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Over the last month rain has arrived all over East Africa. In the Mara the Mara River has risen and the grasslands are green again. The rain has sent the resident wildebeest and zebra herds on the move around the Reserve and the lions have been feasting, ambushing them as they exit the Mara River. The big elephant families are back in the grasslands and the birding has been superb.

 

In Rwanda the people have been marking the genocide memorial week and helping those still affected. The rains here have caused the bamboo to shoot drawing the gorilla families lower down the volcano slopes to feast, this has made the gorilla treks shorter and more accessible.

 

On Loldia ranch the resident game is happily feeding on the new grass growth. We have had wonderful leopard sightings close to the lodge and our guests have been enjoying some celebratory stays with us.

 

Sincerely,

Governors Camp Collection

 

Governors Guide to May in Masai Mara 

 

 

7 May, 2014 


Usually in May the grasses on plains are fantastically long, with the red oat grass in seed there is a red tinge to the plains in preparation for arrival of wildebeest migration. The days are warm with temperatures ranging from 15 - 31 degrees Celsius, rain falls mostly in late afternoon and evenings. We tend to go out with picnics for longer game drives at this time of year.


 

We have good sightings of lion, cheetah, leopard and serval cats. Good sightings of cheetah up on the short grass plains where the Thomson and Grants Gazelles are found.


 

With the long grass in the reserve, the prey species disperse and lion have to travel further afield for a meal. The lion are feeding on eland, buffalo and hippos. There tend to be cubs in the prides and the Paradise pride focus their efforts on hippos. 


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Big herds of elephant spread out in Musiara and Bila Shaka grasslands with lots of calves in these family herds feeding on grasses. Elephant feed and bathe in Musiara Marsh. There is a large presence of Males some a little testy and in musth but mostly happy to eat alongside the females and families, there is some mating occurring. 

Giraffe are present in the woodlands between the camps with lots of calves in the family units. Giraffe are frequent visitors to all the Governors Camps. 


 

There are waterbuck with young claves, impala, bushbuck and baboons in the forest margins close to the Marsh. Warthog seem to be everywhere with males busy sparring for females. Sows have piglets of 7 months old. Good numbers of eland in herds of 10 - 40 individuals are seen out on plains with calves in breeding herds and large bulls flanking the breeding herds. Good numbers of topi with their 6 month old calves out on plains. The large resident buffalo herd spends its days on the grasslands of rhino ridge where the grass is long and well suited to buffalo.


 

On Topi Plains there are lots of spotted hyena and their cubs, they compete with lion for prey and will also hunt topi at this time of year.


 

Birds


 

There is usually great birding in the month of May. A few species hatch young chicks and teach their fledglings to gather the abundant insects. Hundreds of open billed storks around (they are inter African migrants) as well as small flocks of white storks stocking up before their long flight back to Europe.


 

We see Woolley necked storks (inter African migrant) and green shanks Eurasian migrants are seen on the banks of the Mara River. Jackson widow birds display their breeding plumage to females by jumping up and down around a specific tussock of grass trying to attract a mate, red collared widow birds, white winged widow birds, fan tailed widow bird and yellow bishop are seen in the long grasses of marsh, blue flycatchers are back within camp grounds breeding and striped swallows nest around camp if rains are late. And we often have sightings of the less common birds such as the Leviallants Cuckoo, Marshal Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk Grey Headed Bush Shrike breeding, calling and feeding their young and Double Toothed Barbet breeding. We see lots of Grey Kestrels on the termite mounds eating termites. 


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

There are lots of beautiful butterflies around including swallowtails in the woodlands around the Mara River, and African Monarchs in the grasslands.


