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A very Happy and Healthy New Year to all our followers of the monthly Bush Telegraph Newsletter 




We thank you for your continued support and positive feedback.


It is true to state that tourist numbers have seen a major decline in 2014 due to misperceptions about the threat of ebola and terrorism in Kenya, both of which are unfounded. The dramatic fall in the number of tourists visiting this magical destination and the falling revenues have a direct impact on the welfare and prosperity of the people employed in this sector and of course the protection and conservation of Kenya's heritage, its irreplaceable wildlife.


So please include Kenya in your holiday planning for 2015. The experience of a lifetime awaits you.


Michael McInnes

Kenya Safaris





Firstly may we take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year. The tourism industry has had a few challenges over the past few months but we are seeing an improvement for the coming months and we thank you for your continuing support. The Mara is as spectacular as ever, with some rain falling the trees in the forests are fruiting and elephants have been regular visitors at all our camps, the Marsh Pride continues to grow with new cubs in their ranks. At Loldia House guests and guides have been enjoying some spectacular birding with the migrant birds here in full force. At Sabyinyo guests continue to have amazing gorilla encounters on their treks. At Mfangano Island Camp the gardens are in full bloom, the birdlife is as good as ever and the lake life vibrant. We have some great special offers for you to take advantage of and we have a little report on why we love January in the Masai Mara and why we think you will too.


We look forward to welcoming you on safari with us sometime soon.



Governors Camp Collection



Game Report Masai Mara



The Mara has been relatively dry over the last month but in the forests around our camps the Warburgia trees and the Teclea Nobilis Trees are fruiting bringing in elephants and lots of colourful birds into the camps. We have had two lovely sightings of Aardwolves out on the plains and there are new cubs for the Marsh Pride of lions who with the wildebeest gone have turned their attention to hunting the resident buffalo.



Weather and grasslands


December began as a dry month with only small pockets of rain that kept the grass green. Temperatures were warm with cool evenings leading to hot and humid nights. Generally in most of the grassland areas of the Musiara plains the residual grasses were kept down and were short. Small herds of zebra were seen within the Musiara swamp and Bila Shaka grasslands, these herds moved back and forth within the Musiara areas. The last week of the month rainfall was heavier. Total rainfall for the month was 92.6mm which is relatively low compared to previous years. The Warbugia Ugandenis trees have started to fruit and this has helped bring the Elephant into the woodlands and camps again. The Teclea Nobilis is also fruiting and the bright red fruit has brought on a myriad of colours from the many birds that fed off them.





General game


There are resident Impala and Olive Baboons on the west side of the marsh and in between the woodlands. Many of the impala ewes are pregnant and there are also good numbers of fawns in the breeding herds who are in creches. There are large troops of Olive Baboons troops with many young infants about. Infants start to ride 'Jockey' style when they reach approximately six weeks old. The foraging habits of these resident Olive Baboons has taken them further out beyond their normal routine, older dominant males will take small Thompson Gazelle fawns as well as those of Impala.


Black Faced Vervet monkeys have been seen more this month than other months, the Vervet (Family: Cercopithecidae) Monkey is more of an arboreal than a terrestrial monkey which means that it spends most of its time in the safety of the trees. Although they will venture down to the ground in search of both food and water, in times of poor rainfall or drought they will spend more time foraging on the ground. Vervet Monkeys rarely go further than 450 meters from the trees unless in time of stress in which case they can venture further afield. They are diurnal primates spending the days foraging for food and then rest at night. The Vervet Monkey is a very sociable animal inhabiting territories in troops that can contain between 10 and 50 individuals, depending on the location and habitat. These troops are comprised of adult females and their young, with males wandering between different troops to both socialise and mate. Males tend to be larger than females and are easily distinguished by their bright blue testicles.


A few common Zebra are still within the Marsh, Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge areas although many of them have moved out into the Masai conservation areas East and North of the Reserve. Elephant still come a go between the Trans Mara conservancy and the Mara Reserve; grass levels in the Trans Mara conservancy are longer than that of the reserve. The Warbugia Ugandenis trees or Elephant Pepper tree are fruiting now and this has brought many Elephant and Baboons into the riparian woodlands around our camps. Elephant don't actually chew the fruits, these Warbugia fruit pass through the gut via the dung and are then dispersed all over the Mara as Elephant being catholic feeders will travel great distances. Herbivores either those of ruminants or hind gut fermentators can be important agents of dispersal for plants, even if they are not primarily seed or fruit eaters. Animal dung provides an ideal environment for the germination of seeds and the growth of seedlings. The fibrous nature of undigested plant material means that it has good moisture retention qualities. It is rich in nitrogen, as well as organic matter which is easily broken down to inorganic nutrients by microorganisms. It is true that many seeds germinate better if they pass through a digestive tract, and some will only germinate after a hard protective layer has been partly digested away.


