Winter 2022 | Helen Mertens

Winter days on safari

Climate and weather impact all living beings, including our physiological processes, energy levels, interests and preferences. As summers at Tswalu are usually extremely hot, most of our guests head out on game drives very early in the morning and only venture out again late in the afternoon. To avoid the scorching temperatures in the middle of the day, they prefer to spend time in camp enjoying an extended siesta and the respite of an air-conditioned suite, punctuated by a refreshing dip in the pool or a spa treatment. Cold (even freezing) early winter mornings give way to more clement days that allow for a different daily pace and focus, including longer game drives, horse riding and nature walks.

 

 

Our safaris often take up the majority of – if not the entire – day in winter. Our kitchen is always happy to provide guests with delicious picnic options to take out and enjoy in the bush. On cold days in particular, when the temperatures are too chilly for comfort in the early morning, heading out a little later with a picnic for lunch allows us to enjoy a full day exploring the Kalahari, returning only around sunset. These are often the days when we are able to explore the furthest reaches of the reserve, led by what we manage to track and find, stopping to enjoy refreshments along the way without any time constraints.

 

 

An off-the-vehicle activity that is much loved in the cooler winter months is horse riding. Tswalu’s stables offer riding to guests of all levels of experience, from a lesson in the arena for children on the delightful and patient pony Liquorice to out rides for confident and more competent riders. Horse riding is an opportunity to enjoy the Kalahari and its inhabitants in a different way, especially since most of the animals are habituated to the presence of the horses, allowing for very close approaches and encounters.

 

 

Walking is much more comfortable and enjoyable in the cooler months than in summer. Our guests spend longer with the meerkats and can hike to less accessible petroglyph sites. Getting out of the vehicle to take a closer look at a sociable weaver’s nest, figure out animal tracks in the sand, or an emerging flower adding a burst of colour to a rare Kalahari plant are all advantages of walking.

 

 

What the guides and many of our guests love most of all in winter is that we take the roofs off our safari vehicles, allowing for an unrestricted view of the sky, birds, surrounding landscape, and especially the magnificent Kalahari night skies. As winter is the driest season of the year, most nights are perfectly clear and, provided the moon is not too bright, allow for exceptional stargazing and astrophotography.

Each season in the Kalahari brings its own rewards and has its pros and cons. While we are glad to see temperatures rising as the seasons change, allowing us to shed multiple clothing layers, we know that, soon enough, we will miss the cooler days of winter and the freedom and extra time they provide to explore more of Tswalu.

Meerkat encounter and Star gazing images by Barry Peiser.

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