Cheetah Plains- Winter Wilderness
Shifting light and changing seasons each leave their unique mark on the wild, allowing nature’s ever-changing wonders to unfold and adapt to the demands of the climate. Now in July, cool and dry, winter yet again is taking its course on the Lowveld.
The enormous amount of rainfall received during the summer months directly influences winter weather ay Cheetah Plains. Higher rainfall leads to increased soil moisture and cooler temperatures, while drier summers result in slightly higher temperatures during the winter. Fortunately, this year there has been ample rainfall, resulting in saturated grounds and lush green vegetation in the lower areas, which also means the vegetation has been greener for somewhat longer.
Despite the abundant moisture from the preceding months, the trees have now responded to the changes in reduced light by shedding their leaves. This instinctive act serves as a protective measure to prevent excessive water loss through transpiration. The garden aloes at Cheetah Plains have become a haven for Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, while the common waterlilies on the seasonal ponds attract various species of butterflies.
During the day, web-weaving spiders tent put every corner with their delicate silky structures. Among them are the Golden Orb Web Spiders, a common sight in winter. Bark Spiders are still active at night, they construct intricate webs from branch to branch across the roads, spinning their webs at night.
There has been a change in termite mounds, their chimneys now slant more towards the north. Most of the construction occurs after dark, considering the termites vulnerability to UVA rays. At night, these industrious creatures emerge from their mounds, creating a faint clicking sound as they cut their way through the vegetation with their mandibles, making their presence known to potential predators like the White-tailed Mongoose, Civet and illusive Aardvark.
On the mammalian front, there has been an increased sightings of giraffe and zebras making their way to the plains, along with large herds of buffalo and elephants congregating around waterholes and rivers. As the dry season takes hold, water sources dwindle and animals are forced to gather around those that remain, which usually results in the re-emergence of visible game paths. The influx and concentration of prey, combined with the allure of large herds, naturally attracts predators to the area. This sets the perfect scene for intense predator-prey interaction, often abundance during this time of year.
Among the predators, the rangers have been fortunate to encounter two new dark-maned male lions, possibly originating from the Kruger area. Two lionesses with five cubs have also made a guest appearance on the northern side finding solace in the expansive open areas.
Despite the chill and muted landscape, winter brings to life the raw essence of the wilderness untamed, primal, regal. There is no better time than this to be in the wild. There are plenty of reasons to go on safari and by going on one you will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, as you explore new cultures, surrounded by vast landscape and spectacular wildlife.