Weather and grasslands
We’ve had a lovely month weather-wise; it has been quite consistent with almost no rainfall at all. Total rainfall for the month of July was 23 mm and the average humidity was about 70%; we found it to be less humid after lunchtime and in the afternoon hours, with its peak during the early morning hours. The wind often picked up in the afternoon but all within reason.
Photo credit Felix Rome
The temperature dropped considerably during the night and came down as far as 13 ℃ at around 6am each the morning. Temperatures in the afternoon climbed to around 20 ℃ although perceived a lot warmer, especially directly in the sun.
Sunrise in the Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
The sun rose each day at around 06:40am and had set at 6.45pm. We had clear skies in the morning and early afternoon, with some beautiful soft clouds in the late afternoon – perfect for taking epic landscape photographs with hundreds of different colour tones.
Sunset in the Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
The Mara River level is fairly low at the moment making it easy to spot hippos and crocodiles, either in the water or basking on a sandbank. The grass is going down constantly allowing bigger herds of plains zebra and Topi to push further and further into the National Reserve. In some places, the grass is so short that we can now find some bigger aggregations of Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle.
On the plains
Elephants are still visiting the seasonal Musiara marsh frequently; this famous marsh area lies directly ahead of the Governors’ line of Mara camps. There is still enough water and the soft grass makes it an ideal place for very old elephants who are struggling with hard food.
Ageing elephants prefer the soft grasses of the marsh – photo credit Simon Landolt
Did you know that African savanna elephants replace their sets of teeth four to six times in their lifetime? One set will last for approximately ten years and at an age of 40-60 years, they lose their last set and will most likely die of starvation, which is a very common cause of death in elephants. Softer grass, usually found in wet areas like a marsh, helps them prolong their last set of teeth and provides much needed nourishment in their old age.
The Great Migration
We are very excited to be experiencing the Great Migration once again. This event is a year-round, circular journey through Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and back, with large herds of western white-bearded gnus (approx. 1.2 million), accompanied by large herds of plains zebra (approx. 300,000) and smaller herds of gazelles, Topi and Impalas on the continuous search of food. The Serengeti receives the majority of the migration, but the most spectacular sightings are of the dramatic river crossings on the Mara River.
Migration scenes from 24th July – photo credit Simon Landolt
Our guests have already witnessed some action-packed crossings of both zebras and wildebeests. Earlier on in July, the really big herds were still in the Serengeti but right at the border to the Reserve and since then, they have made their way to the various river crossing points within the Mara.
At the time of compiling this report, crossings had taken place at Sand River, Mara Bridge and Lookout. There had been no major crossings at the Main Crossing point, which is below Mara Serena Lodge, but with the big herds pushing further up north every day, we are expecting them to arrive soon. Our guests were able to head off early with a packed breakfast and lunch, for a full day out in anticipation of wildebeest crossing the river and they definitely were not disappointed.
Big Cats of the Masai Mara
We are so excited to update you on the newest offspring of the Marsh Pride of lions. Rembo’s three cubs are still doing well. They are very playful and Rembo’s female companion Dada has been seen helping to raise and protect the young cubs. Often seen with them are the current Marsh males, Logol and Halftail – the latter of whom we think is the father of the cubs.
Rembo, Dada and the cubs – photo credit Simon Landolt
Dada carrying one of Rembo’s cubs – photo credit Simon Landolt
They are feeding on zebras and even buffalo, that can be found in and around the marsh area. The cubs and all the other members of this pride are looking healthy and very well fed. With the arrival of the big herds of herbivores into the Maasai Mara, and the sudden abundance of extra prey, we are hoping for the best for the future months.
Photo credit Moses Manduku
Marsh Pride lioness Pamoja and her three little cubs are on the right track as well. They are usually seen around the ‘manager’s crossing point’ towards Paradise Plains; the cubs love to play together in the early morning hours while the temperatures are still low.
Pamoja and her cubs – photo credit Felix Rome
These cubs are also in great form, with Pamoja receiving occasional support from her mother, Yaya, who has been featured in a number of wildlife documentaries.
Pamoja’s playful cubs – photo credit Simon Landolt
We have noticed that Pamoja tends to hide her cubs in a dense croton bush during the afternoon, before teaming up with Yaya to hunt later in the day. Late afternoon is their preferred hunting time rather than during the night as there are many hyaenas on the alert. Pamoja is well aware of the hyenas and their nocturnal activity, therefore she instinctively avoids leaving her cubs alone during the night, when they could become easy prey for the hyenas.
