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Migration Update 

This week has seen a succession of huge river crossings culminating in a massive crossing yesterday where we estimate around 100,000 wildebeest crossed the Mara River in one go. The crocodiles have been very active at the crossing sites taken wildebeest where they can and the male leopard continues to hunt on the river bank. There have been very large numbers of wildebeest and zebra on the plains of the Masai Mara close to our camps and we have herds of wildebeest and zebra in Governors Camp, Governors Il Moran Camp and Governors Private Camp. Where the wildebeest go the lions are never far behind and we have seen the Marsh pride of lions hunting very close to Governors Camp.
This is an amazing migration season and our guests have had some spectacular wildlife viewing, one couple who were staying with us for ten days saw thirteen river crossings, sometimes seeing two crossings a day. We have also had lovely sightings of a female leopard and her two cubs. Here are some photos taken over the last week.











A warthog gets a rude awakening from a leopard

Written by: Lisl Moolman

I couldn't help but think of the adage "you snooze, you lose" when I saw a hungry leopard chance upon an oblivious warthog boar that was resting at the water's edge at the Sable Dam in Kruger National Park.

When I arrived at the dam, I was informed that a leopard male had been seen over the past hour and a half but that I had just missed it. However, when I scanned the surroundings, I noticed that some impalas were still fully alert, with their ears standing up and appearing very uneasy.

A couple of visitors and I moved to the other side of the parking area, where the leopard was then spotted behind a mopane bush with his gaze fixed on a warthog boar drinking water. The warthog
then settled down for a nap at the water's edge with a wound visible on its right flank, presumably sustained during an earlier fight with another boar.

The leopard then started stalking its unsuspecting victim. 



It didn't even feel the need to take a hunting stance as the warthog was completely unaware of the leopard's presence until it was too late. 




The leopard reached out to touch the warthog with its paw. I watched in disbelief, and could almost picture the puzzled expression on the leopard's face as time ticked by with no reaction from the warthog. 




Two seconds later, the warthog looked back and chaos ensued. The pig tried to escape. Unfortunately he didn't stand a chance, especially as he was already probably weakened by his wound. 




The leopard got a firm grip on the boar and toppled it over so that it could get to its neck.

And then an audible sigh of relief was in order as, although it's just part of nature, it's difficult for me to witness such an event. The whole episode lasted 10 minutes from the moment that the leopard touched the pig until it released its grip on the lifeless body. 



The tired leopard then started dragging the huge warthog out of sight. However, it was so heavy that it had to rest every couple of seconds to gain strength and catch its breath again. 






Photo courtesy of Nick Powell

We have had a busy high season across all our properties, welcoming guests on safari with us from all over the world.

In the Masai Mara migration season has continued with massive river crossings and huge herds across the plains. Elephant families have been visiting the camps frequently at night and our guests have been enjoying great sightings of all the big cats. We welcomed a team from Herd tracker to do the worlds first live migration updates from the Masai Mara on Persicope which was a huge success.

In Rwanda as the seasons change our guests have been enjoying some unusual gorilla sightings such as a family sharing a large wild mushroom and giving the biggest bite to the female breastfeeding gorilla. There have been refurbishments at the lodge, honey collecting and new cocktails added to the menus. Thor and Alisa visited one of the gorilla families normally only observed by the gorilla researchers and Rwanda held their annual Gorilla naming ceremony presided over by President Paul Kagame, all new gorillas were named and Rwanda's achievements in conservation were celebrated.

At Loldia House guests have been enjoying the wildlife on the ranch both on the plains and at night on our night game drives. As conditions on the lake change we have finally been able to launch our boat again, taking guests on boating trips on Lake Naivasha. 




September Wildlife Report Masai Mara

Weather and grasslands

Over the last month we have had cool bright mornings with temperatures as low as 14 degrees cesius leading to hot days with humidity rising to 85%, the midday temperatures reaching as high as 36 degrees celsius. Some rain fell througout the month. Strong winds blew in from the north east and sending mini dust twirls high into the sky. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The grassland plains within the Musiara environs were short, dry and in some areas literally eaten down to the level of a golf course by the many hoofed mammals that moved through here. Water levels in the Mara River have also receded with Hippo densities encroaching closer to each other.


