Game Reports Kenya Masai Mara

Masai Mara weather and wildlife April 2024

April is a year of seasons rolled into just one month. You can start each morning with a beautiful sunrise and watch elephants slowly moving through the woodlands, out on to the open plains. At the end of the day, you are encircled by the most spectacular storm clouds, under which lions begin their hunt for a lone and unsuspecting buffalo.

Buffalo Masai Mara Kenya

A solitary male buffalo – photo credit Felix Rome

A safari in April yields an incredible collection of images that actually looks as though you’ve spent five long months achieving. The landscape is forever changing as roads fill with water, turning into small rivers. Birds enjoy the spoils of excess water all around, helping themselves to easy meals. If you are hoping to get some unique and dramatic photographs, April is definitely your month.

A Marsh Pride female watches a storm coming in – photo credit Felix Rome

Weather and grasslands

The weather this April has been mixed with long days of blue skies and calm winds, while ferocious storms built up in the afternoons. We received 227 mm of rainfall and the days averaged out at a daily temperature of 26ºC. Rainbows glistened above the grasslands, adding a layer of color and beauty to the landscape.

Rainbow Masai Mara Kenya

Elephants beneath a rainbow – photo credit Felix Rome

The April rains quickly transformed the landscape into a luscious paradise for all the game. As the marsh became fully saturated, it brought new life to the area. Waterbuck were spoilt for choice when it came to deciding where to spend their days.

Waterbuck Masai Mara Kenya

A female waterbuck illuminated by the rising sun – photo credit Felix Rome

Hamerkops sat beside flooded roads waiting for mudfish to leave their puddle and swim frantically against the rushing waters. They grab their prey quickly, but then spend a long time trying to figure out a way to eat the large catch.

Hamerkop Masai Mara Kenya

Hamerkop Masai Mara Kenya

Hamerkops are wading birds with partially webbed feet – photo credit Felix Rome

By the 20th April, the usual ‘rainy season’ had become one of concern; heavy and prolonged rainfall on the catchment areas for both the Mara and Talek Rivers, caused havoc across the area. The Talek area in particular was hit hard with many camps and lodges sadly closing overnight and some bridges being washed away.

Heavy rainfall on the 20th April – photo credit Felix Rome

As expected, the Mara River rose considerably towards the end of the month and by the 26th, Little Governors’ Camp had suspended its boat crossing. The Mara River continued to rise and fall, keeping below a non-critical level, and we are thankful that our camps remained unaffected

Mara River Masai Mara Kenya

The Mara River in early April – photo credit Felix Rome

On the plains

The Musiara marsh is an iconic swampy area at the northern end of the Masai Mara, characterised by optimal grass and its many permanent water sources. It’s a prominent spot for wildlife as it pulls in elephants and buffalos who come to graze here.

Elephants love a swim, if it’s deep enough – photo credit Felix Rome

The younger elephants find it hard to navigate the deep water as their little legs get stuck in the mud. This doesn’t stop them from feeding on the more compact and open grasslands, as their mothers roam in the marsh nearby them. There has been a consistent herd hanging around the verges of the forest, just beyond Governors’ Camp.

Elephants Masai Mara Kenya

The basic family unit of elephants is known as a breeding herd – photo credit Felix Rome

The Musiara sector is also famously known as prime lion habitat – home to the Marsh Pride of Lions who depend on the various hunting opportunities to be found here. At the moment, the grass is tall and with most of the grazers having left in favor of shorter grass areas, the lions have mostly been feasting on buffalos that they’ve pulled from the big resident herd.

See the Marsh Pride on safari with Governors’ – photo credit Felix Rome

Warthogs wallow in the new muddy pools. This is always an entertaining sight, especially if there are young piglets rolling around. Grey crowned cranes raise their young within the confines of the long grass, giving them protection against predators.

Large breeding herds of buffalo can be seen from miles away, often never too far from the entrance of our Mara camps. You can hear them calling to one another as they feast on the fresh grass shoots that are starting to sprout up.

