Singita Grumeti & Lamai: December 2023
The final month of the year and it finished off with the bush looking green and lush. The grass has responded to the mix of rain and sun and now stands waist high. Cycadas and insects call from the fissures in the bark of trees and many pairs of birds are caught up in feeding their growing and hungry chicks.
The topi started their rutting season on the high ground around Nyasirori Ranger Post towards the end of the month and some wildebeest calves were born around the middle of the month on the short plains of Nyati area. These wildebeest calves form part of the resident herds and it is interesting that they seem to give birth a month earlier than the migratory animals which we expect to start calving in January and February on the Ndutu plains.
The Grumeti River burst its banks once or twice during the course of the month and as a result we saw crocodiles in unusual areas. Hippo tracks were seen up on the Ridge Hills, near the airstrip and deep inside the community grazing lands to the north.
December Sightings Overview for Grumeti:
Lion viewing has remained quite consistent for the month considering how long the grass is. The large prides have fragmented a bit due to the high competition within the pride when a kill is made. General game is far more scarce and tends to avoid the areas with long grass, and thus the lions find themselves having to go days without a meal and then they will take on a buffalo. Typically they seem to focus on older bulls who do not have the protection of the herd. Subadult lions face a lot of challenges through this time and find themselves having to compete fiercely with older members of the prides.
- A pride of four (three adult lions and one adult lioness) east of Boundary Pan.
- A pride of five (two adult lionesses and three subadults) west of Mbuni Crossing.
- A pride of four (two adult lions and two adult lionesses) west of Nyasirori Ranger Post.
- A coalition of two subadult lions north of Fort Ikoma Road and West of Chui drainage.
- A pride of four subadults south of Sabora drainage.
- A pride of 18 (nine adult lionesses and 19 cubs) at Old School.
- A pride of three (two adult lionesses and 1 adult lion) along the Boundary Pan.
- A pride of five adult lionesses west of Balanitis Explore.
- Lions seen on the rocks of northern Ikorongo by the walking team.
On the 1 December 31 members Of Butamtam Pride were seen - consisting of 20 cubs, nine lionesses and two adult male lions, seen west of old Pundamilia Camp. Considering that this pride has a 6 male coalition dominating over it, it really is an impressive sight when all together.
11 members of Bangwesi Pride, ten lionesses and one subadult cub sighted along Chumvi drainage, north of Bangwesi Hill.
The long grass hides the spotted cats well and, true to their nature, they have been somewhat elusive. Our opportunities to find them have been mostly when they are up in the branches of a tree or with a kill. Some of the sightings for the month included:
- A male along Fort Ikoma drainage with a porcupine kill, over a period of three days.
- One adult female with one cub along Sabora drainage – relaxed at a distance.
- One adult male at the junction Watershed and Fort Ikoma Road.
- A shy male along Sabora drainage.
- A large male was seen on Sasakwa Hill a few times during the month.
- Subadult seen around Acacia Bridge.
- A male sighted up in the tree at Sabora morum pit area.
We are lucky to still see the dominant male for the Sasakwa plains on a regular basis. He is strong, healthy and does well to avoid the lions scattered across the plains.
The dominant male was seen around Pundamilia Hill a few times using the high ground to his advantage. These are also good areas to find impala – twice he was found with an impala kill. Same male was seen around Old School, Arab Camp thicket and Fort Ikoma Road on different occasions.
One adult female west of Faru Faru Lodge.
This time of the year provides us with really good elephant viewing. The herds tend to gather into decent numbers and there are numerous big bulls criss-crossing the plains in search of females in oestrus. There are a lot of young calves around and, during the midday heat, it has been very enjoyable to watch the calves playing in the mud wallows.
- A breeding herd of about 80 individuals east of Sasakwa airstrip.
- A breeding herd of about 15 individuals north of Arab Camp Road.
- A breeding herd of about 30 individuals north of Grumeti North Hill.
- A breeding herd of about 30 individuals south of Balanitis Explore.
- A breeding herd of 80 individuals west of Sabora Camp.
- A breeding herd of 17 individuals at Maruru River.
Many young bulls and a few very impressive older bulls throughout the month, trailing the herds.
