Due to our location in the Little Karoo, a mere 3 hour-drive from Cape Town, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve experiences fairly low and erratic rainfall and periods of drought and flood are a natural part of the ecosystem of the area. In keeping with these expected periods of fluctuation, the past two years have seen lower than average rainfall. In fact, in 2016 we received 130mm of rain against an average of 247mm, and October, November and December had their lowest rainfalls since we started records in 2005.

As the water availability reduces, the vegetation in the area is affected. Some plants die off but many go into survival mode, shed their leaves and become dormant. These succulents eat into their ‘water-stores’ enormously and look shriveled and dry.

Bababoutjies (baby bottoms) & Vygies at Sanbona

The grass, cropped by animals eating it, and because there’s no water, doesn’t grow and stays cut short and remains brown. Grasses indigenous to the area can survive extended periods with little water and although they may look dead – visibly brown and dry – they are often only dormant, awaiting the next rainstorm.

We were delighted when we received 15mm of rain towards the end of January, as it gave the veld a little shot of life and washed some dust from the trees and allowed just the faintest tinge of green to return to the landscape.

Article by Andrew Slater