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Jambo Bush Telegraph Readers!

Sorry we have been off the radar for the past couple of months due to summer holidays.

However life in Kenya continues as normal with the Masai Mara now experiencing the peak of the annual migration season.

It is true that tourist numbers are down on previous years due to inaccurate security perceptions, which is why there are some great deals to be had on safari holidays over the coming months. Kenya remains one of the safest holiday destinations where you are guaranteed the warmest of welcomes and will experience the holiday of a lifetime.

The Kenya government has now introduced an on-line electronic visa application system. The new system replaces the old paper visa and will speedup up the time it has taken to enter Kenya at Nairobi International airport. I am grateful to Cheli & Peacock for providing full information on how to apply. (See the article below).

However, we have been informed that the old system of obtaining your visit visa on arrival will still be in force in case of any teething problems experienced with the new electronic on - online system

Photo courtesy of Harrison Nampaso, Governors Camp.
Photo courtesy of Harrison Nampaso, Governors Camp.

This morning (Tuesday 8th September) a herd of wildebeest gathered on the bank of the Mara River opposite the Governors Camp Bar Deck. The wildebeest took the plunge leaping into the Mara River and swimming across to the other side right in front of camp. Thankfully all made it safely across this time.

Every year we experience a migration river crossing in camp, we just never know when it might happen, which makes it all the more exciting when it does happen.




Why we love August in the Masai Mara


4 August, 2015


In August we experience cool mornings around 14 degrees Celsius and warm days averaging around 28 degrees. August days begin with gorgeous sunrises. With the migration passing through the grasslands become short and dry.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

There are often large river crossings around midday with lots of crocodiles taking wildebeest. On occasion we have had herds of wildebeest crossing the Mara River right in front of the bar at Governors Camp. Wildebeest and zebra cover the plains, moving around following the pasture and the rain often covering the plains from Governors Camp as far as the eye can see.


Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

Elephant move about and there are young claves in these family herds. We have wonderful sightings of elephant crossing the Mara River and they are also frequent visitors to camp feeding on and knocking over the Teclea Nobilis trees. Elephant feel pressure from the massive wildebeest herds and tend to retreat into the woodlands when the wildebeest are around.

The big herd of 500 buffalo moves back into the Marsh where there is plenty of fresh water and coarse grasses to feed on. With lots of young calves in the herd the Males stay with them protecting the young from predator's often chasing lion up trees when they get too close. Large herds of giraffe move from one feeding ground to another. Topi are well spread out across the plains and are heavily pregnant as are Cokes hartebeest, which are well spread out on the short grass plains. Herds of eland also occupy these plains browsing on the fruit of the croton bushes. In the woodland verges impala with new fawns gather. There are Olive baboons here in big numbers with infants also born recently.

Grants and Thomson Gazelles are on the short grass plains where they give birth to their young. Warthogs also have piglets in August, the sows leaving their families to farrow in a separate hole; here she will stay with her young nursing for several weeks. Warthogs are known to foster young.

Spotted Hyena are seen everywhere and as the grass is grazed down so sightings of Serval Cat increase. As Mara River levels recede so hippos are forced to move closer increasing the stress levels and causing males to become more aggressive towards one another. We also frequently see hippos out grazing in the daytime.
With food a plenty the Marsh Pride of lions remain at the heart of their territory near to Governors Camp hunting wildebeest every day. Leopards are seen in the woodlands between the Governors family of camps. Cheetahs spend time on the short grass plains hunting Thomson Gazelles.


Photo courtesy of James Townsend

Birds

In the forests the Quinine trees lose their leaves, quickly replaced by fruit and flowers, this draws in plenty of birds including Black and White hornbills, Turacos, Double Toothed Barbets and Olive Pigeons to feed. With the elephants feeding on the sedge grasses of the Marsh we get lovely sightings of water birds; Saddle-Billed Storks, Yellow-Billed Storks, Plovers and Lapwings, Sacred Ibis and the first of the Spoon-billed Storks. Out on the plains the ostriches have eggs in their nests.


A lion family tree

Written by: Bobby-Jo Clow

These images were taken in the Moru Kopjes area in the Central Serengeti, Tanzania. 

