29 June, 2016

Migration Update

The 2016 annual migration of the wildebeest has begun a lot earlier than normal.

The first herds were seen at Sand River early June coming in from the Serengeti in Tanzania and moving north into the Maasai Mara.

Following the unusually long rains over the past few months, the tall grass was burned for new grass to regenerate. It’s now very fresh and nutritious and has slowed the movement of the wildebeest around Meta Plains, Pololet Hills, Murram ya Ashnil. Some herds are headed towards Olmisigiyioi.

From Lookout Hill, we can still see big herds in the Serengeti making their way towards Sand River. It seems that there will be major river crossings in a few days’ time. Herds are also seen heading west where they will cross the Mara River at the Mara Bridge and into the Mara Triangle.

A few herds of zebra and wildebeest are crossing Olkeju Rongai into Possee Plains. At Hammercop Crossing, some herds are heading towards Maji ya Fisi.

With the migration, we are seeing more vultures like the White-backed vulture and Rüppell's griffon vulture (recorded at 37,000 feet as the highest flying bird) looking for leftovers. Both species are listed endangered

The Loita herd is at Topi Plains heading east towards Double-Crossing. Some have crossed into the Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorers area and are heading towards the Talek River to meet the herds from the Serengeti while resident herds are moving in from the Olare/Motorogi conservancies.

It’s festive season for the predators with several kills seen.

Report and pictures By Raphael Ole Koikai – Head Driver Guide, Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps.

The Great Migration Is On!

Last two weeks: Chilly mornings and hot afternoons coupled with heavy rains - an average of 10mm per day.

Most of the crossing points are quite impassable. The Olare Orok River crossing is ok because there isn’t much rain on the northern side of the park.

The Mara River is higher than in previous years meaning there will be spectacular crossings of the wildebeest this year.

130c morning
260c at midday
150c after sunset

The migration is on.

The first batch of wildebeest and zebras arrived in their thousands, around Zacharia, Pololet hills, Murram ya Ashnil and Sand River.

With the migration we are also seeing lots of vultures– like the Ruppell’s, African white-backed and Lappet-faced vultures.
The Loita herds are spread out around Billa Shaka and Milima Tatu and another bigger herd around Kilomita Tisa east heading south to meet with the migratory herds from the Serengeti.

We are waiting for these herds to make the famous crossing across the Talek River into Possee Plains any time now. 

The last two weeks the impala have been breeding close to our football pitch and around the landing strip.  Occasionally a big bull elephant comes around Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer including a small family of several females and young ones. There’s a herd of fifty elands and their calves, giraffes and the Loita wildebeest and zebra.



Ridge Pride
The Ridge pride is still at the Topi plains and seems to have established a permanent home there. The pride is expanding its territory towards Billa Shaka because the four musketeers are not around. Lipstick and Blacky are taking advantage of their absence.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the musketeers get back to reclaim their territory.

Two females from the Ridge pride who had crossed the Mara River over to Mara Triangle are back with a cub aged about six months. They killed a wildebeest calf a week ago and seem to be doing fine.

Lipstick has been seen with two females from the Double Cross pride that had disappeared.
One of the males left after having a feast from the wildebeest kill that the females had made by Mara Explorer Camp. The following day during the morning drive he was at Billa Shaka with his mate Blacky – meaning that he travelled 15 kilometers that night.

Olkeju Ronkai Pride
This pride has been at Burrungat plains because of the huge herds of plains game -wildebeest, topis, zebras, warthogs and gazelles.

The five cubs are doing great and we have another female that has given birth to two cubs although they are still hidden.

The only male is still holding on to the pride but Earless and Boxer Nose - the other two big males around Kivuko ya Pussy are in that area as this is their territory.

With the onset of the migration, the pride is headed towards Maji Mbili in readiness of the wildebeest that are already headed towards Olmisigiyioi area.

Olkiombo Pride
The pride has been elusive but is seen around the Talek River.

Bahati has been spotted on several occasions by guests on the opposite side of the Talek River by the swimming pool at Mara Intrepids with her two cubs.

Siri the pump house leopard has been seen in Shamarta area. She had been missing for some time. There are reports that she has three cubs which we are yet to confirm.

Lorrian along Olkeju Rongai has been a common sighting. She was seen with a kill near Kivuko ya Pussy and on the following day with her cub near Maji ya Fisi. She seems to be expanding her territory.

Malaika has said goodbye to her two cubs. We are expecting a new litter from her any time before the end of June.

The two cubs have been named Malkia (female) and Mfalme (male). They are still together and are seen around Kananga and Murram ya Fig Tree.

Nora on the other hand has been around Maji ya Fisi and crossed Talek River with her sub adult cub. They are doing well.

We have two new males in the area though not together who go by the names Leomom and Martin. They have crossed over from the Mara Triangle and have of late been hanging around Double Crossing.

Report and pictures by Joseph Kang'ethe, Driver Guide, Mara Intrepids & Raphael Ole Koikai – Head Driver Guide, Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps.

Samburu Safari Diary

At Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya, elephants are often seen giving themselves a dust shower. Using their trunks, they inhale the dust and blow it out forcefully. It’s quite an amazing thing to see. The dust serves as a sunscreen, keeps the animal cool and insects at bay.