Wildebeest migration update

This month we have seen a very intense movement of wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River. From the 22nd of August until the 23rd of September they were arriving in from the southwest and crossing towards the East, then from the 23rd they then turned back and crossed back from the east via Paradise Plains towards the southwest, many of these crossings were on a daily basis and were found to be crossing any time between 7.30 am and 3.00pm. 

Many guests staying at Governors Camp took with them a picnic breakfast and or lunch and were able to spend the whole day enjoying the spectacle of wildebeest in their hundreds and thousands, zebra and topi taking the plunge. 


 
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Between the 16th-18th there were some very large crossings at the main crossing point and also up stream at the Cul-de sac crossing point. On the 18th there was a particularly large crossing of wildebeest with them all massed together for the plunge and determination to cross, it was a phenomenal sight. Some of those guests that stayed for longer periods of time had the opportunity of seeing 13 good crossings in their 9 days, this amount of wildlife moving in a mass has not been seen for a very long time. 

Photo courtesy of Mark Levy
Photo courtesy of Mark Levy


Crocodile were very active with these crossings, each crossing there were at least two or three wildebeest or zebra taken. On most occasions at the main crossing and cul de sac crossing there could be lines of crocodile up to twenty being seen at any one time. A large Nile crocodile can weigh up to 1,000kg. 

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku
Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

Much of this time from the 22nd August until the 30th of September the grassland plains areas of Musiara, Bila Shaka, Topi Plains, Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains were covered in wildebeest and zebra.

On the 14th, 17th and 18th several thousand wildebeest and zebra were seen crossing the Mara River from the south west and going north east up stream at the kichwa crossing point and these wildebeest and zebra would then mass onto the north grasslands of Masai land, they would stay and graze on these plains for a short time before then filtering down towards the West and East side of the Musiara Marsh. 

Photo courtesy of Stephen O'Connel
Photo courtesy of Stephen O'Connel

On the 22nd of the month this was the turnaround for the wildebeest that had been crossing in from the southwest and were now heading full circle back towards the southwest. There were phenomenal amounts of Wildebeest that started crossing from the 25th until the 30th in tremendous numbers, some crossings lasted over two hours. 

Photo courtesy of Stephen O'Connel
Photo courtesy of Stephen O'Connel


On the plains

During most days of September much of the Musiara Plains, Bila Shaka grasslands, Rhino Ridge, Topi Plains and both areas within the Musiara Marsh were covered by large numbers of wildebeest, zebra and topi.

Elephants were seen passing though and crossing the river and spending time in the marsh before moving back west across the river. Small breeding herds would often come through the camps particularly at night. With the large numbers of wildebeest and zebra that trod down and grazed heavily on the grassland plains this brought more Thomson Gazelles into the East and West marsh areas, many female Thompsons have given birth and one new born fawn was seen near the entrance to one of the camps. With a short gestation of 5 and a half months Thompson females can have up to two fawns a year. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Many species have young at this time of year, Topi have given birth and likewise the Cokes Hartebeest who are generally in smaller herds than the Topi, both are with many young calves that will be seen readily throughout the Musiara ecosystem. Warthog also have young piglets with many of them initially giving birth in August. Mean number of piglets born is 5 with a mortality rate of 40-50% when they are approximately 4 months old, predation and weather conditions are the main sources for mortality loss, warthog have no subcutaneous fat so are vulnerable to sudden temperature changes.

A female Oribi was seen earlier on in the month up on Rhino Ridge and these small antelope are not often seen here in the Mara, Oribi are graceful slender-legged, long-necked small antelope found in grassland almost throughout East and sub- Saharan Africa. Although Oribi are primarily a grazer, they will also occasionally browse on shrubs and herbs. Below each ear is a large, round, black, glandular patch of which in the female maybe inactive; on the sides of the face are vertical creases that house the pre-orbital glands. These glands in the males produce a secretion used to mark the Oribi's territory. Following a gestation period of six to seven months, a single offspring is born, for the first few weeks the Oribi female will hide her young in thick grass if available, where it will then lie motionless if approached.

