The sun beats down mercilessly on the naked earth, parched from six months without a drop of rain. The scattered lagoons and oxbow lakes on the Luangwa River floodplain are long-since empty and cracked clay depressions are all that remain. The animals now rely solely on the main river and have to make daily forays down to drink. As a result, shy species such as kudu and roan antelope and huge herds of buffalo are seen more frequently. These daily trips are, however, perilous as predators lie in wait knowing the thirst that drives the antelope is so desperate that it outweighs the awaiting dangers.
Slowly in the last weeks though, signs of change have been trickling in: Sausage trees are exploding into bright green islands, an incredibly beautiful contrast against the surrounding sun scorched earth and brown foliage; the first glimpse of paradise flycatchers; the call of the red-chested cuckoo or ‘piet my vrou'; the arrival of migratory waders taking advantage of the abundant food resources on the shallow sandbanks as the river rapidly drops its level; Foam-nest frogs are croaking excitedly from their perches on our soap dish, toilet and bedside light and cacophonies of guttural toads can be heard at night along the riverbank.
The afternoon air is getting increasingly heavy and the distant build up of thunderheads closer. In spectacular fashion, thunder echoes and lightning flashes, you can smell it in the air, the earthy fresh aroma. And then it finally arrives, the first of the life-giving rains.
While the arrival of the rain signals the end of the tourist season, it heralds exciting new beginnings for many plants, insects, birds and animals. This is the time when in unison all the impala drop their fawns, expectantly awaiting the greenery following the first rains to provide a source of nourishment that ensures bountiful resources and healthy young. This synchronous birthing is an incredibly clever way of avoiding predators, overwhelming them by sheer numbers.
This is an amazingly exciting time of year and one that offers guests the opportunity to witness the metamorphosis of the Luangwa Valley from harsh landscapes characterised by scorched earth and animals fighting for survival, to the radiantly beautiful green beginnings after the first rains and the transition into the emerald season.