17 September 2007
Two weeks after tricking us into believing that they had returned to the Serengeti for good, the wildebeest migration has once again proven its capacity for the unexpected. Over the past 10 days, the concentration of wildebeest in the central part of the Mara has swelled to an enormous number. Although most of the herds had moved back over the border via the Mara Triangle, they then made a U-turn to re-enter the Mara around the Enkoikwateet salt lick, where some herds had originally entered in July.
In fact, the entire migration map now appears like a new beginning, with high concentrations of wildebeest on the Olorukoti and Paradise plains. Westbound herds have again spread out on the Topi Plains, while herds from the Mara Triangle have begun crossing the Mara River at the main Paradise crossing point. Over the past three days, our guests have witnessed many animals crossing around here. While many animals are crossing over from the Mara Triangle, just as in the early days, others are heading north, and a western concentration has built up around Serena and south towards the border. Most of the other areas south of the Talek River up to Keekorok Lodge have very few animals, as most herds are concentrated in the western and northern areas of the reserve.
Most herds have settled temporarily on the plains around Rhino Ridge, where there was extensive burning of grass, and which are now sprouting with short fresh grass ”“ fed by the recent unexpected rains. The crossing points around Paradise Plains have been alive with activity, with hundreds of animals crossing back and forth. The water in the river is quite high here, making these crossings even more dramatic.
The return of the wildebeest has brought renewed vigour to the activities of the Big Cats, particularly among the lions.
The Ridge Pride continues to roam in its territory, and has been regularly sighted between Intrepids and the airstrip over the past few days. Leopard sightings have also improved during the past week, with Bella frequently seen along the river west of Intrepids and Zawadi spotted several times with her two cubs close to Musiara Springs. Cheetah sightings have also been good, with the short grass in most areas making the elusive cats much easier to spot.
Paul Kirui, Lead Safari Guide, Heritage Hotels17-09-07%20%20Map%20Issue%204.jpg
3 September 2007
The migration has changed dramatically in the past two weeks. All the herds from the eastern side of the Mara River have crossed back west into the Mara triangle - the western side of the park - and the area around Look Out Hill before heading south into northern Serengeti! This was a quick exit, since they were expected to stay in the Mara ecosystem till November at the least, as is always the case. Our guides attributed this to the change in the rain pattern - part of the global phenomenon - and the burning of the grass in northern Serengeti, as key to this change of events.
There is a high concentration of herds on the Serengeti side of the border on recently burnt plains. There is usually a massive burning of the grass in July in the northern Serengeti, - ostensibly to stem the migration from crossing into the Mara - and when the short rains come in August, these plains flourish with lush nutritious grass thereby attracting many herbivores including the migrating herds.
All indicators, though, are that the herds inside Serengeti are bound for the Mara again, and that this exit is temporary as shown by their movements. Once inside the Serengeti are heading west along the burn grounds, feeding as they move and entering the Mara again by the Engoikuatet salt lick area. Last week marked the beginning of a series of crossings when several herds crossed the Mara at the traditional points below Look Out Hill though in smaller groups. From the experience of the 1998 and 2005 migrations, where they made a come back in September indicates we might have a ‘Double-migration’ in the offing! However, the change in the rain patterns and the confusion brought by sporadic burning of the grass are either side of the border is expected to cause some changes in the concentration and duration of stay in the Mara. The recent burning of the grass around Rhino Ridge might also play a role in attracting the herds if we get some rain to make the grass grow again.
Most of the central Mara is now almost empty with a few herds only to the north around Musiara Gate and to the south around Look Out Hill.
The cats are beginning to adjust to the situation brought by sudden departure of the large herbivores in most areas, which inadvertently has affected the expected ‘season of plenty’. Lion prides. cheetah, leopards and hyenas will, in true predator instincts, eat what they can as they await the re-entry of the herds. zebras, Thompson gazelles, warthogs and topis will make the diet for now.
Despite this there were good sightings of the major predators over the week. Bella can now be seen frequently along the Talek River near Mara Intrepids, and our guests have seen a number of kills. Cheetahs are also seen regularly, while the Ridge and Bila Shaka prides are in their respective territories.
Paul Kirui, Lead Safari Guide, Heritage Hotels