Game Reports Kenya Masai Mara

Masai Mara weather and wildlife June 2024

Weather and grasslands

At the end of June, the Masai Mara is on track for the imminent arrival of the Great Migration. The long grass has transformed into a perfect golden colour, although it remains lush and green at the base. The Marsh Pride prefer the thick grasses, which allows them to stalk various prey at any time of day.

The Masai Mara in June – photo credit Ann Aveyard

As the rain tapered off, we enjoyed crisp, clear mornings and overcast skies during the middle of the day. The Musiara marsh remains saturated but many of the temporary waterholes that formed during the April/May rains are starting to dry up.

Rainfall came to a sudden halt (just 88ml was recorded for June) after excessive amounts in the previous months. The Mara River is quite low which has exposed the sand banks for hippos and crocodiles who love to bask; it won’t be long before the wildebeests plunge into their territory.

Mara River

The Mara River at the end of June – photo credit Sam Whitton

Crocodiles Mara River

Mara River crocodiles – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Solitary buffalos find themselves wedged in thick mud, which can make their ‘getaway’ a little risky – if lions were to pounce. Hippos returned to the Mara River where they hope to establish a little section for themselves, or even join a pod.

Vivid pink sunrises were at approximately 06:35 and giant fireball sunsets fell below the horizon at 18:45. As we head into the coldest time of the year in Kenya, we advise you to bring a fleece and a warm jacket for those early morning game drives.

Sunrise Masai Mara

A pair of grey crowned cranes at sunrise – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The Marsh pride resting at sunset – photo credit Ann Aveyard

On the plains

Zebras, topis and gazelles have returned to the Governors’ concession area; they can be found close to the boundary road that separates the Reserve from Mara North Conservancy. These plains are elevated, and the grass is shorter, which gives them better visibility of the surrounding landscape.

The Grant’s gazelle and other grazers prefer shorter grass areas – photo credit Sam Whitton

A huge herd of zebras is currently spread out on the hillside beyond Bila Shaka; they are a mix of resident zebras and those that come yearly from the Loita hills and plains further north. There must be at least 500 individuals in this group, and it is possible to see them in the distance, all the way from Governors’ Camp.

Large herds of zebras are scattered across the landscape – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The arrival and settling of the Loita migration (also known as the “mini migration”) is timed with the larger mass movement of migratory wildebeests, zebras and other plains game, that journey up from the Serengeti as part of the ongoing Great Migration.

The resident herd of buffalos is also in their hundreds and by the end of June, has moved from the Musiara Marsh across to Topi plains – it is possible that the frequent snatching of both adults and calves by the Marsh pride has prompted them to move further afield. Hyenas and black-backed jackals are always on the move, looking out for leftovers. We watched a clan of spotted hyenas take over a giraffe that was brought down by the Enkuyanai Breakaway Pride.

A clan of spotted hyenas took over the remains of a giraffe – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Black-backed jackals will follow lions and hyenas to scavenge from their kill – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Elephants are scattered throughout the Marsh and the woodland area surrounding our camps. Big bulls silently follow breeding herds as they cross the Mara River, occasionally moving directly through any of our camps to access the plains and the marsh in the Reserve.

Photo credit Ann Aveyard

At first glance, large-sized groups may appear as a singular herd when in fact, they are made up of individual families that are simply traveling in the same direction as each other.  Look closely and you will notice separate matriarchs and perhaps four to six tiny calves amongst them. The elephants of the Masai Mara are doing very well which is a testament to the conservation efforts of the Mara Elephant Project.

Photo credit Ann Aveyard

Giraffes are sadly fewer in number but can still be seen on the fringes of the riverine forest that follows the Mara River and out on the open plains. As species go, they are quite suspicious of vehicles therefore it’s not as easy to ‘hang out’ with them as it is with the elephants. During a late afternoon on the 18th of June, we had a very special sighting of a mother rhino and her calf in the Mara Triangle.

