Giraffe Manor Named Top Family Hotel in Africa & The Middle East by Travel & Leisure
The annual ‘World’s Best 50’ awards are voted for by Travel & Leisure’s readers and are highly respected within the travel industry. Giraffe Manor has been recognized for its unique guest experience and incredible popularity with families. The award reflects the hotel’s personal approach, family run ethos and strong ethical principles that are central to all four Safari Collection properties.
Tanya and Mikey Carr Hartley, owners of The Safari Collection said; ‘We are delighted that Giraffe Manor has been recognised by Travel & Leisure’s readers as the best family hotel in Africa & Middle East. Our team is passionate about ensuring families have a stress-free and memorable experience when they stay with us. We organize exciting itineraries of family-friendly activities for our guests, including a number of local Kenyan attractions. The highlight of course for everyone’s stay is always meal time when families come together to feed the resident giraffes from their window!’
Owned by Kenyans Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley, Giraffe Manor is located on the outskirts of Nairobi and is home to a sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. The boutique hotel is one of Nairobi’s most iconic buildings dating back to the 1930s and is reminiscent of the early days of Europeans in East Africa. The herd of Rothschild Giraffe greet guests in the mornings and evenings, thrilling both adults and children as they poke their long necks through the windows searching for snacks before venturing out in their sanctuary.
With its informal atmosphere and ten beautifully appointed rooms, each with their own distinct personality, Giraffe Manor is one of the most popular places to stay in the country.
It’s cloudy early morning with clear skies mid-morning. You have to dress warm for early morning game-drives. We provide our guests with Maasai shukas (blankets) on game-drives.
28c at midday
25c after sunset
The migrating wildebeest and zebras have been crossing to the west of the Mara following rain along Oloololo Escarpment and the Olare Orok Conservancy in the north. There has been a lot of up and down movement for the rains have not been even and locally distributed.
Another large herd from south of the Mara is streaming in from north Serengeti through Sand River. Led by a herd of zebras, they get in to the Mara where the grass is heavily over grazed by the earlier migrating herds.
The first lot is at Talek River behind Mara Explorer crossing. The zebras are in the lead while the wildebeest follow.
Their area of interest is between Rekero and Rhino Ridge. It’s a valley that stretches to Paradise Crossing. It’s the last place to visit on the migration route. It is the only place that is supporting herds of buffalo at the moment, for it is green, has water springs and pools.
The Double Cross pride is starving at the moment for the wildebeest and zebras have moved to the marsh after crossing Mara River in the west.
Barnoti and Oloolpapit, who have not yet acquired a pride are scavenging for food from the hyenas. They have a lot of claw cuts and bites on their bodies that show they have been fighting for survival.
Notch’s boys have expanded their territorial boundaries far south over looking Sand River. The four brothers are still together looking healthy.
The Ridge male is at Double Crossing, either at Topi plain or Olkiombo plain depending on prey availability.
What a day - both for me and, perhaps even more so, for a selection of guests staying with us at the moment.
Things started extremely well with an awesome morning drive - the sole request from the guests as we set off was "lions - lots of lions", and we got exactly that and then some...! A particularly special episode, which was ongoing throughout pretty much our entire drive, revolved around the breakaway lioness with her four cubs - one of the cubs strayed a little too close to the edge of the small island she's currently hiding them on, and fell into the water... somehow it managed to swim across the seasonal river and climb out the other side! Eventually, after a fair amount of nervous consideration, the lioness decided to cross the river herself and move her cub to a different, thicker bush... She then seemed to have decided that she deserved a bit of alone time, and proceeded to slowly lick all the dirty water from each of her legs - seems to have her priorities sorted out...!
On arrival back at camp I caught up with a group of our (particularly active this morning) resident banded mongooses, getting down low with them and, after only 5 minutes, having them completely ignore me and wander up to within around 50cm of me - SO close, in fact, that I couldn't even get my camera to focus on them with my long lens attached...!
I retired to my tent for a bit to go through the morning's photos, only to realise later on that I had managed to miss yet ANOTHER crossing right in front of the main are...!! Sooner or later my luck, as far as crossings are concerned, has GOT to pick up... but for the moment at least, if you're keen to see a crossing, just go wherever I'm not and you should be in luck...! Following that I decided to turn things around and stay at the main area and wait - sure enough, my luck continued where it left off and nothing showed up until AFTER supper, all of five minutes after I had walked away from the river bank, when the rest of this morning's herd decided their time was up...! And as if that wasn't all enough - at supper I was met with the news that a few cars out on this afternoon's drive (let's not forget - that's drive that was happening while I was waiting in the main area to see my first crossing...!) had been treated to, quite simply, THE most intense, dramatic, and altogether unbelievable crossing that has been seen in a while - wildebeest hurling themselves 11m into the water, crocs capitalizing on the resultant broken bones, lions making nine (NINE...!!!) kills as the 'successful' wildebeest emerged on the other side of the river, and on top of all of that a leopard sitting in a nearby tree just observing, not entirely sure of where to look as the chaos unfolded in front of him...!! To say I'm a bit jealous would be the understatement of the year... Photos and a write-up from a guest that was lucky enough to be there are on their way, so watch this space!
Wildebeest cross the Mara River in front of Governors’ Camp
On Friday afternoon the wildebeest migration came to Governors Camp when around 2000 wildebeest gathered on the banks of the Mara River took the plunge and crossed the river just below the bar deck. Guests arriving in camp were treated to this spectacular sighting all from the comfort of the bar deck.
New residents at Mara Bush Camp. The cutest Dwarf Mangoose family found a new home.
A group of Dwarf mongooses have established their home at Mara Bush Camp. The Dwarf Mongoose is the smallest African mongoose. These little and cute animals are very useful as they feeds on insects, snakes, lizards, birds, rodents, fruit and eggs. They live in groups of 2 - 20 individuals and consist of a dominant pair, their offspring and several sub-ordinate males and females. The dominant female is the leader of the group while the male often observes their surroundings for signs of a threat. A mutual relationship has evolved between dwarf mongooses and hornbills, in which hornbills seek out the mongooses in order for the two species to forage together, and to warn each other of nearby raptors and other predators.w Residents at Mara Bush Camp.
The annual migration has started to stream in ! This is a very early start to the migration this year and one that we cannot recall from ever happening so early. We have had the priviledge of seeing large herds of Zebra and Wildebeest from across the Loita Hills streaming into the reserve. The herds have crossed the Talek river swiftly and have already reached our Ol Kiombo Area where Mara Bush Camp is located.
The first herds have crossed Sand River from the Serengeti and will meet the Loita Herds soon inside the reserve. The development last year was also rather unusual as we had a very long migration well into early December in the Mara. Hence, we expected that the migration this year would not start before mid /end of July. Mother Nature has its own plans and we were surprised by this early turn out of wildebeest. Also the number of animals that seems to comprise of the Loita Herds is much larger than ever before.
A large number of Big Cats is following the herds and exciting hunting scences can be expected this season. If you have not yet booked your holiday this year to Kenya, there is still a chance to witness this amazing spectacle. Fantastic last minute offers are available until mid July.
We still have some free tents through some periods this season on both our camps and would be very happy to tailor make a special safari for you to experience the Great Migration ! Mara Bush Camp & Little Mara Bush Camp look forward to spoiling you !
All our guests that are booked already, have a wonderful safari and a memorable stay with us !
New cubs for Marsh Pride of Lions
Exciting news to report, there are new cubs for the Marsh Pride of lions. We have known for some time that lioness Musiara was pregnant and then she began to isolate herself from the pride, all normal behaviour for an expectant lioness. Yesterday she killed a zebra together with lioness Sila, she then left the kill and went to fetch her cubs, on the way back to the kill she jumped over a pool of water in the marsh and the cubs had to jump in and swim across. They made it all back safe and mum Musiara led them to the kill, where the cubs licked the meat, they are too young yet to feed on it. The cubs are around a month old and there are two of them.
Photos and update courtesy of Moses Manduku, Governors Camp Head Guide.
Zebras cross Mara River at Governors Camp
A small crossing of zebras in front of the bar area at Governors Camp yesterday afternoon. Guests were sitting on the deck when about 15 zebra made their way across the treacherous Mara river to join the rest of their herd on the other side. I am happy to announce zero fatalities although it was quite a struggle for some of the individuals to make it up the steep bank on the other side of the river. Their normal way out was blocked by a sizable crocodile which none of them wanted to bypass. With a bit of encouragement from the rest of the herd, they all made it to safety. Photos courtesy of Nelis Wolmarans Governors Camp Manager.
Wildebeest Migration Update
Can you hear the sound of a million galloping hooves? The first herds of the wildebeest migration have arrived in the Masai Mara. Yesterday large numbers of Wildebeest were seen crossing the Talek River and were coming from the Burangat side for the Mara and were then moving towards to the Double crossing area. The Talek River is quite low at the moment and we even had a report of a lioness taking down a wildebeest as it crossed the Talek River. There are also many resident Wildebeest within the Musiara, Bila Shaka and the Mara north conservancies in Masai land. Photos are courtesy of Governors Il Moran Camp Guest Andy Wigg.
Game report Masai Mara
Weather and grasslands
The Mara received very little rain during April this year and May rainfall patterns were not much different to last year. Only pockets of rain and these showers were localised within the Masai Mara environs. April we received 29.5 mm (April 2013-267mm and 2012-337mm) and May was 102.9 mm (May 2013-57.5mm). These months are supposed to be the rainy season when we should get high monthly rainfall. Often there were overcast mornings ending in hot and humid days, although the last few days of May morning temperatures had dropped pleasantly. On the 31st in the evening we received a deluge of 44 mm more than we have received in six weeks. Early morning temperatures average at 15°C and midday 31°C
The marsh water levels have receded drastically with the centre channel holding surface water while water flow below the culvert has dried up, with only pockets of shallow water in certain deep channels. The Mara River since March has receded considerably with little sediment coming down.
The Warbugia ugandenis trees drooped very little fruit this year and probably due to poor rainfall. Grass levels became very short and were shortened even more when the resident Zebra in early May and Gnus in the later weeks of May moved in.
An estimated 1,000 gnus in three herds crossed the sand river in the latter weeks of May, since heavy down pours of rain near the border on the sand river on the 27th many of them had crossed back again. Large herds of resident common Zebra are within the Trans Mara and in the Musiara areas of Topi plains, Rhino ridge and towards the double crossing.
Game viewing has still been very rewarding despite the dry and dusty conditions. Elephant in family units and with young calves have been moving back and forth between the Trans Mara and the Musiara marsh. There is one specific family unit of six family members with two very young calves and a large matriarch they are always appear to be making their way from the riverine woodlands to the Marsh at midday then often at night they visit the camps. Midday seemed like good times to see them moving towards and being in the Marsh. Two large bull elephant have been seen within the Marsh and riverine woodlands of which one of them is in musth.
Resident zebra had moved into the Musiara and Bila Shaka grasslands since the early week of May they had come down from the north east Masai conservation areas. Large numbers accelerated in mid-month with many of them crossing the Mara River at the Kichwa Tembo rocky crossing on the Mara River. Latterly crossings were seen again at Paradise at the main crossing points, on the 24th an estimated 200 zebra crossed with two being taken by crocodile, since the water level is low these zebra must have been caught in deeper pools. Good numbers of resident wildebeest have been in the Musiara and Bila Shaka area since mid-May and have been moving back and forth between the North Masai conservation areas and the Musiara Marsh. On the 28th we received 24mm of rain and this pattern moved all the Gnus and Zebra south to the Eastern Rhino ridge flank and to the Southern grasslands of Topi plains. On the 31st we had an even heavier deluge of 44mm, within 24 hours the resident wildebeest and zebra were seen trickling back into the Bila Shaka and Musiara grasslands.
The large Cape Buffalo herd is within the Bila Shaka, and Eastern Marsh areas where the individual males in small bachelor groups are in the west grassland plains or close by to the camps. The Marsh pride have taken three cow buffalo and one calf that were caught in the west Marsh and Bila Shaka.
