This month has seen large concentrations of wildebeest and gazelles mostly in the Musiara area, continuing down the Mara River to Paradise plains and over to look out hill. After some initial indecisiveness and a little rain, large herds of wildebeest have decided to spend considerable amount of time with us.
The Mara River runs North to South from its water shed the Mau Forest into the Serengeti, then deviates West into Lake Victoria which in total is a 395km journey. A large portion of the migration move westward towards the river in search of grazing, even though there is still grass where they have come from there is an unexplainable driving force to cross the river.
The viewing from the balloon has been exceptional this month as their flight path takes in the Mara River, the Olpunyata swamp and the Eluai plains in the Mara triangle. They have had great sightings of the migration, lion, leopard and the occasional rhino.
The main herds of zebras numbering somewhere in the region of 200 000 have remained mostly to the East of the reserve, with scattered herds along the river.
During September we have been lucky enough to have seen the birth of a variety of species in the Mara. The zebras have their fuzzy brown foals, two topi calves have been seen up at the air strip following their mothers very cautiously, tiny piglets following the mother warthog in a train, tails high in the air and the gazelles who lay low, ears flat in the grass hiding from their predators.
We are still awaiting the ostrich chicks which, often hatch in large numbers as they have communal nests. Some of the eggs have however been targeted this season and eaten by lion and hyena.
There are a few hyena dens out on Paradise plains, one of which the pups have become very accustomed to the vehicle and come right up to investigate, sometimes chewing the tyres to see whether they are edible or not – no punctures yet!
The Marsh pride of lions have been spending their days under the shade of the trees around the Marsh, lying out on the grassed termite mounds or sleeping in the shade of our airplane on the airstrip! They have no need to move very far at all as the wildebeest have been in the area all month. The pride is doing very well and is stable with the two big boys ensuring the territory is safe from other males and the cubs nearing adulthood are secure. The younger members of the pride had an interesting encounter with a porcupine this month. After about half an hour of trying to discover whether the porcupine would make a decent meal the lions gave up and left the terrified porcupine to escape!
The Paradise pride are fat and happy too. With the arrival of 8 new cubs into the pride in August their numbers are increasing rapidly and with plenty of antelope coming down to the crossing area; they seem to be very content. Notch remains with his one son in the paradise pride; the two other sons have moved across the river and have been seen with other lionesses. The remaining two sons are still nomadic and have not been seen with females.
‘Shakira’ the female Cheetah and her 3 cubs are doing very well. Her cubs almost fully grown (20 months old) are learning very quickly and will soon leave their mother and forge their own way. As the cubs are females they will split after some time and become independent of each other, each having to raise a family alone.
‘Malaika’ the other female, Kikes daughter is in the area and has been seen less regularly…
The three Cheetah boys have been roaming the plains with their usual confidence as they have a strong coalition. They, like Shakira have to hunt daily as there are more mouths to feed and the success rate is not normally that high.
The mother Leopard ‘Olive’ out in the Talek river area has been seen most days. She has been bold enough to bring out her cubs which were born mid August from hiding and lead them to various resting and feeding spots along the river.
The young male leopard which has mostly been across the river in August whilst the river was low has been spotted a few times above the Little Governors crossing along the forest. He is a fairly relaxed young chap, posing perfectly on the fallen logs in the forest giving our guests some great sightings.
The leopardess that frequents the river line between the camps has been seen frequently as well as the odd sighting of the rather large male that resides near the rocks past the main crossing point.
We have had a couple of rare sightings of Caracal, once a mother with a cub. The cub was very curious and ran right to the vehicle and then returned to its shyer mother; an incredible sighting. The Caracal is a smaller, tawny coloured cat with long tufts on its ears resembling a lynx.
Serval cats have been spotted periodically as well, a beautiful animal with extraordinary markings. It has long legs and large elongated ears aiding them in hunting birds and mice in the grass.
Elephants have been travelling longer distances in search of food as the grass has mostly been grazed and plants are less nutritious. We still recognise some of the characters that come through the camps, sometimes spending the whole night if they find a few trees worthy of their attention.
The elephant sightings this month have mostly been matriarchal herds with few bulls moving through the area.
On the whole, it has been an amazing month with the Mara continuing to support huge amounts of wildlife despite the droughts in Kenya.