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Bush Telegraph Newsletter

November 2013


Governors' Camp Collection News October / November 2013 

This month has seen the great herds of the wildebeest migration moving all round the Mara with some impressive river crossings, the Marsh Pride of lions has been feeding on this bounty of prey with the males moving about and new cubs added to the fold. In Rwanda, Nelis took a trek to see the Agashya Gorilla family and updates us on their news and at Loldia clients have been enjoying some great wildlife viewing from Lake Nakuru National Park.


Jonathan and Angie Scott who are based at Governors Camp in Masai Mara will be doing regular updates for us with their new blog
Scott's on Safari and at the start of the month we were very proud to have opened a new clinic for our Masai community neighbours at Mara Rianda.


We hope to welcome you to this magical corner of Africa sometime soon.



Governors' Camp Collection


Scott's on Safari 

Angie and I met through our love of wildlife and photography: it was the Mara that shaped our meeting. We were married atop the Siria Escarpment a thousand feet above the animal speckled plains within view of the Marsh Pride's territory in 1992. 

The Marsh Lions have been the focus of our family's world since I first started watching them in early 1977. I can still remember being introduced to the Marsh Pride by my mentor Joseph Rotich or 'Bwana Chui' as he was known to all the drivers and guides in the Mara, meaning Mr Leopard! Joseph showed me how to look for predators, how to read the signs and listen to the call of the wild. During that first game drive, Joseph took me to Musiara Marsh to search for lions. He soon spotted two huge pride males standing tall along the edge of the riverine forest, their golden manes blowing in the wind. In that moment my dream of living with wildlife in the heart of Africa became a reality and Angie and I continue to follow the Marsh Lions to this day from our base at Governor's Camp. We are at our happiest when in the presence of these great predators as they lie among the shade of the rapidly retreating forest at the heart of the Marsh or nurse their young along the intermittent watercourse known as Bila Shaka. Bila Shaka means 'without fail or always there', testimony to how easy it is to find lions in the area. But this year the rains are late and drought threatens. In many places the grass is gone. Increasingly this part of Marsh Lion territory is under threat, with huge herds of cattle moving in to the Reserve at night forcing the lions to abandon the area and move further west. At times lions are speared or poisoned due to conflict with livestock owners and every year at least one of the Marsh Lions is killed. But for visitors the sight of these lions is still a certainty - it would be almost impossible to take a game drive in the Mara without seeing lions. That is how good the game viewing is year-round. 

Masailand still harbours the last of East Africa's greatest wildlife areas, a legacy of the Masai's traditional reliance on cattle for their sustenance and a 'live-and-let-live' attitude to the wild animals that they shared the land with. True, warriors would test their courage by killing a male lion - and predators were targeted when they attacked livestock. But who could argue with that in days gone by. The challenge now is how to balance the development needs of pastoral communities with Kenya's conservation objectives. This is something that becomes more pressing by the day if the Mara is to survive as

Africa's most spectacular wildlife area. There is nowhere quite like it - along with the Serengeti, the Mara's big brother to the south in Tanzania. 



Fortunately for the Marsh Pride, Governor's Camp has an excellent rapport with the Reserve Authorities and when we reported that two of the Marsh Pride lionesses Bibi (the grandmother of the pride at 15 years of age) and Sienna (one of the Three Graces) were unwell the Head Ranger at Governors immediately set out to track down the pride and then called in the vets from KWS to investigate.


Having been treated with antibiotics and given a thorough check-up we are happy to report that early yesterday morning we received a phone call from Ruto a driver guide who worked at Governor's for many years and was one of our ace spotters on Big Cat Diary.

It was just the tonic we needed to hear that Bibi was looking in great shape feasting on a zebra carcass.


Our three-month-old Grandson recently joined us for his first Mara safari. Will his generation of Kenyans be able to enjoy the same sights that inspired my love of nature and wild places thirty five years ago? Or will he be left to ponder how we let the Garden of Eden slip through our fingers? One thing is certain by working together the Reserve authorities, tourism partners such as Governor's Camp and conservationists such as Angie and me can make a difference.



Game Report October - November 2013

Weather and grasslands


Over the last month the grasslands have become short due to little rainfall of 24.5mm and also the many wildebeest and zebra that passed through. Mornings were still cool with mid-day temps being warm until late evening.


Strong winds from the north east would pick up late morning and this brought in heavy dust clouds that filtered through the riverine forest. 