Wild pigs also roll themselves in dust to protect themselves for the same purpose.

Klipspringers Spotted

Klipspringers spotted recently at Koitogo hill in Samburu National Reserve proved to be exciting for our guests who had never seen this antelope before.  My mission was to spot a leopard but the klipspringers proved to be equally interesting.

Klipspringers are small antelopes that live in rocky places. They are well-adapted to their environment. Their fur has hollow shafts that act as shock absorbers should they slip off the rocks and their hooves are pointed like a ballerina’s to hop on the rocks. They pair for life like the smaller dik dik.

This week we had a great sighting of Lguret, one of the oldest males in Samburu and Buffalo Springs national reserves with his cubs. Male lions will babysit the cubs while the lionesses are our hunting.

Young males will usually kill any cubs they find in a pride when they become the dominant male.  They want to pass their genes on and mark their territory.

Wild dogs
An endangered species, Africa wild dogs are seen in the reserve during the dry months of July and August when water is available inside. The picture was taken a few meters from the camp.

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture
When soaring, this magnificent bird can spot a carcass nearly 10 kilometers away! Known to be the world’s highest flying bird, in 1973 one collided with an airplane off the Ivory Coast. The plane was flying at a height of 37,000 feet, which is higher than Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet high!
Image Source Mother Nature Network
37,000feet asl is also the height at which a human would pass out from lack of oxygen. The vulture doesn't face this problem because it has developed a particular type of haemoglobin, making their use of oxygen more effective.

Long Crested Eagle
The long crested eagle is found in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s one of my favorite birds of prey among the 300-plus species found in the reserve.

Dairy of a Naturalist by Jelly Loloju, driver guide at Samburu Intrepids Camp

The Migration Is Coming!

It’s been warm the last two weeks with amazing sunrise and sunset. The rains have stopped and the rivers have subsided opening the crossing points for game drives. The grass remains tall after the long rains. However it is shorter on the eastern and northern parts of the camps.

150c morning
290c at midday
180c after sunset

Game drives:
Great over the last two weeks with plenty of plains game around the camps. The annual migration of the million-plus wildebeest and zebra is expected soon. Some were seen crossing Sand River recently.

Plenty of Maasai giraffes, topis, impalas, warthogs and waterbucks around the Camps. Elephants are grazing on the lush soft grass minimizing the damage to trees.

Large herds of buffalo are at the Topi plains with calves. The hyenas have been preying on them. The grass is also much shorter on the eastern side of the camp and some herds of wildebeest and zebra from the Loita plains have been streaming in.

Birds seen: Secretary birds, ostriches, southern ground hornbills, Egyptian geese, egrets, starlings, lilac breasted rollers, vultures and the resident marabou storks.


Ridge Pride
Lipstick and Blackie – the two black-manned lions, four lionesses and four cubs are still near the Mara Intrepids/Mara Explorer camps. They have been hunting topis at the Topi Plains.
Recently the pride was seen heading towards Bila Shaka’s territory in search of prey. This is the Marsh pride’s territory.

Lipstick has been limping after he was beaten by his brother when they fought over Long Neck, the lionesses. Blackie seems to have won and he has been courting Long Neck who has been playing hard to get but hopefully she will give in - soon.

Paradise Pride
The three lionesses with six cubs were seen near the Mara River, west of the Mara Intrepids. The four musketeers from the Marsh pride seem to have moved to this area. They have been crossing back and forth across the Mara River.

Olkeju Ronkai Pride
Despite the tall grass in the south the three lionesses and five cubs are still there. The cubs are nursing. The pride has had two males but one of the males seems to have disappeared as he has not been seen in the last one month. It’s speculated that he might have been involved in a fight with rival males and killed. It is still too early to comment as lions are known to disappear and appear. It’s a risky situation as the Mara prides have two to five males at a time.  A new male taking over a pride kills any cubs to ensure that only his cubs survive.

Olkiombo Pride
Elusive, the Olkiombo lions were seen crossing the Talek River, east of the Mara Intrepids/Mara Explorer camps.

Our resident leopard Bahati has been seen around the Mara Intrepids/Mara Explorer camps and along Olare Orok River.

The Double-Cross female seems to have left her two cubs. The cubs have been trying to hunt Thomson gazelles and warthogs. Recently, they killed a domestic dog and dragged it up a tree but the female dropped the dog accidently. The hyenas did not waste time stealing it.

Malaika has finally said goodbye to her two cubs. She has been a great mother to them and we have enjoyed watching her with the cubs, teaching them to hunt gazelle and Impala.
Of the six cubs she had, it’s only these two that survived and were seen with full bellies near Mara Intrepids/Mara Explorer camps.

Cheetahs have a high mortality rate and usually only one survives into adulthood as did Bawa, Malaika’s son. Recently one cub was killed by hyenas and another taken by a crocodile as they tried to cross the torrential Talek River.

Malaika is pregnant again and was seen near the Mara River. We hope to see her new cubs soon.   

Report and pictures by  Joseph Kang’ethe - Driver Guide, Mara Intrepids Camp, Masai Mara.