Game Reports Kenya Masai Mara

Masai Mara weather and wildlife August 2023

The ground in August across much of the Mara remains dry, with only small pockets of showers leaving behind tell-tale pools of rainwater which dry up almost as quickly as they are formed. As the day’s temperatures rise, predators seek shade, elephants collectively make their way to the Marsh and hippos submerge themselves in dense pods in the Mara River.

Photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Herds of wildebeest grunt in conversation amidst the sound of hooves on the hard dusty ground as they beat on in pursuit of the rains, and plumes of dust are left behind vehicles in search of their next big sighting.

Photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Weather and grasslands

Mornings started out cool with the temperature as low as 11° around the middle of the month. However, coats and sweaters are peeled off as the temperatures rise throughout the morning, reaching as high as 34° in afternoons during the final week of the month, while a north-easterly wind regularly whips quickly and harshly over the plains.

Rainfall has been scarce, with just 27mm received over the course of the month and humidity levels averaged out at 50 – 52%. Towards the end of August, the distant skies showed streaks of rainfall and flashes of lightening, but very little reached camp and the surrounding areas. On occasion, there was just enough to dampen the ground.

Photo credit Frankie Adamson 

With the sun rising at approximately 6:39am, there have been multiple opportunities to get out of camp in time to find a subject to photograph in front of the dawn’s frequent dramatic orange and yellow skies. The sun has set behind the Oloololo escarpment at approximately 6:42pm, its celestial rays piercing through the lower-lying cloud before its final descent for the night.

Sunrise Masai Mara

August sunrise in the Masai Mara – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

In the absence of much rain, grass across the dry Topi and Paradise Plains is long and golden, providing copious cover for predators to lurk stealthily beneath it and prey upon the grazers. Shades of green prevail around the remaining wetter areas of the Marsh, where elephants and buffalos can be found seeking the moist, soft vegetation.

On the plains

The big herds of zebras spotted at Main Crossing finished their move into Mara Triangle by the time August swung round. However, some herds remained at Lookout and still continued to cross the Mara River.

Braver zebras who had made the treacherous crossing called their relatives from the Triangle side to join them and often it took hours for the remaining zebras to take the plunge. A lot of nervous looking to-and-fro would ensue before hooves thundered down the steep banks and left the iconic clouds of dust in their wake.

Towards the end of the month, the water levels of the hippo pool near Musiara airstrip have become so low that the hippos have vacated and moved to the Mara River where competition for space is now very high. Lone males have even been spotted basking in the middle of the Marsh as nearby pools of water are just about big enough for one.

Large breeding herds of buffalo are circulating around Paradise Plains with lots of small calves hidden amongst the larger bodies, while groups of elephants make their way across the grasslands in the morning and evening sun. On one morning, these buffalo were seen by Governors’ guides chasing away the lioness Yaya and her grand cubs, who had gotten a little too close for comfort.

In the mid-late afternoons, journeys of giraffe and herds of impala have been regularly spotted by guests, on the edge of the forests surrounding camp. Elephants also chose to remain in the cool forest or the moisture of the Musiara Marsh, due to the intense heat of the day.

Giraffes retire to the riverine forest surrounding our camps during hot afternoons – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

During lunch at Governors’ Camp on August 27th, four elephants were seen lying down sleeping under the shade of a nearby tree. Elephants typically sleep standing up, leaning against the trunk of a tree and will only lie down for relatively short periods of time quite infrequently.

Being so large and heavy means that lying down for too long can cause great complications in terms of restricting blood flow, or potentially causing themselves great injury. The four elephants were thankfully back on their feet after a few hours, albeit a little clumsily, and wandered off to find themselves more food.

The Great Migration

‘Super’ herds of wildebeest have been grazing in the Mara Triangle for the entire month of August, after crossing the Mara River. Alongside zebras and other plains game, this mass movement of grazers brings with it, spectacular viewing opportunities of predators and scavengers. Half-eaten carcasses lay strewn across the grasslands, covered with vultures, marabou storks and hyenas waiting for their opportunities – the cats are clearly taking full advantage of this time of plenty.

