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Essential Information

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The Weather

The climate over most of southern Africa is temperate. Hot, humid conditions are usually encountered in the Tuli region. Heavy summer thunderstorms of short duration in the late afternoon and evening may be experienced. Rainfall occurs mostly during the summer months (December - March).

January:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 37° C/99° F      Min: 24° C/75° F

The New Year begins with the area looking lush with verdant plains and dense greenery.  There is copious standing water in the veldt, due to heavy summer rains that normally begin in early December.  Zebra and Waterbuck begin to give birth to their young.  Kudu start calving towards the end of the month.  Elephants are to be found in large numbers, with migrant herds moving into the area.  Enormous herds of up to 200 congregate, with all taking advantage of the new green vegetation.  Temperatures may be high, reaching between 35°c and 40°c.  Fortunately the heat may be moderated in the afternoons and early evenings, by the build-up of clouds and the possibility of a welcome thundershower.  Cheetah normally also make an appearance, drawn to the area by concentrations of Impala moving from the woodlands into the open plains.  The Impala are lured out by the tender new grass shoots, which cover the plains in delicate shades of green, particularly to the north and east of the Majale River.  If the rains have been plentiful, the Limpopo River may be flowing strongly and there is a good chance of flash floods occurring in the Majale, Pitsani, Nyaswe and Matabole Rivers.

February:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 40° C/104° F     Min: 23° C/73° F

This is one of the hottest months of the year, with temperatures soaring.  The conditions are similar to those of January.  Kudus continue to calve and there is a good chance of seeing late Impala lambs, tottering along on spindly, wobbling legs behind their mothers.  Due to the excessive heat, the animals wisely begin to seek shade before 8 o'clock in the morning, only becoming active again in the late afternoon, just prior to sunset.  Tropical thunderstorms are still a regular afternoon feature and there is still a high probability of flooded rivers to add some excitement to game drives.

March:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 35° C/95° F     Min: 21° C/70° F

Finally the harsh, searing heat of summer begins to abate and there is less likelihood of rain. A few late Kudu calves may make a bemused appearance in the beginning of the month.  Large nursery herds of gawky Impala young are found, kept under some control by the watchful eyes of their mothers.  The bush is still dense, but the bright shades of green are starting to become duller as the year progresses.  Due to the decrease in rainfall, the characteristic carpets of yellow flowers, so prevalent in the early summer months, begin to disappear.

April:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 30° C/86° F      Min: 18° C/64° F

This is a truly splendid time of the year.  It is now autumn and the daily temperatures are most pleasant with balmy days and nights.  The trees are still green and the bush is thick.  Groundcovers growing away from the larger watercourses are starting to change colour to the browner shades of winter, as water becomes scarcer.  A hush begins to fall over the bush, as the myriad of insects, frogs and reptiles quiten down in preparation for winter.  Flocks of migratory birds also begin to congregate in the treetops, gathering themselves together for the long flight northwards to sunnier climes and greener pastures. The rains have abated, although late unseasonable showers may occur, but this the exception rather than the rule.

May:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 31° C/88° F     Min: 12° C/54° F

The transition from summer to winter occurs rapidly in the Limpopo Valley.  Temperatures begin to drop rapidly after sunset and both evening and morning game drives require warmer clothing.  Although chilly in the morning, the days are clear and pleasant with crisp blue skies.  Now that the rains are over, the veldt begins to dry out and game begins to congregate around the major watercourses, such as the Limpopo and associated wetlands, as well as the artificial waterholes scattered throughout the reserve.  Deciduous trees begin to loose their leaves, with crisp, crackling drifts of golden brown leaves forming on the ground and tree bases.  The grasses, forbs and herbs gradually begin to fade away.  As the vegetation begins to thin, the elusive leopard is more frequently seen.  Lions, which dispersed with the game during the wet season, now begin to concentrate their activities in the central area of Mashatu.

June:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 29° C/84° F      Min: 9° C/48° F

Winter is now upon us and has spread its chilly grip on Mashatu.  Most of the natural pans and pools have now completely dried up.  Elephant and a host of other species begin to frequent the artificial waterholes at both Main and Tent Camps, which makes for exciting mealtime viewing.  Predator sightings are good at this time of the year, due to the thinned out vegetation and concentrations of game, cheetah however are scarce.  In general the game is more active later into the day.

July:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 29° C/84° F     Min: 8° C/46° F

The conditions are much like those in June.  The days are still good, with crisp mornings. The nights can be very cold.  Elephant may begin to dig for water in the sandy riverbeds, providing water not only for themselves, but a variety of other animals.  This is also a favorable time to visit the archaeological site at the Motloutse River.  The summer vegetation has disappeared and a host of interesting features are now visible.

August:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 31° C/88° F    Min: 13° C/55° F

Conditions are extremely dry now.  The floodplains and grasslands adjacent to the Limpopo are very dry and barren. The bush has become harsh and almost inhospitable, with absolutely no groundcover, only dust and rocks visible for kilometers.  The veldt has all the typical winter hues of brown and red, as the Mopane leaves start turning.  The weather is fine with temperatures increasing slightly.  The early mornings and evenings being not as cold as in June or July.  August is a showy month, with respect to sunsets.  Due to the very dry conditions, large quantities of dust is taken up into the air, giving rise to spectacular pyrotechnic displays as the sun sinks below the horizon.

September:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 36° C/97° F    Min: 16° C/61° F

This is a month of great contrast.  The bush is still very dry, a condition exacerbated by winds, which blow from August through to October.  However, many trees begin to blossom, in anticipation of the rapidly approaching summer.  The vibrant hues of the blossoms enliven the bush, providing a bountiful treat for baboons and other hungry inhabitants of the bush, all of whom have struggled through the lean winter months.  Temperatures begin to creep upwards and game drives are once again early morning and late afternoon affairs, as a wise means of avoiding the debilitating midday heat.

October:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 39° C/102° F     Min: 19° C/66° F

Temperatures begin to steadily increase and conditions are becoming desperate for many of the herbivores.  This is due to subregion frontal systems touching on the Limpopo Valley, bringing superheated air into the region.  There may be an occasional tropical thunderstorm, but this early rain is sucked up like a sponge by the barren earth.  This welcome water is however not enough, and seldom results in a notable floral display.  Predators have a field day, as many of the game are weak and tend to restrict their activities to the area close to the waterholes.  The lack of dense vegetation and the dry powdery soil make tracking lion and leopard an easier task and often result in exceptional sightings.  Elephant listlessly wait out the dry season, moving from waterhole to waterhole, where they take full advantage, wallowing and drinking for hours.  They will feed on the surrounding vegetation, moving into the bush on feeding forays when temperatures have dropped sufficiently for them to forage out of the protective shade.  It is also at this time that eland begin to calve.

November:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 37° C/99° F     Min: 22° C/72° F

Summer is now in full swing at Mashatu.  The temperatures are high and there is a lot of humidity in the air.  The chances of convectional thunderstorms are great, although the real rains are still at least a month away.  Some of the summer migrant birds begin to arrive.  The characteristic call of the Red-chested Cuckoo rings out clearly, heralding the approach of better times for all.  Once good rains have fallen, the small, drab, but extremely vocal Monotonous Lark keeps the bush awake day and night with its irritating call, as they perch on every treetop.

December:

Average Temperatures:      Max: 33° C/91° F     Min: 20° C/68° F

The most vibrant month at Mashatu.  Rains are a regular part of the day, with spectacular thunderstorms rumbling in from the northwest in the afternoons, complete with dazzling lightening displays.  Flash floods come bursting down the rivers, sweeping the accumulation of dirt and debris away, leaving fresh, clean channels once again. The whole of the bush looks as if it has been freshly washed and scrubbed.  The veldt is transformed into a golden carpet of acres and acres of yellow flowered “Devil Thorns”, interspersed with a myriad of other vibrantly coloured flowers.  Swamps and marshlands along the Limpopo fill with water, and provide an irresistible attraction to the droves of water birds, all of whom are taking advantage of the biological explosion of insects, amphibians and reptiles.  Impala and Wildebeest give birth to numerous gangly, wide-eyed young, which shortly after birth are gamboling and bounding on the plains.  This is Mother Nature's way of swamping the predators with an excess of provender, thereby ensuring the survival of the species.  Migratory birds arrive en masse, with enormous flocks of White, Black and Abdims storks roaming the plains.  Lesser-Spotted and Steppe Eagles compete to annex every available treetop and the trill of the Woodland Kingfisher fills the air.  The bush is alive and an avian and insectile cacophony fills the air night and day, emanating from every clump and thicket.