 


 

April in the Masai Mara


 

7 May, 2015


 

Weather and grasslands:


 

Over the last month the Mara has seen warm days and humid nights which brought a rather strange weather pattern. The total rainfall for the month was 157 mm with a heavy downpour of 48mm on the 3rd of the month. For much of the month we had scattered daily showers of 2 - 16mm at a time. Strong winds in the afternoons would bring in the rain in the late evenings. The grassland plains have improved tremendously with grass levels improving daily. The marsh has also filled up with water flowing across the road at the causeway. The Bila Shaka river bed also filled up with large volumes of water flowing into Paradise Plains. The Mara River rose up substantially which was really needed since the water level in the river was very low during February and March. Early mornings were cool at around 16C but by midday temperatures had typically risen to 35-39C. 


Photo courtesy of Daniela Infanger

 On the plains 

 

With the onset of rain many ungulate species dispersed, the resident zebra moved back and forth from the Trans Mara conservancy into the Reserve and then on again towards the north east as far as the Masai conservancies. Many of these animals would cross the Mara River at three main crossing points the main crossing point, the rocky crossing point downstream or the mortuary crossing point up stream. When the river level was low zebra and a few wildebeest would run across with little bother from the resident crocodiles. As water levels rose predation from crocodile increased with many zebra falling prey. Lion also took advantage of the long grass cover on the river banks to ambush unexpecting zebra and wildebeest as they exited the river. On two occasion's guests watched lion and crocodile competing for prey, the crocodiles taking an animal close to the river's edge and the resident lions then rushing in to take over the prey. 


Photo courtesy of Daniela Infanger

Elephant have been seen across the plains in small breeding herds feeding mostly on grass. In the lower areas of Paradise Plains grass levels are much longer for these areas are low lying and become saturated. Blossom the male elephant that passes through the camps had cut the lower end of his trunk early on in the month, some weeks later his trunk had healed well and he was getting more or less full use of his trunk again. Since the Musiara Marsh has filled up more elephant have been seen coming through from the Mara Conservancy into the Musiara Marsh to feed. 


Topi were mating on Topi Plains and gethering in large concentrations on Topi flats in the lower Paradise region. During the dry season the resident herds of Cape Buffalo were scattered, but with the arrival of the rains the two large herds have been moved in to the Bila Shaka area and on the south grasslands of Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge. The resident lion prides will take down buffalo when other species are not available. Warthog are also being seen across all areas of the Reserve and they are another species that lion will feed upon readily.


 

Impala and Grants Gazelle's are resident within the marsh and woodlands of the river, Olive Baboon are in good sized troops with many young infants being born frequently. These baboon families have done well despite the dry conditions over the last few months and perhaps a lack of predation has given the opportunity to breed well. Defassa water buck are also residents in the south west areas of the Marsh. We continue to have lovely sightings of Bohors Reedbuck in the Bila Shaka and Marsh areas. Thompson Gazelles are also in good numbers on the open and shorter grass plains.


 

Eland in small breeding herds were present in the marsh at the beginning of the month and when the rains continued these breeding herds then spread out into the reserve and Masai conservation areas. Eland are varied feeders which means they can adapt to most habitats, when times are dry they will browse readily within wooded environments. Giraffe are spread out from Paradise Plains to the riverine woodlands between the camps and with males travelling great distances in search of oestrus females.


 

Side stripped jackals were being seen readily in the Paradise areas and also a pair on the western fan of Rhino Ridge. There is a female in the rocky areas of Paradise Plains who has been seen with four pups, these pups are around 6 months old and follow the mother wherever she goes. There are Black Backed Jackals all over the short grass plains and particularly at the remains of old kill sights where they compete with spotted Hyena for remains. Black Backed Jackals are more prominent here in the Masai Mara and compete strongly with their cousins the side stripped jackal which is perhaps why the side stripped jackal is seldom seen and in small numbers. Bat Eared Foxes are also another little canid that is seen in small family parties and particularly since the rains have softened the earth, the termites have been breeding and each evening releasing alates who are winged reproductives that are full of fat and protein make good feeding for many other insects, birds and canids. Spotted Hyenas in large clan numbers compete with the resident lion. Rhino Ridge, Bila Shaka and Paradise Plains have large clans of Spotted Hyenas. 