Photo courtesy of Nick Powell 

General game

Wildebeest and many more zebra crossed the Mara River at Kichwa Tembo during mid- month and passed though the north Masai conservation areas, staying in the Musiara area for days only before they were on their way to Paradise Plains. There were some good sightings at the crossing points with large numbers of zebra crossing during the day, some wildebeest crossed at night. The Marsh Pride of Lion took many wildebeest within the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains. 

Photo courtesy of Bill Roe 

The main Cape buffalo herd were on the Bila Shaka and East marsh plains while the resident bulls were being seen on the west marsh grassland verges and near the riverine woodlands. A few buffalo were taken by lion particularly in the Bila Shaka area with one of the large males being killed and eaten in the marsh area of north of the swamp. Giraffe in good numbers were being seen within the woodlands and camp wooded areas with many of them coming through at night. There were also many young male giraffe with Musiara Marsh and these could be seen sparing between one another. There are young calves in crèches of varying age groups with mothers being not too far away. Giraffe are not the best of mothers. Topi females gave birth to more calves this month although many were also born in September. Warthogs are also being seen with Bila Shaka and Musiara, there are sows with many piglets which the resident lion have been hunting. 

Photo courtesy of Nick Powell 

Impala and baboons are regularly seen within the camps and wooded areas of the Marsh. Few impala females are being seen with fawns and likewise Thomson Gazelles who are on the short grass plains, these gazelles can have up to two fawns a year with only a short gestation of 5-5.5 months.


Elephant in small family units are also being seen within the riverine woodlands and also the Musiara Marsh. There are small herds of eland will up on Topi Plains, Paradise and in the Masai conservation areas. Large dimorphic bulls' are scattered across the open grassland plains of Paradise, Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka. Serval cats have also been seen frequently, with regular sightings of one particular female near Bila Shaka. 

Photo courtesy of Craig Wiltshire 



has three cubs born latter half of October. She is at present near Bila Shaka.


Kinny: is also lactating near the windmill side of the marsh, she was seen on the 10th November going into the reeds.


Marsh pride with their 10 cubs of varying age groups, Bibi, Siena and Charm and the four musketeers. Sikio hurt his paw earlier on in the month but seems to be a little better as he has shown interest in a lioness at Paradise which is where the other three males are at present. They moved again down to the Paradise region later on in the month. The Marsh Pride have been feeding on wildebeest, zebra and buffalo. Red, one of the male sub adult cubs has got a lot of attitude and will go a long way, he has very short whiskers for a cat so is well recognised. The four males look well fed considering wildebeest and zebra have been passing though, there are also many Topi here. The paradise females had split up earlier in September when the Musketeers went in, now there are three lionesses and four cubs which two that are 9 months old and the two are over a year old. 

Photo courtesy of Nick Powell 



Romi and her one year old male cub have been seen very infrequently this month. Where they have been seen is near the BBC camp and also close to IL Moran camp. The male near the mortuary crossing points was being seen quite frequently and also the large male leopard at the bottom end of Bila Shaka, this male will also be seen near Il Moran so he covers quite a home range. The female leopard with two 5 month old cubs was seen a few times near 'Kwa Nyoka' on the west Rhino Ridge fan that leads into Paradise Plains they both were seen crossing the dry river bed and then moving into a croton thicket. 

Photo courtesy of Michelle Thearle 



The two males that were being seen near Bila Shaka/Rhino ridge have been since seen in the Mara North Conservancy, these are two large male cheetah and will cover large distances from the conservation areas in Masai conservation areas as far as the double crossing.


There is a young female Cheetah who has three cubs that are 4-6 weeks old near Joseph's tree on the western fan of Rhino ridge where there are a few large Ficus trees and some croton thickets in high rocky ground, she is being seen in this area. 

Photo courtesy of Nick Powell 


Walking in the Mara North Conservancy 

Weather was perfect for walks this month, with cool mornings to start the day off. Many wildebeest were seen moving through this area and then filing towards the Mara Reserve. Good numbers of zebra were also being seen on the plains above the 'flyover' and also on the eastern plains which were getting very dry. Spotted Hyena clans are evident on the eastern plains there is a large clan, on the plains above the 'flyover' there is also another large clan. All are prominent predators of wildebeest, zebra and topi.


There is a large male leopard that haunts the 'fly over gorge' he has been seen three times as he walks through the Euclea Divinorum thickets. It is a huge bonus to see a leopard in good view while on foot and this we have to say was the highlights of the month. Excellent sightings of giraffe throughout the eastern plains near the Acacia Gerrardii woodlands. One morning on the 7th we counted over 43 giraffe and six calves of varying age groups. Black Back Jackals were also being seen with three of them seen hunting Thompson Gazelle fawns on the 20th they were not successful as the mother Thomson was very active. Elephant were evident in the acacia thickets, they appeared to have come across from outside of the conservancy in the early mornings and then spent the day in the conservancy, and some large breeding males also accompanied these breeding herds. 


