The month of September has been quite spectacular with plenty of action occurring throughout the reserve. The month has been quite unusual weather wise; it has been consistently wet with on and off days of rain throughout the entire month.
Masai giraffe – photo credit Nick Penny
September had a total of 95mm of rain which is much more than expected. On days where there was no rain, temperatures soared to around 30°C in the mid-afternoon with average humidity around 56% – which is quite the increase in temperature from August.
Morning temperatures were around 13/14°C so there is still a chill in the air when leaving for an early morning game drive. On days of rain, it generally came in the early evening. This certainly caused the temperatures to drop and made for quite chilly nights.
Photo credit Nick Penny
Due to the large amount of precipitation throughout September, the Mara River has consistently stayed at a high level for the entire month. As a result, there aren’t many sandbanks or much shore space for Nile crocodiles and hippos to bask.
The Mara River has risen considerably due to recent rains – photo credit Nick Penny
Along the Mara River, sections such as the Main Crossing point now have some notable points with thundering rapids. One family of hippos is still residing in one of the most intense areas of the rapids and it is quite the sight, to see them bobbing up and down in the white water.
The seasonal wetlands of the famous Musiara marsh (home to the Marsh Pride of lions) and the Bila Shaka area, are now starting to retain good amounts of water again which has tempted hippos to return from the river as well as some of the Mara’s wading bird species.
Hippos are returning to shallow pools of water on the open plains – photo credit Nick Penny
Throughout the month we have had some incredibly clear sunrises (around 6:27am) which have made for spectacular viewing when heading out on morning game drives.
Topis stand in silhouette against a Mara sunrise – photo credit Nick Penny
Due to the rains we have had in the early evenings, we have witnessed some beautifully dramatic sunsets (around 6:34pm) with storm clouds that loomed over the expansive grasslands of the reserve.
The sunsets on the Masai Mara – photo credit Nick Penny
The large amount of rain that has fallen this month has caused fresh growth of the grasses across the plains, especially in the ‘marshier’ areas. This is changing the overall look of the savannah from a light golden colour back to a fresher, greener colour.
Many areas have ‘greened up’ after the rain – photo credit Nick Penny
Elephants in particular have been loving this new growth and they have been congregating across the Musiara marsh area in huge numbers daily. On some days we have counted over 100 individuals (in separate family herds), all grazing in and around the marsh.
An elephant with her calf – photo credit Nick Penny
What is great to see, is that many of these breeding herds have several young calves ranging from new-borns to a just few months old. It is very encouraging to realise that the elephant population is increasing and doing so well in the Masai Mara.
Photo credit Nick Penny
Baby animals have been a bit of a theme for the month of September as we have had sightings and reports of many different species with young.
A baby black-backed jackal – photo credit Nick Penny
Young hyenas huddle together for warmth on a cold Mara morning – photo credit Nick Penny
These include a few families of warthogs at Governors’ Camp as well as another larger family that have 13 piglets which can be seen at the river crossing for Little Governors’ Camp.
In the Musiara marsh, there are also some waterbuck with young – which are particularly endearing. Some of our guests did witness a lion attempting to hunt one of these babies in the long reeds and after a dramatic chase, the waterbuck was lucky to escape.
Mother and baby waterbuck on the alert in the Musiara marsh area – photo credit Nick Penny
We also have a couple of very small baby hippos which are living in a stretch of the Mara River, right below some of the Governors’ Camp guest tents. They are spending a lot of time out of the water in the day, exploring their surroundings.
Another exciting report for September is that Romi, our resident leopardess, has possibly had some cubs! The cubs are yet to be seen but the biggest sign we have is that her mammary glands and teats are showing. We hope that we do see some cubs emerging soon. On another note, a serval cat that lives around the Musiara airstrip has had kittens and they have been seen a couple of times in the early evenings.
Romi enjoys a good stretch on one of her favorite fallen trees – photo credit Nick Penny
The rhinos of the Mara Triangle were spotted a handful of times, grazing within the seasonal marsh area in front of Little Governors’ Camp during September. A couple of these sightings took place as some lucky guests enjoyed their lunch on the newly built wooden deck area that overlooks the marsh and on to the Oloololo escarpment.
The herds of the great migration have been spotted fairly regularly in the south of both the National Reserve and the Mara Triangle – especially around the border between Kenya and Tanzania – which they have been consistently crossing all month.
River crossings have been seen most commonly at the ‘Lookout’ area where on drier days, huge clouds of dust can been seen as the wildebeest and zebra storm down the riverbanks to cross the Mara River in large herds.