However, predators are never far away and plenty of spotted hyenas have been raising their young. Various dens have been established with as many as six young pups residing within each one. There is always an adult hyena hanging around the den to keep watch over the playful and inquisitive youngsters.

Hyena Masai Mara Kenya

Young hyenas spend up to two years living with their mothers – photo credit Felix Rome

Hippos have been seen all over the place; with the heavy rains and extra pools of water, they are no longer confined to the Mara River. We’ve spotted them casually wandering across the open grasslands, completely unfazed by the potential threat of predators, even in the middle of the day. Finding a hippo out of the water gives a greater understanding and appreciation of their vast size.

Photo credit Felix Rome 

The river has been especially high and the water flowing fast, leaving few dry areas for the hippos to relax and sleep on during the day. Instead, they have made use of the many extinct termite mounds that raise out of the flooded marsh areas, providing a little dry spot to bask in the sun.

Hippo Masai Mara Kenya

Hippos have moved out of the fast flowing Mara river and into shallow pools – photo credit Felix Rome

When they need to access a safe area or cool down, they find refuge in small waterholes, the flooded marshlands and other saturated areas. Mothers with young calves are fiercely protective, often settling further away from the roads. Large bulls however, can often be found walking down the road, giving our guests some incredible sightings, up close and personal.

A male hippo crosses the road in front of the Musiara Marsh – photo credit Felix Rome

Big Cats of the Masai Mara

The Marsh Pride of Lions have thrown all their combined energy into bringing down many old dugga boy buffalos to feed on. Dada has been regaining her strength day by day, and has even been seen helping with hunting efforts. Her tail, while still very crooked, hasn’t been holding her back.

The Marsh Pride of lions

Kaleo, Kito, Naserian, Nusurika and Enkerai – photo credit Felix Rome

On the 30th April, the pride was found in the early hours of the morning, protecting a fresh buffalo kill. Dada was seen feeding with much enthusiasm, but it was clear she was in some amount of pain. With a bulging belly full of food, she rolled over on to her back for a snooze and we could see from amount of mud on her body plus some slight bruising on her stomach and inner thighs, she had clearly sustained minor injuries from the battle with the buffalo.

Dada Marsh Pride Kenya

Dada on the 4th April – photo credit Felix Rome

She was moving very slowly but her apparent appetite and her determination to take her share of a much-needed meal, indicates that there is still some fight in her yet. Kito still holds strong and is leading most of the hunts, with Kaleo and Lola acting as her immediate support. We will often find them nearby the Musiara airstrip or East of the Bila Shaka area.

Kito lioness Marsh Pride Masai Mara Kenya

Kito – photo credit Felix Rome

We do not use the tracking data from Kito’s collar to enhance our game drives, but we are allowed to keep tabs on the pride’s movements for conservation purposes. On checking the data, we can see that the Marsh Pride crossed the border into Mara North on several occassions in April, but for the most part, remained around Bila Shaka.

Marsh Pride lions at Bila Shaka Masai Mara

The Marsh Pride hanging out at Bila Shaka – photo credit Felix Rome

Bila Shaka males, Kiok, Chongo and Koshoke, have been hanging around the Marsh Pride territory for most of April. We had a great sighting of Kiok and Koshoke at the Musiara airstrip on 23rd April; they have kept themselves busy with frantic scent marking since most of their work has been subsequently washed away by the heavy rains.

Koshoke male lion Bila Shaka males Kenya

Koshoke on patrol – photo credit Felix Rome

Chongo was seen mating with Lola for a few days around the 20th – 23rd of April. We are hoping some new cubs will be born in a few months’ time, which would be well timed, just as the Great Migration arrives.

