Some people might argue that May is not an ideal time to visit the Masai Mara due to rainfall and stormy skies, however, we at Governors’ beg to differ.
May in the Masai Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
April and May combine to form Kenya’s long rainy season, with April traditionally receiving more rainfall out of the two. Many of our guests are surprised to find the Masai Mara is much colder and wetter than they had anticipated; indeed, an altitude of between 1,480 – 2,280 meters means that this safari destination maintains pleasantly warm days with much cooler nights year-round.
Photo credit Felix Rome
If you are considering visiting us in May it is a good idea to keep an open mind, be prepared for rainy weather and pack accordingly. There are many advantages to travelling during this month; prices are lower, fewer visitors, abundant wildlife and you have more chances of seeing the big cats before the grass is even longer by migration season.
See the Marsh Pride while on safari with us – photo credit Felix Rome
You can also observe great birding during May; both inter-African and Eurasian migrants are still around, stocking up before their respective journeys home.
For May 2023, we received a total of 41 mm which is the expected amount of rain during this time of year. Mornings were usually clear with good visibility while stormy skies were brewing on most of our late afternoon game drives. The sun rose at approximately 06:36 and set at 18:39 each day.
Mornings were mostly clear with blue skies – photo credit Felix Rome
The darker the clouds the better, for our resident photographer who was based in the Mara during May. Wildlife is often illuminated beautifully by a sliver of light peeking through the heavy skyline above, while silhouettes provide the perfect subject for a dramatic scene.
A topi stands in silhouette against the escarpment – photo credit Felix Rome
Out on the open plains, the grass levels are especially high with antelope species such as hartebeests, topis and gazelles finding it easier to hide from the cats. With the red oat grass in seed, there’s a soft red tinge to the savannah – the wildebeest will eat down these grasses between the months of July – mid October.
Hartebeests are nearly shoulder-height to the ever increasing grass levels – photo credit Felix Rome
The Musiara marsh is very green at the moment and is a magnet for elephants passing through in large numbers. Each day they can be seen coming out of the forest that surrounds our camps, heading directly for the wetland area without wasting any time. There are so many baby elephants which are becoming harder to see in the longer grasses and high reeds.
Male lion ‘Chongo’ keeps an eye on a large herd in the distance – photo credit Felix Rome
It has been wonderful noting several huge solitary bulls on different days throughout May. They are impressive in so many ways but mostly their calmness and quietude versus their alarming size and potential for commotion, is what leaves us all in awe.
A large bull gives himself a dust bath – photo credit Felix Rome
The massive herd of buffalos that one can find within a few minutes of leaving camp, are enjoying the wet weather and the many shallow pools, wedging themselves in the thick mud and laying there almost invisible, without moving a muscle.
On the 8th of May we spotted a black rhino calf in the Mara Triangle and although its mother was out of sight, we could tell she was lying down beside it. The photo below shows just how long the grass has become in the triangle.
Servals are one of the lesser known predators in the Mara – in fact, the majority of our guests are always surprised to learn that such an exquisite mammal exists. We saw them regularly in May, in the grasslands between our line of camps and on the open plains.
A serval is well camouflaged and hidden amongst the long golden grass – photo credit Felix Rome
With most of our guides taking their ‘long leave’ during the month of May, we have received fewer updates than usual on the Marsh Pride of Lions. That being said, our resident photographer, Felix Rome, got plenty of exclusive time with them and captured some really beautiful moments.
One of the young males from the Marsh Pride – photo credit Felix Rome
The pride is currently split in two with dominant male Halftail, lionesses Kaleo, Lola and Dada, Lola’s young cub, Kito’s two sub-adult daughters and one of Rembo’s sub-adult sons forming the larger group. The second group consists of adult females Rembo and Kito and two of Rembo’s sub-adult sons. On the 29th May at 8am, the Marsh Pride killed a buffalo and Kito appeared on the scene to eat with them.
