Weather and grasslands
Days in the Masai Mara started rather cool at around 15℃ and midday temperatures have averaged at around 27℃. At the beginning of January it was clear days, blue skies and the grasslands were pretty dry, but with some heavy rains towards the end of the month, the Mara is now looking very green again.
Early January – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Humidity has been fluctuating between 25 – 35% during the day and between 60 to 80% at night. A total of 147mm of rainfall was recorded for the month of January.
In the reserve itself, wind conditions were very consistent, from around 8 km/h to 15 km/h.The sun currently rises at 6:47am and sets at 6:57pm in the evening. Classic Mara sunsets have been admired and photographed by our guests during the whole month of January.
It is so impressive how quickly things change in the Mara. The Mara River had been at a very low level until the 30th of January, when an unbelievable amount (66mm) was recorded on the 31st, bringing the river back up to a fairly high level in just one day. This indicates not only heavy rains in the Masai Mara itself, but also a decent amount of rain on the Mau Escarpment, where the river originates from. We could see many dead trees floating downstream as a sign of the increasing power of the river.
The difference of a day: Mara River level on the 30th January
The Mara River on the 31st January
Hippos, especially dominant males, were in an ongoing competition fighting to hold their territories at the beginning of the month, but this will slowly flatten out with the rising river.
Hippos in front of Governors’ Camp – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Since the water level has been so low in the first weeks of the month, bird lovers were able to observe a great variety of small wading birds such as Three-banded plovers, Common greenshanks, Common sandpipers and many others, taking advantage of the muddy sandbanks in search of food. With the rains we’ve had during the last days of the month, frogs have begun to be quite active in camp and they are definitely in their element with all the new water bodies. The calls of the Bubbling Kassina, Banded rubber frogs or the common reed frogs are very peaceful and with a bit of luck and patience, we are able to spot them in the water between all the blades of grass or even on top of a floating leaf.
We are generally quite happy about the recent rainfalls for a lot of reasons. Dusty patches with almost no vegetation now have the chance to revitalise themselves. This process starts when a plant community establishes itself on bare soil. This plant community is known as the pioneer community. Pioneer plants usually consist of annual grasses and herbs adapted to growth during favourable periods like we are having now, after the rains. The pioneer vegetation covers the soil, protecting it against the sun and wind. These improved conditions lead the way for the establishment of the subclimax and the climax communities. The subclimax communities form an intermediate stage between the pioneer and the climax stages and create the perfect growing conditions for the climax community, which represents the final (or climax) stage of this so-called plant succession process. So, quite favourable conditions for new plants to grow which will also affect the wildlife in the area directly.
On the plains
Elephant herds are visiting the Musiara Marsh almost daily to feed on soft green grass and to cool down in one of the waterholes during the hottest times of the day. Our guests were also lucky to see elephants passing through each of the Governors’ Mara camps. Some of these giants could not help stealing some of the beautiful flowers from the pots situated at the reception of Governors’ Il Moran Camp. There is also a very good number of giraffes crossing the river from the Mara Triangle on a daily basis, and these elegant creatures can also be observed in the Musiara Marsh area during the day.
Photo credit Patrick Reynolds
The large herd of Cape buffalo wandering the plains of Bila Shaka are still present and are moving between Musiara airstrip, Bila Shaka, Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Members of the Marsh Pride of Lions were able to take down an ageing buffalo bull. The older, more solitary bulls are particularly vulnerable to lions. Since they are no longer protected by the whole herd, it is much easier for a pride of lions to take down even the largest of individuals.
These so-called ‘daggaboys’ (meaning mud-boys) are often found in small groups and they mostly stay in marshy areas where there is a good supply of soft green grass, because their teeth are wearing down with age. Cape buffalos are bulk grazers and very water dependent, meaning they must drink every day – which is another reason as to why we usually find these groups of older bulls in watered areas, such as swamps.
Daggaboys – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
The location of the rutting Topi seems to have changed from the Topi Plains to Musiara Marsh. At the end of January, our guides together with our guests witnessed massive movements of Topi towards this area with lots of action. We are eager to see how it will develop in February and we will of course keep you updated on that as well.
Other Antelope species such as Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle are in good numbers and can best be observed on the short grass plains. The number of our zebras is quite low inside the National Reserve, most of them have moved off towards the Mara Conservancies. Every now and then, there are smaller groups of resident wildebeest wandering the plains, many of the resident ones have as well joined the zebras on their journey towards the conservancies.
