September 2023

Singita Grumeti: September 2023

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Singita Grumeti: September 2023

In true September spring style we watched the burnt, brown and dusty plains of Grumeti transform into a lush, green and emerald landscape with the onset of some early rains. July and August had been very dry but by the end of September the area looked dramatically different. The Grumeti River is up again and flowing a thick, chocolate brown colour. The grass, trees and bushes all have green shoots and the wildlife flocks to the previously burnt areas to capitalise on the fresh, nutritious grasses. Waterholes and pan systems have filled up and we have seen the terrapins re-emerge.

Prior to the rain and at the start of the month there was very little water around. Animals had to move far and had a choice between either the Grumeti River or Sasakwa Dam. Big, long and dusty animal paths led to all the safest watering spots, while lions and leopards lay in ambush at the more dangerous ones that were surrounded by thick bush with limited escape routes.

September Sightings Overview for Grumeti:

Lions:

The lion viewing has been exceptionally good and there are more cubs stashed in den-sites than we can count! Some lionesses have grouped together accompanied by 11 cubs or more at a time. Other lionesses are still secretively denning, and we have yet to see their cubs. The oldest cubs seem to be about three months old. Other highlights include:

Lion activity on Sasakwa Hill has been exciting and we often hear lion and hyena disturbing each other during the night. We had two big male lions spend some time on Sasakwa Hill and they were determined to find the lionesses. The lionesses did their best to avoid the males but inevitably they did meet up and we could hear lots of roaring and fighting. Last year we lost cubs to infanticide on the hill and we hope the same does not happen again. It does however make for interesting lion behaviour and dynamics. The males are believed to be the same males that were seen with the Ridge Pride around Sabora Access and Fungo Road earlier in the month.

A number of coalitions of older, mature male lions have been present and we even had lions mating on Sasakwa Hill, as well as two mating pairs right in front of Sabora Tented Camp. The presence of the bigger males seems to have pushed the coalitions of younger males out of the area for now which is normal lion behaviour.

  • 20 members of Butamtam Pride (3 lionesses, 6 big males and 11 cubs) sighted along Chui drainage – this now seems to be the pride’s preferred den-site area.
  • 13 members of Ridge Pride (5 lionesses and 8 cubs sighted at junction Sabora Access and Mak Link.
  • 5 members of Nyasirori Pride (3 sub-adult lions and 2 sub-adult lionesses sighted at junction Fungo and Serengeti Roads. The six members of were seen north of Sabora Tented Camp.
  • A pride of 6 (4 subadult lions 2 subadult lionesses) sighted in the Albizia woodland.
  • A pride of 16 were sighted west of Balanites Explore Camp.

Leopards:

We are still fortunate to see good sightings but we do think leopards and cheetahs become more secretive as they attempt to stay out of the way of all the lions that are about. Sightings include:

  • 1 adult female sighted at Mbogo drainage.
  • A relaxed female seen along Raho drainage upstream from Kigelia crossing ,with Bohor reedbuck kill.
  • A big male was seen on Sasakwa Hill.
  • A skittish unsexed leopard was sighted north of Sasakwa airstrip.
  • A male was sighted west of the balloon launch site, and he was relaxed.
  • A skittish leopard was seen between Grumeti River and Nyabeu drainage line.
  • A female and her cub were sighted along River Road, believed to be the Grumeti North female.

Cheetahs:

  • 1 adult male sighted east of marsh area. Most likely the new young male that now dominates the Sasakwa Plains and surrounding areas. Seen around WD waterhole and Old School areas too.
  • 1 adult male sighted east of balloon launch site.
  • A young female sighted west of Sabora Tented Camp.
  • Male with Thomson’s gazelle carcass sighted west of Nyasirori Ranger Post.
  • A single female was sighted east of Nyuki bush breakfast site.
  • 2 young males seen near Boundary Pan and Nyasirori high grounds, hunting young warthogs.

Elephants:

We continue to remain fortunate with numerous elephant sightings. The rains mean they have dispersed from the Grumeti River and back into all the woodlands – capitalising on the fresh growth on the trees and the abundance of water everywhere.

Breeding herds ranging between 7 and 40 individuals have been seen far and wide. There are also a lot of young calves in the herds at the moment.

Migration

At the start of the month, when it was still hot and dry, we had very good numbers of zebra (herds 1 000 strong) congregating around Sasakwa Dam and safe drinking points on the Grumeti River. The rains which resulted in water becoming available everywhere meant that the zebra herds pushed into the previously burnt areas.