Marsh Pride female Lola is closely followed by her cub – photo credit Felix Rome
We are not sure why the ‘breakaway’ group have taken off and left the others but it seems that they keeping heading back into Mara North Conservancy, while the first group remains around their original home of the marsh territory. It may be that Rembo’s sons are feeling the pressure from Halftail and perhaps this is their mother’s way of looking out for them just a little longer.
Dominant male Halftail is the current keeper of the Marsh Pride – photo credit Felix Rome
Once the young males are ready to leave the territory and form a brotherly coalition, Rembo could return to the core pride. Halftail may have decided to tolerate just one of the young males, realising that having this sub-adult male around provides a little extra protection.
We spent plenty of time with some of the Bila shaka males in May; Kibogoyo, Kiok, Koshoke and Chongo have all been spending more and more time in the Musiara marsh as well as at Bila shaka itself. There was an incident involving these males and one of Rembo’s subs but thankfully, he has healed well.
Chongo shows his frustration at the ever present flies of the Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
Bila shaka males Kibogoyo and Koshoke – photo credit Felix Rome
The Paradise Pride and River Pride (also known as the Kichwa Tembo Pride) are both doing well with many happy sightings of both. The Topi Pride female known as Princess is still raising her two cubs, one male and one female.
Fun and games for the Paradise Pride during May – photo credit Felix Rome
Topi Pride lioness known as Princess and her sweet little cub – photo credit Felix Rome
We can never say enough about the birding opportunities of the Mara. Each month is fantastic and would certainly be a highlight of the safari for any keen birders.
Within our camp grounds we saw the usual forest-dwelling species throughout May – these birds are more of a permanent fixture and always a delight to see. Such species include African blue flycatchers, violet-backed starlings, green pigeons, turacos and trogons.
An African blue flycatcher at Governors’ Camp – photo credit Felix Rome
Out on the plains we saw all kinds of birds of prey; the black-chested snake eagle can almost always be found perched high on a branch overlooking the grasslands for snakes, lizards, frogs, small savannah birds and even beetles, grasshoppers and termites.
A mature black-chested snake eagle and a juvenile of the same species below – photo credit Felix Rome
Red-collared widowbirds were seen in the grasslands in decent numbers throughout May. They can easily be identified via a very distinctive bright red collar and long tail when males are in full breeding plumage.
A male red-collared widowbird – photo credit Felix Rome
We had an incredible moment watching a flock of around fifteen grey-crowned cranes interacting with each other in the marsh one day. You would normally spot them in pairs or even on their own and since they are classified as endangered, it was really special to find so many altogether.
A magnificent sighting of grey crowned cranes in the Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
The Masai Mara is one of the best places to find ground hornbills – indeed their preferred habitat is grasslands. They are the largest of two species of ground hornbills and they will hunt for insects and small animals on the ground. If you come across one of these remarkable birds during your game drive, it is well worth stopping the car to observe their unique hunting skills and get some shots.
A Southern ground hornbill is an iconic bird of the Masai Mara – photo credit Felix Rome
Striped swallows, yellow-throated and rosy-breasted longclaws were some of the smaller, more frequently seen birds on the plains during May.
Yellow-throated longclaws are passerine birds, which means they like to stand or perch – photo credit Felix Rome
The rosy-throated longclaw – photo credit Felix Rome
Water birds were out in full force for the month with many being found within the saturated Musiara marsh and along the banks of the Mara River. The marsh in front of Little Governors’ Camp is a great place in particular to spot grey herons as they look for catfish in the shallow pockets of water and the deep footprints of hippos.
A grey heron in flight past Little Governors’ Camp – photo credit Felix Rome
There are seven species of kingfishers and the most commonly seen ones in the Masai Mara are possibly the woodland and grey-headed kingfishers, however, bring your binoculars along and you will find others varieties such as the pied and malachite kingfishers balanced on a branch overhanging the fast-flowing waters of the Mara River.
A great shot of a pied kingfisher with his lunch – photo credit Felix Rome
Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for May 2023 is by Jessica Savage, while all images have been supplied by Felix Rome. To see other amazing wildlife imagery by Felix, please follow him on Instagram.
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