Mbombela - Despite flooding which closed roads in the Kruger National Park, management has expressed relief that the heavy rains in the area have brought solace to animals dying from the severe drought which has plagued the park for the past several years.
Areas of the park received their highest rainfall in more than a year over the weekend, with the South African Weather Service (SAWS) recording 92mm of rain at the park's Skuzuza headquarters in Mpumalanga.
"Rain has fallen steadily over the past few days and we appreciate it hugely. Waterholes and rivers have filled up again and we hope that this is just the start of a decent rainfall season for us,” said SANParks acting head of communications William Mabasa.
Tourists posted numerous photos of the rainfall on social media, with some roads, campsites and entrance gates closed due to the flooding.
Theresa Richards, a visitor to the park, posted on January 7 that she had to extend her stay: "We couldn't get out of the park in time to drive to Bloem, due to flooding. Main road south from Skukuza still closed. Both Phabeni and Kruger gates were closed at the time we wanted to leave. Sounds like Pretoriuskop got huge amounts of rain too. Had to pack up our tent in torrential rain, but loving all the rivers in flood.''
Wildlife expert Lex Hes said that the rains in the Kruger Park would have an immediate effect on both the welfare of the animals and the game viewing prospects of tourists.
"It’s very simple, actually. Once the natural progression of drought is over and the rains come, the plants grow and there is more food for the animals. Animals which were dying of starvation, such as buffalo, now have access to all the nutrients and minerals they need to survive.
"In terms of game viewing, the animals are now more widely dispersed throughout the park, and are not only confined to permanent waterholes. Heavily overgrazed areas now have the chance to recover as animals move to other areas," he explained.