Wildebeests spread out across the Mara Triangle – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

River crossings, which were a frequent occurrence in the last week of July, became fewer during the start of August, with the majority of wildebeests having already made it to the Mara Triangle. In light of such dry conditions in the reserve throughout the month of August, a significant proportion of the wildebeests have been settled in the South West of the Triangle just by the Tanzanian border and further reports mention some moving further south and crossing the border as the month draws to a close.

Photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Some large disparate herds can now be found south of Serena in the triangle, as well as loitering on the hillside above Main Crossing. Should wetter conditions return, as forecast this coming week, it is anticipated that the herds might continue their journey north toward the reserve but this remains to be seen.

Big cats of the Masai Mara

Lion prides have been very active this month, with a great deal of coming and going of two of the Bila Shaka males, Koshoke and Kiok, to the Marsh Pride near our camps. These two males are very keen to maintain their presence and have been heard roaring in the early hours frequently from camp.

Kiok bila shaka male

Kiok enjoys a roll in the dust – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Marsh Pride male Halftail was last seen alone with a baby Thomson’s gazelle kill in the Bila Shaka area on August 4th before returning to Mara North Conservancy. How he’ll retain his hold over the pride given the persistent presence of two strong males, is the question on everyone’s mind.

Halftail lion masai mara kenya

Halftail makes a rare appearance in the Bila shaka area – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Koshoke and Kiok are suspected of causing injury to Marsh Pride female Lola’s cub as she was missing for just over a week, after the two males were last seen by Governors’ guides, approaching the pride on August 3rd.

After much concern, the cub was finally spotted again at a short distance from the rest of her pride members, looking sore and hungry on August 11th. Her wounds were treated by a vet from Nairobi, and by August 16th she was looking a bit brighter – observed by camp manager Harrison Nampaso near the entrance to Governors’ Camp.

Just a few days later she was seen properly back with the rest of the Marsh Pride, and was thought to have eaten a good meal evidenced by a very full and round belly. She has been given the name ‘Nusurika’ which, very fittingly, is the Kiswahili word for ‘survived’.

Nusurika the survivor – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

The core Marsh Pride females, Lola, Kaleo, Dada and Kito along with Nusurika, the single remaining sub male and the two sub females, seem to be fully settled back into the Marsh Pride territory these days. There is plenty of prey around and they have successfully taken down many buffalos. Rembo and her two sons were never seen again since they went missing in May 2023 and are sadly presumed dead at this stage – although we are waiting for an official announcement from the Mara Predator Program on this. Please follow Big Cats of Masai Mara for daily updates on all the Mara’s predators.

Lioness Kaleo is the daughter of the late Kabibi – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Lola is the daughter of the late Rembo and her daughter is the young Nusurika – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

On the morning of August 15th, just past Private Camp on the way to Manager’s Crossing, Koshoke and Kiok took down a young hippo and then stayed near the kill for three days. The following morning, Kiok was observed by Governors’ guides dragging the carcass with all his strength from the open spot where it lay, to the bushes nearby while a very full Koshoke slept through it all.

Kiok lion Masai Mara

Kiok uses all his strength and stamina to conceal a young hippo – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

With Koshoke being spotted up near Main Crossing on the morning of 27th August, Kiok remained near our camps, adding further pressure to the Marsh Pride. That same evening, clear tension was apparent amongst the lions as Kiok loomed and regularly attempted to attack the remaining sub-adult male, who was already limping from a suspected altercation earlier in the week.

Rembo’s sub male is the only young male left in the pride – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Being born to a different father, if Koshoke and Kiok continue in their bid to take over the Marsh Pride, it is unfortunately extremely likely that they will continue to exert pressure on the Marsh sub-adult male and Nusurika, in the weeks to come.

Lola and the sub male rest in the Musiara marsh – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

The ‘splinter group’ consisting of lioness Yaya and her grand cubs, Pamoja Mbili and Simba, has been spotted fairly regularly up on Paradise Plains – which is dangerous ground for them considering the proximity of the Paradise Pride, who are spending the majority of their time between the Main and Kaburu crossing points.