Photo courtesy of Robert Hogg


The teclea Nobilis is also fruiting and these fruit have brought in many colourful and striking birds such as the violet backed starling and double toothed barbet. Bohors reedbuck are struggling, with the grasses short they are much more visible and fally prey more easily to the larger predators. When fleeing from adversaries male Bohors reedbuck have a tendency to kick their back legs high similar to that posture of the 'empty kick' of female impala, yet the reedbuck clicks his hooves together which emits an audible clicking sound, perhaps this phenomena is an anti-predator posture. The Bohor reedbuck is polygynous; males defend territories that include the ranges of two or more females and their current offspring.


Masai Giraffe are also being seen within the Musiara grassland and woodlands, many young males can be seen together as they spar against one another. Larger males will cover large tracts of land as they move about seeking breeding herds with oestrus female. Thomson Gazelles are well spread out on the short grasses of the open plains, with a gestation of five and a half months Thomson gazelles will have 2 fawns in a year, mortality rate is high with Black Backed Jackals, Cheetah and Martial Eagles preying on them. Grants Gazelles are in smaller herd sizes, in the west marsh and Bila Shaka. Cape Buffalo are being seen in three breeding herds, the Bila Shaka and Paradise breeding herds are commonly seen, resident males still reside within the marsh environs. The Marsh lion and resident lion prides at this time of year will feed off these buffalo herds. Warthog and their piglets' are also being seen abundantly over most areas of the Mara. Piglet numbers in some areas have reduced due to predation and temperature variations. Lion, cheetah, jackal and spotted hyena are the main carnivores that will predate on them.


Photo courtesy of Robert Hogg


Topi are in small herds through the reserve with calves that are two to three months old now. Good places to see large concentrations of Topi are the Topi flats on Paradise Plains and also Topi Plains which is the north end of Rhino Ridge. Cokes Hartebeest will also be seen in small herds within Rhino Ridge and areas of Paradise Plains, like the Topi, Cokes Hartebeest calve down approximately the same time and also will be seen with calves ranging from two to three months.


There are Eland in small breeding herds on Paradise Plains and in the Masai Conservation areas. Large bull Eland are either solitary or in small bachelor herds and these will be seen not far from breeding herds. Elands are found in grassland, mountain, sub-desert, acacia savannah, and miombo woodland areas of sub-Saharan Africa, they will generally keep away from deserts, forests, and swamps.


Two Aardwolves were seen on Rhino Ridge on the 12th and this is a real bonus sighting, Aardwolves are insectivores and are a nocturnal species feeding off harvester termites and they are also known to feed on other insects, larvae, eggs and, some sources say occasionally small invertebrates and birds, but these often only constitute a very small percentage of their total diet. An aardwolf pair may have up to a few dens, and numerous middens, within their territory. When they deposit faeces at their middens, they will either dig a small hole or then cover it lightly with sand or soil.


Hippo continue to struggle with the poor grass levels and travel further out in search of fodder, we have regular sightings of Hippo arriving back late in the morning or leaving early in the afternoons to feed. Two young hippo calves were born further downstream from Governors Private Camp, one unfortunately one was taken by a crocodile three days later.


Photo courtesy of Robert Hogg


Many Spotted Hyena can be seen and heard within the Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge. The den site on the grassland plains east of the Marsh has over forty Hyena who all congergate together just as dusk falls. These Hyena cover most of the Bila Shaka riverbed and grassland areas while actively feeding off topi and zebra. Spotted Hyena in numbers like this will pose a threat to the resident lion prides particularly if there are male lion that are absent.


A pair of Black Backed Jackals on Rhino Ridge have three pups in a termite mound while a few meters away there is another termite mound where two porcupines have been seen. Porcupines are not often seen here in the Mara ecosystem, last month there was a fleeting glimpse of a porcupine near the Musiara airstrip.



