Weather and grasslands
With temperatures slowly dropping in the night and during early mornings, the ‘Kenyan winter’ has slowly but surely arrived. A Kenyan winter can’t be compared with a European winter since temperatures during the day are still reaching about 25℃ and with the sun being out most of the time, the days are definitely warm.
Mornings are cold with dewy grass – photo credit Nick Penny
Nights as well as early mornings are quite chilly at the moment. With temperatures as low as 11℃ at the start of the day, a jacket or a fleece combined with a windbreaker will keep you warm during the first hours of the drive. It is also less humid compared to last month, with an average humidity of around 54% circadian.
A stunning sunrise in June – photo credit Nick Penny
The most beautiful Masai Mara sunrises can be observed at around 06.40am, while mesmerising sunsets are taking place around 6.44pm in the evening. Having a sundowner drink on the edge of a hippo pool or close to the river while watching the sun disappear below the horizon in a truly dramatic way, is an experience on its own and creates everlasting memories.
Our hot air balloon safaris take off at sunrise – photo credit Simon Landolt
With the arrival of winter, we have experienced less rainfall during the month of June. At the beginning of the month, the water level of the Mara River was rather high but with only 58mm of rain reported, the level has dropped again and is now at a midway level.
On the plains
Conditions out on the plains are still optimal for the majority of animals that call the Masai Mara their ‘home’. Marsh areas, pools and waterholes are still filled with plenty of water from the previously wetter months and are visited regularly by different herbivores. Large herds of elephants have been seen in the Musiara Marsh and also further south on Paradise plains.
The Musiara marsh area is a favourite for elephants – photo credit Simon Landolt
Some females are being seen with very small calves not older than a week. The bond between mothers and offspring is very close and can endure for 50 years. Their bond is so strong that even nine-year-old calves are regularly seen within five meters from their mothers.
Photo credit Nick Penny
Some interesting elephant offspring behaviour has been observed by our guides and guests, whereby a young calf was fed not only by its mother, but also by another female from the same herd. This behaviour is not uncommon, but only closely related cows will suckle one another’s calves.
A new born elephant remains close by its mother’s side – photo credit Nick Penny
Big herds of zebras and topi were seen pushing into the Masai Mara National Reserve at the beginning of the month but have now returned to the bordering conservancies. The majority of the smaller antelopes like Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles are found towards Kaboso and the Double-Crossing area, on the way to Talek. This is mainly because of the grass being much shorter there. Large herds of impalas, mostly accompanied by a sizeable troop of olive baboons, were seen in between our Mara camps daily.
Topis in large numbers descended into the Reserve in early June – photo credit Nick Penny
Masai giraffes, the tallest of all the giraffe species, were seen close to our Mara camps on a regular basis in June. They can cover huge distances if they are on the move, in search of food or to join up with other individuals. Giraffes are non-territorial and form loose, open herds.
Mature bulls can be seen roaming together or in small groups – photo credit Nick Penny
They spend around half the day feeding and they are almost exclusively browsers. Fully grown bulls consume a daily average of 66kg and the cows around 58kgs. They mostly feed on tree leaves, flowers, shoots and to a lesser extent, pods, which are stripped off by their articulate 45cm-long tongue and lips. On rare occasions, they also feed on grass, particularly during their early growth stages.
Masai giraffe are one of the most iconic wildlife species in Africa – photo credit Nick Penny
In early June, we were treated to a rare sighting of Nile crocodiles mating in the Mara River. Everything happened quite quickly; a female was sunbathing on a small sandbank as a big male started swimming upstream towards her. Once the male was close by, the female decided to join him in the shallow waters. Males usually attract females by bellowing, blowing water out of their nostrils, slapping their snouts in the water and making a variety of different sounds. The actual copulation stage is rather aggressive, with the male roaring loudly and pinning the female underwater.
Mating crocodiles – photo credit Simon Landolt
After about 10 minutes, the spectacle was over and the male slowly floated down the river while the female headed upstream. It will take the female between one and two months to lay her 16-80 white, hard-shelled eggs, in a hole which she has dug with her hind legs on a suitable warm sand bank, above flood water level, which also has good drainage and nearby cover.
Unless disturbed, she will use the same nest site for the rest of her life. The nest is defended by the mother against predators – the greatest threat being the Nile monitor lizard and other crocodiles. The sex of the hatchlings is dependent on the egg incubation temperature in the nest hole; female crocodiles develop at temperatures of 26 to 30℃ and males at higher temperatures of 31 to 34℃.
Big cats of the Masai Mara
The main grouping of Marsh Pride females that includes Rembo, Kito, Dada and Kaleo (who is Kabibi’s daughter), are currently still in the Mara North Conservancy after leaving the marsh territory in April. The two pride males, Logol and Halftail, have also moved over to MNC although they continue to patrol the marsh by scent marking and calling, which is a good indicator that they have not moved out permanently.
With no reported sightings of Pamoja, who was the adult daughter of famous Marsh Pride female Yaya, we are quite certain that she is no longer roaming the plains of the Masai Mara, sadly. She will be missed a lot by both our guides as well as by our guests; she was a beautiful lioness, a very skilled huntress and a wonderful mother to her cubs.
Yaya watches over the cubs – photo credit Nick Penny
We were initially worried that Yaya would struggle to provide enough food for Pamoja’s two cubs (a male and a female), who are still too young to look after themselves. Luckily, the complete opposite has been the case and the three of them are doing very well.
Yaya and cubs just after a meal – photo credit Moses Manduku
Hunting-wise, Yaya was very successful during the month of June and we found her having taken down a few zebras and some warthogs right at the border with Mara North Conservancy, close to the Musiara Gate. Yaya and the cubs are looking strong and well fed; we feel reassured that she will successfully raise them both into adulthood.
