They say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights … and, if I may add a fourth rather “true colour-revealing” frustration, bad wifi. Right?! Certainly, for three of the above, not many of us can say we react with calm patience and a smile on our faces, but what about rainy days? Surely even the summer-loving sun-worshippers like me can admit to loving the sound (and smell) of rain.
What do you do on a rainy day? Do you cherish the time to curl up in a blanket, delve deep into a good book and listen to the steady raindrops? Do you idle the time away in a cosy coffee shop, savouring a long catch-up with an old friend? Or do you slap on some wellies, get outdoors and dance in the rain?
It may sound silly, but that’s exactly what our team at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve did last week! A miraculous, long-awaited and desperately prayed for break in a lengthy, unrelenting and arduous four-year drought, the heavens finally opened and &Beyond Phinda received an epic 200 ml of rain in the space of 36 hours. Together, the people, land and wildlife all rejoiced gleefully and accepted this cherished gift from the rain gods: the much-needed gift of rain.
If you have visited &Beyond Phinda in the last couple of years, you will have witnessed first-hand the lasting effects of this unforgiving drought. Dams and waterholes evaporated into thin air, mud wallows became parched and cracked under the blazing sun, vegetation grew concerningly scarce and a fence even had to be erected to form a boundary when the once heavily-flowing Mzinene River dried up completely (this fence now sits in the middle of a happily raging river).
Faced with these successive failed rainy seasons, the &Beyond Phinda team had to take drastic measures to keep the reserve running; however, thanks to the hard work and seamless behind-the-scenes logistics from both our Phinda Maintenance and Habitat teams, the drought thankfully didn’t impact the &Beyond guest experience in any way.
Water, as well as feed for the herbivores, had to be transported into the reserve regularly. With the northern sector of Phinda hardest hit, many of the major water supply points completely dried up and select dams had to be pumped. And although we are extremely fortunate to have maintained high occupancies at Phinda, the lodges combined required more than 100 000 litres of water a day in order to operate. To keep up with this demand and maintain reliable water sources for the animals as well, a fleet of water tankers supplied the reserve with the much-needed resource.
After the recent rains, the life-giving dams around the reserve are now gloriously full. So full in fact, that they are now the highest they’ve ever been in 17 years! You can feel the genuine air of excitement as our rangers turn each corner, discovering the new life, magically transformed landscapes and the sheer natural beauty that the rains have brought. The Inkwazi Floodplain now resembles a dam, the Mziki Marsh finally takes after its namesake once again, Junction Dam is back to its original glory and the Mzinene River has returned to full spate. It is a glorious sight to behold, so we encourage you to get yourselves back to &Beyond Phinda to see this extraordinary ‘before and after’ with your own eyes.
We like to think that last year’s official declaration and naming of the Phinda rain frog, South Africa’s newest frog species that was discovered on Phinda in 2016 by &Beyond Private Guide Daryl Dell, was a good omen. Surely it was a sign of good things (and good rains) to come. Following these recent showers, the frogs are now out in abundance, which, if you’re a frogger, you’ll know is a trusty indicator of environmental quality. If there are lots of frogs and amphibians around, then it means the ecosystem is healthy and thriving. &Beyond Phinda boasts the richest amphibian diversity in South Africa, so it’s great to see (and hear!) the thousands of healthy, colourful frogs that have returned home once again.
Aptly named, Phinda actually means ‘the return’ in Zulu and this moniker has turned out to be more prophetic than once expected. Not only was the wildlife returned to the land, but a significant portion of the land has since been returned to its ancestral owners in a groundbreaking partnership between &Beyond and the neighbouring Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities. The land was successfully returned to conservation and now, after four long years, the rains, too, have thankfully returned.
This natural state of emergency serves as a poignant reminder that water is a precious commodity, not just in Southern Africa, but across the planet. It is our global responsibility to help conserve water as much as we can. Hopefully, the spell has now been broken and may this be the end to many droughts across the country, continent, and indeed, the rest of the world. Long let it rain!
We invite you to take advantage of our Fly Me to Phinda special offer and ‘return’ to &Beyond Phinda to experience this new-found beauty in person. Come to join our joyful rain dance as we all continue celebrating this precious gift from Mother Nature.