There’s been plenty of action with the big cats of the Masai Mara this month! The Topi pride continue to be as strong and formidable as ever with numbers in the mid-twenties. Perhaps their most notable moment of the month was when they took two whole days to take down a single buffalo which was trying its best to evade them. Watch video.
They had managed to corner the buffalo within a small pool in the Rhino Ridge area. The lions were quite hesitant to go into the pool to tackle the buffalo as it would have been too dangerous for them attempt that in water. It was very sad to hear that the pride did have one fatality during this saga as an older female known as Winter was flipped by the buffalo and was heavily injured on her right hind leg. She was 14 years old and one of the core members of this pride; sadly, she succumbed to her injuries and died on the 11th September.
The coalition of lions known as the Bila Shaka males, have spent quite a lot of time around our mara camps this month which has made for some wonderful sightings for our guests. Around the middle of the month, they spent over a week on Paradise plains as they killed two large male hippos in around 3 days which is an extraordinary feat.
Kiok, one of the Bila Shaka males – photo credit Nick Penny
It was amazing to see Yaya and her grand cubs cubs joining the males in eating the first hippo to be killed. We can deduce that one of these males is the father of the cubs because if they weren’t, the males would have likely killed the cubs. Our suspicion is that Koshoke sired these cubs as they were seen greeting and being quite intimate with him.
On the morning of the 23rd of September, four of the Bila Shaka males were found walking down the road from the Musiara airstrip, heading directly towards Governors’ Camp. We suspect that in the early hours of that day these males walked past the airstrip and came across the hyena den in the culvert under the road. Unfortunately, we believe they could have killed several of the hyena cubs as we found two bodies and the rest of the clan have not been seen since. The males eventually found their way into Governors’ Camp, found a bush and slept there for the whole day and part of the night before leaving.
Yaya and the cubs have been doing very well this month. As mentioned before, they were feeding on a large male hippo which sustained them for about a week. The cubs are growing very quickly and are becoming more adventurous and playful now.
Yaya is raising her grand cubs, ever since their mother Pamoja, went missing in May this year – photo credit Nick Penny
Some of our guests even saw them practice their hunting skills one morning as they attempted to stalk some fully-grown buffalo, which was perhaps a bit optimistic of them!
Yaya with her grandson Simba and granddaughter who has not been named yet – photo credit Nick Penny
The beautiful leopardess, Romi, whose territory spans in the riverine woodland between all our Mara camps, has been seen fairly regularly this month. A good time to find her is the early evening as she emerges from the dense woodland to scan the surrounding savannah for prey. One evening, some of our guests witnessed her kill a fish eagle, other evenings she was spotted stalking some impala, just as the light was fading.
Romi resting on a tree stump at the entrance to Governors’ Il Moran – photo credit Nick Penny
Late in the month, female cheetah Kisaru, and her cubs (who are over a year old) came into the reserve from Mara North Conservancy. They are currently spending a lot of time around Mara camps.
Kisaru looking out for a prey opportunity – photo credit Nick Penny
Kisaru is well known to the reserve and has been a visitor for many years. On their first evening in the reserve, guests saw her kill a baby impala just around 100 metres from Governors’ Camp!
One of Kisaru’s cubs – photo credit Nick Penny
With the wetter conditions this month, the seasonal wetland areas around the mara camps have started to fill up. This has made for some great conditions for wading birds. There is a large pool in the Bila Shaka area which, when deep enough, can host tens of hippos. However, as it is only partially full now, it is a haven for wading birds and is currently hosting a multitude of species such as spoonbills, black-winged stilts, yellow-billed storks, sacred ibises, common sandpipers and African jacanas – just to name a few. This particular area is truly a birder’s paradise at the moment.
A yellow-billed stork is a large African wading stork, more tied to wetland areas than other stork species – photo credit Felix Rome
The Masai Mara hosts many migratory bird species between October and February each year. Some migrant species such as barn swallows and house martins have just arrived to the grassland areas of the Reserve after spending the last few months breeding in the northern hemisphere. You are most likely to see these birds as moving vehicles disturb the insects into the air and both the swallows and the house martins are there to catch them. A lovely thing to watch on a game drive!
The iconic secretary bird is the tallest raptor in the world, found on the Mara’s open savannah areas – photo credit Nick Penny
The Masai ostrich is a sub-species of the common ostrich and is endemic to East Africa – photo credit Nick Penny
Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for September 2022 was written by Nick Penny, resident photographer for Governors’ Camp Collection. To see other amazing wildlife imagery by Nick, please follow him on Instagram.
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