A small breeding herd of eland approximately 54 animals and Defassa Waterbuck are permanent residents within the Marsh there are also good numbers of Impala and Olive baboons, with the dry time progressing the feeding habits of the Olive Baboons start earlier in the morning and they will travel further out of their normal feeding areas while foraging. Two Impala ewes have given birth within the Marsh this May, there are a few young fawns within these breeding herds. There are many Topi within the Marsh grasslands latterly many of them were seen going back and forth between Bila Shaka and the Marsh.
Bat eared foxes are being seen on Rhino Ridge and also on the south bank of the Bila Shaka. Black Baked Jackals are more commonly being seen on the short grass plains, now with everywhere else competing these small omnivorous canids are being seen readily.
Two male Black Rhino are being seen in the Paradise area, towards the crossing points at Paradise there are good numbers of Thomson Gazelles and Grants Gazelles, Impala and scattered herds of Topi and Cokes Hartebeest. Large Nile crocodiles like dormantly on the beaches of the Mara river with some large individuals all patiently waiting for the ‘Gnu’ movement to increase in volume.
There are Hippos in pods all along the river bends particularly where there are deeper stretches of water, many Hippo will come out earlier and will also be seen coming back to water later in the day, this is an indication of poor grass levels so their foraging habits alter and they go out further and for longer searching for food.
Masai Giraffe are spread out across the Musiara and Masai conservation areas, small breeding and bachelor herds of Giraffe will be seen within the riverine woodlands between the camps. Large solitary males who often darken in age will wander great distances looking for oestrus females, while other younger males can recognize these large dominant males and will give them a wide birth if not then it’s a confrontation challenge while sparring with their long necks known as ‘necking’. It is interesting to note that the skin underneath the darkened areas may serve as windows for thermoregulation, being sites for complex blood vessel systems and with large sweat glands. Similar to that of the stripped Equids each individual giraffe has a unique coat pattern. The skin of a giraffe is mostly gray.
On the 31st two side striped jackals a dog and bitch were seen again on the east fan of Rhino ridge and still they were both quite shy. There are not many of these species in this area of Musiara so this was a treat to see them. The Side-striped Jackal's skull is similar to that of the Black-backed Jackal's, but is flatter, with a longer and narrower rostrum or upper and lower jaw. The sagittal crest which is a ridge of bone running lengthwise along the midline of the top of the skull (which in turn supports the temporal muscles for chewing) and zygomatic arches or cheek bone are also slimmer in build. With this the dentition of the side striped jackal is perhaps more suited to an omnivorous diet. Also noted are the carnassials of side striped jackals which are smaller than those of the more carnivorous black-backed jackal.
On the 1st June in the early evening a martial eagle was seen taking a Grant’s gazelle fawn. While the Martial eagle was holding the fawn down the mother and a few other close by females literally ran toward the eagle which firstly tried to take off and perhaps found that the gazelle a little heavy, it dropped that idea and kept holding the gazelle, the mother gazelle made a more concerted effort where by the Martial eagle let go and flew off and the fawn was rejoined with its mother.
Sienna the lioness a core member of the marsh pride was hooked by a bull cape buffalo in the early hours of the 5th April below the marsh culvert. She was treated and stitched that late morning by the Kenya Wildlife service’s vet and with the help of the David Sheldrick wildlife trust who promptly organised for the aircraft to be dispatched at 1.30pm that day.
She was darted and re-stitched again on the 14th of April, on the 30th of April she was darted again, inoculated with an antibiotic and the wound was cleaned and treated. There have been other subsequent check-ups in May. She is looking much better although she does lick her wound clean which gives a raw looking appearance.
Marsh pride of 27 lion altogether, 8 sub adult comprising six lionesses and two males Red and Tatu, they are all of varying age groups with five at 18 months and three of them at 21 months of age, Bibi, Siena, charm and the four musketeers.
Siena has her three cub’s two females and a male who are five months old now are all being seen mainly in the Bila Shaka and north Marsh regions, since the 26th May they are now in the Bila Shaka and airstrip grasslands. They have been feeding off the resident Zebra and Gnus, two Buffalo cows have also been taken and one calf that was on the east marsh verges. All whilst the treatment of Sienna was taking part these cubs did suffer a little but the powers of healing in large cats is astounding.
Scar and Morani seemed to be about most of the time while Sikio and Hunter moved between the paradise areas and Bila Shaka.
Of the five breakaways Lippy has been nursing and looking after four cubs of which three are 8 months old cubs and one cub is 4 months old that was the offspring of Jicho. Musiara, Sila and Kini are all part of the marsh breakaways and with Siena and her pride of cubs and sub-adults being in the Marsh area the breakaways moved to the east side of the Marsh and also hunted in the north Masai conservation area. In April 15th a day after when Sienna was being treated and stitched again she introduced her cubs to the breakaways and this all went down very well, sadly this short introduction was clearly short lived and within 24 hours they had all moved apart almost to opposite ends of the Marsh.
Lippy and Kini with the four cubs were seen on the 29th near Lake Nakuru which has given them space again since the core pride left the marsh environs for the Bila Shaka area a few days ago.
In the late hours of the 31st or early hours of the 1st June a male lion was seen on the early morning game drive at 7.00am, it showed that he had a torn scrotum, we all are suggesting that he had a fracas with Jicho and the other two lionesses who were also at the scene on the remains of a dead Wildebeest. Jicho is limping when she was seen walking off towards the Bila Shaka. Kini and Lippy were also there and with four cubs of which the youngest cub is that of Jicho, if this is the case then altruistic behaviour was not shown and this lion was not accepted by the pride females. Our guides called in the injury to Park Rangers and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation, who together with Kenya Wildlife Services mobilised their Sky Vets who flew to the Mara, we collected them on arrival and took them to the male who they promptly treated for his wounds.
The Ridge/Topi plains pride of 4 breeding females and to include Madomo and 3 sub adults who are 17 months old were seen again in the evening of the 31st near Kries lugga, the sub-adult male is favouring his left front leg and limping he is also looking thin for a lion at this time of year. In the early months of May they on the top east flank of Rhino ridge, they were hunting warthog and each time the pigs went to ground. These sub-adults were born in June 2012 in this depression the guides call Kries lugga.
The paradise females who are three lionesses and their four cubs, two of which are 15 months old and the two are 20 months old. This pride in early April was being seen in the Paradise area of the Mara River near the main crossing points, recently more so in the latter weeks of May where they have been feeding off the resident Zebra that have crossed here and also the many Warthog who at this time of the year will help supplement the resident lion’s diet. Two of the marsh musketeers namely Sikio and Hunter have been down here many times on the latter half of this month, even Scar was being seen near the Paradise area although much of his time is in the Marsh environs.
Moja the now 3½ year old male a BBC film star was seen on the 31st May under the Fig tree where this lion cub and along with his mother Nyota were being filmed during the big cat live of March/April 2011. He is a nice looking male and unscathed he stays very much on the Rhino ridge top plains.
Romi the mother of the 19 month old male cub is still being seen near the BBC camp site and towards the Little Governors crossing. The male cub was last seen near the BBC camp site on the 30th at 6.00pm. In mid-April near IL Moran camp whereby he had an Impala up a Warbugia tree earlier in the morning and then Romi was seen on the remains that evening. Romi has been seen latterly this month as well. The male cub was seen twice in May and a fleeting glimpse in April.
Another male has been seen near the paradise crossing points in early May, it was at that this time in May that there were four leopard sightings in one day and this was when guests were taking game drives into the trans Mara conservancy.
The large older male is often seen near the double crossing, in the late morning of the 28th he was seen downstream of the Ngiatiak river.
A female cheetah in May was being seen near Topi plains and also near the double crossing. In early May three cheetah a female and two sub-adults were seen near the lookout hill area of the Trans Mara. A young male estimated at three years old was seen near the northern area of the Masai conservation area.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
There have been no walks for the months of April and May. Many Zebra and Wildebeest were through here is April and end of this month they moved west into the Mara reserve. Elephant herds go back and forth from the reserve and conservation areas for the Acacia woodlands that they prefer when grass levels are short.
Ol Donyo Lodge
Guide James and Lion Tracker Lenka discussing the route through the Chyulu Hills to the collared lion Nemasi
April’s word has to be lions! The sightings have been amazing with so much Lion activity……… Nemesi has been consistently seen with her 3 cubs who are growing rapidly and seem to be doing extremely well and absolutely loving their home in the Chyulus. We are able to track the prides movements using our Maasai tracker Lenka and a special tracking antenna which responds to Nemasi’s collar when she is near. The guests get to experience tracking in the vehicle but also on foot and see first-hand what is involved with protecting and observing these magnificent creatures.
A unique look at Nemasi’s collar. This is how we are able to track this pride and are able to share this incredibly raw and unique experience with our guests.
Easter was fantastic, and what could be a better way to spend the morning then to spoil our guests with a Bush Breaksfast. Now a bush breakfast is already an amazing experience under the umbrella of an acacia tree with Kilimanjaro as a back drop but just as one of our guests was riding in after a morning horse ride, Annie, the stables manager spotted 2 cheetahs just lazily lounging under a tree within viewing distance of the breakfast table! They were so relaxed and were seemingly just as interested in the horse riders as the horse riders were in them. It was a great start to Bush Breakfast.
Our waiters Douglas and Isaac waiting patiently to surprise the guests with Mimosa’s ….. little did they know as the picture was being taken there were 2 cheetah just a stone’s throw away wanting to be a part of the celebration, too.
Finally towards the end of April we had some heavy and well needed rains across the plains which is not only a spectacular sight from the lodge but also a huge help to the animals that roam the plains. The rains allow the animals to traverse the area without worry of going thirsty, many of our animals can be seen in large groupings slowly making their way to Tsavo or Amboseli national parks in order to breed or graze in green pastures.
An elephant enjoys one of lush lakes and green pastures of Amboseli over the rainy season.
This for us is an excellent time for our guests to explore a little further afield as well and we can treat our guests to longer game drives into the areas where the animals are enjoying themselves. One of the most beautiful areas this time of year is Amboseli and it is under a 2 hour game drive from the lodge to the main gate.
Although the park covers only 392 sq km, despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem the park supports a wide range of mammals, well over 50 of the larger species and over 400 species of birds.
A beautiful Grey Crown Crain can be one of the many species of birds found in this area.
Amboseli National Park is one of the best areas near the lodge for photography thanks to the abundant wildlife all under the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro and at this time of year it has a decent dusting of snow, and the mountain is consistently clear making any photo with an animal in the foreground that much more dramatic. Amboseli has a large number of elephants and some of the biggest breeding herds around, it is breath-taking to watch the elephants, water buffalo and hippos just go about their day as if you didn’t exist, wallowing in the mug or lazily wandering through one of the many swamps. These swamps and springs are fed by underground rivers which are fed by the melting snows of Kilimanjaro and they form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. The park’s best game drives are around these swamps and there is a fantastic lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the park and beyond, one of our favourite spots to serve up a delicious picnic lunch consisting of ever changing items, this month we had items such as individual fennel and butternut squash quiche, grilled brie and eggplant chutney sandwiches, Tikka chicken skewers with Harissa yogurt dip and for dessert spiced Jamaican Banana bread with dark rum buttercream!
Imagine, picnicking whilst watching the hippos on the plains!
Amboseli and the Imbirikani group ranch on which the lodge is situated conjur up images from the words written by Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark Manyatta, rolling hills which at this time of year are a lush emerald green, easing out onto golden savannahs of waving grass and wildlife.
Bride Veronica with our ol Donyo staff members (left) Mwangi and (right) Jackson to help celebrate their special day.
Once again we were privileged enough to be invited to a traditional Maasai wedding this past month by one of our staff members, Veronica. All of us at ol Donyo would like to end our April newsletter by congratulating her and her new husband Dan- who just happens to be a guide at our sister camp, Mara Plains in the Masai Mara. …..What a perfect match, indeed!
Congratulations Veronica and Dan!
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu – Concern for Mother Nature
Samburu children in northern Kenya know a lot about wildlife because they live in a wild country amongst wild animals while herding livestock like goats, sheep and cows. They have to learn as much as possible about the reptiles, birds and mammals in order to survive – or keep safe.
As they grow older, these children avoid big game and grow up hating – or being wary of lions, leopards, buffalo, elephant and cheetah.
Some children are so afraid of wild animals that they have never seen predators up –close and alive. The only ones they have seen are those killed for killing livestock.