Photo courtesy of Janice Dias

Out on the open plains Dwarf and banded mongooses scamper about and also within the grounds of our camps. These mongooses eat insects and are very helpful in controlling certain insect and invertebrates. Marsh Mongooses have also been seen, they are a specialised mongoose living in marshy and well watered areas. When the marsh started to fill up after the first good rains they water began to flow across the causeway, this brought in many Marabou Storks, Yellow Billed Storks and Fish Eagles who were all feeding off the migrating catfish who were trying to swim upstream of the marsh, this also brought in many frogs and insects which in turn attracted the Marsh Mongoose, on some occasions a Marsh Mongoose was seen dashing between the legs of the storks as they moved in and out of the water. 


 

 

There are many herons and egrets within the marsh and watered areas of the plains. A Goliath Heron has taken up residence in the marsh along with Black Necked Herons and Grey Herons. Flocks of Cattle Egrets were also seen towards the end of the month when some lowland areas became saturated in water. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Larger Cats

 

Lion


 

The Marsh Pride still comprise of three adult lionesses, Sienna, Charm and Bibi. There are eight sub-adult lion of which six are lionesses and two are lion. Red the sub-adult lion is the son to Sienna and Tatu the bother sub-lion is the son to Charm. Sienna's has three 16 month old cubs and Charms two nine month old cubs. The five sub-lioness have been mated with a nomadic male that has one testicle and he seems now not to have been seen much this month and certainly towards the end of the month he was not seen. Bibi is with these five sub adult lionesses and often there can be a sixth lioness. When the zebra and a few resident wildebeest were filing through here earlier on in the month the lionesses were feading readily on them. Lately they have killed and eaten two cow buffalo and a warthog. Sienna with her three cubs that are 16 months old and Charm with her two 9 month old cubs and the two sub males Red and Tatu were and are being seen in the southern marsh and also in the west marsh near the Bila Shaka, there were many zebra and a few wildebeest earlier in this region, then lately the large buffalo herds started to pass through here when the rains had set in well. These buffalo have supplemented the Marsh lion very well and since they have not had the assistance of any large males these Marsh lion have learnt very quickly how do deal with Cape buffalo despite some members like Sienna suffering bad injuries from them. Tatu had been treated for a damaged tooth in his left jaw on the 10th of last month and subsequently the left jaw was swollen for some time, this swelling has now subsided. Tatu also suffered a small laceration in the last week of March in the left genital area and he has since healed well with this wound. 


Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

The four musketeers have been going back and forth across the Mara River from the Trans Mara and into the Reserve via Paradise Plains. Hunter, Sikio and Morani were often seen in and out of Paradise Plains. Scar spent more time across the river, at the end of the month all four of them were together in the south east Paradise Plains, on the 30th these four males killed and ate a cow buffalo and Morani then killed a warthog which he lay on top of to guard it from the other males, Sikio was mating with one of the paradise lionesses and he spent much of his time some 100 meters away from the other males. Both Hunter and Scar looked like they had been fighting; both of them had deep marks on their faces. 


Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

The 1st breakaway pride, The Madomo pride who often have split up, Madomo, her sister and her daughter seem to spend much of their time on the eastern fan of Rhino Ridge. They were mated on the 13th by the two black maned lion Blackie and Lipstick. The other Madomo pride members who are often seen on Rhino Ridge are two lionesses' three cubs two are 9 months old and one is 7 months old and one sub male lion called Pengu. They have been feeding off buffalo, topi, zebra and warthog. Earlier on in the month they also took down female buffalo and resident zebra.


 

The 2nd breakaway pride of 13 lionesses and cubs are still in the Trans Mara conservancy. On the 30th of this month at 6.30 am in the morning three of these lionesses one of them being Jicho and the other Kini tried hard to hunt warthog within the Little Governors marsh, Kini actually rushed three warthog and when missed these warthog ran thorough the bar area of the camp followed closely by Kini.


