Early morning mist covers the granite boulders around Campbell koppies in a mysterious veil.

Mystic Winter: A photographic essay

Text and photographs: Joe Welman 

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.

 

The leaves of the Large-leaved rock fig that grows on top of Kapen rocks, now lay at the base of the granite boulder.

The leaves of the Large-leaved rock fig that grows on top of Kapen rocks, now lay at the base of the granite boulder.

 

The Matshipiri male lion with the full mane stares towards a herd of buffalo on the opposite-bank of the sand river. On this afternoon the herd made a successful escape.

The Matshipiri male lion with the full mane, stares towards a herd of buffalo on the opposite-bank of the sand river. On this afternoon the herd made a successful escape.

 

The ever vigilant herds are easily spooked by sounds of their imagination.

The ever vigilant herds are easily spooked by sounds of their imagination.

 

A large buffalo bull enraged by the scent of lions runs through a cloud of dust.

A large buffalo bull enraged by the scent of lions, runs through a cloud of dust.

 

The late afternoon sun highlights the fringe of hair on the back of a Nyala bull. The hair is brought upright through a process called piloerection in order to intimidate a rival bull.

The late afternoon sun highlights the fringe of hair on the back of a Nyala bull. The hair is brought upright through a process called piloerection in order to intimidate a rival bull.

 

Two of the cubs of the Eyrefield pride playing like children do, oblivious to the fact that in a couple months, the river might run completely dry.

Two of the cubs of the Eyrefield pride playing like children do, oblivious to the fact that in a couple of months, the river might run completely dry.

 

A Verreaux's eagle owl sitting in a Red bush-willow at dusk. From a human's perspective it seems as if it is preparing itself mentally for a night that will be spent hunting rodents, birds and insects.

A Verreaux’s eagle owl sitting in a Red bush-willow at dusk. From a human’s perspective it seems as if it is preparing itself mentally for a night that will be spent hunting rodents, birds and insects.

 

The Treehouse male leopard patrolling the Red bush-willow thickets that he calls home.

The Treehouse male leopard patrolling the Red bush-willow thickets that he calls home.

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