Now, Lion Kids Camp and Kenyan Kids on Safari are working together to change these children’s perception of wild animals.
Lion Kids Camp is another project by Dr Shivani Bhalla, founder and director of Ewaso Lions to engage local communities in conservation. Kenya’s lion population has crashed from 20,000 two decades ago to 2,000 today – mostly due to increasing human populations and a growing demand for space – which brings lions in direct conflict with pastoral communities when their livestock is killed. Kenyan Kids on Safari was founded by Todd Cromwell from the UK when he realized that not many local children have the opportunity to visit wildlife parks despite living close to them.
Ewaso Lions strongly believes that these children are future wildlife custodians and teaching them the problems of the dwindling wildlife may help change their perception and come up with solutions to save Kenya’s wild heritage.
Ewaso Lions Projects
a) Ewaso lion guides
b) Lion Kids Camp
c) Mama Simba
d) Warrior watch
Lion Kids Camp
In April, Ewaso Lions organized the second Lion Kids Camp at Westgate Conservancy bordering Samburu National Reserve. 35 local children from the area spent four days camping in the conservancy, learning about wildlife conservation and enjoying exciting game drives.
This was a life changing experience for the children. ‘Our evaluation shows that the children’s views on wildlife improve significantly after the Camp. At the end of the four-day program, all the children responded that they would be very sad if there were no lions in Samburu.”
Shivani Bhalla is inspiration to all Kenyan kids to conserve wildlife.
Heritage Hotels Supports Kids Safaris
Lion Kids Camp and Kenya Kids on Safari collaborate with Heritage Hotels, supported by our guests. Ewaso Lions and Samburu Intrepids Camp (Heritage Hotels) have to date taken more than 220 children on game drives in Samburu National Reserve. For many children, it is their first time in Samburu National Reserve.
Shivani has announced a marathon for the lions on 3rd May 2014 in Samburu to create awareness on the importance of lions to nomadic people.
By Steve Tilas Lekango, Naturalist at Samburu Intrepids Camp
Leopard cub – Mara Toto
On the 15th of February, after having been watching, and waiting for two months we had the first ever sighting of the Leopard cub belonging to the leopardess who has been a regular around Mara Plains and Toto for the last 5 months.
On the morning of the 15th, guests out with the morning drives from Mara Toto found the mother and cub on the edge of the plain not more than a kilometer from the camp. As they watched the leopardess picked up her cub and carried a few hundred meters it into the riverine thicket. Here she nursed her little one before getting up and moving back onto the plains in the light of the rising sun. Her cub, not need ing to be told jumped into the bush and disappeared.
On the evening of the 16th they were found again as the two played in the dark on the top of the riverbank.
Finally on the evening of the 17th of February, after a patient wait of over an hour we were finally rewarded with the first sight of the little one’s face as it curiously peered out at us from the safety of the tangled roots of its secret home. For a few seconds the little eyes, still slightly grey watched us before retreating and becoming one of the shadows in its home.
We wish this little one and its mother the best of luck and we hope to be able to send regular updates of the life of this little one as (hopefully) it grows up and follows in the paw marks of its mother.
This February has been a dry month in which we have watched the red-oat grass drop it’s seeds, thin-out and turn from green to brown. The temperatures have passed 30C on more occasions than not, and the wildebeest have had their calves, the first on the 4th Feb the most recent on the 3rd March. This collective calving (ensuring a maximum survival rate) is considered one of the best times to witness the migratory cycles of these beests. The majority of this happens on the short grass plains of the Serengeti thought we still have our resident populations here who not only have more chance of becoming a statistic, due to the fewer numbers of fawns, but they also have to deal with the reality of being born into one of the highest predator density areas in Africa.
Writing this report now after having had a truly spectacular day here in the conservancy we can really only guess that the 36 hours of rain which the area was lucky enough to get about ten days ago is the reason why we have had a huge influx of plains wildlife moving into the central conservancy from Motorogi to the north. Groupings of over one hundred topi seem to have lead the way, followed by multiple families of zebra and now close to two thousand head of wildebeest with more to come on the plateau above the gorge.
This day started with Amani the cheetah being found above the rocky crossing. Then her three ‘cubs’ were spotted on the boundary of the new grazing area where they proceeded to kill a young topi and stuff themselves to maximum capacity (it is said that cheetah can eat 30% of their own body weight in half an hour!). Then a lioness from the elusive Eseketa pride (a branch of the core Moniko pride) was found with a wildebeest kill on the road onto the Olkuroto plains. A big family of elephant are currently moving through the Motorogi river valley; Fig the Leopard is digesting (again) on the river line behind Olare; and the Enkoyeni pride (never to be outdone) killed a wildebeest last night, and at 2:45pm had a another successful go at the 2000 wildebeest that decided to cross the Ntiakitaik River above deep crossing. It must be said they are looking very healthy.
On the same note of the Enkoyeni pride, some of you may have followed the thread of the Enkoyeni lion who was injured after his attempt to raid a Maasai boma. Well, he is still looking well and not limping despite having removed the stitches from both his wounds in his feet. The lion research, conservancy and guides will keep and eye on him and cross fingers that the wound will heal up. This pride is now up to 13 individuals in the southern part of the OMC (with two cubs) the other females are said to be with the seven young males in the north.
Other characters of the story…. well, high on the scene this month have been Amani’s three ex-cubs from her last litter. These three spent the first past of the month hunting scrub hares. They then began terrorizing the reedbuck along the hammerkop steam, and they also had a go at a very unfortunate serval cat which was chased and very nearly tripped before being left to scamper to safety. These three killed an adult impala on the 1st (this chase ended up in the river bed after 200 meters) and then today a young topi. A very successful trio, well done Amani!
Other cheetahs in the soap opera… Narasha has been around, previous reports that she may have given birth were not true but by now we are sure she must have. The questions are ‘where?’ and ‘are they alive?’ The last time she was seen on the plains above the deep crossing she was reportedly lactating but this is unproven as yet. We do know however that she was in the same area as the Enkoyeni lions.
Another female cheetah came through this month with signs of mange around her eyes. After monitoring and follow ups it seems this mange may not be spreading so we will wait and keep checking on her.
The Moniko pride (the conservancies largest pride of lions) spent the first part of the month on their namesake hill before moving east to take advantage of the herds on the plains south of the Eseketa valley. Towards the end of the month part of this pride moved even further east following the herds onto the shorter grass plains of Naboisho, a few other members of the pride stayed in the area north of Kicheche and were recently seen on Naronyo hill presiding over the grazing area set aside for the land owner’s cattle.
Slightly further afield the double crossing pride have been close up to the boundary of the conservancy for much of this month, although they are nowhere near in as good condition as the pride around the OMC they are making the most of the animals that are moving through the north of the reserve on the shorter grass plains. Interestingly, the two males from this pride have been pushing far north (and east) into the territories of both the Enkoyeni pride and the Moniko pride. These two males have on a number of occasions been found around Moniko hill – maybe this is part of the reason for the Moniko’s move east? Either way the other males around the OMC will have their work cut out for them in the future considering these two’s ‘crazy eye’ look and aggressive pushes.
Onto the leopards of the Olare Motorogi and ‘Fig’ who spent the first week of the month in her usual haunt on the hammerkop stream. She then disappeared again for a few days (possibly just hiding very well), then towards the end of February she appeared on the riverline behind Olare in what we would all have said was her mother (Acacia)’s territory. To all the Fig fans, she is still looking healthy and hopefully might start to develop milk glands soon.
Acacia has been very scarce this month only being found on a few occasions. She is still along her little section of rivarian forest and doing very well as always. She took a couple of days to eat (and more to recover from) a large male Thompson’s gazelle she had killed and hung in a tree. Then she was found with an impala fawn very close to the conservancy’s western boundary.
Namynak, Acacia’s youngest daughter, has also blessed OMC guests with sightings this month. She has only been found in the vicinity of her mother once and is obviously very confident on her own now though still in her mother’s range. We are very much looking forward to the day when we see her with her first kill of a mammal her own size or larger.
Some of the highlights of the month would include:
- Watching the vets treat a young male lion that was slashed by blades while (hopefully) learning that cows are not to be eaten.
- We have seen so many giraffe this month, seemingly more than usual, watching these animals helps one to slow down and feel the mellow motion pace of the African bush.
- Seeing the cheetah chasing (but not harming) the serval cat.
- Seeing the duo of Nguro (‘half tail’) and Jicho (‘one eye’) doing so well in the central conservancy despite not having a pride.
- Seeing the large groups of kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) around the conservancy when these animals are said to be in fast decline in the region.
- Finding the multiple groups of Eland who we have been following these past months.
- Watching the Enkoyeni pride set up and succeed in their hunt towards the month end after weeks when they were loosing form fast.
- Seeing the large families of elephant coming through this area.
- Watching the two families of bat-eared foxes (one east of the Ntiakitaik, one on Porini hill) as the pups grow and reach sub-adulthood.
- Watching Amani’s last litter succeed in the majority of their hunts.
- Watching Fig, one of our resident leopards, begin to expand her range. (Acacia has also been found again at the top end of the riverline behind Olare). The birthing of the wildebeest and seeing these little long legged fawns learning to keep up with the herd. We timed one from hitting the ground to walking – 4 minutes!!
- Witnessing the return of the large herds of wildebeest and zebra back into the area, promising a time of action ahead.
So that’s it for now from the Olare Motorogi. More news on the happenings around us in the next months report when we hope to be able to write of some storms, greening grass and a time of plenty and action.
Ol Donyo Lodge
February has whistled by and what a jam-packed month it has been! It started with a dramatic rise in temperature and in the first week we were absolutely sweltering. Afternoon siestas were an absolute must and our horse riders were mounting up before the sun had risen to escape the heat!
The 7th sticks in our minds not only as the day that the storms broke but also as the tragic day that we lost one of our most renown resident bull elephants – Torn Ear. He arrived at the waterhole after a long absence and was obviously in great pain with a huge swelling on his side. Big Life Foundation sprung into action and the vet was brought in but sadly the poison arrowheads had punctured his abdominal cavity and peritonitis had set in. It was a deeply moving experience for some of our guests to be able to be part of this process, many of them leaving ol Donyo with a new passion to spread the conservation message. That afternoon the storms set in and we had the most fantastic lightening displays and crashing rolls of thunder – we’d like to think that the Chyulu Hills were grieving for their old friend just as we were.
It is not uncommon to get a little bit of rain in February, and these are often called the “Grass Rains” as they bring about a short flush of green grass. These are caused by the remnants of cyclones from Madagascar travelling up across East Africa. This year has been different in that the cyclone was much more intense and longer lasting, and so we had a good 10 days of heavy storms. The result is fabulous! Everything is a deep verdant green and most spectacularly all the Acacia tortilis is in flower, so the forest below the lodge is covered with the beautiful white blossom.
A rare sighting of an elephant on the plains – clearly having enjoyed a very good mud bath after the recent rain!
The lions in the area have been very busy and many of our guests have had fantastic sightings. Nemasi, a collared lioness whose home range includes the ol Donyo Sambu and El Mau areas, has been particularly obliging of late. With the help of the local Lion Guardian Lenga, we have been able to see a lot of her, the young male Melio and her cubs. Kasiyo, the big black-maned male lion who resides on the other side of the lodge towards ol Donyo Wuas and Crater, and his girls Nosi Noni, her sister and their cubs have also been very active. A giraffe kill near Stable Hill meant that we had some brilliant viewings. For the first time also we were able to approach the pride in the late afternoon and they were very relaxed with the vehicle and human presence. What a success!
Melio displaying his impressive knashers!
Jeremiah Kasaine, our fantastic guide, is now the first at ol Donyo to achieve his Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association Silver Award. We are incredibly proud of him and his achievement is spurring the other guides to study even harder for theirs!
Our Silver Award guide – Jeremiah
The end of January heralded the Year of the Horse in the Lunar Chinese Calendar, and for the stables at ol Donyo this February has been one of their busiest yet. The horses have enjoyed the flush of green grass and are looking in peak condition and the rains have also served to settle the dust so the riding conditions are perfect. The joy of riding in the bush is that one is able to go completely off-road and many animals, especially giraffe, allow you to get much closer than in a vehicle. It is also such a quiet and unobtrusive way of moving around the bush – just the odd clink off a metal shoe on a rock and the gentle whicker of a horse rather than any sort of engine!