We were busy taking photos of thousands of wildebeest and zebra that formed part of the great migration when the lions were spotted about one kilometre away in a sausage tree. 



We were able to get close enough to the lions to create some really unique images. We were close enough that we could hear their vocal interaction - some of them were even snoring! 


The pride was at least 25 strong and at one stage I counted up to 15 lions in the tree. Watching the lions trying to reposition themselves in the tree was very comical as they are very clumsy and lack the leopards climbing skills. One lioness had an incredibly rotund belly and she was letting it all hang out whilst perched on the tree. 



This sighting also allowed us to observe some breeding behavior. The male lion pictured in the photos had been mating with one of the females and she was most likely at the end of her cycle as she was not very receptive towards him and was getting very aggressive whenever he tried to pursue her. The lioness eventually climbed up into the tree to escape the male. As he started to follow her a young lion came to her defence and snarled at the male and stopped him from climbing the tree. 






4 September, 2015

August wildlife report Masai Mara

Weather and grasslands:

August has been mostly a warm month with some clear nights resulting in cool early mornings and bright pastel sunrises. Hot and sometimes humid afternoons often brought rain. Most early morning temperatures were around 15C with afternoons rising to 34C. Rainfall for the month has been 97 mm with some heavy rainfall coming towards the end of the month. This later rainfall pattern has certainly helped to draw the wildebeest migration forward. The Musiara Marsh water levels are also now dropping with the southern end nearly drying up.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The grassland plains had started to dry up and thin out with early movement of zebra and some resident wildebeest. Much of the Bila Shaka and Musiara grasslands were slowly drying out, since the 23rd when the wildebeest were starting to filter in many areas particularly the Musiara plains were being eaten and trodden down. The eastern grasslands of Musiara, Topi Plains and East marsh grasslands have been eaten down by the resident Cape buffalo, wildebeest and zebra that had come through in July and early August.

Paradise Plains still retain good grass levels, many springs that were active from Rhino Ridge are now drying up. The Mara river has subsided and with water levels being consistent.

The great Wildebeest migration has started arriving into the Masai Mara from Serengeti since the 22nd of the month.

Since the 22nd and 23rd large herds of Wildebeest were seen crossing at the main crossing points on the Mara River, also on the 23rd at 10.00am at the Talek River huge numbers of wildebeest crossing for 3 hours non-stop and this is a large movement of animals. This year the migration is late, their movements depend on weather patterns where the wildebeest and zebra are. In past years late migrations can often lead to late movements back and will depend on rainfall patterns in the coming months. Earlier on the month there were many resident and Serengeti Zebra and a few wildebeest that were crossing the Mara River and going west into the Trans Mara. Earlier on in the month there were good numbers of Wildebeest crossing being seen near the Mara Bridge in the Trans Mara conservancy, many of these wildebeest stayed near Look out hill, Hammerkop and Roan hill which are on the Posse and Burangat plains.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

On the 26th there was a good crossing early in the morning and guests were seeing Wildebeest crossing at 6.30 am and with continued crossing for 30 minutes. Paradise Plains and west fan of Rhino Ridge were getting well covered with the recent Serengeti wildebeest crossings. In the evening of the 26th there was a huge build up on the far side and the followind day there was a large crossing with an estimated 5,000 - 10,000 animals crossing at two of the main crossing points, two wildebeest were taken by crocodile at the rocky crossing. At these main crossing points there are many very large crocodile and they all still seem to focus their attention to these migrating animals during the migration season, at some stages there can be over twenty large crocodiles in a given space.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Further upstream on the 27th at 4.00pm at the Kichwa crossing there was an equally large crossing coming in from the west, two were taken by crocodile, this was a bad judgement on behalf of the wildebeest for many of them drowned when they reached the east bank wall which was very high and they then had to scramble upstream while hedging the east side of the river bank until they found an opening in the bank to get out.

The male leopard that frequents this crossing point turned up and took a yearling wildebeest and this stalled the crossing for perhaps 30 minutes. Further upstream from the stony crossing at the cul de sac crossing there was an equal number of wildebeest that crossed.