Larger Cats




The marsh pride of 21 lion - Bibi, Charm, Sienna, two sub-adult males' Red and Tatu, six sub-adult lionesses, Sienna's three 12 month old cubs and Sila the breakaway lioness with her two four month old cubs. Apart from Sila the Marsh Pride have resided mainly in the west side of the Marsh and the lower areas of Bila Shaka. The four Musketeers are habituating two areas, either the Trans Mara or within the Mara Reserve. They cross over at Paradise or the northern Masai conservation area. Sikio, Scar and Hunter are the three males that will often be seen in the Mara reserve, while Morani still spends more time in the Trans Mara. On the 11th and 12th Scar and Sikio were seen mating with the paradise females near the croton hill on Paradise Plains. Lately Scar and Hunter have been seen in the Trans Mara conservancy with the four marsh breakaway lionesses and their 9 cubs. On the 31st Morani was seen at the main crossing point in the Paradise area, these males move around in big circles.


Photo courtesy of Robert Hogg


On two occasions during this month nomadic male lion have come through via Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka, this phenomenon is becoming more prevalent. On the 6th and 7th three nomadic lion were seen near the top end of Bila Shaka and were seen urinating randomly. Another male whose left testicle was removed last year has been seen again on Topi Plains and near the top end of Bila Shaka, on the 30th he was seen with two sub-adult females from the Marsh Pride, one being Yaya and the other Kabibi, while Siena her two cubs, Bibi and the two sub-adult males were near the Hippo pool in the Marsh. Charm and Sienna have had their differences and Siena on the 13th was hit again by a Cape buffalo on the same side as the original wound but further up toward the shoulder, she is improving but seemingly took a heavy blow. Both Charm and sienna can at time be at apposing ends of the marsh. During the last week of the month all the Marsh Pride lionesses with all 8 of the sub-adults and the two four month old cubs of Sienna were together at the bottom end of the Marsh. These lion are feeding off the resident Cape Buffalo and the few zebra that are in the Bila Shaka area. Often the sub-adults both males Red and Tatu and the lionesses have chased Buffalo though the Governors Private Camp. Bibi the oldest of the lionesses was treated on the 12th November last month for an injury in her left rear paw has pulled through very and despite her age she is walking with a slight limp and is still very active with other members of the Marsh Pride.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds


Sila who is the only lioness from the second breakaway lionesses has two four month old cubs and she seems still to spend much of her time near the BBC campsite and the wooded areas of Lake Nakuru. Sila has been recorded to have been seen eating three warthog and one female topi, although there are many topi and warthog in this area.


The two paradise lionesses with their six four month old cubs have been seen in the southern areas of Paradise and Topi flats.





Romi the female leopard is being seen in the woodlands near the hippo pool bend in the river, she has been seen often this month and is still showing that she is lactating although no signs of any offspring. The male sub-adult cub who still hunts within the boundaries of his mother's home range is being seen frequently, on the 30th he was in the woodlands in the north end of the marsh and had killed an impala, he took his cache up the tree in a hurry and it fell down and promptly lost in it to waiting hyena. This is not the first time this has happened to this leopard, earlier in the month he again had killed an impala near the marsh reed bed, he dragged it all the way to the woodlands, and he chose a suitable tree and was just in the process of taken it up when seven hyena quickly took it away. Unfortunately this happens to young Leopard where the survival of life is through experience.


Photo courtesy of Robert Hogg


Siri the female leopard with her one six month old male cub is still within the Serena pump house area of the Mara River. She has been feeding off Thompson Gazelles and impala.


The large male that frequents the Wooded copse of trees on Paradise Plains has been seen in the croton thickets near the mortuary crossing point and also latterly in the riverine tree line close by. This is a large male who twice has killed and eaten two yearling wildebeest that had passed through early this month.





The female cheetah Malaika with her five cubs who are six months old will be seen within the Trans Mara conservancy, they have been seen feeding off the resident Thompson Gazelles and impala.


The young male cheetah and that of the female cheetah Narasha was seen on Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains, there are many Thomson Gazelles and Cape Scrub Hares here and this will keep resident cheetah occupied. This male will get onto vehicles quite readily using them as both shelter and observation points.