Zulu heading out for a well deserved break in the bush after a long morning ride
Habari from Rekero & Naboisho: February 2014
A lush, green and blossoming conservancy
The first month of 2014 was a very wet one, and due to the consistent rainfall throughout the month the conservancy is just beautiful, lush and green. One late afternoon as much as two inches of life giving rain fell in one hour! Food in abundance, flowering acacia trees, trees carrying fruit, good grass growth – it all attracted wildlife from all over the Mara, and lots of it…
Sometimes scenes associated with the migration season played out in the woodlands and wide open plains. The conservancy was packed with large numbers of zebra, thousands and thousands, large herds of eland, big groups of giraffe, topi, gazelles and even large numbers of wildebeest - it was fantastic! Wherever you looked there were animals, and in big numbers.
Then there were the elephants. Many of them, hundreds! The largest group seen on a walking safari about 4km south of our camp numbered 107 animals! Almost all of the cows had youngsters by their sides. It was exhilarating to say the least, to be surprised during our walk, by the first group of 67 running elephants coming out of nowhere, and they were heading into the gorge from the reserve side. They did not see or smell us, but they were moving very fast to get into the lush, thick gorge where they will find peace, safety and most of all; food. And they were running directly to where we were standing. We had to move very quickly to get out of their path, actually running (so much for the rule, never run…) downhill and hid just outside a thicket in a drainage line. They passed us, we followed the herd down into the gorge, amazed how silently they moved over very rough terrain. All of a sudden, while taking in the most amazing scenery and wildlife spectacle playing of in front of us, the rest of the herd came up behind us! Again, we had to move quite quickly. It was such a wonderful and magical experience for our guests the Roos family who came all the way from Australia. Altogether a very special experience that none of us will ever forget.
The cats also didn't disappoint with the Enesikiria lion pride sighted daily, all the cubs are still there and their nightly roaring around camp makes you sit up and listen. The most memorable cat sighting though, must be a daytime sighting of a beautiful Serval Cat. This cat could not care less that we were there as he was hunting first a small green snake and then started hunting and stalking mice inside an old termite mount. It was really rewarding observing the behaviour and the stealth with which he hunted, and the patience it required to be successful in catching food. What a great sighting!
Another brilliant experience was the open day we hosted for the Mbitin Primary School; an underfunded, understaffed, and under-equipped school on our northern border. The boys and girls aged 8 to 10 years old were treated to a full day of activity in the conservancy and its camps. They were treated exactly like our guests, taken on two game drives, enjoying a scrumptious lunch and desert and introduced to our camp staff as well as all the different departments behind the scenes. They absolutely loved it; as all of them - for the very first time in their lives – saw lions. Very relaxed, male lions which they spotted during the day, in a natural way. By far their biggest highlight, they told us! The second highlight was seeing elephants up close and also our camp and the food. It really was an important, fun and mostly educational day for the kids, showing the future guardians of this land how a conservancy and safari camp operates to protect their very precious natural resource.
Other very exciting developments in the past month are the opening of two new Asilia camps! The first one is Kwihala Camp in Tanzania’s southern Ruaha National Park. The other is a brand new camp called Namiri Plains - Namiri meaning “big cat” in Swahili - in one of the most remote wildernesses in the Serengeti. Exciting times for sure!
Roelof, Helen, Moses & the Naboisho Team
A February Mara Safari
25 February, 2014
These photos were sent to us by recent client and really give a flavour of the animals you are likely to see on a Governors Safari at this time of year. Sue and Rhys have stayed with us many times and it is always a pleasure to host them on safari in the Mara. Sue wrote to us to say "Many thanks for another wonderful stay at Governors Camp. We had a fantastic time, and saw the most amazing things. But my favourite was the baby hyena - so cute !" Many thanks to Sue and Rhys for sharing their wonderful photos with us.
Saruni is preparing for another excellent year by focusing on delivering quality in every way through our lodges and our safaris. There is a lot of development happening as we continue to grow, and we are delighted to share the following exclusive stories with you.
Where the magic happens
Our Safari Reservations and Tour Ops team has recently expanded, and as you know, we have moved to a lovely new office in Karen in Nairobi to accommodate our flourishing team. We welcomed back Tom Hartley to the Saruni team as our Operations Manager and Nikki Rushmere has joined us in our Marketing department.
Together with Fatima Salim and Ann Lepirei in reservations and bookings, and Thomas Whachira and Paul Murugu in accounts this is where the magic happens, and where the team works hard behind the scenes to make sure Saruni guests have unforgettable, life-changing experiences while on safari with us.
Saruni Guides sharpen their skills
Saruni acknowledges and value the very important role a guide plays in a guests experience. A guide has the responsibility and the privilege of taking guests on a journey of discovery, sharing their knowledge, tracking wildlife, creating memorable experiences, hosting guests and tending to their individual needs. It is often a guide that leaves a lasting impression many years after a safari.
As we head into low season, all of the Saruni guides will be preparing for the high season ahead and the many more to come by taking part in intensive training by the renowned Guides Guide, Pietro Luraschi. This is a very exciting opportunity for the guides, as well as Saruni as a whole.
Pietro is the guides' guide to guiding. After many years in the field, he gained the highest qualifications from the most accredited association of safari guides in Africa, FGASA.
Pietro will be with our Masai and Samburu guides for two months, teaching them the best walking and driving safari etiquette, going deep into birdwatching, botany, mammals behavior, and hosting of guests. It is not only his impeccable technical skills that will make a difference, but his belief that every safari is an adventure that will last for a life time.
Further training for Saruni's Wellbeing Team
We believe in investing in our staff, nurturing each Saruni employee to achieve their full potential and to create experiences of the highest quality for guests. In addition to encouraging and empowering our guides, our Saruni Wellbeing Team will be undergoing further training in beauty and massage therapy.
This training will focus and develop their knowledge and experience, and will be conducted through the world-renowned and highly professional Italian Spa franchise, Centro Benessere Stresa. Sabrina Devito will be joining us from Italy for 3 weeks in May.
Habari from Rekero & Naboisho
Reflections on the beauty of the Mara
Sometimes it is easy for us all to take what we have for granted. Here in the bush we forget just how lucky we are to live and work in such a special place. At night we get to listen to the lions roaring and see the beautiful stars in a clear African sky. In the morning the birds wake us with their dawn chorus. On our way to ‘work’ there are no traffic jams and during the day we watch all sort of animal activity in and around the camp. The Mara is indeed the best office!
Like the previous December, this month brought us a lot of rain; serious amounts of rain. The rising river brought us enormous logs, dead wildebeest and hippo! The bountiful rains kept the wildebeest here for much longer than expected; we were still getting river crossings early in the month and the zebras continued crossing till almost the New Year. Needless to say the crocs and lions were extremely pleased with this development.
Ever since Olive was killed we have not really seen Saba or Bahati much... This has been really sad and we wondered if perhaps they were mourning their mother. A few days ago we were enjoying watching the busy weaver birds in the acacia tree in front of camp when movement on the opposite bank caught our eye; it was Bahati! She strolled around enjoying the evening sunshine and we were so happy to have her back. Rumour had it she was pregnant, but as yet no sign of any cubs…
Amani’s three are doing well and have kept our guides on their toes with many hunts and chases and near kills. They are still together, but I wonder for how long their sister will hang around with them; and what will they do without her as she is the hunt coordinator?! It has been a fantastic year for the Mara Cheetah Project and thanks to the generous donations of our guests the great work will continue. Asante Sana!
We were blissfully disconnected to the Christmas Frenzy in camp. On the day itself we were very lucky that it did not rain and enjoyed a relaxed celebration with guests singing Christmas carols around our little whistling thorn Christmas tree. The very important aspects of Christmas such as mince pies and mulled wine were not forgotten! Even the turkey made it to camp, crossing flooded rivers, braving the chance of hyena attacks on our deep freezer to eventually grace our table with its delicious presence.
Best wishes from Clea, Conway, Mariana & the Rekero crew
Great Rift Valley Lodge Hosts 15th East Africa Challenge Golf Championship
Hosts Kenya ended the day one of this year’s Keroche Breweries sponsored East Africa Challenge Cup golf Championship in third place with five points after losing three matches at the scenic Great Rift Valley Golf Resort course on Wednesday (30th October).
Three of Kenya’s key players John Karichu, Daniel Nduva and local boy Justus Madoya lost their matches to give Uganda a half a point lead from Tanzania who were second with six and half points. Karichu lost 3-2 to Tanzania’s Nuru Mollel and Madoya was beaten 2-1 by Uganda’s top player Philip Kasozi. Kenya’s top junior Daniel Nduva went down 3-1 to Uganda’s Willy Kitata. It was however an excellent performance particularly to Kenya’s other junior players Adel Balala who won their matches with big margin. Balala beat Burundi’s Haruna Hakizimana 8-7 and Mathew Wahome won 6-5 against Ethiopia’s Akilu Haile. Team captain Robinson Owiti also won his match against Rwanda’s Emmanuel Hazimana.
Uganda lost only one match against Ethiopia to lead with seven points. Finishing behind Kenya was Rwanda with three points and Ethiopia who are taking part for the first time were next with two and half points. It was a tough day one for Burundi who lost all the eight matches. The second and third rounds were on Thursday starting with the foursomes in the morning and four ball better ball in the afternoon.
Day two saw Kenya starting to edge up the rankings, finishing an impressive second in overall standings and needing to work hard on the last if they were to retain the title.
On the last day, Kenya produced its usually final firepower, beating Uganda in three tough matches for a maximum of eight points, to retain the East Africa Challenge Golf Championship title though by the narrow margin of half a point at the Great Rift Valley Golf Resort.
Needing all eight points to win, Kenya’s John Karichu beat Uganda’s Ronald Rugumayo 1-up at the 18th, as Justus Madoya who enjoyed a home crowd posted 3-2 win against Willy Kitata. There after Kenya’s team captain Robinson Owiti beat Daniel Baguma 2-1 to brighten the Kenyans face as Daniel Nduva picked up a point from Burundi’s Karim Gwabe with 7-5 victory before Mathew Wahome beat Ethiopia’s Natanim Sisay 6-4. Adel Balala added one more point with a 6-4 win against Ephrem Gabreselassie.
However, it was a tough encounter for Kenya’s last player William Odera who at one time was four up against Rwanda’s long serving Leonard Nkurunziza who Odera however managed to over power him at the 16th hole with a 3-2 victory for Kenya’s clean sweep in the final round singles which saw them retain the cup with a total of 19 points, just half a point from Uganda. This was the third back to back victory for Kenya who won in Arusha in 2011 and Burundi in 2012. Uganda who won all the eight points in the foursomes and four ball better ball, managed only three and half for 18.5 as Tanzania settled for third place on 15.5 having also picked up a point from the Ugandas through Nuru Mollel. Rwanda was fourth on 8.5 and playing the event for the first time Ethiopia won three matches and halved one to finish fifth on 7 points with Burundi finishing last with only three and half points.
Uganda will host the 2014 tournament which is expected to attracted more countries.
The Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort has shown we have the capacity and capability to host tournaments of international repute. The lodge has set a marker, and looks forward to attracting more players, organisers, sponsors and golf enthusiasts to what is undoubtedly one of East Africa’s best golf courses.
Ostrich Chicks Get Second Chance
In September, Lkaana Letipo saw eagles and vultures soaring in the sky while he was out with his goats. Curious he went to see what was there. He found ostrich chicks by the carcass of the female. On closer inspection, it was lions who had killed the mother.
Lkaana reported the matter to the park ranger Mike Lesil. Mike introduced him to me. In Samburu there’s a saying – ‘Samburu is a reserve where nature dies itself’ – but this time round, we decided to help these chicks by giving them a second chance to live.
One month old chicks cared for by Lkaana
Lkaana helping at the eco-garden
We brought them to Samburu Intrepids Camp. The chicks were frightened at first and unable to run away fast, they would fall to the ground and stretch out their necks in an attempt to look invisible.
The two brothers and sisters weigh between 30-40 kgs. We weigh them once a week. They grow about 7 cm per week and from two months they put on 5 kgs per week or more.