 
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira

On the 31st there was a huge crossing lasting from 10.30am until 2.30 pm. Most of these wildebeest and zebra were coming from the Trans Mara in the West, although earlier on at 9.30 am there were a few Zebra and Wildebeest that crossed from the East to the West side, interestingly some of those that crossed from the East to the West then joined up with those coming from the west side that were rushing down to the river in long columns. Guides and guests were coming back that evening saying they saw at least four different crossings during the late morning and early afternoon. There was an estimated 10,000- 20,000 that crossed this morning at various points at the main crossing areas. Four wildebeest were taken by crocodile. All these river crossings have lead to an influx of wildebeest and zebra and there are now many scattered and concentrated herds of wildebeest and zebra are within the Musiara areas. Rhino Ridge, Paradise Plains, Bila Shaka and Topi Plains have large numbers. There has to be nearly 500,000 animals in and around here, it is a phenomenal site!!


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Earlier on in the month there were a good numbers of wildebeest crossing the Talek River and many of these went north east into the Masai conservation areas, as these areas dried up and grasses were trodden down, the wildebeest and zebra moved down into the reserve in the latter days of the month.

The 2nd of the month many of the resident zebra were being seen in the north Marsh and also between the Musiara and Bila Shaka grasslands, on the 11th in the morning there was a tremendous movement with the resident Zebra, with many crossing to the East, in the evening of the 11th at 5.00pm there was some good activity that evening when the crossing was stalled due to a crocodile attack on a mare and her foal. She fought the crocodile off although suffered a broken leg. She crawled to the east bank into some rocks, A Leopard who was in the croton thickets seized the opportunity and killed the zebra mare and started to eat, a few minutes' later three crocodile tried to seize the zebra carcass from the leopard.

 
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Over this time there had been large numbers that have come into the Musiara and Marsh grasslands, the east marsh and west marsh equally have good numbers. Among these zebra herds there are large flocks of wattled starlings that can be seen on the backs of the zebra. On the 16th at 5.00pm there was a large number of zebra crossing, guides estimated 2,000 crossed at the main crossing point all going from East to West. On both crossings there was heavy crocodile activity with many animals being bitten or eaten as they tried to cross. So much so there were queues of crocodile all lining up as if waiting for a banquet table to be laid!! On 17th at 3.30pm there was an estimated 1,500-2,000 that crossed at the main crossing point going from East to West. Many of these Zebra were both residents and those from Serengeti.

At 4.00pm on the south bank of the Talek River there are large herds of Zebra still milling around for the grazing is still available, there was some rain on the Burangat, ol Keju Ronkai depression and Posse Plains. To the south near Hammerkop and Roan hill smaller groups of wildebeest are slowing moving north. During the early days of this month in the Musiara area and Masai land to the north east there were large herds of scattered wildebeest and zebra, these herds of wildebeest and zebra are mixed in with the resident population and those from the Serengeti that had crossed earlier in late July and had moved north east via the Talek. Topi plains and East Musiara plains wildebeest are well scattered.
On the plains:



Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Warthog have started giving birth to piglets, two sows have been seen with young piglets on Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains and also those sows in Little Governors, there many little piglets running through the camp. Topi and cokes hartebeest are being seen throughout the Musiara areas, large congregations of Topi were seen on Topi plains and south Bila Shaka, although the Cokes Hartebeest are in smaller numbers.

Elephant in mixed breeding herds have been passing though and still seem to cross over from the Trans Mara side, they seem to still spend much of the day in the marsh and then pass back at night. Eland will still be seen on the open plains, Musiara Marsh, Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains are good places to see them although in small breeding herds of 25- 50 animals. One eland cow seen on the 14th had extremely long horns for a female of the species; this particular animal was seen three years ago in the Masai conservation areas. It certainly appears that eland will travel long distances in differing habitats.


Photo courtesy of Sabine Drees

The resident Impala and Olive Baboons are seen daily between the camps and riverine woodlands. Amongst the Olive Baboons there are many infants and crèches of young juveniles. Impala ewes are also pregnant and those that have given birth to fawns will also be seen in crèches. Black Backed Jackals very often in pairs or trios who are wide spread canids will habituate and hunt on the open plains and wooded habitats, these successful canids are potential predators to young fawns of Impala, Thompson and Grants Gazelles. Side striped Jackals who will feed upon small invertebrates and also perhaps more of an insectivore has been seen only twice this month.

