Mystic Winter: A photographic essay

By Joe Welman

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One of the Clarendon male lions lying on his back at the end of a hot afternoon.

The bright green

colours of summer has vanished months ago, replaced by subdued hues of orange and yellow. Almost all of the deciduous trees are now barren and the insects have gone quiet. A lack of summer rains has made this winter particularly dry. In the late afternoons, the land glows orange and the horizon gets dotted by clouds of dust following game drive vehicles like ion-tails following comets.

This is the season of the predators. The nights are long and the herbivores are getting weaker by the day as the vegetation that is so crucial to their well being is making way to dusty plains. The Eyrefield pride spends most mornings lazying about, warming themselves in the winter sun. They don’t go very far from the river as they know the river will attract herds of buffalo and other herbivores. The hyena den to the East of Buffalo bush dam is now home to two new members of the clan, providing the rangers and their guests with hours of entertainment.


The leopards are doing very well. Even though we lost one of our most legendary leopards this winter, the Airstrip male, we welcomed the arrival of the cub of the Tamboti female. The cubs of the Kikilezi female are doing well, this of course, is a surprise to no one as the Kikilezi female is well known for her cub-raising-talents.

We’re unsure of when the drought will end, but until then we’ll enjoy the mysterious beauty of a dry winter.

Temperature and moisture drive the reproduction processes of insects. Termite alates emerge in their tens of thousands on hot days that are preceded by heavy rains.
The leaves of the Large-leaved rock fig that grows on top of Kapen rocks, now lay at the base of the granite boulder.
Bushveld signal grass at sunset(left). Black-bellied bustard surrounded by Feather-top chloris grass(center). African foxglove(right).
An exuberant impala lamb with its mother in the late afternoon light. Impala births are synchronized in late spring to ensure that at least a part of the lamb population will survive.
A young elephant bull enjoying a midday bath.
A lioness from the Marthly breakaway pride sporting a very regal pose next to our airstrip. A Clarendon male can be seen sleeping in the background.
A golden coat strikes a strong contrast against the green grass.
“Supermom”. The Island female recently gave birth to a healthy looking cub. Here she can be seen crossing the Sand-river on her return to her den site, presumably after a hunt.

Travelling to MalaMala