The bill has no teeth.The ostrich have wide nostrils which are very good for smelling
Fight with the Baboon
The wound on the neck is two weeks old. The ostrich was injured by a baboon which was raiding our eco-garden. The baboon found the ostrich eating sukuma (Kale) and decided to snatch it away from the ostrich. The ostrich became aggressive and tried to keep the baboon away but unfortunately the baboon scratched it on the neck. Weapplied Caraluma dumeri, a species of cactus whose sap helps the wound dry very fast.
The ostrich is now 1.7 metres tall and very social.
Are they dangerous? NO! Ostriches typically avoid humans in the wild. If approached they run away. However, ostriches may turn aggressive rather than run when threatened, especially when cornered. They may also attack when they feel the need to defend their offspring or territories. Similar behaviors are noted in captive or domesticated ostriches, which retain the same natural instincts and can occasionally respond aggressively to stress.
When attacking a person, ostrich kick with their powerful feet which are armed with long claws. They are capable of disemboweling or killing a person with a single blow.
We hope to release the chicks back to the wild in future.
28th September 2012 Dear our esteemed Guests and Kenya Fans,
Latest reports reaching our office from the Maasai Mara and Mara Bush Camp reveal that our guests continue to enjoy amazing game sightings daily. The great wildebeest /animal migration is far from being over. Just recently, large herds of Wildebeests crossed the Talek River in a spectacular manner.
Overall, large herds of Wildebeest still occupy a large part of the Mara plains and lookout area with the predators taking advantage and making easy kills. This phenomenon provides breathtaking moments, good for a keen photographer and nature enthusiast. Those who have been following the migration trend for a long time reveal that this year’s migration is by far the most spectacular one witnessed in the last 15 years; it is also expected to last longer.
The predators are not left behind either. A pride of 12 Lions have recently found their way to the plains surrounding Mara Bush Camp. The three youthful Cheetahs commonly known for climbing the roofs of Safari vehicles while spotting their prey, have relocated to an area near Mara Bush Camp. On the other side of look out area, a Cheetah with her 4 cubs is often spotted.
The weather report promises nice sunny days ahead after the rains witnessed daily in the last few months subsided. This is the ideal time for game viewing and photography. The beautiful sunrise light is what every photographer is looking for. Mara Bush Camp still has some space available in October/ November for those who might decide last minute to travel.
~Your Mara Bush Camp Team
Mara - Meru Cheetah Project
Masai Mara Game Report October
Weather and grasslands: Cool mornings with warm to humid temperatures towards midday. Temperatures for the morning averaged at 19°C and by mid day they were around 28°C. There have been scattered rain showers mainly in the evenings which have brought temperatures and dust levels down. The Mara River has risen with the recent rain upstream. Grass levels are short throughout the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains with areas of longer grass on Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge, much of the grassland plains now have a green tinge reviving the colour. Towards the end of the month we had a little more rain. The total rainfall for the month was 88 mm.
In the first week of the month crossings were slim and the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains were seemingly emptied, then on the 8th and 9th there were large numbers of wildebeest that crossed at Paradise and the at the rapids upstream of the camps these Wildebeest came across from the conservation areas and started congregating on the Musiara Masai plains and on the conservation areas to the north. From the 14th there were some good zebra and wildebeest crossings in the Paradise region and crossing at the main crossing points. They are crossing from the Trans Mara conservancy towards the Paradise region and then onto the Musiara plains. On the 15th there was a reasonable crossing at the mortuary crossing point with one zebra being taken by crocodile; later that afternoon there was a large build up at Mortuary with none crossing until later at night; it is true that many wildebeest will cross at night. There were still large numbers on the Musiara plains and some of these were seen heading towards the east into the Masai conservation areas.
In the Paradise region there are two Nomadic male lion that came after the Musketeers came and went, on the 26th one of the larger males was seen chasing spotted hyena as they tried to congregate over a kill in situations like this hyena will scatter, had it been a lioness at the kill site the tables would have turned in favour for the hyena. Vultures are abundant on the various kills made by lion and hyena so as well as Marabou storks who hang about ready to pinch a mouthful when the heavy and strong beaked white backed and Ruppels griffin vultures start to open up a carcass. The female cheetah and here two sub adult cubs have been very active on the Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge plains. The Wattle Plover in full ‘wattle’ regalia are in all the water courses with the Mara ecosystem. We have had lovely sightings of Black Rhino and of the male leopard climbing down a large Boscia tree at paradise, this male had the remains of a Thomson Gazelle up the tree. Many Black Backed Jackals are being seen and they are one of the main predators of Thomson Gazelle fawns. Warthog are scattered across the short grass plains with sows having between 4 - 6 piglets at a time, Lion will predate on these suids frequently particularly during lean times.
On the 24th more wildebeest crossed the Mara River that morning from the Trans Mara at the main Paradise crossing point; this was an estimated herd of 1,500 animals. As water holes and Oxbow River courses start to dry up many catfish and Lungfish are unfortunately often caught up in the evaporation processes and are then plucked out of the water by mammals and birds such as yellow billed and marabou storks. On the 18th there was a large crossing at the Mortuary crossing pint and also at 3.30pm in the afternoon. Many more wildebeest are filtering down from the conservation areas and this shows that the grass coverage is not as good a previous years. On the 23rd there was a large crossing at the rapids at 10.30 am up stream of Governors Camp, large numbers crossed here and there was also some crocodile activity with one yearling being taken. Further downstream at Paradise on the same day at the main crossing point there was another very large crossing with thousands literally forcing themselves into the river. More rain brought on two fronts of wildebeest with some arriving in the Serena direction while the other flank was moving towards the Kichwa tembo area. By that evening and at first light the following day there were large numbers congregation on to the Musiara and Bila Shaka plains. The localized rain patterns have brought on some 'Gnu grass for all'!!
Many Zebra were seen massing on the 26th and 28th near the main crossing points, on the 28th at 10.00 am they crossed into the Paradise region. There are scattered herds of wildebeest and zebra on the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains. On the 30th huge numbers moved onto the Topi plains and crossed the Ntiaktiak River in the Trans Mara Direction. Another large herd of wildebeest and zebra crossed at paradise late in the evening and probably more at night.
There are large concentrations of Topi in the Paradise area and also the Topi, Musiara and Bila Shaka grasslands plains. Those females on Paradise and Topi plains calved down earlier than those females in the Marsh and Bila Shaka regions with many females are still yet to give birth. Giraffe will be seen throughout the Musiara and conservation areas and often within the camp grounds. Herd sizes can be as many as 40 animals whilst males wonder between herds. Impala herds with many fawns of varying age groups are ever present between the camps within the woodland fringes. Many of these young fawns can be seen in Crèches on the roadsides as one enters any of the camps.
Small numbers of Cokes Hartebeest can be seen on Topi, Paradise and Bila Shaka plains and some on Rhino ridge, they generally will give birth close to the same time as Topi, and two calves have now been seen in the Masai Conservation areas.
Buffalo bulls are common residents within the Marsh environs, one particular bull loves frolicking in mud pools by rolling about back and forth on its back, and it is actually quite amusing in that he obviously gets a thrill out of it. Two large herds can be seen at Bila Shaka and also on Rhino ridge, the Bila Shaka herd comes past the culvert whilst residing in the marsh before moving back to the east end of Bila Shaka.
Many more warthog sows have piglets, 4-6 piglets seem the average litter sizes. Lion, Cheetah and Black backed Jackal prey on these piglets. Two sets of Black Backed Jackal pups have been seen at Bila Shaka and paradise, the Bila Shaka pups are estimated at 2 months old. Large clans of Spotted Hyena at Paradise and Rhino ridge, these pose heavy competition to the other grassland carnivores, Cheeath suffer heavy food lose to these Hyena. Male lion would rather eliminate them if they have the opportunity.
Bat Eared Foxes are being seen more with Paradise Plains being good places to see them. These little foxes are the most insectivorous of all the canids.
Hippo pods in the Mara River vary in sizes and one large pod is near Governors Private Camp, there are many calves in these pods, there is cow Hippo with a two month old calf at Il Moran and she lives close to where a female crocodile has her eggs. Crocodile eggs incubate in 80-90 days, this female has now been 30 days she is an attentive female. On the 28th at 11.30am two hippo clambered out of the river and immediately walked up to where her eggs where so they could lay up for a while, the crocodile at the time was resting out of the heat under an Acacia tree, within seconds of the hippo standing over the eggs the crocodile shot out, roaring and hissing at the same time, the hippo funnil retreated quickly back into the river.
White headed vultures are being seen again with the Paradise region, sightings here have been visual; this is rather a good note to relate.
We have had lovely sightings of small herds of Elephant. Serval cats are also being seen readily with Bila Shaka, Paradise and the Talek river regions being good places to see them.
Across the Mara environs eland are resident in relatively small herds, some large males are seen and they are quite distinct from the females. With the large breeding bulls one will often hear a distinct metallic ‘click’ when they walk, there is much speculation as to what causes this some people think that this is caused by the Hooves that spay apart due to their weight whilst others speculate that this is from the front legs and possibly the knee joint. A large Bull will weigh in at 900-1,000kg and will easily clear a 7 ft fence or the back of its own kind. Although they are predominately browsers, eland will graze on fresh green and sprouting grass; they are also able to thrive for long periods with limited access to water and will obtain their requirements from what they eat.
Martial eagle the largest of the savannah raptors that have a reputation of being notorious lion cub killers, they are now turning their attention to Thompson gazelle fawns. Two fawns have now been seen taken; one on Paradise plains and the other in the Masai conservation area east of the reserve.
Early on in September the large female African rock python was seen again at Bila Shaka and not far away form where she had had killed that male Thomson Gazelle two years ago. She was also seen last month and in the same place that she was seen again.
Marsh pride – made up of the four Musketeers, Siena, Charm and Bibi with their 10 cubs of varying age groups. One cub that belongs to Bibi is 10 months old and the others are between a year old and 16 months and these can now almost be claimed sub adults. These lion spend much time between Bila Shaka and the Marsh. They have been feeding off the many wildebeest and zebra that have filtered in and out. Warthog and their piglets have also been taken. Buffalo with the help of the males have been prey at Bila Shaka and the Marsh. There has also been a little friction amongst the older cubs with factions and sibling friction starting up and them splitting up for short periods of time, the older 16 month cubs will be seen apart to the 10 month cubs.
Scar has mated with sienna and also both of the two breakaways Lippy and Kinny. Late last month all four of the Musketeers went ‘awol’ into the paradise region, though more so expanding the gene pool. It was suspected that Scar killed both the little cubs that were barely three months old. This is typical infanticidal actively from big social cats like lion, generally within 10 days to two weeks females will ovulate again. On the 18th scar was seen mating with one of the Paradise females. Sikio went further into the Paradise region and met his match and ended up being a little scratched and ruffled up, it was suspected it could have been the two Nomadic males that come and go in this area. Morani since the 25th has been seen limping on his right front leg, he must have sprained it like what happened to Hunter some year’s back and he has since fully recovered from that injury. Scar on the 29th was seen at the Marsh culvert with a topi calf. In the evening of the 29th all members of the Marsh pride were seen at Bila Shaka.
Modomo and the other three breakaways are being seen near Rhino Ridge and Kries Lugga; they have been feeding off the many wildebeest and zebra that have passed through here. There are three cubs that are 8 months old and two that are 16 months old. Latterly they were all being seen near the Fig tree on Rhino ridge, earlier on the month the Musketeers were seen with them mainly Sikio and Hunter. These cubs were sired by the Musketeers.
The Paradise pride; four females, four cubs two of which are 8 months old and two that are over a year old. The four musketeers moved into this region early in the month and dispersed any other male coalition; it was suspected only that Scar was involved in the killing of the two young cubs. They have been feeding off wildebeest, warthog and zebra. The older three cubs split up and were being seen with one of the lionesses the other side of the river, perhaps when the new males moved in these cubs separated off with one of the older lionesses.
On the 25th the two nomadic males were seen in this area of Paradise near the crossing point on the 26th since the musketeers had moved out, how long they will stay around is perhaps a short stint only? The lioness that lost her cubs is spending much time on her own; she was seen on the 26th at the main crossing point, she often hunts on her own.