Defasa Waterbuck and Impala will be seen throughout most areas of the reserve, Impala and Olive Baboons are regular residents within the camp woodlands. Male Olive baboons will migrate between troops particularly when older males become dominant and push out the younger males who then move on to other troops. Like other Old World monkeys, baboons do not have prehensile (gripping) tails. But they can and do climb trees to sleep and eat. They spend much of their time on the ground and are the more terrestrial of the family (Cercopithecidae) which includes the Black Faced Vervet and Blue Money of the riverine woodlands. Olive baboons have a gestation period of between five and seven months. Young are well developed when they are born and females usually give birth to a single offspring and being black in color, at this young age they are looked on by all members of the troop. Baboons will reach sexual maturity at about five years of age. The sexes often look quite different (sexual dimorphism) with the males being substantially larger.

Giraffe are well spread now that their habitat is drying out, with Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains and within the acacia woodlands in the Masai conservation areas being good places to see them. Hippo are also spending more time out feeding and returning back to the water later in the day. The female African rock Python has been seen often on the Silanga riverbed that lies south of the Bila Shaka, she had eaten something substantial on the 29th and we suspect due to her extended midriffs that perhaps the prey being a Thompson Gazelle.

There is a den site in a disused termite mound of 4 Black Backed Jackal pups who are two months old, they are in a disused termite mound in the south bank of the Bila Shaka riverbed. Both parents of these canids will assist in the rearing of their offspring. Black Back Jackals are very successful hunters and will prey on the young fawns of Thompson, Grants Gazelles and Impala. Their relative the Side Stripped Jackal is not often seen although one female and occasionally a male are being seen sometimes on Rhino Ridge and also on the south grasslands of Topi Plains and Bila Shaka. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Bat Eared Foxes being chiefly an insectivore are also being seen regularly, these little foxes are well dispersed within the open areas of the Mara grasslands. Spotted Hyenas are also resident plains carnivores and can be seen in large clan numbers, they will struggle competitively with the resident lion prides, lionesses who have made a kill will give in to a large number of advancing hyena but male lion will turn the tables with the hyena holding back. Serval Cats are also being seen more readily again since grass levels are much shorter, Caracal have also been seen with two sightings near the granite Kopjes on Mara river. Earlier on in the month from the 8th through to the 15th there were many open billed storks in the marsh, they moved out quite soon after the 17th of the month. Perhaps water levels were not sufficient in the marsh at that time.


Larger Cats

Lion

Sienna the iconic marsh lioness was treated once again on the 10th September at 12.20pm for she had two wounds on both her flanks. She has been in and out of condition with the help of the remaining members of the pride who keep her in check.

The Marsh Pride consists of two lionesses Charm and Sienna with their 5 cubs and two sub adult males. The two cubs that are 14 months old who belong to Charm and Sienna who also has three cubs that are 21 months old. The two sub adult males Red the son to Sienna and Tatu the cousin is the son to Charm. On the 15th Siena was seen in the south Marsh region and she was looking remarkably well fed, although her wound was still open but drying up, she was limping on left one side. Charm, Tatu, Yaya and three cubs of Charm and the two cubs of Siena, they had killed two adult wildebeest and one yearling Wildebeest that was near the culvert and the other further down. They have all been feeding off the many wildebeest and zebra that were in residence in the Musiara area. The two sub males could be seen either in the Bila Shaka or in the west marsh. The five sub adult marsh lioness have been in the east and north side of the marsh or the top east end of the Bila Shaka, it appears that they do move about and two of them were seen in the north marsh area being mated by a young nomadic male that had come over from the trans Mara conservancy he is the offspring of the Oloololo Pride. The Madomo pride of two lionesses, one sub male and two cubs will be seen in the west Rhino Ridge grasslands and also in the Paradise Plains grasslands. Sub male Pengu of the Madomo pride was seen on Paradise Plains on the 16th and had killed a wildebeest for himself. There were many Wildebeest in this region of paradise plains on this day. The other breakaway members of the Madomo pride are two lionesses and one sub lioness, which is the daughter of Madomo; they are hunting and surviving on Topi plains and Kries riverbed. 