A Maasai giraffe – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Photo credits Ann Aveyard

Big cats of the Masai Mara

We are pleased to report three incident-free months for any type of Human-Wildlife Conflict for the Marsh Pride. Through the tracking data courtesy of Kito’s collar and the Mara Predator Conservation Programme, we’ve been able to check up on their movements and whereabouts daily. The Musiara rangers are making a big effort to protect this pride and keep general disturbance to them at an all-time minimum.

Kito of the Marsh Pride of lions

Lioness Kito from the Marsh pride – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Grasses have grown long, and it is not always easy to access the pride – especially if they have opted for an area some distance off the road – but the good news is that this pride is overly active right now hunting buffalos and mating with the Bila Shaka males.

Kito runs from a charging buffalo – photo credit Ann Aveyard

On the 11th of June, we counted all eight from the Marsh Pride, the five young boys from the Topi Pride, nine from the Cheli/Acacia Pride, three of the Bila Shaka males as well as Yaya’s family – all in the wider area. We caught up with Yaya again on the 20th of June as she rested in the long grass at Paradise Plains. Her grandson Simba lay nearby but Pamoja mbili was out of sight. Yaya looked healthy and very relaxed.

Yaya lioness Marsh Pride Masai Mara

Yaya (top) and Simba (bottom) seen at Paradise Plains – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Nusurika (who is the youngest of the group), went missing in the second week of June. She then reappeared towards the end of the month with a slight limp and some minor injuries. At only two years old, this little lioness hasn’t reached sexual maturity yet, hence the Bila Shaka males are not entirely tolerant of her existence.

Nusurika Marsh Pride Kenya

Nusurika – photo credit Ann Aveyard

They know well that she is not their daughter and if she gets in their way, they could likely kill her. As a result, Nusurika has kept to herself for the most part and only joined the others (Kito, Dada, Enkerai and Oleku) for meals or to help with hunts. Nusurika was born in July 2022, sired by either Halftail or Logol, who were the dominant males for the Marsh Pride before the Bila Shakas took over.

Nusurika – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The good news is that Dada is very fit and healthy these days. She has re-established her position as one of the leading females of this pride, together with Kito. Her muscle tone has improved and she is once again involved with the hunts and decision-making for this pride. Her current condition and appearance are a testament to the resilience of these apex predators.

Marsh Pride Masai Mara Kenya

Lola, Dada and Naserian – photo credit Ann Aveyard

By the end of the month, the pride had split up; Dada, Kito, Oleku, Enkerai and Nusurika could be found mostly east of Bila Shaka and west of the Musiara Airstrip. There is also a dusty plain known locally as “vumbi vumbi” where they like to relax in the late afternoon and absorb the heat from the ground.

The Marsh Pride at the “vumbi” area for a magnificent sunset – photo credit Ann Aveyard

On the 24th of June, the Marsh Pride took down two adult buffalos and one tiny calf who was oblivious to the danger and stuck by its mother throughout the ambush. Three days later, they were still protecting the carcasses from hyenas and anything else that showed an interest.

Lola and Oleku trap a buffalo in a waterhole – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Lola and Kaleo have been hanging out with three of the Bila Shaka coalition – Koshoke, Kiok and Chongo – although Kibogoyo was also spotted with them on the 26th and 27th of June. Mating for this pride mostly took place in April and May, but it would seem that the boys are taking no chances and would prefer to stick around.

Lola lioness Marsh pride

Lola – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Kibogoyo on the 27th June – photo credit Sam Whitton 

Naserian has been roaming on her own, she is now three years old and of mating age, therefore these males have been luring her away from the rest of the pride. On the 27th of June, she was seen looking nervous but interested in Chongo who was far away in the distance, keenly making his way across to her.

Naserian – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The Bila Shaka males have been trying their hardest to retain control over the Paradise Pride as well as the Marsh Pride. We had a great sighting of Koshoke, Kiok and Chongo sharing a buffalo with the Paradise females on the 20th of June. Kiok showed great affection for the young Paradise cubs who took the opportunity to climb all over him and have a little fun.

