August was a particularly interesting month since the wildebeest migration and weather were very different to previous years. We have had mostly cool, overcast mornings turning brighter later but clouding over most afternoons. There has been almost no rain – only a few short showers until the late afternoon of the 24th when a storm hit the area, which is always great for the flora and fauna and settles the dust. The wildebeest arrived in large numbers (but later than expected), entering the Mara at Sand River and spreading out between Keekorok Lodge and Talek River. There have been a number of crossings over the Mara River below Lookout Hill which is some distance south of our camps. This has meant that our guests have been going out on full day game drives, carrying breakfast and sometimes lunch too, in order to witness the migrating herds. With the migration arriving later this year, we are therfore expecting it to stay later, meaning guests who are booked to stay with us towards the end of the high season, should be lucky enough to catch some of the action.
In predator news, it continues to be an ever-changing story that only our driver-guides can keep up with! Scarface, Moran, Seiko and Hunter are back and all are healthy and fit apart from Scarface who is looking a little thin these days. Scarface is always a worry and we keep thinking his days are almost over but each time he seems to defy the odds and recovers. These 4 big boys have joined up with the Paradise females who have returned to Paradise Plains as there is now more prey available. The six Marsh males have moved out to Topi Plains and have been seen mating with some of the females in that area. Other females from that pride which have cubs are in hiding as they are afraid the Marsh Boys will find their cubs and kill them as they are not the fathers of the cubs. Yaya, a well-known Marsh Pride female, is still in the Bila Shaka area with her two very sweet, healthy cubs which are now four months old. She has been seen feeding on her kills with the two cubs quite frequently. The cubs are very playful just now and give Yaya no rest when she is with them! Spot, Yaya’s sister also has two cubs but keeps them well hidden, these cubs are only about two months old – unfortunately Spot lost her two previous litters so we are all hoping she will be more successful this time. Spot is also in the Bila Shaka area as is another sister, Little Red. Two other Marsh pride females, Rembo and Kabibi, have been seen recently at the Marsh and they are hopefully both pregnant as they have been seen mating with the six Marsh Boys. These two lionesses still spend most of their time out of the Reserve in the Double Gorge area, but tend to visit our concession area every once in a while.
Yaya and her two cubs, photo credit Dave Richards
Rembo & Kabibi greeting Baba Yao, photo credit Moses Manduku
Leopards: there have been a number of Leopard sightings during August – always to the delight of our guests. Romi, the female leopard who lives along the forest edge near our camps has been seen on a few occasions and she appears to be lactating so hopefully we will see her new cubs soon! One morning she was seen with a kill in a tree close by the entrance to Governors’ Camp; she left it safely there during the day but appeared again in the evening to finish it off. Siri is another female leopard who is often difficult to find, as she loves to stay hidden but she has been spotted a few times last month, usually feeding with her two sub-adult cubs. The Kaboso female leopard and her two sub-adult cubs have been seen quite frequently and on occasions actually hunting – Kaboso has a good territory as there are lots of Gazelles and Wildebeest in her area.
The Kaboso leopard, photo credit Moses Manduku
Cheetah: at this time of the year when the ‘Migration’ is here, many cheetahs are attracted to the Reserve as they have the chance of hunting young wildebeest. Tragically one day a young male cheetah was found dead with all the signs that it had been killed by lions; this is always a great shame given the global decline in cheetah. Meanwhile, a very pregnant female was seen close to Governors’ Camp on the 20th August – this may well be the female cheetah that has been seen on many occasions on Rhino Ridge and the Bila Shaka areas. Unfortunately for her there are two lioness, Yaya and Spot, each with two cubs in residence in the Bila Shaka which could make her time quite difficult. The coalition of 5 male cheetah are still going strong – hunting together and enjoying the plentiful supply of extra prey.
Pregnant cheetah, photo credit Alisa Bowen
Serval cats: a few sightings of this beautiful cat – usually they are seen in the early mornings or late afternoon hunting for small rodents and small birds. In particular, one female has been seen with a young kitten not far from our Il Moran Camp.
Serval Cat near Il Moran Camp, photo credit Thor Karstad
In other wildlife: most of the elephant herds have moved out of the Reserve although a few families are still visiting the Musiara Swamp (in front of Governors’) during the midday hours. This is normal at this time of the year; our guides suspect that elephants do not like the noise that the migrating herds make! A few Black Rhino have been spotted in the Reserve but over in the Mara Triangle they are regularly seen – mostly by guests on balloon flights.
Both Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles can be seen across the Mara plains in the Reserve in large numbers. Some of our guests recently witnessed a big male Olive Baboon capture and then eat a young Thomson’s gazelle – this is quite normal and often happens when there are very young gazelles lying-out. Fawns of both Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle are hidden usually in patches of longer grass by their mothers for a week or sometimes more, this is known as ‘lying-out’. Mothers feed the fawns from time to time but are very careful when approaching the fawn’s hiding place. Unfortunately, male baboons and cheetahs search carefully for these hiding places.
A pair of White-headed Vultures were spotted on a nest by guests on a balloon flight in the Mara Triangle. Sadly, the numbers of these vultures have declined drastically over the last few years so it is wonderful news to have a breeding pair seen in the Mara.
“Thank you to all the Governors’ Camp Guides for sharing their wildlife sightings and, in particular, Moses Manduku of Little Governors’ Camp”. Mara report by Dave Richards.