The Sand River flows once again

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Text: David Landey | Photographs: Jonathan Short | Video: Tim Jansen van Vuuren

Saying the last few months have been dry at MalaMala, almost feels like an understatement. Over the last year, we have received 224 mm (8.8 inches) of rain – less than half of the average annual rainfall usually experienced in the area. As a result, the resources which are essential to life – namely food and water, are becoming less and less common.

Fortunately, the mighty Sand River flows through MalaMala, providing a fairly consistent source of water for the animals. However, as the drought continued, the flow of water in this usually perennial river slowed down substantially, eventually stopping all together during the latter parts of 2015. Fortunately, there were still numerous pools of water available for the animals to drink from.

It was not too long before these bodies of water started decreasing in size, and eventually number. Conversations around camp included something about precipitation – the lack thereof and possible predictions of the next set of decent rains. Not many of us had experienced a drought like this before, as the last comparable one was in the early 1990’s. We were all ever hopeful that the heavens would open sooner, rather than later.


January 25th. A day like many we have had already this year – hot and humid, resulting in a big bank of dark clouds building over the horizon. This day ended differently though, the thunder and lightening did not just give us a show and move off. It rained and rained.

Many of us awoke the following morning, expecting the Sand River to be filled with water, but it was not. It hadn’t quite reached us as of yet, as the main catchment area for the Sand River lies someways to the north of MalaMala. With the numerous reports received from the north of the river being in flow, the camp abuzz with excitement.

The first signs of the water flowing were around noon on January 26th, seen in the video below taken by ranger Tim Jansen van Vuuren around Bicycle Crossing.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon and into the early evening – many rangers followed the flow of the water as it slowly made it’s way downstream. The still pictures provided by ranger Jonathan Short show the dry sand in the river bed with forthcoming flow of water. The next picture was taken from Maxim’s lookout as the water level slowly started to rise in the Sand River.

Let’s hope this is just the beginning of many more days of rain to come.

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