Heritage Hotels Big Cat and Migration Updates

News from the Maasai Mara, 26th August 2005

by Heritage

26 August 2005

The wildebeest migration continued to intensify this week, as more herds crossed over from the Serengeti near Sand River Gate. Inside the Mara, the herds continue to fan out to the west and north, leaving the Central Plains looking emptier by the day. Many herds have crossed the Mara River west into the Mara Conservancy, or ‘Mara Triangle’, with particularly busy crossing-points at Paradise and west of Lookout Hill. Towards the end of last week, the crossings became a bit more adventurous, as water levels rose following rains in the Mau Hills. Sadly, several wildebeest drowned in suicidal attempts to cross the river on Thursday and Friday.

Most of the newly arrived herds have been concentrating on the recently burned areas of the Mara plains. On the Central Plains, the long, dry grass forced many animals to move on quickly, although last week’s unexpected showers may bring up some fresh new shoots over the coming days. In a typical mid-migration pattern, the herds are now all mixed up, and one can no longer tell the Loita herds from the Serengeti ones.

The plentiful wildebeest movements have been accompanied by the usual frenzy of hunting activity among the Big Cats, particularly the big lion prides. With dozens of untouched carcasses littering their territories, it seems a shame that our lions can’t store some of their kills for later! Bella the leopard and her son have only been seen once in the past week, although we know they are out there, busily hunting along the Talek River, close to the Mara Intrepids and Explorer camps. We have also been blessed with daily cheetah sightings ”“ with up to three individuals spotted on some game drives.



News from the Maasai Mara, Kenya 11th August 2005

by Heritage

12 August 2005

There is only one adjective to describe the Mara at the moment, wildebeest. The migrating herds are now almost spread out across the whole reserve. The Serengeti herds have in the past week been streaming in from the south, crossing the Mara River at Look Out Hill. The leading herds are pushing further north wards and west wards into the Mara triangle.

The herbivores in the Mara ecosystem have come to associate the burning with fresh grass. However, this is only if there is some rain soon after the burning. Most of the Mara plains are still a wash with a sea of over grown red oat grass. To the herbivores, this is quite tough and rough for their digestive systems, and it explains why the herds have just been rushing through the reserve despite the abundant grass. The recently burnt grasslands on the Mara triangle are more alluring, attracting more herds.

It was a week full of excitement for our guests, some of whom have stayed whole days to witness the biggest natural phenomenon. The Paradise Crossing point has been busy over the last seven days as the Loita herds cross over from north east around Musiara Gate, to the west of the Mara River. They have been moving en masse across Paradise plain. Many have been dying from predation by crocodiles and others from trampling as they stampede in the river. Nature’s wonder is now with us!

It has also been a week full of activities for the predators, with more lion kills witnessed now than in the past months. There wildebeest carcasses litter the plains, especially in pride territories. So much so, it appears even the proverbial greedy Hyenas have had enough, as carcasses remained untouched for long periods! Vultures have become selective, only eating the fresh carcasses.

Cheetah kills have been witnessed throughout the last seven days Bella the leopard, and her son were also spotted severally. Her son, now at two years and still with the mother, will excite some wildlife researchers since male leopards are known to be independent by the first year.

The python mentioned in the previous update was seen again. It killed a male gazelle but again could not eat after it was harassed by a pair of jackals. This is a sighting of some note, especially coming barely a week after the last one. Pythons are known to feed once in a very long period, sometimes running to months.



News From the Maasai Mara, Kenya 3rd August 2005

by Heritage

4 August 2005

The numbers of wildebeest has increased considerably in the past week. More herds crossed the border during the week, pushing the previous groups further north and west to Burrungat, Meta and Central plains. The first groups have already crossed over to the Mara triangle. The past few days have seen a few crossings on the traditional route, just below Look Out Hill with most herds heading westwards.

The Serengeti herds have meanwhile split into two groups. One group is heading north towards the Mara Intrepids and Rhino Ridge to join up with the Loita herds, while the other is heading west into the Mara triangle. The northern groups have been crossing the Talek River between Talek gate and Mara Intrepids. An earlier assumption that the amount of grass in their way would slow their pace has proven wrong. These Serengeti herds are part of the eastern migration that came right from the central plains in the Serengeti into the Mara. The western wing herds are yet to cross into the Mara. Normally these would come through the south western side of the Mara around Ngiro-are and Engoikwaatet Salt Lick. From all appearances, the concentration will be even higher this year when all these herds merge.

The Loita herds have spread out over a wider area in the past week, with some crossing the Mara River into the Mara triangle, and others headed south wards to join the Serengeti herds. If the grass on the Mara plains is not burnt, then the herds may spend more time here this year although their natural instinct to move on normally goes beyond anything else.

Lion prides in the Mara are now re-grouping and going on a feeding frenzy as the herds go through their territories. The Ridge Pride, our feature over the lean period, has now become a major attraction. Their hunting skills leave a lot to be desired, what with a few older cubs overzealously trying their stalking skills even on larger animals! It is laughable to see them retreat for dear life when confronted by buffalo. But nothing to lose here; it is all part of the training and that is how hunting skills are honed.

The three main prides near Keekorok Lodge have been a daily attraction our guests from Siana. Leopards’ sightings have also become a daily occurrence. Bella, our main feature star has been spotted along the Talek and Olareorok Rivers over the past week, with her son Chui a bit rarer. With more herbivores spread across the plains, cheetah activity has increased considerably, with guests getting daily treats to spectacular hunts.

Our guests were treated to a rare sighting when a python killed a gazelle, fought off a pair of jackals, only to lose it to a lion that appeared from nowhere. The lion had only seen the dead gazelle. She proceeded to pick it and had carried it briefly when she noticed the snake wrapped around it. Dropping the prey hastily, the lion was in luck when the disturbed python unwrapped from the gazelle and slithered into the bush.