March is usually a gloriously wet and lush time in the acclaimed Kruger National Park in South Africa. High temperatures, afternoon thunderstorms and dense vegetation characterise the summer months in Mpumalanga.
Not so this year. With much of Southern Africa experiencing a severe drought, the Park is dramatically changed. Scorching temperatures and low rainful mean a decrease in water sources, and most significantly, a decrease in food for browsers and grazers.
We recently spent four days in the southern Kruger, an area of the reserve known for its large concentrations of game and almost guaranteed excellent sightings. While game viewing was plentiful, and as rewarding as ever, it was impossible not to notice the impact of the drought, with the most obvious casualties the hippos clustering in shallow ponds and feeding throughout the hot daytime hours.
While the low rainfall is bad news for some, it’s good news for predators and scavengers. Many visitors to the Park are experiencing plentiful sightings of the much sought after big cats – leopard and lion – and hyena.