Big cats of the Masai Mara
Marsh Pride females Dada, Kito, Rembo and Rembo’s daughter (who is heavily pregnant and about to have cubs any minute) are very doing well at the moment. They are ever-present in the Musiara Marsh area and will often be seen relaxing with the two dominant males, Halftail and Logol. At the beginning of the month, there were only four adult females in this particular grouping, but we are happy that they accepted Kabibi’s daughter into the pride very recently; therefore they are now five female adults and five cubs.
Halftail and young cub – photo credit Moses Manduku
Rembo’s young cubs are looking very very well – full of energy and mischief; these two cubs have been co-raised by Dada who is shown below allowing them to tackle her. Rembo’s daughter (from a previous litter) has transitioned from ‘sub adult’ to adult status now – she is heavily pregnant and we are looking forward to seeing the new cubs any day now.
Dada with one of Rembo’s young cubs – photo credit Moses Manduku
Rembo’s cubs tackle each other – photo credit Moses Manduku
Some sad news for the Marsh Pride: ‘Spot’ who was sister to ‘Little Red’ and daughter to ‘Siena’ was reported dead by Mara Predator Conservation Programe on the morning of 29th January. Her body was found in the early morning hours, in the Topi Pride territory, with deep lacerations in her back, following what looks to have been – a fatal attack by other lions. For the past few months, Spot, her daughter and Little Red could be seen around the Rhino Ridge area, where they have been seen on occasion mating with some of the Topi Pride males.
The Paradise Pride were spotted around Private Camp in recent days, but they then moved back towards Paradise Plains and have now again crossed the Mara River and are currently spending some time in the Mara Triangle. They are still together with their nine very healthy and well-fed cubs. The Paradise females once again proved to be not only fantastic hunters but also superb mothers; the future of this pride looks very bright at the moment.
Yaya and her adult daughter Pamoja are also still together with their two cubs. They have been spotted in the west Marsh, where we watched them take down an old buffalo bull.
Yaya – photo credit Moses Manduku
Pamoja’s two cubs on the lookout – photo credit Moses Manduku
The resident female leopard in the Governors’ concession area is Romi; she has been spotted several times throughout the month, always on the move and covering the riverine forests between our Mara camps. She tends to come out of the forest during the afternoon to spend some time in the Marsh areas in front of Governors’ Il Moran Camp.
Romi – photos by our guest Neeraj Krishnan
Great news of the female leopard, Kaboso; she has been seen several times with her new cub, which is extremely playful. Kaboso is a very patient mother and our guests were lucky to spend some quality time watching them. We hope she will be as successful with raising another cub in the future.
An unknown, solitary male cheetah has been seen several times wandering from Topi Plains all the way down to Governors’ Camp. We are trying to find out which cheetah he is and where he came from – we will keep you updated on that during February.
On the morning of the 25th of January, we received some sad news. The body of a male cheetah was found and most likely that the dead cheetah is ‘Olpadan’, who was the former fifth member of the original five male coalition of cheetah brothers (not by blood) previously known as ‘Tano Bora’, now known as ‘Nne Bora’. Our partners at Mara-Meru Cheetah Project are in the process of investigating Olpadan’s death and once we know more, we shall include the update in our February report.
Birds of the Masai Mara
Birdlife has been great this month with good numbers of Palearctic and intra-African migrants. Palearctic migrants (mainly from Europe), such as the European bee-eater, Steppe eagle or pallid harriers. Fantastic bird watching opportunities are also given inside our camps – especially for shy forest species like the Narina trogon or the Ross’s and Schalow’s turaco.
A beautiful and shy Narina trogon – photo credit Simon Landolt
African olive Pigeon – photo credit Simon Landolt
The Schalow’s turaco is an impressive bird, with a green crest up to 100mm long, that is pointed with a white tip above and a blackish inner border. They are usually only ever heard calling from a distance or out of an inaccessible forest, but here at our three Mara camps (especially Governors’ Camp), your chances of getting a good sighting of these birds is quite high. They are frugivores (fruit eaters) and can be observed foraging in tree canopies and understory. Flexible mandible tissues allow the bird to swallow fruits up to 30mm in diameter, even though the breadth of their gape (fleshy area at the base of the bill where the upper and lower mandibles meet) measures only about 13mm.
Schalow’s Turaco – photo credit Simon Landolt
A lot of patience as well as keen eyes are needed, in order to spot one of these beauties between branches and leaves.
Meyer’s (or brown) parrot – photo credit Simon Landolt
Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for January 2022 was written by Simon Landolt, wildlife guide with Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.