Two African wildcats have been seen in the Mara north conservancy one male and one female in the similar home range, these small felids are not often seen here in Masai Mara, although they are recorded being seen.

Bat eared foxes are also being seen with all the wildebeest and Zebra that have been in residence this month. Good times to see them are in the early mornings and evenings, Bat eared foxes don't have a good circulatory system and suffer cold temperatures easily and like to sun themselves. Unfortunately, the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), is a canid species that is susceptible to disturbance and threatened by habitat encroachment from humans. Being the only species in its genus, it differs from other canids in several morphological features primarily with its dentition, the most teeth than any heterodont mammal. The most outstanding features are the extraordinary large ears that can measure up to 13 cm in length on a 30 cm shoulder high animal. The ears function as thermo regulators in addition to their main purpose of assisting and facilitating effective prey detection.

Spotted Hyena are still in large clan numbers with Bila Shaka, Topi plains and paradise plains being areas to see them, Spotted Hyena will compete with the resident lion prides. One Aardwolf was spotted on Rhino ridge in the early evening of the 17th and this is the only sighting of this species this month.

The resident Buffalo herd has been in the Bila Shaka and also on the East side of the Marsh. They move back every three days or so, on the 16th and 20th they seen all crossing at the marsh culvert.


Photo Sabine Drees

The Mara river still holds good numbers of resident Hippo and there vocal chorus of grunts and wheezes will still resound during the course of the night. Hippo who crop grass with a horny layer on their upper a lower lips like short green grass will often and commonly be seen within the camp grounds during the night.

Larger Cats

Lion

Siena was treated once again on the 23
rd for wounds inflicted on both side of her flank.

The marsh pride with two core lionesses Sienna and Charm. There are two cubs that are 13 months old who belong to Charm and Sienna who has three cubs that are 20 months old. The two sub adult males Red the son to Sienna and Tatu the cousin is the son to Charm and often or more recently a sub adult lioness who is the same age group as the two sub lion and is the daughter to Charm, these lion are often with the Marsh Pride and particularly when they are hunting and feeding.
They are being seen within the Bila Shaka river bed environs and also between the bottom west end of the Bila Shaka river bed and as far as the northern areas of Rhino Ridge.


Photo courtesy of Felix Rome

On the 23rd Siena was treated for the would on her left flank which had been opened up yet again and so she received another severe bite wound on the right side of her flank, these wounds seemingly happened perhaps a week prior to her being treated for her left rear tibia and metatarsal bone has been severely bitten into and subsequently were infested with fly larvae, these were all cleaned and flushed out.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The Marsh pride have been feeding off warthog, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo. In the last few days of the month she made a tentative wildebeest kill but was thrown off, it is understandable for she is still weak, although she has fed well a few times with kills made by other members of the pride, she was last seen on the 31st not far from where she was treated.

The five sub-adult lionesses are in the East Bila Shaka region and also seen in the north east marsh grasslands. The older lioness Bibi will often be with them. The five sub-adult marsh lionesses have been feeding off warthog, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo, the Bila Shaka Buffalo herd are in the same area as the marsh lionesses.

Since the 24th in the north marsh area there is a young male lion who is not much more than three years old and has been seen mating with one of the sub marsh lionesses, this lion is of two young males and one of which is quite shy while the other is more active, these are suspected have come from the trans Mara or alternatively have come from the Masai conservation areas in the north east.


Photo courtesy of Sabine Drees

The four musketeers Hunter, Sikio and Morani and the iconic Scar who is still often being seen in the Trans Mara, although he was briefly seen on Paradise Plains not far from the main crossing points. Morani and Hunter will also be seen on Paradise plains although for short periods of time. Earlier on the month Sikio was seen mating with the paradise lionesses while Morani and Hunter will also be seen more frequently across the river. Blackie on of the black maned lions has also mated with the older paradise lionesses, it appears that the Musketeers will come over into Paradise and disperse any other breeding male, with this it will be difficult for resident lioness to ovulate successfully if males of breeding age that are mating keep being driven off.