Wildebeest numbers remained quite low during the month but on 24 September there were reports of the first decent herds entering the Ikorongo, around Nyabehu area, heading towards Grumeti. The area continued to fill up over the following days to an estimated 5 000 animals by the end of the month.

Buffalos:

The buffalo herds are strong at the moment, with herds ranging from 80 to 400 individuals. Healthy adults with many calves are protected within the herd, and big bulls guard the flanks making the youngsters a tough challenge for lions and hyenas that are trying to target them.

Even the herds of bachelor bulls number 30 – 50 strong.

Rhinos:

The rhinos in the sanctuary are all well and the male has been seen frequently this month.

We’ve had reports of at least three calves under six months old from the rhino population that we released into the Ikorongo – Serengeti areas. It is really pleasing to hear the population is growing.

Plains game:

From mid-September we saw lots of new babies being born – noticeably zebra, impala and topi. There seems to be a lot of young giraffe and elephant calves too. Grouped into nursery herds the young giraffe stay out in the open watched carefully by their mothers who feed on the fringe of the woodlands.

Far out west in the short grass plains there are reports of large herds of topi congregating together and starting to calf, and the Ikorongo has also started to become busy with plains game as well as elephant herds.

The first wildebeest started to arrive in the Ikorongo towards the end of September.

Unusual sightings

A female giraffe was seen who had had a miscarriage. On closer investigation the guides realised there were twins which is quite unusual. The mother was healthy, not too young, and there was plenty of resources in the area for her (food and water). So we concluded that although it has been recorded for giraffe to have twins it is very unusual. Most of the time the two foetuses become too big for the mother to carry and she miscarries in order to ensure that she at least can survive and go onto to reproduce again in the future. We shared the information with the RISE research team.

September Sightings Overview for Lamai (Mara River Tented Camp):

The month of September has been a very good month to be visiting Mara River Tented Camp and the game viewing has been exceptional.

Migration:

Lamai has continued with its impressive game viewing over this period. Huge migratory herds have remained on the northern side of the Mara River congregating in the Lamai Triangle before pushing north into the Masai Mara. River crossings have been pretty consistent and there was a shift of animals pouring north at the start of the month along the stretch of river close to Mara River Tented Camp. Towards the middle and end of the month we noticed herds starting to push south again and were crossing the river south further east of us (Crossing point 7 and eastwards). From the 20th September the push south by the big herds was very noticeable as they began to drain out of the Masai Mara, south across the Mara River and into the Serengeti where big rains had fallen.

The Lamai area continued to hold huge herds of wildebeest because of the frequent afternoon thunderstorms. If the rains persist in the central and western Serengeti it is possible many of the herds will leave the Mara River areas and head south and arrive back on Grumeti earlier than expected.

Lions:

We are fortunate to have the Lamai Triangle as an area to do our game drives in when we are not exploring the Mara River looking for migration crossings, crocodiles and hippos. In the Lamai Triangle there is very good lion viewing. There are numerous impressive males in coalitions of two or three. Strong lionesses use the thick riverine bush along the gullies and deep river courses to hide their cubs. They capitalise on the thousands of wildebeest around during this time of abundance.

  • A pride of 11 (5 lionesses 4 cubs and 2 big males) sighted west of Daraja Mbili several times throughout the month. The pride would be seen together at times but the males would often split off and patrol their territory.
  • A pride of 7 (3 lionesses and 4 cubs) was seen along Kenyangaga Road out towards the top north-eastern corner of the Serengeti.
  • A pride of 8 (3 lionesses and 5 sub-adults ) was seen around Korongo La Minazi.

Cheetahs

  • We have been fortunate to continue to see the mother with her two cubs often in the Korongo la Saa Kumi open plains.
  • The two dominant males have also been seen frequently across the Lamai Triangle and across the border into Kenya.
  • The cheetahs have targeted wildebeest calves and occasionally their kills have been stolen by hyenas which are in good numbers in the area.

Elephants:

The elephant herds continue to frequent the tree and bush-line along the Mara River as well as the numerous smaller rivers and gullies in the area. Mostly browsing the herds can vary in number from 10 to 40 animals, and occasionally we are see some with impressive ivory.

Leopards:

Leopard viewing continues to surprise us in the Lamai. There are now a few relaxed individuals that are seen far more frequently than ever before. This bodes well for the future and when the wildebeest are in the area the leopards tend to stay put and we see them more often.

  • The big male is still seen frequently along the Daraja Jeusi drainage line not too far from camp.
  • A skittish female was sighted at Korongo la Minazi.
  • A big male was seen in Daraja Mbili tributary with a wildebeest calf kill hoisted in a tree.
  • A male and female were seen together along the drainage line of Korongo la Fisi.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide