Ask any chef in Siwandu or Jongomero which month they dread the most and October is bound to top the menu. With temperatures in the Selous Game Reserve soaring into the low 40’s (Ruaha National Park is only a few degrees less-scorching) a kitchen preparing hand-made ice-cream is a tough place in which to operate.
Conversely, if you ask the safari guides how they feel about October, their eyes light up! The final few hot, seemingly endless weeks before the rains arrive over the East African savannahs in November are as dramatic as they are dry and dusty. It’s real circle-of-life, survival-of-the-fittest, Africa-is-not-for-the-faint-hearted stuff.
As the lakes and rivers shrink, so do the real estate for the ever territorial hippo bulls, resulting in turf wars of epic proportions. Blind with rage, they’ve been known to kill their young, innocent bystanders that accidently get in the way when these titans clash. The winner returns to the water, knowing full well that another claim to his territory is never far away. The loser is forced to await the rains in mud-pools, with only ox-peckers lapping up blood from their battle-scars as company. Many of those ousted bulls never make it until November.
Impala & warthog, waging a bet that the rains will indeed arrive in time, have their young in October. By the time they are weaned, fresh green shoots make life easier for the little ones. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll survive until then. Baby-impala is too easy an opportunity for carnivores (and even omnivores) to ignore; with lions, hyenas, baboons and martial eagle all getting in line.
Buffalo, zebra, wildebeest & eland herds become mere nomads, trekking hours without rest between the last of the palatable grass and the water. Thin and fatigued, falling prey to a pride of lions patiently waiting under the cover of darkness is a risk they all need to take in order to survive the dry season.
October can brutal for those in the wild. But the comfort of our camps is the ideal hideaway in between safaris - and our hand-made ice-cream is the perfect reminder that, even though Africa may not be for wimps in the height of the dry season, she knows how to treat her guests.