Romi and her 11 month old male cub were being seen frequently within the first two weeks of the month in the woodlands near the BBC camp and also the wooded areas near the Marsh. Since then they have not been seen and have kept very quiet. They have both have been feeding off the resident impala and bushbuck. There is suspicion that she may have crossed the river yet there are no confirmed reports on her movements. The female leopard with two 4 month old cubs was seen a few more time this month. On the 19th she was seen near the river bed they call ‘Kwa Nyoka’ and she had killed an Impala fawn. Close by to the mortuary crossing point the large male is still at large; this leopard was seen on the 26th up and coming down a Boscia tree which he often frequents. Also he will be seen in the croton thickets particularly at the mortuary crossing points. He covers a home range that includes the Warburgia thicket some 3 kms away; He has also been seen frequently walking within this home range.
The two males that were being seen near Bila Shaka/Rhino ridge have been since seen in the Mara North Conservancy. The solitary female is often seen on Rhino Ridge, Bila Shaka and near Topi plains. She is active and has fed of many Thomson gazelles; on the 30th she killed a large male Thomson Gazelle on Topi plains. She has fed of numerous Thomson gazelles between Bila Shaka and Rhino ridge. The female with two cubs a male and female who are over one year old is another trio of Cheetah that is being monitored; on the 26th they were seen near Rhino ridge, whereby at 4.30pm they killed a female Thomson Gazelle. They all are very active and have fed off Impala, warthog piglets and Thomson Gazelles. The three sub adult’s one female and two males crossed the river on the 11th September at 11.30 am and are now in the Trans Mara. The mother is still at large in the Masai conservation areas.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
Some clouded days have given us a cool start to the morning walk. By 8.00am the sun is out and warming fast, grasslands here have been grazed down by the bulk of wildebeest and zebra. There has been some varied rainfall patterns which has certainly added colour to many areas of open grasslands.
Many wildebeest and zebra have passed through here and good numbers are still at large. On the 19th there were many that crossed the Olare Orok and moved on south to the Musiara grassland areas. Warthog piglets are now well spread out with average numbers of 5-6 piglets. There is not the predation value here in this area as there is in the Mara Reserve so many piglets may have a greater chance of survival.
Eland can be seen in small herd sizes, throughout the Mara North although there are some large males being seen on the Eastern boundary. On the 26th three large males were seen on fringe of the Acacia woodland on the eastern plains, one of them emitted an audible loud click when it walked, there is much debate as to here this click comes from.
Many Thompson fawns have been born with one of them being taken by a Martial eagle on the 12th at 9.30am, it is rather sad to see when something like a fawn or Hare gets flushed up as there is often something above that takes note.
Large clans of spotted Hyena have been seen feeding off wildebeest and topi, On the North and Eastern plains there are two large clans and these spotted hyena are very active predators; on the 19th hyena had taken a bull wildebeest near to the ‘Fly Over’ and had it finished in 30 minutes, not surprising when there are over 30 hyena competing.
Elephant signs have been seen at the best although twice we have seen four Bulls being the only visual sighting on the Olare Orok. On the 26th one of them was in ‘Musth’ so best with these animals when they are within close proximity to humans is to give them a wide birth.
Good numbers of Topi and Impala with fawns within the Acacia woodlands are common sightings. Very good sightings recently of giraffe as they browse their way through the acacia woodlands, on the 26th there was a scattered herd of 32 Giraffe with one large male pursuing an estrus female.
The large buffalo herd was being seen near the salt lick and latterly they were near the Mara River north of the conservancy. A few solitary bulls will be seen in the Euclea Divinorum thickets that are adjacent to the saltlick. Grants Gazelle are common sightings on the open plains to the East and North of the Conservancy.
THE GREAT MIGRATION OF WILDEBEEST AND ZEBRAS
Following rain and green pastures, the migration continues.
The crossing from Mara Triangle in the west of Mara reserve to the east is on since last week. The crossings are best seen in the early hours of the morning.
The crocodiles here are not as active as those at Paradise Crossing.
Hence there are few casualties recorded in these particular crossing points.
There are new shoots sprouting around Mara bridge through to the Meta, Central, Posse up to Olkiombo plains. The lush, fresh grass triggers the migration faster, and the plains are covered with herds of wildebeest and zebra creating beautiful patterns of black and white. The wildebeest – clowns of the plains – are still busy mating and fighting over mating rights. The zebras are yakking, chasing each other and kicking the air with their back legs aiming at the opponent chin’s as they too are fighting for mating rights.
For those who are eager to see the great migration, now is the time.
Predators’ sightings is the best ever recorded around Olkiombo plain, especially of the leopards and the cheetahs. During every game drive, leopard sightings are recorded and more than
one cheetah seen.
There are new born cubs in all the prides around Olkiombo.
Marsh pride has three cubs aged three months old.
Ridge pride has two.
Paradise pride has two.
Olkeju-ronkai pride female has four.
The rest of the prides have not yet brought out their young
Mating continues. Two females in the Marsh pride are in estrous.
Ridge pride has three females in estrous.
Notch and one of his son’s is at Hammerkop lugga with the Olkiombo
pride with ten cubs.
The other three sons are with Olkeju-ronkai pride at Shonko
crossing. The Ridge pride and Paradise pride have been taken over by Notch’s
three other sons.
Bahati was west of Olkiombo airstrip hunting impalas.
Olive was not far from her daughter Bahati, also trying to hunt impalas.
Lerai lost her cubs to the hyenas.
Malaika and her son are at Hammerkop lugga.
Amani’s cubs are still together. The three are at Posse plain trying to hunt wildebeest calves. They are still not experienced hunters.
MARA PLAINS AND MARA TOTO
‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not’.
The Lorax, Dr Seuss
A very warm hello from the Mara and the whole team here on the plains where we are all wrapped up and wearing layers against our winter and what we consider to be cold. In truth despite the cooler weather many would say it never gets wintery up here near the equator. Our lows this month only hit 13 degrees Celsius on the coldest morning (enough to make one turn one’s collar up and tuck ones nose in) and our high was only 30 degrees C. Not too dramatic either way.
At the time of our last report (around full moon) we had just started having some rain after quite a dry spell. Now, two weeks later the moon cycle has now waned into darkness and with this we once again are blessed with liquid life. These storms however made the ones from last month look like afternoon sprinklings. As the mid-day sun heated the plains around the central Mara one could see the haze in the atmosphere, as the Olololo escarpment to the west suddenly seemed so distant. In the afternoons a warm breeze from the southwest then pushed the heavy air northeast onto the slopes of the Bardamat hills where it rose and began condensing into cloud. Then, the breeze shifted and came back from the north-east, pushing the clouds back over the central Mara creating a blanket holding down the remaining heat which then served to build the clouds further until suddenly the sky above us turned dark and moody creating it’s own huge winds which pounded the river line and plains before unleashing rain and even hail until roads were rivers and rivers were floods.
There is always fun to be had when it rains, driving is exciting, river crossings are dramatic but best of all, when the wind and rain stops and the setting sun drops down flooding the open plains with an orange glow which reflects off the millions of grass heads and the water droplets they hold just stopping, and watching, and seeing the land come alive is one of natures gifts to those lucky enough to see.
One may wonder why we always start our reports speaking of the weather; in truth it is the weather cycle that is fully responsible for creating the life and the cycles within it in this ecosystem. As you may know the Great Migration of wildebeest, Zebra and the smaller antelopes is governed by the rain belts as they move up and down eastern Africa’s open plains, these rain belts are caused by the even bigger movement of the wobble of the earth on it’s axis, the winds bringing wet or dry caused by the centrifugal forces of the spinning of our planet and the effects of this on the atmosphere. More importantly even than the migration, as an essential occurrence for this ecosystem, the rain cycles are responsible for new life.
Now, after the recent storms, the winds from the east in the mornings are blowing in with the light from the clear morning sun and all around us and many of the animals are dropping their young or soon to be so. The Topi’s and the Impala seem to have been the first, we have started to see some new little Zebra’s also as well as Thompson’s gazelles and Grant’s gazelles. As one can imagine the birds throughout the area have all also been spurred into extra life as; with the rains come hatchings of beetles and flies and flying ants, frogs and toads burrow out of the ground in a hope of mating and generally the land becomes full of life, all the smaller parts that make up the bottom end of the pyramid of life that then in turn allows for a healthy, high-rising pyramid full of a healthy variety.
Speaking of the food pyramid it is about time we took some steps up and see what is happening in the world of those, who eat those, who eat those who eat the bugs from the paragraph above.
At the top of the ladder would be the many lions that are currently scattered through the area.
The Enkuyeni pride from upriver of Mara Plains spent the good part of the last couple of weeks in the far south of their range around Porini hill, the rocky crossing and the thickets of Tarchynanthas. This pride consisting of the core females and their now 8 cubs (down from 10) is doing very well as the area they are in is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the huge movement of wildlife through the confluences of the rivers to their west and the open plains to their east. Despite reports from Tanzania that the migration has left Kenya it is quite plain to see that, despite many of the western branch of the migration having swung south towards Grumeti there are still hundreds of thousands of animals still up in the central Mara feeding the big cats and managing the landscape. The large pride male from the Enkuyeni pride (we are not sure where his ‘brother’ is) has really had his work cut out for him this month. Not only is he having to deal with the group of young males he sired between a year and two years ago (this group being a serious threat to the prides young and maybe even himself if he can’t move them out), he also has to keep up a powerful display along his southern boundary to ensure the ‘double-crossing males’ stay on their side of the line. Currently the territorial boundary seems to pass right through Mara Plains from east to west as the last weeks have been some of the noisiest we can remember with the pride males from both sides calling their ownership around (and in) the camp throughout the night. For the sake of the Enkuyeni pride and their young we hope that their males return together to help secure their boundaries.
In terms of drama the Moniko pride have still managed to outdo their western neighbors. There are now three different factions in the Moniko pride all of which seem to have problems with the other. This is pretty normal considering all together this pride make up a total of +-36 cats and also with the time of plenty they can afford to split up and occupy different hunting areas and diurnal refuges. The main body of the pride made up of around 6-7 adult females and their cubs making +-16 lions (some females seem to move freely between the two main factions) have spent the last month around the rocky hills central to their range hunting almost every night without fail along the plains below the escarpment. The pride males have seemed a little confused with the split in the females of their pride (most probably caused by the arrival of new cubs two months ago, which may have caused some jealously and insecurity). These two have spent the last weeks moving between the faction in the Eseketa valley (6 females and around 6 cubs) and the main body of the pride mentioned above. Then, similar to their Enkuyeni counterparts these two pride males have also continued their attempts to push the young males (and their young female followers) into the periphery of their range (towards Mara Plains and the Enkuyeni pride). This is turn leading to even more insecurity for the lone Enkuyeni male and his pride who have made their feeling towards this intrusion heard.
As we have said in the past however this is how new prides are born and we feel very fortunate to be in an area where the lion population is still rising and we still have enough habitat and prey species to sustain a larger population. What is the future? Well the Gang of young males from the Enkuyeni pride will have to go somewhere; they will flex their muscles and their numbers and realize their strength. The youngsters from the Moniko pride may suddenly find it worthwhile to enter into the fold of this up-and-coming large coalition as sub-ordinates, maybe they will create a niche for themselves here in the conservancy causing a ripple effect in the resident prides, or more possibly the resident pride males will continue to bully and chase these youngsters in a hope of moving them further afield into the domain of other prides making them other males problems until a time when they can stand and fight and hold their own territory, form a pride and hold a range.
News from the northern most pride in the Olare-Motorogi conservancy is harder to come by due to the shyness of this pride and the terrain they call home. From the few reports we have had and the couple of sightings through the last weeks this pride is doing very well and making the most of the huge herds pouring through the valleys around them and congregating around the salt licks. A couple of morning drives have found them finishing up their kills from the previous night before slinking back into their rocky refuges away from the eyes of people and the heat of the African sun.
Onto some of the other characters around the scene, we are very happy to report that ‘Nalepo’ the cheetress who gave birth to six cubs in the Olare-Motorogi conservancy in July, after having disappeared for two weeks has now been found on Naboisho conservancy to the east still with her six cubs so very well done to her.
