies that settle into a myriad of purple and pink hues as the winter sun peaks over the horizon at sunrise.
The sun rising over the Sand River on a frosty winter morning is always breathtaking.
The Sand River that was once a raging torrent in the peak of summer now begins to subside exposing large banks of bare river sand, the perfect setting for any photographic subject. The lush green vegetation and chest-high grass lose their emerald sheen and fade to shades of brown and grey, and leaves wilt and fall to the ground, everything thinning out making it slightly easier to spot animals from the road.
With the grass now fading to shades of brown the winter colours add to the drama of this particular sighting.
With the ephemeral pans and waterholes that serve as a catchment of rainwater begins to dry up, most animals move towards the lifeblood of the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, the Sand River. And the excitement of the male impalas as they begin to battle it out for the right to mate with females during the rut.
Two male impalas fighting for dominance over females. During the rutting period, predators will take advantage of the more ‘oblivious’ male impala.
This year, May is different. With the arrival of some late rain on top of a very high water table, the landscape is still green and thick, although just beginning to fade as we speak. The Sand River is still flowing at a high level and claims another victim ranger, Ross Cheshire, who recently got stuck trying to cross through, which is rather unusual for this time of the year. This created a beautiful first few weeks of May for me and the guests.
Finfoot Crossing has claimed many victims this summer, causing the pink pouch to change hands a number of times.
Recently, I had a set of long-time repeat guests that visit every year in May and they could not believe their eyes at the abundance of water, the levels of the Sand River and the overall splendour of the landscape, all making for fantastic backdrops for many of their photographs.
I was so thrilled too and decided to share some of my photographic moments from May.
A Young Male Cheetah that we have been lucky enough to see quite frequently as of late was a regular feature in many of the rangers’ photographic selections. By zooming in with this particular photo, you can see he has a spider web halo on his head. This would have been from walking through the spider webs draped across the grass tips.
I just love it when cheetahs yawn. To me, they look like they are laughing. I still really enjoy the spiderweb halo creating a different layer and story for this photo.
With the abundance of water around, the Ntsevu Pride and cubs didn’t have to go far to quench their thirst after finishing a zebra carcass. By drinking from waterholes like this they avoid the risk of any confrontation with a crocodile that could be likely at the larger waterholes.
One of the Ndzhenga Male rests away from the pride while they quench their thirst.
This Ndzenga Male then follows the Ntsevu Pride to a shady thicket where they settled down for the day. The background demonstrates how it is still quite green for this time of year.
The causeway has been beaming with life as there is still a strong flow bringing with it an abundance of fish for all the aquatic birds to feed on. Here we watched a gorgeous Malachite Kingfisher waiting for any unsuspecting fish to swim by.
The Ntomi Male has been seen lately all over the central parts of Londolozi and further into the grasslands as he is venturing further and further afield, probably ahead of him setting off on a delayed nomadic journey.
The Xinzele Young Female stalks a stork in the dry Manyelethi Riverbed. I loved the green contrasted with the river sand in this photo. The cub is getting more and more curious with every moving animal to practice stalking which will help her develop the skills she needs to become a perfect huntress.
As mentioned, because the riverine thickets are still so lush the Tsalala Female managed to take down a large kudu along the banks of the Sand River. Here she seeks shade right next to our vehicle, giving us a perfect opportunity to get a close-up of her face.
As you can see the month of May has been full of new adventures for not only us but for the animals too. It is safe to say that winter is around the corner as all the jackets are coming out and the misty mornings are rolling in…