Game Report: Masai Mara

August 14, 2013  By: Gretchen

With all of the excitement surrounding the wildebeest migration this time of year with its dramatic river crossings, we wanted to check in with our friends on the ground to hear the latest and greatest. This game report is fresh off the presses at Governors’ Camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

Weather and grasslands

Sunrise masai mara

The month gave us pastel sunrises with cool mornings and hot dusty days; although some early mornings were as low as 10°C. 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.

Photo courtesy Patrick Reynolds

General game

Towards middle of July 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.

Wildebeest cross the mara river

Long days spent out on game drives with picnics. There have been some very good river crossings at Paradise. In the first week of July huge numbers of wildebeest 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.

(Photo courtesy Patrick Reynolds)

zebra and croc

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.

Photo courtesy Peter & Anne Bolan

migration

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. Later, some large crossings 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.

Photo courtesy Dave Richards

Elephant family

Elephants 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 favor the acacia woodland species.

Photo courtesy Patrick Reynolds

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. One herd frequents the Bila Shaka river bed depressions and the Marsh verges, or they can also 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 lion pride had taken many buffalo within the Marsh and also Bila Shaka in June.

Hyena

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. They also have a large heart and thus tremendous stamina. Up to 85% of what they are eating they have killed themselves.

Photo courtesy Justin Grammaticas

hippos

Hippos are coming out earlier in the evening to graze, some are even going back to the river late in the morning. Hippo crop grass with their lips and need an average of 60-70kgs of grass fodder per night. 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.

Photo courtesy Sabine Trensz

There’s more to this report, but you’ll have to wait until next week for news on the big cats and more of the antelope species! Until then you can dream of Africa, or better yet – call one of our safari specialists to plan your visit!

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