Photo courtesy of Felix Rome

Madomo the 1st breakaway lioness with her sister and daughter have been residing on Topi Plains and also in the river bed that lies east west of Rhino Ridge. They are feeding off the many zebra and wildebeest that are within the Rhino Ridge areas. The sub male lion Pengu and an older lioness with two cubs who are twelve months old would seem now to have broken away from the Madomo pride are often be seen on the top end of Topi Plains, they were feeding off wildebeest, topi and zebra. On the 11th at 7.30am this pride was seen hunting on the top end of Topi Plains, later in the evening they were successful with a wildebeest kill.

Leopard

Two leopards that are frequently being seen are Siri the female leopard with her 14 month old male cub. We have also had great sightings of the male leopard at the main crossing who seems well proven with snatching zebra and wildebeest while crossing, he ambushes them from both sides of the river. On the 11th at 5.00 pm he was very quick to take advantage of a zebra mare that had a broken leg after thrashing with a large crocodile and managed to get into the rocks on the east ban of the river. In the morning at 10.30 am of the 27th at the 2nd crossing below the main rocky crossing he took out a yearling wildebeest on the west bank in front of a large herd that was in the process of crossing from west to east. On the 10th he was seen in the croton thickets while on the East bank with an injured read left tibia, he also appeared to be seen limping heavily, literally a week later and after all the Zebra and wildebeest activity this wound has cleared up considerable, also he is not limping, again amazing the healing powers of large cats.


Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira

In the riverine woodlands of the eastern rocky crossing below the murram pits there is a female leopard with two cubs that are four months old. There is also a male that is being seen in these areas as well and as far as KO 3 which is an old camps site.

Romi the female leopard of the BBC camps site has been seen occasionally this month, recently she was being sighted near the hippo pool upstream from Little Governors crossing, and she had vanished for many days of not being seen. Her male cub who is a little over two years old and until May-June of this year was hunting in her home range, he was seen near Lake Nakuru woodlands in the morning of the 16th and was apparently hunting and stalking reedbuck.
Siri is often being seen near the Kopjes close to Serena pump house area of the river, she has been feeding Impala and Thompson Gazelles. On the 12th in the late afternoon Siri had killed a large male Impala and had stashed it up in a Balanites tree.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 


Cheetah



Malaika the female cheetah since the 22nd has three cubs that are 14 months old, one of the young males is no longer with Malaika it is unsure what has happened. She is being seen in the conservation areas of the Ngiatiak River and the double crossing area. She feeds of Impala, young wildebeest and Thompson gazelles. Just recently she has been hunting on her own.

The two males have been seen near Look out hill again and on the Burangat plains these two males will also be seen in the Masai conservation areas in the East. The lone female cheetah called 'Nolari' who is the daughter of Narasha was seen near the Murram pits close to the Talek River. Another young male was seen in the morning of the 30th on the south bank of the Bila Shaka close to Topi plains, he later killed a young female Thompson that evening. On the 31st he was seen again on the north east side of Rhino Ridge below Emartii and was lying under a Boscia tree, we are not sure where this cheetah has come from and suspect that it is from the Masai conservation areas in the north east.


Photo courtesy of Sabine Drees

Walking Safaris in North/East Masai land

Walking has taken up a little more this month. The early mornings have been cool with a prominent north east breeze, although the early morning dawn starts a new day.

Earlier on in the month there were many wildebeest and a few zebra on the east plains, since the 22nd many of these herds migrated west towards the reserve for there had been rain in these areas. Also in other conservation areas south of the Aitong hills also hosted many wildebeest and likewise these animals also migrated west towards the reserve increasing the herd sizes already in residence.

Early in the morning of the 22nd there was a male African wild cat seen near the 'fly over escarpment' in Mara north conservancy, on the 24th a female wild cat was also seen in close to the same area. On the western plains there is a small breeding herd of Buffalo of 52 animals. By the 31st of the month much of this area has been grazed down by the many wildebeest and Zebra that were here in the early weeks.