 

Leopard


 

Siri the female leopard and her ten month old male cub of the Serena pump house area has again been the highlight of leopard sightings. She has been very active hunting young wildebeest that have been through here and also female impala. The male cub is a very tenacious young tom, he has been approaching larger species of game all part of growing up. The male leopard of the mortuary crossing point has been seen again this month stashing food in a fork of a Warbugia tree. This is a large male leopard and he has become very used to vehicles. Earlier on in the month when there were many zebra and wildebeest crossing the Mara River, this male leopard was often very active while lying in ambush in the croton thickets, taking on anything that came close to where he was lying. Romi the female has been seen a few times again and she still habituates the BBC camp site and as far down as Governors Private Camp. Her male son who sometimes passes through her home range near the Lake Nakuru area of the Marsh. Another female is being seen in the southern riverine woodlands of Paradise Plains. 


Photo courtesy of Janice Dias

A male and female leopard are seen on the Talek River and also a male on the Ngiatiak River in the conservancy, this male earlier in the month was being seen frequently for there were cheetah in this area as well. He has been feeding off Bush Buck and also impala.


 

Cheetah


 

The female cheetah Malaika with her four cubs who are now nine months old were being seen in the double crossing area and also in the conservation areas of the Ngiatiak river. Malaika is a very active and dedicated mother. Cheetah offspring will normally leave their mother when they reach 18 months so they have another nine months or so under her care. These cubs will also jump onto the hood of cars for a better vantage point and have been doing so lately. 


Photo courtesy of Daniela Infanger

The young male cheetah is being seen frequently on Rhino Ridge and in the rocky regions of Paradise Plains, he is an active cheetah and is very successful in many of his hunts. He hunts and feeds mainly off the resident Thompson Gazelles.


 

There is a young female cheetah that often is seen on Paradise Plains, earlier on in the month she was seen hunting Thompson Gazelles in the southern grasslands of Paradise Plains. She then moved out into the conservation areas in the last week of the month.


 

April at Loldia House


 

4 May, 2015


 

The best thing that happened at Loldia this month was RAIN!!! The month started off with very few showers but by the end of the month we were receiving huge storms and recording rain levels of 102.5mm. It is quite amazing how Loldia has turned green and te animals have jumped at it grazing up all the new shoots. The rain is so welcome even although there has been a certain amount of flooding.

 

The Easter weekend at Loldia was fit to burst as there was a 50th birthday celebration. Very successful party.


 

A Leopard was watched for at least 20 minutes digging under one of the big rocks along the lake road - eventually a Hyrax ran out but was pounced upon by the Leopard. All very exciting. The Impala must have known it was going to rain as there has been a huge surge in young being born. A Leopard is getting more and more brazen as it now jumps the fence to catch its prey - mainly young Impala. There are lots of young Warthogs too. 


Photo courtesy of Dave Richards

An Aardvark has been sighted on a night game drive - these are proving to be successful and enjoyable. Two Crested Cranes are nesting outside the fence towards the Cottages. The Python that lives in the ditch along the fence on the bottom road has been flooded out of his hole so Guest's have spent time watching him as he suns himself and dries out. Sadly another Hippo and Buffalo have died - still hungry but the good news is that the two baby Hippo orphans seem to be surviving well. 


I attach some photographs of the motley crew of the Loldia Football team and their Coach Scotty!!! Considering they have never played together and have taken no exercise for a decade - they fell, tripped up, puffed and panted and scored one goal!! Everyone laughed and they enjoyed themselves. The next day - not so many laughs as they were all quite sore and stiff!!! However, they want to play again and hopefully make it a regular occurrence. 

