Record rainfall on Welgevonden

Like most of the northern parts of South Africa, Welgevonden has seen an exceptionally wet month in January. All this rain has transformed the reserve into a water paradise, with streams of water flowing out of the mountains, causing cascading waterfalls everywhere.

The vegetation turned a lush green as a result. I overheard somebody saying “it is so green, it almost hurts ones eyes”! Sights like these are always special to see, even if it feels like the rain is never going to stop.

It was the highest rainfall recorded during January since the start of the reserve. The mean rainfall measured across the reserve was 391mm for January alone, with the highest recorded figure of 560mm in the centre of the reserve! To put this into perspective, the long term seasonal mean for Welgevonden is 620mm, thus almost the entire average season’s rain in one month! By the end of January the soil was so waterlogged that even a small shower of rain resulted in a rise in the river water levels.

However, although beautiful all this rain and water unfortunately also result in some problems. Several of the bridges were under water, which made driving through the reserve impossible in certain areas. One vehicle was surprised with a flash-flood while crossing a bridge in the Sterkstroom river and was partly washed off a bridge. Luckily it could be recovered without too much damage. The high water levels of the rivers also resulted in some damage to the fence crossings, and the fence team had to be on their toes to keep the fence working properly.

Several roads suffered some erosion damage, and one concrete river crossing was washed away after a rainstorm when 100mm fell in about 20 minutes. However, overall the roads on the reserve held up remarkably well considering all the rain. There was more damage to the gravel roads outside and leading to the reserve than inside the reserve itself. Unfortunately, it resulted in some entrance gates being inaccessible.

Inside the reserve a few muddy patches developed, leading to vehicles getting stuck. One of the road maintenance team’s trucks was stuck for almost a week before they manage to get it out of the mud. The main road into the reserve also had to be closed towards the end of January, but luckily an alternative road was accessible through which light vehicle traffic could be diverted. The main road has been repaired in the mean time after some welcome sunshine early in February and is now