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku
Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku


Leopard

Romi the female leopard of the Lake Nakuru and woodlands has two cubs that are two months old; she is being seen in the rocky escarpment near the north end of the Musiara Marsh and was first seen earlier on in the month yet she was only seen with her cubs later on in the last week. The male leopard called 'Shujaa' by the guides of the area, he is very active near the crossing points and will take down yearling wildebeest on both sides of the river. On the 17th he took another adult zebra near the main crossing point. There is another large male on the Talek River near salt like area on the confluence of the Ngiatiak River. Another equally large male leopard is being seen further down the Talek river in the riverine woodlands. The female leopard with the two cubs that are five months old are in the same area with a male that is being and these Leopards are being seen as far as the old camp site on the Olare Orok River. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds


Siri and her 15-month-old female cub are very active; she is also killing and hunting wildebeest and Impala on a regular basis. She is still being seen the Serena pump house area and also will pass through the main crossing area and as far as the cul de sac in the same home range as her son Shujaa is habituating.


Cheetah

Malaika the female with her three cubs who are 15 months old, has moved out of the Ngiatiak area and has been seen more frequently near the Talek River. She is active in hunting yearling wildebeest and also the regular Thompson Gazelles on the short grass.
A female cheetah is being seen near the Murram pits and she has two young cubs in south Masai land, this female is called Nora who has the two cubs that are three months old, these cubs are starting to eat meat, and most large cats start to eat meat at this age. She was last seen near the Murram pits on the 29th and had killed a scrub hare. 

Photo courtesy of Justin Grammaticas
Photo courtesy of Justin Grammaticas


Of the two males who will have been seen in and on the Burangat Plains, hammerkop and the Masai conservation areas, since the last few days of the month one of these males has been sick and subsequently has been treated by the Kenya wildlife service's vetinary unit. Another young male is often seen on Rhino Ridge and also Topi Plains, he is a small male yet very active in hunting Thompson Gazelles and scrub hares.


Walking Safaris in North/East Masai land

Leaving early in the mornings for the walks gives one a good introduction to the early dawn sunrise. Cool starts with a strong north-easterly wind keeps the walks cool until 9.00am in the morning. The grassland plains here have been grazed down and now very dry. A little rain in the latter week of the month and this had brought on a green flush.

A few resident wildebeest and zebra will be seen. Big herds of Impala in the wooded river bed and also they will be seen in the Euclea divinorum thickets that fringe the open plains. Thompson and Grants Gazelles are well spread out over the short grass plains. There is a small herd of breeding buffalo, they will move as afar as the Mara River, which is below the open plains that we walk over.

Olive baboon are well scattered and can be seen far out across the plains foraging for new shoots of grass after the little pockets of rain they had in this area, male olive baboons will eat meat and perhaps share with favourite females, quite often one can be seen males eating young impala and Thompson gazelle fawns.

Topi with their young calves are abundant particularly in the west grassland plains. Spotted Hyenas are very active here with Topi and Wildebeest both being taken by Hyena. Black Backed Jackals will also be seen in small parties or monogamous pairs; they have been hunting Impala and Thompson Gazelle fawns. 



Giraffe in small herds pass through between different wooded habitats, on some occasions we have come across small herds in the northwest woodlands. Seeing a herd of Giraffe walking across the skyline is an awesome sight


Why we love October in Masai Mara

9 October, 2014

The first few weeks of the month are dry and windy which give rise to very colourful sunrises and sunsets. The sun rises noticeably earlier with first light at 6am. The day produces big temperature variances with the midday temperatures reaching around 30 Celsius. The grasses on the plains are short due to the constant grazing by the large herds of zebra and wildebeest. Towards the end of the month the rain arrives giving the grasslands a new green flush. Sometimes there are dramatic late afternoon thunderstorms, bringing wonderful photographic opportunities. This weather activity excites the herds leading to big game movement and more river crossings. These quick heavy storms stimulate the growth of Fireball and Pajama lillies which dot the plains bringing unexpected splashes of colour to the grasslands.