 


The Loldia football team take a break at half time

April at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge


 

April is a significant month in Rwanda being the period for 1 week from the 7th April when people remember the 1994 Genocide. Over this period there are gatherings at all the memorials across the country and also a time people donate food and supplies to people who even 21 years on are still affected by what happened.


 

Sabyinyo Silverback lodge donated 400,000 RWF worth of food and supplies to an orphanage in the local community surrounding the lodge which was started to look after the surviving children from the genocide and continues the great work up to present day. 


April also has the largest amount of rain fall of any month in Rwanda with Kigali having roughly 21 rain days in the month. At the camp though it seemed to rain most evenings but the mornings were usually clear which made for some great trekking experiences for the guests. Due to the rain the bamboo shoots which are the gorillas favourite are sprouting and so the gorillas are lower down making access to them much easier than during the dry season. 


It was a great time of year to go and visit Lake Kivu. The weather is cooler and the lake looks incredible with the increase in water levels and made for a lovely day trip if there is a spare day within the safari. 


- Jamie Gomersall, Relief Manager Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.


 

When a lone baby wildebeest meets some lions


 

Written by Sarah Skinner, guide, wildlife photographer and co-host of Wildlife Trails 'Big Cat Special' Feb 2015


 

The rising sun was casting a beautiful glow across the plains and the grass tips glistened in the light morning dew. It was 23 February 2015, our first morning on the Wildlife Trails 'Big Cat Photographic Special', hosted by myself and special guest Jackson Looseyia. One of Africa's finest guides and former presenter of the BBC 'Big Cat Live' series.


 

Barely any time had passed before we spotted lions; two sub-adults, a male and female around two years old - likely siblings. The lions were soon delighting our guests as they affirmed their social bonds with mutual grooming and affectionate play. 


Sarah Skinner

However, they halted as something caught the lioness's attention. A lone wildebeest calf, just days old emerged on the horizon. Lost from its mother and herd and running straight toward the lions. Within minutes the lioness began stalking and within seconds a chase had begun, with the male lion in tow. 


Sarah Skinner
Sarah Skinner

After a short chase the calf was down, it appeared this was going to be a quick kill. 


However, in a momentary lack of concentration, the lioness lost her grip, allowing the calf to jump back to its feet. 


Sarah Skinner

The calf began to put up a show of extraordinary defiance, as it dramatically butted the lioness head on. For a moment both locked eyes. Our guests were silent and captivated by the scene unfolding, except for the burst of camera shutters as our group captures the fascinating behavior. 

Sarah Skinner

Soon the calf became confused, as it began to nuzzle the lioness. 


Sarah Skinner

The lioness investigated her prey. The lioness began to taunt the helpless calf, trying to evoke a response in a real life game of 'cat and mouse'. 


Sarah Skinner
Sarah Skinner

The male stood by, the hunt becoming a prolonged playful affair for the two young

lions. The calf reacted and attempted to escape and once again a chase ensued. 


Sarah Skinner

The lioness regained her focus and locked onto the calf for the last time while the male finally bounded in. It was finally 'down and out' for the last time for the brave little calf that had put up such a valiant fight. 


Sarah Skinner

It was an incredible sighting that evoked a roller coaster of emotions for our guests. Witnessing a myriad of interesting behaviours and the reality of life on the plains. 


Sarah Skinner

The morning had certainly set the bar for the rest of the safari. Yet the six days that followed failed to disappoint. Everyone returned with some fabulous images and memories of some amazing wildlife experiences.


In addition to copious great sightings Jackson was on top form as always. His friendly and warm personality a perfect compliment to his vast knowledge and passion for the Mara.
"I felt like I was right in an episode of Big Cat Diary listening to Jackson narrating by my side" said one of our guests said excitedly.


 

Wildlife Trails are delighted to be repeating this popular small group photographic safari in the Maasai Mara with Jackson Looseyia and Sarah Skinner in February 2016. In addition Wildlife Trails have launched a further departure during October 2015 with wildlife photographers Andy and Sarah Skinner with a limited time special offer of no single supplements. Contact Wildlife Trails for further details.