Chongo bila shaka male lion masai mara kenya

The mighty Chongo – photo credit Felix Rome

While the Bila Shaka males were around, the young Marsh pride male known as Oleku, was hiding. He was never far away from the rest of his pride, but he made a conscious and wise decision to keep a safe distance. He is maturing fast and is quickly becoming a large adolescent lion, which will put him at risk with the Bila Shaka boys. They would certainly not tolerate having him around.

Oleku was seen reunited with the pride on the 26th, just a day after the Bila Shaka males left the area. He hasn’t got long before the dynamics of the pride and dominant males press him to move on, and he will soon have to try make it out there on his own. Kito’s second daughter has been given the official name Naserian.

The Marsh Pride Kenya

Marsh Pride youngsters Naserian, Enkerai and Oleku – photo credit Felix Rome

The Paradise Pride has been seen multiple times this month, mostly around the Main Crossing point. They have two young cubs which are around five months old and under the constant watchful eye of the females.

Paradise pride Masai Mara Kenya

Paradise Pride female with cub – photo credit Felix Rome

This pride is also controlled by the Bila Shaka males who have been dividing their time between them and the Marsh females. They have been feeding on anything they can get, from buffalos to hippos and even the odd warthog, which doesn’t feed everyone, so only a lucky few get to feed when a warthog is caught.

A lioness from the Paradise Pride – photo credit Felix Rome

Birds of the Masai Mara

April is a fantastic time for birdwatching. Many species flock to the Masai Mara for the damper conditions and make the most of the bountiful food options. As the Musiara marsh becomes more saturated, saddle-bill storks, yellow-billed storks and African openbill storks appear in good numbers and can been seen sifting through the water, hoping to snap down on a mud fish or small frog.

The yellow-billed stork can snap its beak shut in 0.025 seconds – photo credit Felix Rome

The Mara River itself, the Musiara Marsh and the central marsh area in front of Little Governors’ Camp, are home to scores of wetland birds such as herons, cormorants, egrets, kingfishers, painted snipes, ducks, geese and crakes.

A little egret grabs a mudfish from the side of the road – photo credit Felix Rome

Long tailed cormorant

A long tailed cormorant, also known as the reed cormorant – photo credit Felix Rome

Male Jackson’s widow birds and male red-collard widow birds are in full plumage, growing a tail nearly 20cm long in order to attract females. Everywhere you look, you can find these birds jumping up and down out of the grass, flaunting their magnificent tails, hoping to attract a mate. The long tail and striking red badge of red-collared widowbirds, act as sexual ornaments during mating displays,

Jackson's widowbird

A Jackson’s widowbird – photo credit Felix Rome

Red-collared widowbird

A red-collared widowbird performs an impressive flight display to attract a female – photo credit Felix Rome

All kinds of kingfishers perch close to the road; previously shallow waters are now deep, forcing them to mix up the location of their hunting grounds. Malachites in particular, are a beautiful bird, displaying vibrant hues of pale and dark blue, malachite green, reddish brown and white patches.

Malachite kingfisher

The malachite kingfisher is largely resident in the Masai Mara – photo credit Felix Rome

Despite being less than 13cm in length, they are very territorial and will aggressively defend their patch of a pond or stretch of a river. They are very efficient hunters and will patiently wait on their chosen perch, keeping a keen eye on the water below, before diving into the water for their prey. Although live fish is their favorite meal, they will also settle for small frogs, insects, snails, slugs and lizards.

Malachite kingfisher

This species has a distinctive malachite crest on the top of its head – Photo credit Felix Rome

Malachite kingfishers can be seen in good numbers right outside Governors’ Camp, hunting in the now saturated grasslands. They are so small that you must have a keen eye, or else, leave it to your driver guide!

Malachite kingfisher

As their name suggests, malachite kingfishers are experts at catching fish – photo credit Felix Rome

If you are interested in witnessing some unique wildlife behavior, birds are the way to go. At this time of year, many species are in breeding plumage which presents some fantastic photo opportunities.

Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for April 2024 is by Felix Rome.  To see other amazing wildlife imagery by Felix, please follow him on Instagram.



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