Kibogoyo and Kiok with the Paradise Pride – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Chongo and Kiok play with the Paradise cubs – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Paradise Pride female – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The wonderful cheetah known as Nashipae is doing an amazing job of raising four young cubs. Mothers and their cubs should always be treated with sensitivity and viewed quietly as they have very subtle communications including high-pitched chirps and purrs to find each other. Cubs are in danger from other predators such as lions and the mother needs to retain a good visual of them when they’re on the move. For that reason, it is critically important not to block or separate the family with a vehicle during game drives.

Cheetah Nashipai and cubs

Nashipae and her cubs – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Another beautiful female known as Nora has also been sighted on occasion – she is in great shape despite her age. We also found a young male named Ranger; he is the son of the famous cheetah, Risasi. Unlike lions, cheetahs are not territorial, and we get to see various named and unnamed individuals passing through the area and further afield.

Cheetah Nora Masai Mara Kenya

A cheetah called Nora – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Ranger – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The famous Mbili Bora coalition, which is now down to just two cheetah brothers, Winda and Olonyok, has been seen here and there throughout the month. They are quite an attraction for many visitors to the Mara as they have quite a tumultuous story behind them.

mibil bora coalition

Olonyok (behind) and Winda of the Mbili Bora coalition – photo credit Ann Aveyard

The elusive leopards of the Mara managed to evade us throughout the month, except for a beautiful young female on the 22nd of June. This individual is named Jilime and she is the daughter of Luluka. We had a lovely sighting of her up a tree, feeding on what looked to be a very fresh kill, not far from the Talek gate.

A leopard called Jilime – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Birds of the Masai Mara

With the long rainy season officially over, many of the wetland species have concentrated around the permanent water sources. Hamerkops, herons, kingfishers, storks, jacanas and ibises are occupying the Musiara marsh as well as some of the deeper roadside ditches which are still flooded with water.

Saddle billed storks are striking waterbirds – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Hamerkop Masai Mara

A hamerkop watches carefully for fish – photo credit Ann Aveyard

African fish eagles can be found up high on the trees closest to the marsh; from here they have a good vantage point of catfish wriggling about in the thickening mud that is slowly but surely drying out. If fish are scarce, they will also prey on small waterbirds such as stilts, lapwings and crakes that are wading through the reeds and rushes. Occasionally, we spotted a fish eagle perched above the Mara River although their preference is a large open body of water – such as the marsh.

African fish eagle Masai Mara

African fish eagle – photo credit Ann Aveyard

Out on the plains, birds come in all shapes and sizes from rufous-naped larks, cisticolas and lilac-breasted rollers to the larger and more iconic species such as Southern ground hornbills, grey crowned cranes, African white-backed vultures and martial eagles. After their breeding season during the long rains and an incubation period of about one month, grey crowned cranes have small chicks following them through the tall grasses.

Grey crowned crane Masai Mara

The grey crowned crane is the world’s fastest declining crane species – photo credit Sam Whitton

Away from the plains and into the woodland, you’ll be surprised as to how many species are right there above you, in the tree canopy and also on the forest floor. A more common species is the white-browed robin chat – a territorial bird of small size, often seen foraging on the ground. With many of the warburgia trees in fruit through June, these little birds spend most of their day picking up the remains which have been discarded by monkeys and baboons.

The white-browed robin-chat prefers riverine forest and thickets – photo credit Sam Whitton

Emerald-spotted wood-doves are also ground-dwelling birds and are currently found in good numbers around each of our camps; look out for them on the sandy pathway leading to your tent. They are quite shy and will take flight quickly as you approach, therefore, many guests are more familiar with their call than their appearance.

An emerald-spotted wood-dove has two rows of iridescent green spots on the wing – photo credit Sam Whitton

 

Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for June 2024 is by Jess Savage with supporting imagery by Ann Aveyard and Sam Whitton.

 

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