Photo courtesy of Robert Hogg


Another solitary female was seen near the double crossing and on Topi plains, this female cheetah is probably likely to have moved in from the Masai conservation areas north and east of the reserve, she was seen hunting warthog piglets and succeeded in killing one while the others went to ground, cheetah unlike lion are not very good at digging prey out of the ground. A male cheetah has also been seen in the double crossing and on the south bank of Ngiatiak river in Masai land, these solitary cheetah whether a male of female will cover great areas in times of poor rainfall with livestock pressure and other dominant predators such as lion, leopard and particularly the spotted hyena who pose a serious threat to cheetahs being proficient to survive.


Why we love January in the Masai Mara


January is the peak of Summer in the Masai Mara and days start off cool and move to hot by midday. There is sporadic rain and the grasslands remain fairly short, lush and green. Up on Paradise Plain the grass grows long to almost half a metre. The short grass is perfect for the resident plains game as it is nutrient rich and predators are much more visible.


Mocker and Green banded swallowtail Butterflies flit through the forests and there is a large presence of raucous black and white hornbills. The Warburgia trees are fruiting and this draws in Parrots who sit in the high branches eating only the seeds inside the fruit, they drop the flesh and skins below to baboons who happily feast on their leftovers.



The new generation of plains game is thriving on the new lush grass brought on by the rains. Elephants are regular visitors to the Governors family of camps, families of elephant move through the marsh feeding on the sedge grasses and into the forests around our camps, where they feed on the new growth of Teclea and Warburgia fruits. Elephant bulls often in musth follow the herds looking for females in oestrus and amongst the family groups there are often small calves. Bull elephants like to rock large Warburgia trees shaking them so that the fruit falls down, we have had comical sights of baboons peacefully feeding in the canopy of a Warburgia tree only to be followed by shrieks of panic as baboons hold tight as a determined bull elephant shakes the tree, on occasion baboons fall out and one January we watched as a hungry elephant shook 4 baboons right out of a Warburgia tree!



Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue


Mara River levels drop and hippos get squeezed into the last remaining deep pools, all this close living results in tension and fights breakout amongst the males. Females whose young are around 4 - 8 weeks old tend to keep their distance from the larger pods for safety reasons.


The Marsh Pride of lions spend more time apart as the game becomes more sparse and they need to cover more ground. They come together on occasion when there is a meal to be shared or they are in need of social bonding. With Mara River levels getting lower the Paradise Pride crosses the river regularly spending their time hunting hippos. Cheetah also have to move further in search of prey, they frequent the short grass plains regularly hunting antelope and feeding quickly before the resident hyena move in. Leopards have more frequent encounters with baboons and we hear the calls of both taunting one another in the forests around our camps. With the grass short Serval Cats seem to jump up at every turn their camouflage not so effective in the short grass.


Photo courtesy of Deborah Price



We see some amazing migratory birds like the Steppes Eagle, which comes all the way from the Russian Steppes, Violet backed Starlings which migrate around Kenya following the fruiting trees. European Bee-eaters, Eurasian Rollers, Pallid Harriers, Common Kestrels and a few white storks. We also see huge flocks of Swallows, Swifts and Martins flying ahead of the rainstorms picking up insects that have been startled into flight.


News from Loldia House 


The weather has been hot and sunny for most of the month, the only rain recorded was 2cm during the night of Christmas Eve and a light shower Christmas morning. The whole of the Lake Naivasha area is experiencing a drought and much of the wildlife is suffering from lack of food. Buffalo and Hippos have been particularly hit the hardest, being grass eaters and a number have died in the Naivasha area. Near the house a very young Hippo has been seen almost daily and never seen with an adult. Originally, we thought that its mother must be somewhere nearby but, so far, the baby has not been seen near an adult but appears to be surviving reasonably well. There are large numbers of Impala around the house. Impalas are both grazers (eating grass) and browsers (feeding from bushes) so appear to be not so badly affected by the drought, although many are very thin. At first sight this appears strange to a human eye as there appears to plenty of browse available. Some years ago a researcher in South Africa noticed that the Greater Kudu he was studying were all looking a little thin. Again it was during a period of drought and as Greater Kudu are browsers and there appeared to be ample browsing available he was more than a little puzzled. Watching the Kudu feed more closely he noticed that the Kudu only browsed on a bush for very short periods before they moved on. On investigation, he discovered that the bushes that the Kudu feed on were producing tannin thus making the bush unpalatable. He also discovered that bushes nearby were also producing tannin! Apparently, it appears that nature has a method of helping plants from being destroyed by over browsing. This may well be why the Impala and Eland (close relative of the Greater Kudu) on the Loldia Ranch are a little thin. Strangely, all the Eland on the Loldia Ranch are males and are easily approachable for photography. The Eland herds all live outside of the ranch so presumably the males on the ranch have not yet managed to attract any females.



