Weather and grasslands
Another beautiful month in the Masai Mara! Weather wise it has been quite consistent with only a little rainfall, except for a downpour on the 18th, which brought in 28mm of rain that day. Total rainfall of the month of September was 98.8mm. The overall humidity was rather high this September, with an average of around 70%, however it was less humid in the early morning hours – and as usual – most humid during the afternoon hours.
September sky – photo credit Will Fortescue
Temperatures during the night sometimes dropped down to 13 ℃, before rising higher during the afternoon, when temperatures rose up to 27 ℃. With this huge difference, it is definitely advisable to wear a few more layers during the morning game drive, so that you are able to remove them quickly after your bush breakfast – just as temperatures are rising quickly.
A newborn giraffe remains close by its mother’s side – photo credit Will Fortescue
The Mara River level is still quite low; hippos and Nile crocodiles are often observed basking on the sandbanks below either Governors’ Camp, Governors’ Il Moran or Private Camp.
Nile crocodiles prey on wildebeest crossing the river
On the plains
Breeding herds of African savanna elephants, usually followed by some big bulls, had frequently been observed in the wet areas in and around Musiara Marsh (watch video). They are hugely present on the open plains and will often pass directly through our camps (watch video)
A breeding herd of elephants moves past the Musiara Marsh – photo credit Will Fortescue
As all our Mara properties are unfenced and situated in favourable areas for the largest living land animal, visits are not unusual but rather frequent and unforgettable.
An elephant passes through Governors’ Camp – photo credit Harrison Nampaso
The Great Migration is still in full swing; big herds can be seen roaming the plains of the Maasai Mara with some dramatic river crossings taking place at Kichwa crossing point and further south.
Great Migration river crossing of both zebras and wildebeests.
Large aggregations of herbivores, consisting of western white-bearded gnu (Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi) which is a subspecies of the ‘blue wildebeest’, plains zebra (Equus quagga), members of the Bovidae family like Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle and even common eland, can be found in dense numbers – especially in the Mara Triangle and in the southern parts of the Maasai Mara.
Wildebeest herds scattered on the open plains with Governors’ Balloon Safaris coming in for landing – photo credits Alisa Karstad
The common eland is the world’s second largest antelope species, being slightly smaller than the giant eland, whose populations are highly fragmented. The common eland formerly occurred throughout the savannahs and savanna woodlands of eastern, central and southern Africa but has become extinct in many areas and highly reduced in others. They are still being found in major conservation areas with Namibia and Tanzania having the largest herds.
Common elands as seen from Governors’ Balloon Safaris.
Common elands are mainly browsers, meaning they will predominantly feed on woody plants such as shrubs and prefer leaves, soft shoots or bark, but will also graze on green grass. They will also actively dig for bulbs, tubers and roots and occasionally eat wild fruits. Despite their size, they would easily be capable of jumping over a game-viewing vehicle. The eland is considered to be one of the slowest antelope, with a peak speed of 40 kilometres per hour.
A bull eland grazing on the Mara’s plains.
Big herds of herbivores usually means higher chances for the predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs as well as hyenas, to stave off hunger. The Marsh Pride of lions are ever present in the Musiara Marsh – their core territory for most of the year – and the surrounding areas.
The Marsh Pride of lions – photo credit Will Fortescue.
Cheetah sighting in September – photo credit Will Fortescue.
The soft grass and the cooling waters of the marsh area attract prey species like Cape buffalo, plains zebra and more, to spend time feeding or relaxing in the marsh – and that definitely plays into the pride’s hands. The formidable buffalo huntresses of the Paradise Pride of lions and their offspring are also well fed since a range of prey is readily available in their territory too.
Buffalo enjoying the drizzle – photo credit Will Fortescue
The Masai Mara’s birds of prey
After any of these predators are done with their meal, it becomes the turn of ‘Nature’s clean-up crew, that is the vultures. Vultures are scavengers, meaning they feed on ‘carrion’ (dead animals). Often regarded as nature’s very own biological recycling team, vultures play an ecologically vital role in a healthy ecosystem by clearing away carcasses and are likely to help limit disease transmission.
Mainly white-backed and a couple of rüppells vultures clean up a carcass
Their stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest rotten carcasses infected with anthrax, hog cholera and other diseases or bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers, or could be transmitted to other organisms and remove these from the environment. Sadly, vultures are one of the most vital groups of birds and they are vanishing at alarming rates. They are facing many threats like poisoning, loss of habitat, persecution, electrocution and many others.
The Rüppells vulture is the world’s highest-flying bird
In just 30 years, more than half of the Vulture population in the Maasai Mara has vanished. Over the same period of time, vulture numbers in West Africa have declined by 95% outside protected areas. Today, over 75% of old-world vultures are slipping towards extinction. Currently, six species of Vultures can be found in the Maasai Mara:
Governor’s Camp Collection recently went into a partnership with the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, in order to support their important efforts of researching, protecting and restoring raptor populations in Kenya. This great organisation can serve as a model for the whole continent in order to prevent the extinction of these very important birds.
A juvenile martial eagle seen from one of our balloons – photo credit Alisa Karstad
A white-headed vulture spotted from one of our balloons – photo credit Alisa Karstad
We recently welcomed two of their directors, Shiv Kapila and Stratton Hatfield to Little Governors’ Camp for presentations with our guides and they very grateful for the opportunity to observe nest sites from the air, aboard Governors’ Balloon Safaris. You can read more on this new partnership between Governors and the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, in our September community and conservation blog. If you would like to support their work, feel free to check out the website of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust and the Mara Raptor Project.
Stratton and Shiv from the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, take to the skies with our balloons, to locate and identify different kinds of raptors and any nests.
Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for September 2021 is written by Simon Landolt, guiding intern with Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.
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