Mid-month report – Mara Plains Camp, Kenya
July on the Masai Mara plains has started as one who has been to this corner of the wild world would imagine – it has been epic to say the least. Yes the Great Migration is a little late this year (Nature does not have a schedule after all) but this has not meant that things are quiet here in the Masai Mara. In fact quite the opposite has been happening in the lead up to the arrival of the migrants from the south. As some of you who follow our reports and blogs might already know, the regional Loita Hills migration really hit the Olare Orok Conservancy and Motorogi (to our north) in a huge way at the start of the month. It began with the trickle of zebra, then this turned into huge herds (‘dazzles’) spread out around the private Olare Orok Conservancy airstrip plains, then came the wildebeest.. and thousands of them!…followed by topi, eland, Thompsons and Grants. Photos just cannot do justice to the huge variety and density we have been seeing through these conservancies. It must be said that the Motorogi conservancy to the north of the Olare Orok Conservancy has finally really come into its own this month and in the words of our guests who have been heading up that way almost daily now, ‘It is like being taken back in time to how it was before.. just pristine wilderness’.
Conservation is paying off. There are not many places left in the wilds of Africa where one can sit with leopards for over an hour without a single other vehicle anywhere nearby. Then when the shy leopardess (who has new cubs) finally shadows away you can continue on to find a pride of thirteen lions on a kill just minutes old, and then finally carry on some more to find a coalition of three huge cheetah brothers lying up in the sunset cleaning the blood from a recent successful hunt off each other’s faces- and all to yourself.
Over the past couple of months the Maasai landowners on Motorogi have put the final pieces of their puzzle in place and they have begun to move out of the core wildlife areas to the large community areas on the periphery. This has meant that now some of the most untouched and stunningly beautiful areas in the entire Mara region are now wildlife-only areas providing undisturbed grazing for the herbivores and diurnal refuge for the predators.
The knock on affect of this? Well, by now many of us know that populations of predators (especially lions) are plummeting due to loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict, hunting malpractice and the likes. Now, with the availability of new habitats given to the wildlife by the Maasai landowners, finally the wildlife area is growing. More safe and natural territories are becoming available on the edge of the Mara reserve.. and as a result our lion prides from the Olare Orok Conservancy (who last year did their bit to populate the new Naboisho conservancy to the east) have moved north into Motorogi. This in turn has meant that the areas where these two main prides spent much of their time in past years are now open for the formation of new prides. Already we have seen a number of nomadic young male coalitions and even a few females, singly or in pairs, spending much time in the central Olare Orok Conservancy – something they would not have been able to do in the past. It is amazing to be part of this huge success. This really is what it is all about – “Expanding and Conserving Natural Habitats”. And the best thing about it is that this conservation movement creating greater dispersal areas is lead by the local Maasai community.
So where from here? Well now the Loita Migration is all over the Olare Orok Conservancy and Motorogi, the lion prides are once again way overfed, lying on their backs ‘flagging’ (panting) permanently with distended bellies in the air, yet being cats they just can’t stop their primordial nature of killing any and all unsuspecting prey they can reach…and they do. This month the Enkoyeni pride are killing three to four wildebeest at a time and most often in the middle of the day when the beests run the gauntlet to get to water. The Moniko pride is much the same as they deal with the migrant route to the east of their Enkoyeni neighbours.
Photograph by Alek Komarnitsky
Our resident leopards have also been very active doing their bit to dent the populations of slightly smaller prey species. Acacia has positioned herself with Fig (her cub) on the top end of the Olare riverline where she is ambushing crossing points. Yesterday guests were fortunate to see not only Acacia and her cub, but also Fig’s father, a huge pink-nosed leopard known as Bow, all sitting under one tree like a happy family. Well, almost, but Bow wasn’t going to share the dikdik appetizer that was on the menu.
So what about the ‘Great’ Migration? Well recent reports from our cars heading down to the Sand Rivers area on the Tanzanian border say that the zebra have started to ‘clear customs’, and they also say that there are lines of wildebeest now visible from the Kenyan side of the river. Of course the weather (and the Tanzanians burning everything furiously) can affect how fast these Gnus arrive on the Mara plains, and how long they will stay here, but reports as of 5 minutes ago have 3000 wildebeest crossing the Sand River into Kenya, heading our way! Seriously exciting news. Interestingly one of the smaller satellite groups of wildebeest that has broken off the main front was seen three days ago as it crossed the Mara River downstream of the main crossing points. Not long to go now and hopefully, seeing as there is so much grass waiting for them in the northern conservancies, when they arrive they may stay with us through November and into December. Weather patterns are changing and this in turn will affect the wildlife.
All the best from the team on the plains and come visit us soon.
Photographs by Lorna Buchanan-Jardine
Tags: 60 Minutes, cheetah, cubs, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Great Migration, Great Plains Conservation, Kenya Luxury Safari, Leopards, lions, Loita Hills Migration, Maasai, Mara Plains camp, Masai Mara Reserve, Olare Orok Conservancy, Safari, The Last Lions, Wildebeest, wildlife
This entry was posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.