Christmas in the bush
December is one of the most underrated seasons to embark on an African safari, with the winter months being the first choice of many travellers when it comes to game-spotting.
However, the animals are still around during this time of the year, just harder to spot and more widely dispersed due to the greater availability of water. With the services of an experienced field guide and ranger at hand, there is no reason not to enjoy sighting of just as many species during the summer months as there are during the winter. The only difference is that during the summer, the animals are filled out with good health from an abundance of food, and kitted out in their sleek summer coats. Many species will still have their young by their sides during this time of year, and it is a delight to see these youngsters learning the tricks of the bushveld trade.
Several wild grasses, shrubs and trees are still adorned with their spring display of flowers, filling the air with fragrance and colour and the Acacia species will just be starting to bloom with their spikey or fluffy, ball-shaped flowers. Most of the plants will have their full complement of fruit for the season, providing Christmas dinner every day for birds, mammals, insects, and monkeys while those that have gone to seed attract a rainbow of birds to their branches. December is a great time for birding, with a full-house of migratory birds in residence in many of our parks. If you would like a chance to view all of Thornybush's 300-plus bird species, December is the time to do it.
You will never see the African bush greener than during the summertime and the afternoon thunderstorms are dramatic, beautiful and short – barely interfering with your day's activities. Midday temperatures can soar well above the thirties, but there is no better excuse to take a tip from the local lion population, and retreat to a shady spot – preferably with a refreshing drink in hand, or wallow hippo-like in the cool depths of the swimming pool. Summer sunsets in Africa are simply show stopping, as the cloudless skies turn every shimmering shade of red before cooling to clear warm nights.
You can't expect a white Christmas in the bushveld. Green is the colour of summer in South Africa, with all of nature coming out to play in a wonderful display of abundance and good will. It is the peak holiday season and the nation is filled with a festive spirit. Although the locals have their own way of doing things, and you are more likely to enjoy a braai (barbeque) with all the trimmings, for your festive meal than a corn-fed turkey. Howver, there will be Christmas carols, and despite the shortage of reindeer, Santa Claus will still be coming to town.