Weather and grasslands
Throughout the month of May, the weather in the Masai Mara was fairly unpredictable. While it was dry and sunny at the very beginning of the month, we also had some heavy rains for at least 3 days around the 10th of the month. Total rainfall for May 2021 was 76mm and an average humidity of around 75%.
Photo credit Felix Rome
The heavy rains, especially in and around the Mau Escarpment, have caused the water level of the Mara River to rise quite high; a much higher level than it was in March and April. There are plenty of hippos enjoying the remaining sandbanks and huge crocodiles can be seen from Governors’ Il Moran Camp’s lovely sundeck.
Photo credits Simon Landolt
Due to the rains and the overall wet conditions, game driving in the Masai Mara National Reserve has been a bit of a struggle in some areas, but, with the weather getting warmer and drier in recent days, the roads are becoming more accessible again.
The marsh areas, the hippo pools and all the murram pits are still filled with water – perfect for aquatic animals like hippos, nile monitors and lots of different water birds. The grass is getting shorter, especially close to the Mara North Conservancy in regions like Kaboso, Double Crossing or the windmill area, but in most other parts of the Reserve it remains tall.
On the plains
Plains game species such as Thomson’s gazelles, common zebras, Eland and Topi are pushing further into the Reserve. Big herds of Topi, of around 200 individuals, were seen moving towards Topi Plains and Rhino Ridge. Giraffes and elephants have been ever present in the open plains opposite to Governor’s Camp and around the seasonal marsh in front of Little Governors’ Camp.
Thompson’s gazelle – photo credit Felix Rome
Massive breeding herds of Cape buffalo are constantly on the move as well and are struggling against the hungry prides of lions like the Topi Pride or the famous Marsh Pride of lions. Hyenas can be seen in large clans, sniffing and wandering around; we watched them take down several young buffalos with ease.
Large buffalo herds – photo credit Felix Rome
Spotted hyenas, one of the most successful carnivores in Africa – photo credit Simon Landolt
The biggest congregations of Impalas can be found around the Musiara marsh area at this time. We usually observe three distinct social groups among the impalas: Female breeding herds, territorial males and bachelor herds. Female breeding herds can vary in size from 6 to 100 individuals, consisting of several adult females and their offspring.
Rams (adult male impalas) will separate out harem herds of up to 20 females, and their accompanying young, for mating. Territorial males hold territories, which are actively demarcated and defended and where they may form harems of females, for reproduction purposes.
Bachelor herds are usually smaller than breeding herds, consisting of less than 30 males in different age groups. A lot of sparring goes on inside the group, to determine who the strongest male is, and who may therefore have a chance to take over a harem in future. Bachelor herds tend to occupy areas away from both the territorial males and the breeding herds of females.
Impalas are considered to be Africa’s most successful antelope. They live in ecotones, which is a transition area between two biological communities. As mixed feeders, they are able to inhabit a diverse range of habitats; they are very adaptable and their diet can vary depending on the area and the season.
Impalas – photo credit Felix Rome
We had a fantastic sighting of a young male Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) on the access road of Governor’s Il Moran Camp. This shy and predominantly nocturnal antelope is pretty rare to see so it was a very pleasant moment for all of us.
On the 8th May, passengers aboard Governors’ Balloon Safaris were treated to an incredibly rare sighting of an African rock python slowly devouring a waterbuck. Spotted a long way ahead in the distance by our pilots, David and Mervin, it was our fortune that the balloon was headed in that direction and the Governors’ resident photographer, Felix Rome, managed to capture an excellent sequence of shots just as the balloon glided over the scene.
A python spotted from Governors’ Balloon Safaris – photo credits Felix Rome
Big Cats of the Masai Mara
At the beginning of May, the Paradise Pride of lions was observed daily. Accompanied by their nine cubs, they looked very relaxed, healthy and most importantly, very well fed.
Paradise Pride cubs – photo credit Felix Rome
In August 2020, four females of this pride gave birth to 10 cubs but recently we have only been able to identify nine. The Paradise Pride is mostly known to hunt buffalos and warthogs.
Paradise Pride females – photo credits Felix Rome
The Topi Pride of lions was active as well in May; we witnessed several mating episodes take place which we hope will result in new cubs over the next few months. We will monitor the proceedings and will keep you updated on this.
Topi Pride – photo credits Simon Landolt
Yaya and her daughter Pamoja, both members of the famous Marsh pride of lions, were seen seen together quite often during the month of May. Pamoja looked pregnant and has possibly given birth in the middle of the month. We haven’t seen any signs of cubs but her belly suddenly went back to normal and her teats looked like she could possibly be lactating. We will try to confirm our assumptions and hope we can deliver positive news in early June.
Yaya and Pamoja – photo credits Simon Landolt
Marsh male Doa – photo credit Felix Rome
We had some stunning leopard sightings in May. Kaboso and her male offspring were seen with a kill, up in a tree in the Kaboso area. They caught a male Thomson’s gazelle during the night and were busy feeding when we arrived in the early morning hours. Her male cub, who is around one year old, is fairly shy and definitely not used to vehicles and human presence. Kaboso, who is considered to be the queen of the Masai Mara’s leopards, was absolutely relaxed. She kindly gave us several wonderful photographic opportunities while she was enjoying her meal.
Kaboso leopard with her kill – photo credits Simon Landolt
We were also lucky to spot another well-known leopard, Romi, together with her daughter , relaxing in the forested area surrounding Governor’s Camp and on the access road towards the Little Governor’s Camp boat crossing. Romi, whose territory spans across the riverine woodlands throughout all the Governors’ Mara camps, has three cubs.
Romi – photo credit Felix Rome
Serval cats are still active and often seen around Musiara marsh area which is teeming with frogs, insects and small rodents, as well as around Topi plains. We received information that one female serval has given birth recently, so we will hopefully get a chance to see the kittens soon.
Serval with frog – photo credit Simon Landolt
Birds of the Masai Mara
Birds are still abundant in the Mara, although the palearctic migrants have already started their journey towards their summer habitats in Europe, Asia and North Africa and some of them have already arrived.
Grey crowned cranes in the Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
We’ve had several sightings of both adult and immature Marial eagles, as well as Verreaux’s eagle owls perched high in tall trees inside the riverine forest next to Musiara Marsh and around the Kaboso area. A special sighting of an African wood owl is one of the birding highlights inside a camp of Governors’s Camp Collection.
Martial eagle – photo credit Simon Landolt
Verreaux’s eagle owl – photo credit Simon Landolt
Fortunately, we have seen many long-crested eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis) during the month of May. The feathers on the back of their head, which are elongated into a long, floppy crest make those eagles easy to identify. This bird is usually found solitary or in pairs and often perches noticeably on trees, poles or fence posts. I am quite sure that some individuals have a few favoured perches since I almost always see them on the same trees.
A long-crested eagle – photo credit Felix Rome
The long-crested eagle is a supreme rodent hunter and hunts mostly during early mornings and late afternoons. They are primarily perch-hunters and they will typically wait 5-10 minutes on their perch, before finally gliding to open ground with their wings raised at the moment of the strike. An absolutely iconic species and it is definitely worth taking some beautiful photographs of this very unique bird of prey, if you have the chance.
Long-crested eagles battle it out – photo credit Felix Rome
Masai Mara weather and wildlife for May 2021 is written by Simon Landolt, guiding intern with Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.
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