Typically, during this time of the year and considering the high amounts of rain as a result of El Nino, the southern plains (Ndutu) of the Serengeti have attracted the migratory animals. The mineral rich soils come alive with grasses that the herds gravitate towards. It means that we do not see much of the migratory animals during this period however there are small herds of resident wildebeest and zebra on the short grass plains to the south and along Nyasirori high grounds.
The buffalo numbers remain high although the big herds do seem to have splintered into smaller herds with the abundance of water and grazing. They avoid the low wet areas and prefer the drier, elevated slopes and plains. There has been a lot of lion and buffalo interaction this month.
- A breeding herd of about 150 individuals east of marsh area.
- Many bulls around the airstrip and Sasakwa Hill.
- A breeding herd of about 300 individuals east of Twiga scrapes.
- A breeding herd of about 150 individuals south of Nyati/WD Road junction.
- A breeding herd of about 200 individuals south of Arab Camp thicket.
- A breeding herd of about 100 individuals at Sasakwa Dam.
- A breeding herd of about 200 individuals along the boundary drainage.
- A breeding herd of about 50 individuals around Watershed and Fort Ikoma Roads junction.
- A breeding herd of about 50 individuals near the Spine and Fisi Roads junction.
- Two large herds of about 150 each up near Nyasirori Ranger Post, as well as many bulls.
- All rhino are accounted for and are reported as doing well.
- The calf in the boma is growing daily – although not seen very often reports from the monitoring team are positive.
- Numerous zebra and Thompson gazelle numbers on all the short grasslands to the south and on the border with the Serengeti.
- Giraffe numbers remain high across the reserve. Some journeys of as much as 40 were seen.
- Topi rutting up on the high ground of Nyasirori (approx. 300).
- Wildebeest (resident) first calves seen on Inyati open areas.
- A few sightings of honey badgers during the course of the month.
- A single Southern ground hornbill chick has hatched at the fig tree nest on River Road, downstream from Pelican Pan. A potential second nesting family using a site near River and Eagle Nest Roads, in a fig tree.
- Spotted eagle owl nesting on Sasakwa Hill.
- Bushpig tracks near the EEC school / Mazengira area.
- African rock python trying unsuccessfully to hunt white-tailed mongoose in a termite mound.
- Dusky turtle dove recorded for the first time.
- Lots of leopard tortoise activity at this time of the year, including some very small hatchlings.
December Sightings Overview for Lamai (Mara River Tented Camp):
December in Lamai is a very beautiful time of the year. The area is quiet in terms of guests and vehicles and we get to experience the Lamai Triangle pretty much to ourselves. The short grasslands up towards the boundary were very productive with a variety of mammals and birds seen across them. Around mid-December the Lamai area experienced very big rains causing the rivers and tributaries to flood, roads to disappear under water and many areas became inaccessible. It was incredible how much water was coming down from the Great Rift Valley escarpment. However, a few days later and once the water drained away we had the area back to ourselves to explore.
- Good numbers of topi, gazelle, zebra and wildebeest along the international boundary line.
- Stable herds of waterbuck, impala and zebra around the camp.
- A journey of about 20 giraffes sighted west of Alex Walker’s camp.
- A pride of 11 (two adult lions, four adult lionesses, four subadults and one cub) on a buffalo kill along Korongo la Saa Kumi.
- A pride of 11 (six adult lionesses, four subadults and one cub) south of Chaka la Kigelia.
- A pride of six (five adult lions and one adult lioness) near the boundary marker.
- A female sighted at Korongo la Fisi.
- Coalition of two males seen occasionally in the open areas to the north.
- A breeding herd of about 300 at the high ground north of Korongo la Saa Kumi.
- A breeding herd of about 200 east of Korongo la Fisi.
- A breeding herd of about 15 upstream of Daraja Jeusi.
- A breeding herd of about 20 north of Korongo la Fisi.
- A breeding herd of about 150 north of Chaka la Croton.
- A breeding herd of about 40 at Daraja Mbili.
- A breeding herd of about 60 at Kampikampi plain.
- A breeding herd of about 15 at Daraja Nyeupe.
- 1 adult male at Chaka la Masanja.
- 1 adult male at Daraja Jeusi.
- 1 adult male at Chaka la Kigelia.