 


 

A cheetah kiss


 

In the Mara it is not uncommon for one or two cheetahs to hop onto a vehicle in order to get a better view of any potential prey, however for 5 cheetahs to do it is something truly unique. 


I had come across the cheetah Malaika (Swahili for angel) last year when she had just had her cubs and like most cheetahs she has a calm manner as long as you respect her, stay in your vehicle and stay calm yourself. Last week we came across her again.


 

Not wanting to disturb the family we kept our distance but one of the more curious juveniles headed directly for us and jumped onto the vehicle. After a few seconds she stepped off and we backed away. 


Malaika then approached our vehicle with her cubs. We could have raced off and risked a catastrophe as she and the cubs scattered and followed us, or just stayed put. Park rangers were nearby and we could see them keeping watch, prepared to intervene if they felt necessary. So our guide let her come over. 


Soon we had five cats on our vehicle with mum taking the top roof spot. Starting the engine or moving again would have panicked the family so we let them roam free until the family was ready to move. We are after all, visitors in their home. 


The juveniles played with several rubber parts on the vehicle. One walked right over us from the front of the vehicle to the back and I had to remove our bean bags as they seemed to take a liking to them. 


The crowning moment for me was when one of the cheetahs bent right into the vehicle and kissed my lens.Needless to say we got some amazing shots. 


I hope if I am lucky to see Malaika again and look forward to see how the juveniles grow up. As a final note I will add that no encouragement was given to the cheetahs (quite the opposite in fact) and throughout the amazing experience all park rules were adhered to by our professional guides. 


Sisterly Love Saved this Lion's Life


 

Many of the wild animals found on Ol Pejeta live in family groups - from elephants to wild dogs, warthogs to baboons - their families provide the framework around which a large part of their lives depend. These groups embody social security, protection, a prosperous territory and a better way of sourcing food. They can also mean, as one of the Ol Pejeta lions found out recently, the difference between life and death.


 

When young Ajali broke his hind leg, he couldn't keep up with the rest of his pride. Unable to hunt or defend himself, his days out in the unforgiving wilderness were numbered. In an extraordinary tale of family love, his brother and three sisters broke off from the rest of the pride to stay with Ajali and take care of him. As he rested, his siblings would hunt and bring back their prey for him to eat. They kept him safe from other predators, keeping watch day and night for any animal that might take advantage of a wounded lion.


 

This tale started at the end of last year, when a group of five lions split from one of our resident lions prides, known as Julie's Pride. Julie's pride roams the northern sector of Ol Pejeta and often moves freely across to our sister conservancy Mutara in search of food. To try and find out why this small group had broken away, one of our field researchers went to investigate.


 

He knows Julie's Pride well, and was able to identify the five lions as siblings - three females, one of whom is named Kitana, and two males. The reason for their split was immediately obvious to him; one of the males, a sub-adult, had a broken hind leg. He named him 'Ajali' - the Swahili word for accident. Ajali could have injured himself in a fight, in a hunt, or simply through bad luck. The Ol Pejeta Ecological Monitoring Unit (EMU) decided to watch Ajali's group closely, but not to intervene unless the situation got desperate.


 

Lions are by far the most social of the big cats, and also have the most complex language. If Ajali had been any other cat species, he most likely would have died. To everyone's great relief however, he has gone from strength to strength - healing well under the care of his siblings. He is now walking - able to keep up with his brother and sisters. 


Ajali's Pride- Ajali's sisters sit by his side to protect him.

It is not unusual for small groups of individuals of the pride to break off and spend time in different parts of the territory - but a social occasion such as a kill will bring them all back together. There is a chance that Ajali's little group could reunite with Julie's Pride, and as such, it hasn't yet been classified as a separate pride by the Ol Pejeta EMU.