Yaya and cubs have been spotted on a few occasions looking ready to hunt and despite their skinnier appearance earlier in the month, were seen with a topi kill. Yaya herself has been carrying a slight limp which  does not appear to be slowing down.

Mama Kali of the Paradise Pride spent several days in courtship with Bila Shaka male Chongo who, unlike his partners Koshoke and Kiok, does not appear to have moved out of the Paradise Pride core territory.

Topi Pride lioness Dunia introduced her four new cubs to the rest of the pride this month, although the Topi Pride members are often now seen separated from one another. The Sala’s males, led by Olepolos, were seen in confrontation with some of the seven sub-adult males recently – an indication that they are now old enough to be considered a threat and should soon be looking for a pride of their own.

Sala’s male Orkitok, still carrying his long-standing limp, was also recently observed in courtship with Topi Pride female Longneck, seemingly uncontested by the other two males.

Orkitok is one third of the famous coalition known as the Salas boys – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Cheetah sightings have been sporadic in the month of August; the female Nagol was spotted around Bila Shaka in July having moved on and seen occasionally around the Topi Plains and Double Crossing. She was spotted last week looking for a meal on the plains below Rhino Ridge – her nervous demeanour perhaps due to her being out in the open in Topi Pride territory.

Cheetah Masai Mara

Nagol the female cheetah was seen at Bila Shaka – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

The Mbili Bora boys, Winda and Olonyok, were sighted a couple of weeks back on the trail of Oloti who had recently been seen making a juvenile impala kill on the reserve side of the river opposite Serena.

Winda cheetah Masai Mara

Winda of the Mbili Bora boys – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Oloti has since reportedly moved south back to the Serengeti, with the Mbili Bora duo back roaming the plains the other side of Rekero. Thank you to Cheetah Enthusiast for identifying each of these individuals for us.

Oloti – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Governors’ Camp manager, Harrison Nampaso, reported a rather remarkable sighting of a male leopard near the carcass of the hippo that was killed by Koshoke and Kiok in mid-August. Both male lions were resting while the leopard crept nearby, seemingly unaware of the lions but then darting quickly down the riverbank and out of harm’s way – when one of the lions stirred.

Birds of the Masai Mara

Several species of vulture have been regularly sighted squabbling over multiple wildebeest carcasses in the Mara Triangle throughout August, including critically endangered white-backed and Rüppell’s vultures as well as endangered lappet-faced vultures, all jostling for the best position to feed.

A feeding frenzy of vultures – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Photographing vultures on a kill can yield some wonderful results, as there are multiple interactions between the individual birds and it’s often possible to get some dramatic action shots of latecomers descending from the skies to join the flock.

These magnificent birds play a critical role in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, cleaning up carcasses and effectively ridding the environment of a whole host of dangerous bacteria. Having extremely acidic stomach acid, vultures are able to effectively digest anthrax and even rabies without causing harm to themselves, ensuring these diseases are not spread to other animals or even people.

Photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Closer to camp, the Musiara Marsh continues to attract a wide range of bird life drawn here for the prevailing wetter conditions and the absence of more seasonal water sources. Hamerkops stalk through the shallow waters and mud looking for their prey, while both malachite and pied kingfishers perch upon blades of grass ready to dive for a meal, and African sacred ibises wade alongside yellow-billed storks in the remaining pools of water.

Two saddle-billed storks have nested in a tree at the side of the road to Little Governors’ Camp, with their two young having recently fledged the nest and seen staying quite close to their parents on the ground nearby.

A saddle-billed stork – photo credit Frankie Adamson 

Saddle-billed storks mate for life and their young leave the nest by around 3-months old, but it is expected that these young will remain in close proximity to their parents for the time being, at least until it’s time for them to breed again.

Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for August 2023 is by Frankie Adamson.  To see other amazing wildlife imagery by Frankie, please follow her on Instagram.

Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.



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