We have also had a few other Cheetah around these last couple of weeks, Narasha has spent most of this last month in the Mara Reserve around the fig tree murrum area but in the last days of the month she arrived back in the OMC on the plains east of Moniko hill. An older female has recently been found and followed on some successful hunts in the area around the OMC’s observation hill, according to the cheetah researchers she is ‘Amani’s’ mother.
Also on the scene arriving in the last couple of days is a big and healthy male cheetah who appears to have moved in from the east heading through the OMC in the direction of the Olare river and we also have, for a brief time had the coalition of two males the ‘Olololo boys’ moving in from the west before turning back towards the Mara river.
Onto the Leopards of the OMC who are fast getting names for themselves on the international safari circuit. Acacia the queen of the OMC is healthy as ever as is her cub Namunyak (meaning pleasant) who is now almost six months old and fast becoming a character in her own right. Acacia’s last cub Fig is also doing very well and killing gazelles regularly. Despite now being a full blooded female leopard relying on herself she still has the playfulness of a cub at times especially when she has a kill as she continually practices her cuffs and bites and jumps on the carcasses and even on lone male Hyena’s as we mentioned in our previous report.
Yellow, the central OMC’s dominant male was recently, just after our last report found to be courting a very small leopardess in the tree line around the Sananka crossing. The couple spent the good part of an afternoon hung over a large Albitzia branch together sleeping of their obvious tiredness from their antics. It was nice to see the small female as she is a new leopard on the scene having come into this area from elsewhere looking for a mate.
As some of you know the resident leopardess from around Mara Plains and Toto gave birth about six weeks ago and she managed to keep her cubs hidden until mid-way through the month she hid them in the river line just two hundred meters from Mara Toto. It was here the two little spotty fur balls were first seen before she moved them to another location. As we mentioned in our posts on the Great Plains facebook page we were very sorry to report that at least one of these cubs was believed killed by hyenas near the crossing of the Kereput stream. Since then we have found the shy females tracks around the camps so we know she is around, the question is does she still have her one cub?
Onto the other amazing wildlife of the area, this month, as is normal in the migration many of the elephant have moved northwards into the north end of the conservancy, the valleys of the Mara North Conservancy and the more wooded and hilly areas towards Olkinyei, Siana and Lloita. Here and there we are still been able to watch these huge, peaceful animals as they browse through the bush or graze along the open plains. Now that some of the larger herds have headed south we expect to be seeing more of them heading back into this area and further towards the marshes of Musiara.
Some of the most memorable sightings this month from both Mara Plains and Mara Toto.
- Watching a pair of Egyptian geese display at the top of a sycamore fig tree back lit with the morning sun, their wings outstretched and their heads turned back as they called out their love to one another.
- Following the Moniko pride on their evening hunts in the glow of the red light before sitting in the darkness and hearing the stampede before hitting the lights and watching the females take down their prey.
- Having the resident leopardess hiding out ‘IN’ Mara Toto for the day.
- All the incredible crossings of the Mara river and the huge herds of wildebeest and Zebra spread out across the landscapes as far as the eye can see.
- The amazing vocal exchanges between the resident males around the camps.
- Seeing a Serval cat and it’s kitten.
- The many ‘cat-tricks’ through the month.
- Watching Bat eared foxes search for termites in the fresh soil after the rains.
- Seeing the multiple ‘honeymooning’ lion couples.
- Having the first sighting of two-week old lion cubs.
- Counting (estimating) wildebeest seen in one day at around 300,000
- Seeing the two leopard cubs peering out of their rocky hiding places.
- Walking in to a rocky outcrop to sit watch a family of elephants browse down a river towards us.
- Watching Acacia the leopard and her cub playing together.
- Seeing a Giant Kingfisher from the mess at Mara Toto.
We could say ‘that’s about it’ from the Great Plains camps in the Mara but we all know this is not true. Every single day the drives and walks come back there is another incredible sighting to add to the memories of the guests, their guides and even those who only hear the tales and get to create the images of Africa in their imaginations.
This is why we do what we do, the passion of the staff, their love for wildlife and the excitement of seeing the amazing occurrences from the natural world through the eyes of our guests. It is impossible to explain the happiness one feels as a guide when you see your excitement and passion rub off on a guest. It is not just a bird, or a beetle, or an antelope, it is an integral part of this whole ecosystem with a lifecycle of it’s own and it’s own incredible story of who and what it is, why it is important and how it came to be.
As always, with best wishes,
The Great Plains team, Maasai Mara.
Masai Mara Game Report July
Weather and grasslands
The month gave us pastel sunrises with cool mornings and hot dusty days; although some early morning were as low as 10°C particularly on the 15th of July. Evening temperatures were averaging 24°C. There was a little rainfall in the latter half of June which kept the dust down. The Mara River has gone down tremendously and likewise many of the tributary rivers that flow into the Talek and finally into the Mara River. Grasslands within the reserve are now showing signs of drying out although in some areas of Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge grass levels are still long. Cloudy mornings with a north easterly wind would bring the temperature down on morning drives. July was dry of rain, although there was a smitten of rain in last week which had no consequence to the environment.
Towards middle of June some large herds of wildebeest and common zebra were filtering in from the eastern plains near the Loita Hills. Due to rain patterns, movements of these hoofed mammals can from vary from year to year, on the 24th more wildebeest and zebra were seen coming down through the Masai conservation areas. Good numbers of zebra can be seen across the Musiara and Marsh Plains areas of the Reserve. Large columns of zebra were seen across the Topi Plains and into the conservation areas. Good numbers of wildebeest were seen scattered across the short grass plains in the conservation areas and as far into the Mara North Conservancy.
Three leopards can be seen within reaches of the camps. Romi with her 8 month old male cub and another male have been seen within the woodlands that hedge the Mara River.
The Marsh pride with the four Musketeers can be seen within the Bila Shaka riverbed, the Marsh and Windmill areas.
Long days spent out on game drives with picnic breakfasts and lunches. With the Wildebeest movement throughout the reserve there has been some very good river crossings at Paradise. In the first week of July huge numbers were congregating on the Burrangat plains and within the Ronkai depression. Thousands have been crossing the Talek River since the last week of July; at the main crossing points at Paradise first it was the zebra mainly the resident Loita herds. In the afternoon on the 10th July at 1.30pm approximately 1,500 zebra were seen crossing from East to west at the main crossing point at Paradise. One foal was taken and eaten by crocodile. Three others were snatched at but swam free.
On the 18th and 19th July two very large crossings at the mortuary crossing point, thousands crossed here with unfortunately many succumbing to tiredness and literally dying at the river banks, there were those that were taken by crocodile often as they returned back across the river. More of the wildebeest and Zebra have crossed at this point than at the main crossing point with many large crocodiles waiting at the river edges they often cross regardless.
There has been a crossing every second day or so, there was a good crossing of zebra and wildebeest on the 30th that crossed at the main crossing point, none got taken by crocodile. Latterly some large crossing were seen upstream from the Camps at the rocky crossing points opposite Kichwa Tembo airstrip, many of these wildebeest and zebra had filtered down from the conservation areas in the North east. On the 29th at approximately 11.00am there were thousands seen crossing.
Elephant in family units are being seen spread out across the grassland plains. There are many young calves within these family herds which is very nice to see. Large bulls, some of whom are in Musth can be seen moving from herd to herd. Giraffe are seen within the riverine woodlands and also as far as the conservation areas where they favour the acacia woodland species.
Large herds of topi can be seen across Topi Plains, Paradise and also areas of the Musiara Marsh. Early on in July good numbers of Topi were seen moving from the Musiara Marsh towards Paradise Plains.
Two large buffalo herds can be seen between Rhino Ridge and Topi Plains, the one herd frequents the Bila Shaka river bed depressions and the Marsh verges or tey can be seen in the Marsh itself. The large numbers of wildebeest and zebra that are passing through have put pressure on buffalo and elephant who have moved away. The Marsh Pride in June had taken many buffalo within the Marsh and also Bila Shaka.
Serval cats have been seen now that the grasslands are receding, on the 28th guests saw a serval near the Calvert within the marsh catch and eat two grass rats; their disc shaped ears can pinpoint sound effectively.
Spotted Hyena are well spread out and many are competing with lion for the latest Gnus!! On the 19th near Topi Plains hyena killed two young gnus, on the 23rd east of the Musiara Marsh hyena have been taking an average of one wildebeest a day. Spotted Hyena are effective and successful predators, running their prey down like a wolf or wild dog, Spotted Hyena have a large heart and thus tremendous stamina. Up to 85% of what they are eating they have killed themselves.
An Aardwolf was seen late in the evening on the 6th of June and again on the 15th July near Bila Shaka, this specialised insectivorous Hyenid is seldom seen which is rather sad, according to the Masai and seeing their scat latrines indicates there are more about than we see. The Aardwolf has a preference for Harvester termites which are very evident after a little shower of rain.
Hippo are coming out earlier in the evening to graze, some are even going back to the river late in the morning. Hippo crops the grass with their lips and need an average of 60-70kgs of grass fodder per night, they are pseudo ruminants and digest while in the water. With the grazing is getting shorter and thinner, the hippos are having to travel further afield and leave earlier to look for grass. Hippopotamuses are primarily folivorous, mainly grazing on grasses growing along the banks of their river habitats. Like many other herbivore species, they will consume other plants if presented with them, but their diet consists almost entirely of grass, in some areas of Africa minimal consumption of aquatic plants has been noticed. Hippos have rarely been filmed or seen eating carrion, this action has generally been seen in the water, this could be due to nutritional stress. Hippopotamuses may very occasionally eat small animals or consume carrion.
Warthogs in sounders or solitary boars will be seen across the grassland plains, with so many wildebeest around lion have stopped hunting them so much lately.
Eland in small breeding herds remain on Topi, Paradise Plains and the Masai Conservation areas. On the evening of the 8th an Eland Bull was killed by lion on the east side of Rhino Ridge, by the morning there were three lionesses left, a large clan of spotted hyena arrived and drove the three lionesses off quite quickly.
Grants and Thompsons Gazelles will be seen on the shorter grass plains, the Musiara marsh holds a good numbers of Grants Gazelles with many of them close to the marsh grasslands.
There are many Dik Dik in the Riverine forest and close to the river bank, they stay in monogamous pairs with the female being a little bigger than the male. The males use a dung midden and will religiously mark his territory on a grass stem nearby by using his pre-orbital gland beneath his eye. Pairs spend about 64% of their time together. Males, but not females, will attempt to obtain extra-pair mating when the opportunity arises.
Black Rhino have been seen seldom seen although the older male was sighted on Paradise plains twice in the last few days of July.
Marsh pride – the four Musketeers, Siena, Charm and Bibi with their 10 cubs of varying age groups are being seen between Bila Shaka the airstrip and the Marsh. One cub is 8 months old, three cubs are now ten months old and the other six cubs are 14 months old although one of them is a little younger which was abandoned by Bibi. The huge numbers of wildebeest that have been passing through have kept them going with two or even three wildebeest being killed and eaten at a time. The pride has remained on Bila Shaka and the Musiara plains. Scar, Hunter, Sikio and Morani are often spread apart with two or three of them together at any one time.
The Marsh pride female Jicho had three little cubs that are about 6 weeks old; amongst them there is a male who has a lot of character. They have been residing in the marsh woodlands, with the many wildebeest that passed close to her recently she had managed to kill two wildebeest. She is a good mother and when a martial eagle passed close by she hid them quickly, Martial eagles are renowned predators of lion cubs here in the Mara. Jicho’s Cubs on the 28th July have already had a taste of meat and this is a start to a lion’s life. On the 31st one of the female cubs became separated from Jicho, she was seen searching for it all around the area she kept the cubs, but sadly the next day the cub was seen dead. The other two, the male and female remain with her. Lippy and Kini spend much of their time within the Marsh boundaries and as far as the lower Bila Shaka river bed. Jicho has still not accepted Lippy and Kini for the introduction of her cubs; we shall give it a bit more time perhaps. Lippy and Kini were seen on the Bila Shaka on the 25thand tried to have a go at a young wildebeest which was too fast for them.
