Many visitors avoid Kenya in the wet season, but to do so is to miss out on one of Mother Nature’s greatest shows. At the beginning of November a lucky few of our guests were fortunate enough to witness over their few days here the transformation of a dry and dusty landscape into a thriving oasis of grass, plants and flowers bursting from the previously cracked soil, quenching their thirst with every drop of water that fell from the skies, as animals of every species, size and endlessly intermingled variety filled their nostrils with that wonderful smell of African dust kicked up by heavy droplets and carried on the wind.
Mushrooms circles (or Fairy Rings as they are commonly known in mythology) have also sprung up, inspiring us to research their mysterious origin. We were fascinated to discover that mushrooms are in fact only the fruit of fungi (which are not technically plants as they do not produce chlorophyll), whose original spore lies deep underground. As one mushroom ‘blooms’ and dies it drains the soil of nitrogen, so that subsequent mushrooms must branch out to find sufficient nutrients. The older the fungi the larger the ring of mushrooms – some of our guests toward the end of November found one circle over six metres in diameter! Interestingly they also spotted Baboons tucking into these poisonous pop-ups, though didn’t stay long enough to see if it was for hallucinogenic kicks! With the arrival of the rains the multitude of pregnant Topi have dropped their tiny calves in unison, assured that there will be food enough to support them, as well as to ensure that their young have a greater chance of surviving the many predators who turn out to feast on this bite-sized seasonal delicacy. We have watched from camp as mothers coach their hour-old calves to run and keep up with life on the plains, training spindly legs to grow stronger and faster by the minute.
This month there have been more special sightings than ever. Among them Porcupine; Aardwolf puppies; Bat-eared Fox puppies; a family of Caracal; a Zorilla, a Flap-necked Chameleon in camp; a Blue Monkey in camp (first one ever spotted here); Serval cats; Jackal Buzzards…..the list goes on. The ‘sexier’ animals are of course plentiful too, but those who have been to Africa many times will understand that the greatest rewards and true privileges of the bush come to those who appreciate, are inquisitive about and stop for all things great and small.
For those of us ‘twitchers’ (bird enthusiasts) November has been stunning. Herons gracefully and silently tiptoe their way across the grass only feet from the mess steps, plucking their fill of frogs and dragonflies from the long and soggy grass, and further afield the Grey Crowned Cranes and Secretary Birds shadow their technique. Ground Hornbills have been seen this month courting their mates affectionately with gifts of big juicy beetles and other tempting treats, while their Black and White cousins hop and hoop around the giant Fig trees that tower over the riverside tents, competing with Vervet Monkeys, Olive Baboons and numerous species of beautiful and tuneful birds for the nutritious fruit weighing down every limb.
Speaking of which, one tree next to tent number six is sagging under the weight of a population of noisy male Weavers who have descended to tirelessly begin work on their intricate nests, hoping to win the attention of females who will soon arrive to inspect their fresh green creations that hang like earrings from the furthest tips of the Acacia thorn tree. But if the females are not impressed they will simply snip the nest from its fragile mounting sending it plummeting into the flowing river only a few feet below, at which point the dejected males will have to start all over again, and do better next time!
Every night at dinner multiple species of little bats swoop into the mess to enjoy a banquet of moths and flying ants, polishing them off before they can bother any of the humans below, who cannot fail to be entertained by the in-house hunts that race around the candle-lit roof linings. And whatever is left in the morning is cleaned up at sunrise by the eclectic and colourful resident birds who do the most efficient spring clean, getting into the cracks of the curtains and using the lamp shades as breakfast plates, before taking their morning dip in the wooden crocodile bird bath.
On more than one occasion this November we have found perfectly planted Leopard tracks padded straight through the middle of camp, slowly and regally paced down the line of tents along the path, past the mess and beyond, over the deck of the managers tent and through the staff camp. Magic! The Lions too made their mark through the car park, leaving enormous paw prints in the squelchy mud as a surreal reminder of their presence and a fun testament to how often they must visit on drier nights when we are unaware and unsuspecting!
For those of you who are wondering what is happening in the Olare Orok Conservancy world of the big cats… The Moniko Lion Pride have spent the month firmly stuck to their hill, descending from their rocky throne at night to hunt the unsuspecting plains grazers. The Enkoyeni lions have been in residence near the Olare crossing but often move to hunt near Hammerkop crossing.
The shy leopardess and her son have, in the last week, moved from their haunt on the Kicheche lugga to the Hammerkop crossing. Pretty Girl, our resident leopardess, has been cruising up and down the Mara Plains river, on one occasion crossing the ‘lawn’ by the campfire during a dinner under the stars. Narasha, the Olare Orok Conservancy Cheetah with her two cubs, has moved into the reserve south of the Talek River where she is a quite close neighbour of ‘Shingo’, another Cheetress with two cubs much the same age. We are happy to report that all these characters in the story of Mara Plains are alive and well and, as always, looking beautiful and healthy.
With best wishes,
The Mara Plains team
Photographs by Caitlin Lepper-Carter and Lorna Buchanan-Jardine
Tags: Aardwolf, baboons, Bateared Fox, Blue Monkey, Caracal, Chameleon, cheetah, Enkoyeni Lion Pride, Great Plains Conservation, Grey Crowned Cranes, Herons, Jackal Buzzard, leopard, lions, Mara Plains camp, Masai Mara Reserve, Moniko Lion Pride, Olare Orok Conservancy, Olive Baboons, Porcupine, Secretary Birds, Serval Cats, Southern Ground Hornbills, Vervet Monkeys, Weaver Birds, Zorilla
This entry was posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011 at 12:55 pm
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.