Yaya and cubs enjoy the remains of their zebra kill – photo credit Moses Manduku
During the night of the 2nd June, two lionesses managed to bring down a giraffe calf right outside Governors’ Camp! The two lionesses, Little Red and Amara (Spot’s daughter) are usually rather elusive. Little Red was originally part of the Marsh Pride before her and Spot formed their own grouping.
Little Red with the kill just beside Governors’ Camp – photo credit Simon Landolt
This particular giraffe calf belonged to a group that was often seen around Governors’ Camp. The next morning, our guests didn’t have to go very far at all to see the two lionesses – who were still feeding on the carcass – while at least seven spotted hyenas waited patiently for their turn.
The largest pride of lions in the Masai Mara at present is the Topi Pride. This pride originates from the Marsh Pride and their territory spans Topi Plains, Rhino Ridge and down towards the Double-Crossing.
The 24 individuals, which consists of 14 cubs and 10 females, are indeed a pride to be reckoned with. They regularly take down heavier prey such as a hippo at the end of June, which was most likely injured during a territorial fight. In order to provide food for 14 hungry cubs, the females are constantly searching for opportunities to make a kill, from solitary bull buffalos to elands, topi and even warthogs – they will take whatever they may find.
The Topi Pride – photo credit Simon Landolt
The Paradise Pride is back in the National Reserve, which we are very happy about. They have spent a good amount of time in the Mara Triangle and they are well known for crossing the Mara River occasionally. They don’t accept the river as a natural border for their territory and therefore spend time both in the Reserve as well as in the Triangle.
The Paradise Pride – photo credit Simon Landolt
The pride left the Reserve a couple of months ago with nine cubs and have recently returned with the same cubs now looking, bigger, stronger and very healthy. They were first spotted around the main crossing area, but have since traversed Paradise Plains and the western slopes of rhino ridge. In the afternoon of the 27th June, they were sighted around the Musiara Marsh; with such a large group number they clearly have no reason to feel intimidated or at risk whilst being in another pride’s territory.
The Paradise Pride photographed in the Reserve – photo credit Simon Landolt
We have been blessed with the presence of a cheetah by the name of Oloti. At the beginning of June, he spent about a week between Il Moran and Governors’ Camp. He gave us nice opportunities to observe his behaviour and take some photos. We hadn’t (knowingly) seen this male cheetah in the area before then.
Oloti male cheetah – photo credit Simon Landolt
Thanks to the photos we took, we were able to tell that it definitely wasn’t Ngao, who visited our area a few months ago. With the help of Dr. Elena Chelysheva from the Mara Meru Cheetah Project, we were then able to identify this cheetah as Oloti.
The famous Tatu Bora (ex-Tano Bora) coalition of three male cheetahs, were spotted regularly around the Double-Crossing area where they hunt for zebras, gazelles or topi.
Another solitary male cheetah, ten-year-old Hodari, who is the brother of the well-known female cheetah Imani, has been seen towards Kaboso quite often this month, again kindly identified for us by Dr. Elena Chelysheva of the Mara Meru Cheetah Project.
Hodari male cheetah – photo credit Simon Landolt
We also had some very good leopard sightings for June, mostly of Romi, who can generally be seen around the Little Governors’ river crossing and at the entrance to Il Moran. She was especially generous in June and allowed many guests to photograph her, whilst relaxing on her favourite fallen tree or as she lay relaxing in the middle of the road into camp.
Romi surprises guests on their way into camp – photo credit Nick Penny
Our guests were also lucky to see other leopards further away from our camps while exploring the vastness of the Masai Mara plains. One group of guests spotted a leopard from aboard our hot air balloon safari!
Birds of the Masai Mara
Birdwatching in the Masai Mara has been fantastic as usual. The daily migration of the African openbills coming from the Mara Triangle every morning and heading back to spend the night there, is a spectacular sight.
We are also still monitoring the breeding pair of martial eagles who are sitting on an egg in the core area of the Musiara Marsh. Martial eagles usually produce just one egg; there is only one recorded case where they had two eggs.
The breeding pair of martial eagles – photo credit Simon Landolt
The nest they use is built or repaired by both sexes over a period of two to three weeks. This large platform nest made of sticks can be up to 1.5 metres long and can reach a diameter of up to 2 metres if the nest has been used before. The eagles were first observed mating on the 19th March 2022. If they were successful, the chick has most likely already hatched since the incubation period is approximately 48-53 days. Hopefully we will be able to get a photo of the young chick soon.
The edges of the marsh are filled with black-headed and grey herons, yellow-billed storks and sacred ibises. We had a good sighting of a dark-chanting goshawk with a kill in a tree.
A dark chanting goshawk is a medium sized bird of prey – photo credit Simon Landolt
Our camp bird for the month of June is definitely the double-toothed barbet. It is a large barbet and it has a heavy, ivory-coloured bill and shows yellow bare parts around its eyes. Sightings of this beautifully coloured bird have become quite rare over the last years, but this month we were able to spot them occasionally.
Double-toothed barbets are usually found within the vicinity of fig trees – photo credit Simon Landolt
Other birding highlights from within our Mara camps included a grey cuckooshrike, a bearded woodpecker, long-crested eagles, an African harrier-hawk, Verreaux’s eagle owls and a lizard buzzard perched on top of a Warburgia tree.
The bearded woodpecker has a distinctive black and white head and brownish barred body – photo credit Simon Landolt
A long crested eagle is blackish in color with a towering, floppy crest – photo credit Simon Landolt
The lizard buzzard is mostly seen on an open perch, looking out for lizards, insects, snakes and other small vertebrates – photo credit Simon Landolt
Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for June 2022 was written by Simon Landolt, wildlife guide with Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.