A trek to see the Agashya Gorilla Family 


At 6am all the guests were down in the lodge for an amazing breakfast consisting of a hot and a cold buffet. Our guests were fitted with gators, a snack, back packs and gloves. At 6:30am we all took the 10min drive to the Park Headquarters where we were allocated our Gorilla families and guides.


After a short but brief introduction, we jumped back in our vehicles and were off. Everyone's faces were filled with expressions of anxiousness and uncertainty but above all were that off uncontrollable excitement. The vehicles dropped us off at the closest point to our allocated Gorilla family. We were given the option of a porter each. Through porter work, these guys now have the opportunity to generate a legal income, far removed from a life where subsistence hunting was their only way of putting food on the table. By supporting them, we also help protect the forest and it's magnificent fauna and flora, which we have come to love and enjoy so much. After a 15 minute hike through the farm land, we reached the park boundary, a 76km stone wall erected to to demarcate the National Park from the farm land. This construction started in 2002 and stretches all the way from the Uganda/Rwanda border to the Democratic Republic of Congo/Rwanda border. Also erected to stop the buffalo from damaging the farmer's crops. A quick briefing on the do's and don'ts in the forest and we were off to see the Gorillas.

Beautiful green lush surroundings help you relax and forget about the uncertainties. A 150m fairly steep incline quickly pushed the breathing up and got our hearts racing. Our hike took us along the brim of a beautiful crater.


Everyone stopped to have a quick peek into the crater floor and soon the steep uphill was forgotten. The nervous chatter seem to be dropping as everyone is putting a little more focus on breathing. One hour and thirty minutes later, we reached the Trackers. This is always a welcoming sight to most as this means that the Gorillas are now within a few steps. Cameras checked a sip of water and off we go. No food or water from this point on! Now the excitement has reached a whole new level!!! A few nervous giggles were quickly turned into absolute silence when all off a sudden the loud chest-beating of the Dominant Silverback was heard. A narrow footpath opened up into a clearing and there he was, only 30ft in front of us, Agashya! His name means "special" in the local language. This family was not always this big in number. When Agashya took over, he went to other families and collected females which he then introduced into this family, now 23 strong.


We reached this family as they started to move around, foraging. Feeding was definitely taking priority above all at this stage. With the short rainy season here, there are an abundance of young, fresh bamboo shoots. A favourite for gorillas and is probably seen as "the time of plenty". Our whole hour with the family was spent following them through the forest. Two of the Blackbacks were less interested in filling their bellies and more so in testing their strength, roughing each other up. The strength of these animals is just insane, taking a bamboo with a diameter of 2 to 3 inches and just snapping it with no effort at all.


This family, previously known as Group 13, has lots of youngsters and this always makes for great fun watching them. Our 1 hour has come to an end and it was time for us to leave. Always too soon!


Nelis Wolmarans, manager Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge 




Rain brings more fishing action

Written by David Slater"Honeylulu" 


The short rains seem to have started at the coast, and the fishing has improved, although the old adage 'fishing is fun' has to be stretched a bit when it rains all day out at sea! Pity the poor skipper who has to face the wind and rain as clients play their fish without having the option to retire to a dry saloon with hot coffee once the fish are boated!


In both Malindi and Watamu waters yellowfin tuna became more active on the rainy days, and a group of regular anglers from Germany out in the Kingfisher boats, have had good days with tuna, wahoo and kingfish, while the last two days the sailfish have also appeared with four of the five boats getting 'sailies' as well as good scores of smaller fish. Earlier both Cluelessand Neptune found a sailfish, then Clueless motored down to Shimoni to try their luck on the seamount north of Pemba, where they caught two swordfish by night, and tagged a striped marlin as well as catching both yellowfin and bigeye tuna during the day.


Simbareturned from a successful four day trip to Lamu, having tagged nine sailfish, and found plenty of yellowfin at Watamu on the rainy day, but chose then to livebait most of the day in the hope of raising marlin. Alleycathad raised a big black marlin in the canyon area a couple of days before, which refused the live bait and swam away, but it shows these fish are there, and keen anglers will work all day to target them. This latter boat also released a blacktip shark, while Tarkacaught a whitetip shark of 64kgs, having landed a nice cobia of 20kgs the previous day.


B's Nest tagged two sail earlier in the week and had some good catches of bottom fish along with Ol Jogi so let's hope for lots more rain!