Heat Lightning Hoedspruit South Africa
Heat Lightning Hoedspruit South Africa. Photo: Gerrit Breytenbach

Hoedspruit resident Gillian Leigh Soames was feeling a little confused last week, when for the first time in her life she witnessed ‘Heat Lightning’… otherwise known as Silent Lightning or Summer Lightning.

The phenomenon occurs – usually in summer after a heatwave or great humidity – when there is cloud-to-ground lightning and no audible sound of thunder.

Gillian (who’s well known for her stunning leopard photos on her Instagram page) took to social media after witnessing the sky light up over and over… without a single crack of thunder. “ZERO sound, ZERO thunder!” she exclaimed.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL???? This is happening right above us on the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate, right now!!! It is absolutely RIDICULOUSLY crazy awesome, and something I have never seen before in my entire life!!!! 🤩”

Listen/watch below – while the sky is alive with flickering lights, all you can hear are the blissful sounds of the bush, some crickets chirping and the occasional bark of a dog.

WATCH Heat Lightning over Hoedspruit

What is Heat Lightning?

Heat Lightning is actually no different to normal lightning. It’s just that the lightning is taking place so far away, and – either due to vegetation and hills or mountains in the way, or the fact that the Earth is round – the actual bolts of lightning are hidden from view, according to the US weather service.

Distant lightning can be seen, but not heard

Lightning can be seen at night up to 160km away, but thunder claps can only be heard within a distance of 16 km (10 miles). As Farmers Almanac says: “When the sky is hazy, as is quite typical on warm, summer nights, the light from intense thunderstorms as far away as (160km) can be reflected off a layer of haze and up into the night sky.”

Hoedspruit’s Heat Lightning explained

It turns out that on the same night that Hoedspruit witnessed Heat Lightning, the residents of White River – a distance of 144km away – experienced a lot of loud thunder and lightning. So perhaps Hoedspruit was being treated to White River’s visuals!

Heat Lightning is called Summer Lightning because it happens mostly in warmer months

In summer, with the moisture in the air from humidity (and various other factors) it can make Heat Lightning more common because you can see lightning that’s further away than you normally could. Many of the flashes are light from the lightning bolts reflecting off higher-level clouds. Those who live in coastal and humid areas like Durban in SA (or Florida in the USA) are normally more used to Heat Lightning which can sometimes be seen over the sea at night, after a hot day.

WATCH more Heat Lightning in Hoedspruit

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Sources include US National Weather Service here, and