Photo credit Simon Landolt
The Paradise Pride of lions is as successful as always. On the 27th July, in the early morning, they killed a big bull buffalo, what our guides like to call a ‘Daggaboy’, near the main crossing point.
Solitary male buffalo – photo credit Felix Rome
The Paradise females are well feared ‘buffalo huntresses’; often taking down this type of animal since they have nine hungry mouths to feed. The nine cubs take great delight in their feeding sessions and sometimes it would seem as though they could devour an entire buffalo to themselves. Watch the video HERE.
Paradise females and cubs – photo credit Felix Rome
July was another excellent month for elusive cat sightings – with more Serval cats often surprising us with fleeting appearances as they jump for prey in the long grass.
Serval sighting – photo credit Simon Landolt
Leopards were seen almost daily in the Mara Triangle and in the Maasai Mara National Reserve; a group of our guests were lucky enough to watch a leopard kill snatch a young wildebeest just as a large herd crossed the Mara River. The hidden leopard shot out of the bush, grabbed the unsuspecting yearling and immediately suffocated it, before turning around and quickly dragging it into the thicket.
Another exceptional sighting was the one of a big male leopard sitting on top of a massive Hamerkop nest, also in the Mara Triangle. He had hidden a young wildebeest, which he might have killed the night before, up in his sausage tree and we found him, relaxed with a very full belly, resting on top of the nest.
Photo credit Simon Landolt
Kaboso the leopard queen and her young cub were seen frequently in July too. Known to be totally comfortable with cars, our guests often had a close-up encounters with her as she moved past at an exceptionally close distance. She is a superb huntress and will occasionally attempt to hunt during the day.
Kaboso leopard – Simon Landolt
She takes a wide variety of prey species, from gazelles to warthogs and Impalas. Even young zebras, wildebeest and Topi have to watch out for her.
Kaboso stalking prey – Simon Landolt
With the grass getting shorter in the Reserve, cheetahs were seen more often during the month of July. Being dependent on their acceleration and top speed, they prefer short grass areas with good visibility and with patches of small bushes or termite mounds to hide. We watched a cheetah family, a female and her three cubs, finish up a freshly hunted Thomson’s gazelle in just 25 minutes (watch the video HERE).
Photo credits Simon Landolt
Cheetahs are quite low in the predator hierarchy and they often lose their kill to lions, leopards or hyenas – which is why they eat very quickly, often on high alert. They are always very cautious not to open up any innards; these parts carry a strong smell and will quickly attract other predators, especially hyenas.
We observed a solitary male cheetah who lost his Thomson’s gazelle to a single hyena who just happened to be passing by. As soon as he saw the hyena approaching, he frantically tore a few more bites from the carcass before running away, knowing that he wouldn’t stand a chance against the more powerful competitor. Cheetahs can’t afford getting injured in a fight as solitary males rely on their ability to hunt every two to five days.
Birds of the Masai Mara
The Masai Mara is a birding hotspot and July certainly did not disappoint; a wide variety of species can be observed from any of our camps. From the very shy and elusive Narina Trogon, to the particularly vocal Meyer’s Parrots and antsy Schalow’s and Ross’s Turacos – to rarer beauties like Double-toothed Barbets and the most recently seen violet-backed starlings – our camps are considered to be a birder’s paradise.
Olive pigeon at Governor’s Camp – photo credit Simon Landolt
Long crested eagle – photo credit Simon Landolt
A series of sightings of the western-banded snake eagles (Circaetus cinerascens) just outside of Governor’s Camp, were most fascinating. During lunchtime, our guests watched in awe as one of these majestic raptors, who had been perched on a dead Warburgia tree, suddenly shot to the ground, snatching a snake and then circling back to its tree to swallow its prey.
The western banded snake eagle – photo credit Simon Landolt
With a wingspan of only about 1.2 meters, this raptor’s flight is direct and rapid with shallow wing-beats, and it rarely flies very far. With its grey-brownish plumage and piercing yellow eyes, one never gets tired of either observing this bird of prey through binoculars or trying to get some crisp images with a camera.
Masai Mara weather and wildlife for July 2021 is written by Simon Landolt, guiding intern with Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.
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