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Changing of the seasons

Chad Cocking | Wildlife

Walking to work this morning, through a camp covered by a light sprinkling of rain, it was wonderful to note how the early signs of summer are starting to gain momentum and the move away from the golden-brown shades of winter that have taken hold of the Greater Kruger for the past six months. Although the surge towards summer greens is a much more rapid change than the slow transition from summer back to winter, I realised that much of the shift happens slow enough that I forget to take note of the changes that take place on a daily basis. Before we know it, we are going to be surrounded by budding green trees and a dense grass cover that makes winter feel like a distant memory.

I have always found it difficult to convey to guests visiting Tanda Tula Safari Camp at the height of either the dry or wet season, just how different the bush experience is at the opposite seasonal extreme. To see the dusty, dry landscapes of late October with little sign of vegetative life, it becomes difficult to fathom that in a few short weeks, those very landscapes will be full of vibrant, green life. The mud-crusted waterholes that sit as dry reminders of wetter times for much of the year can transform into life-giving pools overnight. And magically, almost out of nowhere, a stunning array of life’s smaller forms emerge to fill up the niches that summer’s bounty makes allowances for. Needless to say, when guests do visit us during the summer season, it is equally challenging to envisage that this abundance of food, water, and life is such a short-lived period within the African calendar and that in no time, the more quintessential themes of winter will return.

Due to the fact that words struggle to do justice to these intense changes that take place, last year I embarked on a long-overdue attempt to capture these diversifications at several selected spots across the central Timbavati, where I took some fixed-point photos as the seasons changed. These images form the basis of a further project I am working on to show the contrasts of this special part of the world.

As can be seen from the images below, the changes that take place are simply remarkable! There are so many guests that see these images and say that when they return to Tanda Tula, it will most definitely be during the rainy season, and I cannot blame them, as, after all, these upcoming months are my favourite in the bush. Yes, there are some challenges associated with game viewing under these conditions – the long grass and leaf-covered vegetation sometimes even allows herds of elephants to be swallowed up within their greenery – but with so much other life springing forth with the rains, one never feels like they are short of animals to view. Many species give birth to their young during this time of the year, the migratory bird species bring their songs and colours to our skies, and even the piles of dung come to life with the re-emergence of the comical dung beetles busily rolling away treats for their partners.

I guess that a big part of the reason that I enjoy the summer season is because it is such a short-lived time of the year, and before you know it, the green grass that added so much colour to the bush dries out at a rate that we barely notice until the last shade of green is gone. The natural pans get smaller by the day until they too return to a state of dormant dryness. With the food and water resources more limited, the animals’ movements become more predictable and the larger waterpoints and riverbed systems become the lifeblood of the reserve during the winter months. This, no doubt, makes for easier game-viewing, but even during these months, I know that I can be secretly found looking back at my collections of summer photos, wishing and waiting for the return of this season to the Timbavati.

Be sure to keep a lookout at the weekly blog posts over the coming weeks, and I am sure that you too will be able to pick up the weekly changes as summer sneaks up on us!

Until next time!

Cheers

Chad

 

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