Photo courtesy of Steve Hixon
Photo courtesy of Steve Hixon


The Mara river tends to be lower during the month of October and it is not unusual to see the herds splashing easily through the river without having to swim, making themselves vulnerable to the massive Mara River crocodiles, who are happily basking on the river banks having feasted for a couple of months. With river levels lower a number of young hippo calves are taken by crocodiles.

October has always been a great month for the migration, the vast herds moving around a little more, following the smell of rain and searching for the new nutritious growth. From one day to the next they moved around vast distances, travelling from the marsh area, over Rhino ridge and to the Talek river and back again. As the month draws to a close the majority of the herds file down in long lines from the plains moving south towards the Serengeti, but some large groups remain in the area. There are daily River crossings and on occasion wildebeest cross the river one way and Zebra crossing the other. These immense herds providing spectacular game viewing from the hot air balloon. 


Photo courtesy of Bill Roe
Photo courtesy of Bill Roe


The big buffalo herd with all its maturing young has spent most of its time in search of any remaining long grass that the zebra and wildebeest have left behind but are mainly seen on the West of the Bila Shaka lugga where there is courser grass. They return every few days to the marsh for water or drink from the pools left by the seasonal streams leading to the Mara river. A great survival tactic, giving birth to their young whilst the migration are in the area, as their main predators Lion and hyena are largely busy preying on easier game.

Most plains game have their calves in October in anticipation of the November rain. The Thomson gazelles, Impalas and warthog tend to give birth at the start of the month and the Impala, Topi and Cokes hartebeest mostly calve towards the end of the month. The young have to be able to get up and go after 15 - 20 minutes of being born as part of their survival regime, there are some very anxious and protective mothers, bounding away from the slightest threat with their calves following in hot pursuit on their skinny, precarious legs. Many of the Thomson Gazelle calves are taken by the resident Black Backed Jackals.

Thompson gazelles use the lower river levels as a time to cross, which leads to very dramatic with heart-wrenching action with some of the herd crossing, some being taken by crocodiles and then the remaining herd turning back and not crossing. It is not uncommon to see part of a herd of plains game at a crossing looking longingly at the other part of their herd on the other side of the river, with the river and crocodiles in between.

The Elephant family groups are back from the conservation areas to the marsh and woodland. The Warburgia Ugandensis trees (Elephant Pepper ) are fruiting which gets them into the riverine forest as they love these hot berries. It is very common to have family groups of elephant in the camp. 

Photo courtesy of Craig Wiltshire
Photo courtesy of Craig Wiltshire


These family herds have some very young calves too, still so small they fit easily under their mother's chest and with a thick protective coat of bristled hair. Young calves is a good sign for the elephant population in the Mara, as when they are stressed they very often miss their oestrus cycle.

Warthogs - the characters of the plains, have piglets a few weeks to a few months old. Lion are starting to depend on them for meals as the grass is short so they are easy to spot. Sadly it is not uncommon for lion to eat the whole piglet family. We have sadly on a number of occasions in October seen a lioness eat the whole piglet family. Primates - Troops of Baboons with 6 week old young riding jockey style are often seen foraging on the plains having left the riverine forest which is their home for the night. The Black faced vervets are also more commonly seen in the month of October.

The Marsh Pride of lions tend to spend their time at the Marsh in front of the Governors' camps as they have for the past few months now. The pride hunt at night and are found coming back to the marsh after following the wildebeest which are on the move further afield. The Lion Prides follow the migration and move into other territories, which can potentially cause fights and upheavals. Add to this the Nomadic males who are also following the migration, and looking for potential take overs of females and territories from current dominant Male lions of the Mara. The October lion action is excellent, with many kills being witnessed, great entertainment from the playful young cubs and then drama evolving with nomadic males vying for taking over prides by fighting with the resident dominant males and possible mating with the females. 

