Saalamu mingi from the Mara and especially Mara Plains and Mara Toto camps where the migration season has been as busy as ever and just as action packed as we can remember.
Writing this report now, with a huge downpour hammering the new Mara Plains tents and the surrounding area we are so over joyed that finally we have some rain. This August unlike years before, has been a very dry month. Usually we get a few isolated showers helping to keep the grass a little green and helping also to keep the herds of wildebeest in the north of their 600km circuit. In the last weeks however we have watched the landscape turn brown, the grass in many places mowed short and withering, the heat hazes in the 30 degree celsius afternoons has been causing the horizons to jump and quiver in the haze of mirages.
During these hot dry days lacking all moisture we saw the herds of wildebeest and zebra, (which for a few weeks had been all around the camps scattered from plain to plain) start moving westwards towards the larger Olare Orok River and then onto the Topi plains, Musiara, Paradise Plains and on down to the main crossing points on the Mara River where some epic crossings began to take place. In many of these crossings a good few thousand poured across the river heading to what they considered greener pastures. Sometimes the crossings were smaller as handfuls of the indecisive beests made the decision to run the gauntlet of the monster crocodiles.
Slowly, as the days wore on the locations of the crossings began to shift downriver towards the south, first the main body of the herds was around the main and Kaburu crossings, then cul-de-sac, then the Serena pump house and then even further south towards the confluence of the Mara and Talek rivers.
In the last week the crossings have all but stopped as, with the arrival of the new moon, came a few isolated storms in the surrounding areas, some along the Kenya-Tanzanaia border, some east of the Olare-Motorogi, and some west, but none on this conservancy. It was quite depressing watching the promise of life fall from the sky on all sides but we felt forgotten.. until now, when we can hardly hear ourselves think above the thundering around us and the pounding of the hail stones on canvas.
Since we had our first storm two days ago the wildebeest have already come back. The morning before last we woke to find, once again, the plains west of the camp covered in the ‘gnuing’ herds. Then over the past 48 hours more and more are moving into the area and pouring into the conservancy right past Mara Plains and Mara Toto. Partly the reason for this is the rain which has coaxed them eastwards, and partly due to the conservancy now holding some of the largest plains left of full grass in the central Mara. Now the rain is filling the rivers and pools promising easy watering points, the grass is turning lush again, the dusty layer washed off – a good place to be if you are a wildebeest, a zebra or any of the bulk or selective grazers that fill the ecosystem around us. It is not rare to be able to stop on a hilltop and count 5,000 wildebeest, 300 zebra, buffalo, elephant, antelopes and gazelles not to mention the smaller but beautiful and essential fauna and flora.
With the happiness of the herbivores in the area comes the complete contentedness of the predators. The Moniko pride (actually only half of the pride) made 7 kills on one morning about a week ago. The Enkoyeni pride (not to be outdone!) have spread themselves through their range hammering all they can reach. Interestingly at this time of year when prey is so abundant the prides around the OMC often split and separate into smaller groups or even individuals. Currently the Moniko pride are scattered around the four rocky hills in their range. The two males, as of this evening, were on Naronyo hill; 4 females are just below the observation point south of the Eseketa valley; three females with cubs have been moving between their rocky stronghold at the top end of the Kereput stream and the Eseketa Valley; and – great news – in the last week we have had the first sightings of yet another two new cubs in this pride.
Speaking of new cubs, the biggest news on the conservancy in the past week is that Nalepo, the cheetress who six weeks ago gave birth on the slopes of Naronyo hill, has for the first time (yesterday morning) brought her 6 cubs down the hill and onto the plains. In the past 24 hours she has moved them onto Porini hill and then even further south-west until now, as we type and the sun sets behind the rain, she is no more than two kilometers from Mara Plains, hunkered down in the grass with six little fur-balls curled up between her legs.
In news of the conservancies leopards, returning from a bush walk recently guests were lucky enough to find drag-marks of a very recent leopard kill. Upon following it up and with some great CSI (crime scene investigation) the kill was found, a fully grown male impala, on the ground and partially eaten. This being a sign that ‘Yellow’ the resident dominant male was in this area on the Kereput stream.
Acacia the Olare-Motorogi’s queen leopard has been very active this month as has her cub who we are very happy to report is looking very healthy and growing fast. Fig, Acacia’s cub from the Christmas before last is also very well and making her own kills regularly. An incredible sighting in this last week (probably one of the sightings of the month) was watching Fig chase, corner and then proceed to bully and cuff a young male hyena. She actually left her kill safely in a tree to descend and harass the hyena who tucked up his back end at her playful onslaught.
That’s it for now. Thank you for taking the time to read. Another report in a couple of weeks where we will add to the highlights of the month. One would be the ground horn bill sequence (one shot of which is at the top of the page), another would be the giant kingfisher on the sandbank in the river below the Mara Toto mess tent, and Kevin’s finding of a black rhino would have to be up there. Watch this space.