Night drives have been very productive with quite regular Leopard sightings. 




Other wildlife usually seen on night drives are mainly nocturnal, such as Bat-eared Fox, Spring Hares and African Hares but it is also a good time to see Hippos feeding in the grasslands. Early morning drives have also been good with good sightings of Bat-eared Fox and Silver-backed Jackal and, on three morning drives, an immature male Leopard has been seen near the airstrip. Birdlife around Loldia House has been prolific and interesting. There are a number of Fig trees in the garden and they have been fruiting, attracting large flocks 50+ of Green Pigeons. Green Pigeons are fruit eaters and are the most attractive Pigeon in Africa. Unfortunately, the flocks of Green Pigeons have attracted some interesting birds of prey. A pair of Great Sparrowhawks regularly preyed on the Pigeons causing panic and occasionally, an African Goshawk joined in. Both of these birds of prey eat birds up to the size of pigeons. One day a single African Hawk Eagle paid a visit and was very interested in the flock of Helmeted Guineafowl that live around the house. African Hawk Eagles regularly hunt for Guineafowls but normally they hunt them in pairs. One bird will fly near the Guineafowl to attract their attention and while the Guinefowl are watching it, the other bird swoops down from behind and catches one. Also resident in the garden is a Little Sparrowhawk who preys on small birds such as Sparrows and Finches.


Migrant Birds 


At this time of the year there are many migrant birds, flocks of Yellow Wagtails in the garden, many Northern Wheatears, few Isabelline Wheatears, Lesser Grey Shrike, several Steppe Eagles and, best of all, a single Eleonora's Falcon. Eleonora's Falcons prey on small birds and breed on islands in the Mediterranean. They time their breeding to coincide with when the migrant European song birds are passing through the area on their way to Africa, ensuring plenty of food for their young. Guests staying at Loldia House have also visited Lake Nakuru National Park, Crescent Island and Lake Ol Odian. Ol Odian has been particularly popular as it is only a 35 minute drive from the House. A one hour boat trip on the lake can be very rewarding with close-up views of Hippos and many birds such as Great White Pelicans and Greater Flamingos. Crescent Island too has been very popular, here you can walk among Giraffe, Zebra, Thomson's and Grant's Gazelles, Wildebeest and Defassa Waterbuck. Crescent Island is great for bird watching. 


Dave Richards, Relief Manager, Loldia House. 



Written by David Slater "Honeylulu" - Few fishing trips but some marlin caught


Fishing continues to be affected by the weather, with cyclones down south around Mauritius and Madagascar causing strong winds and overcast skies, while cold green water is pushing south causing a paucity of both sail and marlin in northern waters around Malindi and Watamu.


Shuwari, fishing at Diani, took Flemming and Gitte Anderson from Denmark out for a few days, catching both a black and a striped marlin, and thee sailfish. Flemming is a collector of antique fishing tackle and had never caught a billfish before, so the couple was thrilled with their successful trip. At Shimoni, White Bear caught a black marlin and a sailfish, but were unsuccessful with two striped marlin which they raised on fly tackle, always a difficult task especially for marlin!


In the Rips off Watamu, Eclare found a black marlin of 88kgs, while Alleycat released a blue marlin, but Tarka was unsuccessful with the one marlin they had to the lures. On Sunday, White Mischief ventured far afield with Danny, Nick and Callum looking for better water, and they were rewarded with a blue marlin of about 90kgs which they released, but it was about forty miles out off Vipingo before they found some warmer water, a long trip from Watamu. Maps showing the sea's surface water temperatures are used , downloaded from the Internet, to find these areas of warmer water, as the cold green water from the north pushes south ahead of the strong winds so we must wait for the winds to abate for the warm current from the south to bring the fish nearer to home.


At Mtwapa, Nala caught a sailfish, but fish are hard to find in that area also, and there are no reports from Kilifi, where the 50th Delamere Trophy will be hosted over the weekend of Jan 24/25th by the Mnarani Fishing Club. This is one of the country's oldest tournaments, and will be sponsored by Deborah Colvile and Capt Andy's.


With a week to go, perhaps that warm blue water will be back, with marlin everywhere!