In July 11th at 5.30pm two of the breakaway lionesses had a fight with an old male leopard near the wooded area in marsh, the lioness was Jicho and we think she fought the leopard because he got a bit too close to her cubs who were nearby. The leopard and lion fought until the leopard scrambled up a tree with Jicho in pursuit. Jicho didnt get very far up the tree and the leopard then indignantly pee'ed on her from above. Jicho got a scratch on the left side of her neck which was from the leopards front pad claw, this will heal in time. Despite the age of this Leopard who had worn out lower canines he gave Jicho a good run.
Modomo and the other three breakaways spend much of their time near Rhino Ridge and Topi Plains; here they have fed off many topi and wildebeest. There are three cubs that are 6 months old and two that are 14 months old. On the 12th they had killed a wildebeest near the gardenia tree; on the 16th they had killed a young wildebeest near the Olive tree further up Kries Lugga.
In the afternoon of the 11th July at 5.15pm a new male leopard whom we strongly suspect is the same male that is often seen associating with Romi, was near the large fig tree at the lake Nakuru area of the marsh and he had just killed a yearling wildebeest close by to some cubs belonging to Jicho, she saw the Leopard there and came over, there was a fracas and Jicho got scathed on the left side of her neck.
This new male Leopard has been seen again in the wooded tree line close to Little Governors camp, he was seen in the late evening on the 27th with a Dik Dik that he had quickly snatched.
Romi and her 9 month old male cubs are being seen frequently in the woodlands near the BBC camp and also within the wooded areas near the Marsh. There are two dead Warburgia trees within the woodlands near the BBC campsite and both a very fond of lying up on these tree trunks with the evening light on them
The large, rather yellow male Leopard has been seen a few times near the Bila Shaka river bed crossing. On the 13th July he had killed a young wildebeest and had stashed it up a Boscia tree on the croton hill the other side of the Bila Shaka. Overnight he moved it to a large Warburgia tree and fed on what was left.
There is a female leopard with two 2 month old cubs; they have been seen often at an area called Kifuku ya Nyoka in the croton thickets. She was feeding on a young three month old wildebeest on the 28th morning.
Another large male leopard has been seen in the same area, on the 29th he was seen with the female and two cubs about 100 meters apart.
At the mortuary crossing point there is another male that has been seen often this month; this leopard has taken many young Wildebeest in the croton thickets as they come down to cross the river, last year he took two in three days.
Sightings of Cheetah have been rather slim this month.
Malaika and her 15 month old male cub were seen near the Ronkai depression and Lookout hill area. She has been in this area for quite some time now and we hear that she is feeding Impala and Thomson gazelle.
A young female has been seen on the northern fan of Rhino Ridge, she shows that she is lactating so we presume that she has cub’s somewhere.
A female with two cubs a male and female who are over one year old have been seen near the salt lick on the Ntiaktiak River. These are the three that have more than likely come down from the Mara north conservancy. On the 31st at 10.00am near the Murram pits in the Fig tree conservation areas these three cheetahs effectively killed a young Wildebeest.
The young male that was often seen near Governors was again seen early on in the month, he has since been sighted the other side of the Marsh in the Masai conservation area.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
Earlier on the month we had some nice warm weather with bright early mornings.
Large numbers of Wildebeest have been filtering through into the conservation areas, with large numbers on the eastern plains. Spotted Hyenas have been feeding off wildebeest on a daily basis, large clans congregate and run down the wildebeest like wolves, as the wildebeest disperse individuals are singled out, by the hungry hyena. Often all that is left are a few bone splinters and matted hair.
There are zebra in good numbers across the open grasslands. Topi and cokes hartebeest are in the longer grass, while Topi move throughout the shorter grass areas too.
We have had good sightings of Giraffe as they move between the Acacia woodlands and riparian woodlands, males will travel great distances looking for breeding herds and oestrus females. Acacia Gerrardii release tannin in the leaf rachis which gets stronger as the more it gets browsed upon, with this the Giraffe move from tree to tree. Some large males are very recognisable often by pattern and colour; they can be seen as far 30 kms away in a few hours.
The one Buffalo breeding herd will be seen on the western plains as there are some long grasses here which suit buffalo, there are also a few old males that frequent the woodlands and river courses.
July has been good for Elephant sightings particularly close to the river and also in the Acacia woodlands. There are many young calves some of which are very young. There is a bachelor herd of bulls that have been seen lately on the river, one of whom has a good pair of tusks, for a savannah elephant this is quite good going. With the wildebeest scattered over the open plains elephant feel pressured and tend to spend more time feeding in a wooded habitat.
There is a lioness that has three young cubs that are approximately 2 months old. They are being seen in the croton gorge that runs down from the salt lick. There are 13 lion that can be seen with three females and 6 cubs of varying age groups.
On the 23rd a Martial eagle was seen to take a young Thomson fawn on the Eastern grassland plains, these savannah Eagles are large birds of prey hunting in the grass and woodlands.
Mara Toto & Mara Plains Camp, Kenya
Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams”.
Kenya received a huge amount of rain, and in some regions the flooding was overwhelming. But,following the life-giving surge of water, the entire country has been covered in a thick blanket of green,and the Mara too is flourishing. Most ev enings the heavens opened and the downpours often continued into the night.
Massive flocks of migratory birds have swooped in to make the most of the mud, and abundance of grass and insects. Lesser-striped swallows are chirping on every perch and are busy painstakingly packing mouthfuls of dirt into masterfully constructed nests. Mara Toto camp is full of these clever creations under the eaves of the tents.
The skylines are scattered with great herds of elephant, who have moved into the conservancies by the hundreds to feast on the nutritious red oat grass – an annual dietary boost for them in comparison to their typical diet of tougher branches and shrubs. Many of the breeding groups have in tow tiny calves who are fighting to coordinate their trunks and are struggling to see above the waving tops of the grass plains .
Also needing a better view of their surroundings, the troops of Vervet monkeys in our area can be seen pausing as they run to quickly stand on two f eet and look around for approaching danger. All prey species are on red alert at this time of year, never able to see what – or who – may be moving in on them.
Slinking through the grass, the cheetah on the conservancy are doing brilliantly, making the most of the cover that is giving them a distinct advantage. Narasha and her two sub -adult cubs (now over a year old) have never looked better, and they have been spending time between Mara Plains and Mara Toto camps. Her almost daily hunts are more often than not successful and their spotted coats are gleaming with health. Her male cub is doing especially well in shadowing his mother as she stalks, and he is set tobecome a brilliant hunter, learning from one of the best.
The female cheetah, Nosim, wit h her one male cub is also doing well and was hunting near the murrum towards the end of the month. At eighteen months old, her cub is bigger than his mother, and in the first half of May they have been found separated by some distance. This may be the beg inning of the next chapter in the cub’s life when he is forced to find his own path and to start fending for himself. Guests at Mara Toto just watched her mid-May on a long hunt going after a young Thompson’s gazelle right in front of them and without another vehicle in sight. Nosim, then release her catch for cub to chase andfinally kill the young Tommy himself. It won’t be long now before he is ready to go solo .
New Safarilink Flights: Mara and Laikipia
Safarilink recently announced two new flights: the long -awaited reverse service from the Maasai Mara to Laikipia and an afternoon service from Laikipia to Wilson. These two new services will officially take flight June 15, 2013 and will operate from three airstrips in the Maasai Mara to Nanyuki, Samburu, Loisaba and Lewa Downs.
Schedule at time of posting:
Ol Donyo Lodge: The Kopjes and Kilimanjaro
Exploring The Chyulu Hills is a magical experience and ol Donyo Lodge acts as the perfect starting point to explore this amazing area which rises up to 2,174m. The surrounding area is one vast volcanic geological outcrop covered by scenic and mysterious acacia forests which are the perfect place to see elephants, oryx, topi, zebra, impala and elands, not to mention a variety of around 380 bird species.
Recently, the full moon was shining and we were once again bathed in the beauty of the Kenyan night sky and the expansive skies dusted with millions of stars w ere so surreal.
Waiting patiently for the rains to clear over the past few weeks paid off and on the full moon evening oL Donyo Lodge managers, Ray and Alyssa, decided to see what a night on the kopjes would be like'¦..and they weren't disappointed!
A short climb up exposed an indescribable panorama: a 360 view of the world below and, as always, pleasantly watched over by a Kilimanjaro that felt as though one could reach out and touch it.
26 March, 2013
12 March, 2013
Governors Camp first opened in November 1972. Here are a selection of photos from our very first guests. They were on honeymoon and back then we on ly had 3 tents! The camp has come a long way since the early days, but its fun to look back on where we began! These photos were kindly sent to us by Mohammed Ismail who accompained them on safari. Many thanks to Mohammed for sharing these with us.
The Happy honeymoon couple
Abdullah the barman
|Getting ready to go out on a game drive!||Relaxing in Camp|
The Taylors the managers cutting cake!
Mara Toto & Mara Plains Camp, Kenya
SAFARILINK FLIES MARA - SAMBURU
Air Kenya Commences Service Into Ol Seki Airstrip
Effective February 15th, AirKenya will begin scheduled service into the Ol Seki Airstrip located in the Maasai Mara. This will provide service to a wide array of nearby camps, including Kicheche Valley Camp, Porini Mara Camp, Ol Seki Hemingways Camp, Encounter Mara Camp, Asilia Naboisho Camp, among others. AirKenya offers daily flights throughout various regions in Kenya and is one of the destination's major air carriers.
New Camp Opening: Olare Mara Kempinski
Just last month, Kempinski Hotels opened the doors (or rather tent flaps) to its all -inclusive Olare Mara Kempinski Camp located in the Maasai Mara. As the company's first property in Kenya, the camp is located in the Olare Orok Conservancy, just a short one -hour flight from Nairobi or 90 minutes from Mombasa. Olare Mara Kempinski is hidden in a grove of woodland on the banks of the Ntiakitiak River, complete with 12 furnished tents - five twin and seven double occupancy tents. Each tent is furnished in a classic African style with four -poster or twin beds and outdoor and indoor showers. The camp's honeymoon suite even features its very own plunge pool with stunning views of the conservancy. Geared for active adult travelers, the camp presents a wide variety of activities including game drives, escorted bird, game and nature walks, Maasai village visits, bush breakfasts at the nearby hippo pool, as well as early morning balloon safaris over the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy Implements New Anti-Poaching Efforts
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy recently announced that they have raised the funds to purchase a drone to monitor the conservancy and combat poaching in the area. The new drone underscores the conservancy's commitment to protecting the wildlife population. The drone combined with a rapid deployment unit of rangers, security officers and volunteers, supported by Nanyuki -based Tropic Air's helicopters, will assist greatly with preventing poaching that has been a concern in Kenya. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to over 13,000 animals, including over 300 elephants, 200 giraffes, 4,400 zebras, and 100 rhinos, including four prized Northern White Rhinos.
Basecamp Eagle's View
Among the newest and most exclusive additions to the Basecamp Explorer group of properties is the Eagle View camp, located within the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. The camp features nine tented suites with double beds, an elevated dining area, and viewing deck, as well as one of the most stunning views in Kenya, overlooking the Koiyaki River. Guests can also enjoy unique walking safaris with local Maasai warriors, game drives, and sundowners on the viewing deck.
Cheetah and Cub!
These two cheetahs were found having just killed a grant gazelle near Governor's Camp . The mother and
All 270,000 Acres is OUR Stage! - Ol Donyo Lod ge, Kenya
'¦ And all the surrounding landscape merely a playground
Recent sightings in brie- Ol Donyo Lodge
The most exciting thing happened last night when a couple of our guests along with Seki our head guide stumbled upon our well known local lion! It's always a treat to get a sighting of a species which has been so heavily persecuted in this region. Small conservation steps matter.
It's always entertaining to watch the resident Red -headed rainbow A gama lizards doing their mating dances for the females all throughout the property - bobbing their heads up and down and trying their best to woo.
New Camp, new year'¦Mara Toto camp nearly finished, Kenya
The finishing touches are all that remain to be completed for the grand opening of the NEW Mara Toto Camp, located just inside the Masai Mara Game Reserve, on the border with the private Mara North Conservancy. The 5 -tent camp is Great Plains' latest addition to its highly -regarded portfolio of camps in Kenya and Botswana. Mara Toto will operate in place of its sister camp, Mara Plains, while it is under refurbishment until June 2013; after which, Mara Toto will remain open as well and operate independently, though in close partnership, with Mara Plains .