Photo courtesy of Nick Powell
Photo courtesy of Nick Powell

October is a good month for cheetah as they pray on the young Topi, Thomson Gazelle and Impala calves. t is not unusual for us to see a variety of 8 different cheetah and some with cubs. We have followed the lineage of some of these cheetah for over twenty years and is it always exciting meeting up with the offspring of Honey of BBC fame, as they delight our clients with their tendency to bonnet hop on our vehicles.

We have several leopard which we regularly see and the large male who lives down at the Main Wildebeest crossing is very visable and active on his migration kills. Leopard enjoy a time of plenty in October due to all the calves over the short grass plains.

Hyena - Their dens and burrows are set up out on the plains around the migration. The young cubs very from a few weeks to a couple of months old. During October our guides report more hyena being killed by Lion than on any other months with as many as 6 being killed in the month.

A rare spotting of a striped hyena has occurred in October, as has the rare sighting of a side striped jackal. We believe that they come in with the Migration. An Aardwolf, even with cubs have been seen during the month of October, due to higher harvester termite activity from the abundance of dung from the great herds on the plains. The Black backed Jackals have pups as do the Silverback jackals.

Bat Eared Foxes are regularly seen in October. Serval Cats are being seen more often now and it is not because they are not abundant, it is that the grass has to be grazed low in order to portray these grassland species of Cat.


Birds

We have had a few migratory birds passing through the Mara in October: European and White-fronted bee-eaters, Montague and Pallid harriers, Common Kestrels, Steppes Eagles, African Cuckoos, Spoon-billed storks and there are a couple of rare sightings of Egyptian Vultures. Caspian plovers have been seen and they often give away their presence by their call. The Saddle Bill stork with chicks is frequently seen in the Musiara marsh. Fairly large flocks of Open billed storks are being seen near watercourses.

Earlier on in the month large flocks of Eurasian Bee-eaters where seen and smaller flocks of Blue Cheeked Bee-eaters, which are migrants from the Middle East. Rare sightings of Willow Warblers, which arrive at night. The Madagascar Squacco Herons have been resident in the Musiara Marsh since June and by the middle of October they had all but gone. Breeding records: African Jacana on nests and several chicks seen in the Musiara marsh. Long-toed plovers on two nests and three chicks seen. Wahlberg's Eagle pair has been seen nest building near Governors Private Camp.

In the woodland - Mocker swallowtail and Green banded swallowtail are seeing during the month.

The trees and lianas in the Mara River forest flower and fruit, one in particular the Turrea floribunda has flowers and has a beautiful scent almost like Jasmine. The Pristemera polyantha seeds have dropped off and fly away like mini helicopters. The bright red fruit of the Lepisanthes senagalensis is a big favourite of the Baboons as well. The Gardenias are also flow 






Enjoy a fun filled beach holiday at Hemingways Watamu.

Activities such as big game fishing,beach cricket,snorkeling and exploring to fill your days 

HOLIDAY SEASON AT HEMINGWAYS WATAMU 



What to Expect- 

Lots and lots of big game fishing.

Buffets,bands and a lot of family filled fun activities.

The friends of Watamu cricket match.

Free Wi-Fi

Scheduled trips to Gede ruins(Entrance fees payable)

Scheduled trips to Malindi town.

Scheduled snorkeling trips to the Marine park(Entrance fees payable).

Rate are on half board basis(Include bed breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea) 






Our December season will be excellent with all our usual bands and lovely buffets and the excellent DJ Babs taking us through the night on New years eve.For all those guests yearning for activity we have a fierce fishing


competition.If the fishing remains as good as it is right now it will be a fantastic fishing season!

Watamu is getting lots of black marlin at the moment and the boats going out are having a wonderful time. 

Friends of Watamu Tournament



 


Family filled fun

Chefs Omar and Benson are working on the menus and coming up with some new ideas for everyone to try and of course Justin and Francis in the bar are getting everything up to speed for serving you up with your 'usual tipple'. We very much hope that you will come to visit us for a stay or just a drink and a meal or two over the high season. We look forward to seeing you soon.