Six lion of which three are adult lionesses and three sub adult cubs, these were seen on the 22nd and were hunting wildebeest that were in the depression that splits the two open plains.

There is a bat eared fox den with three in the north end of the east plain, early morning before 8.00am are good time tom see them sunning themselves on the disused termite mound, there are many holes in this den site and it appears these bat eared foxes have been here some time.

Patrick Reynolds, Governors Il Moran Camp Manager.




There's a cheetah on my seat!

Written by: Elephant Pepper Camp

Earlier this month, while on a game drive in Maasai Mara National Reserve, some of the guests of Elephant Pepper Camp enjoyed a rather unusual sighting.

One of the guides had spotted a female cheetah and her four cubs hunting some Thompson's gazelle.

In order not to disturb proceedings the guides stayed put, watching from a distance. All of a sudden the female cheetah decided to jump onto the roof of the vehicle with three of her cubs following.


David Horsey

The fourth cub also jumped onto the roof - but unlike the rest of his family which used the rear spare wheel for leverage, he attempted to clamber up the side of the vehicle but ended up landing on a seat! He was as surprised as the guests!
David Horsey

The guide advised everyone to stay calm and wait until the cub moved on - he did not want to panic or injure the cheetah and put the guests in any danger.
Sure enough, the young cheetah soon jumped down and the mother and other cubs left too, heading off to pursue other adventures...


David Horsey

While we are used to these lovely cats being very relaxed around guests, we have to admit this is the most relaxed we've seen them!





Testing the New Kenya e-Visa


We have been testing the new online visa application system before spreading the word on it, to verify that the system actually works!

Having tested it successfully, we are happy to announce:
The instructions were easy to follow.
The advice is that visas will take 7 days to process, although ours was done in 24 hours.
Payment with Visa was straightforward.
One of the mandatory fields in the application form requires that guests attach an invitation letter or their safari itinerary. We are happy to provide a letter should you require one... Just contact your Cheli & Peacock Safaris consultant.
The visa came through as a Pdf attachment with an email. Here is a copy of what it looked like: 


Please note:
Currently the online application form is for Single entry & Transit visas only. There is also a US$1 service charge for the online application.

For multiple entry & East Africa Visas, visitors need to follow the current way of getting visas i.e by going to their consulate or getting this at the port of entry. The Kenyan Visa section has informed us that they expect to have both these visa options online within the given grace period of two months. So more news to follow.

The e-visa process will become compulsory from 01st September 2015 (however the Kenya Association of Tour Operators is requesting for an extension). Visitors are advised to register their application well in advance since approval may take up to seven working days to process.

The e-visa application system:

Applications for visitors to Kenya can be made via www.ecitizen.go.ke and following the below instructions (Applicants should have their passport, a passport photo and payment card ready): 

 

1. Click 'Register' on www.ecitizen.go.ke

2. Select 'Register as a Visitor" 

 

 

- As part of the procedure, you will receive a confirmation email that you will need to verify to confirm your registration. 

- You will be required to upload a passport photo to proceed 

 

 

 

3. Once Logged in, select 'Department of Immigration Services'

4. Select 'Submit application' and then 'Kenyan Visa'

5. Select the type of visa, read the instructions and fill in the application form - kindly note:

- You will need a scan of the main page of your passport

 

- Incomplete applications will be rejected and you will lose your processing fees. 

6. Pay using your Visa card, Master card or Debit card

7. Await approval via e-mail, kindly note this could take up to seven days so factor this in prior to your travel date.

8. Log back into your e-citizen account, download and print your e-visa

9. Present your printed e-visa to the Immigration officer at your port of entry

 

Best wishes,

 

The Cheli and Peacock Safaris Team


Wildebeest Migration Update

Over the last week there has been a steady stream of wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River on a daily basis. The plains all around our camps are now covered as far as the eye can see, with an estimated 500,000 wildebeest and zebra. As you look out over the plains from Governors Camp there are magnificent views of the migration in every direction and on Saturday, at lunch time guests got a lunch table view of the Marsh Pride relaxing in the shade of a tree just outside the camp. Here are some photos from the last few days.