February has been a wonderful month and I have to say that it has certainly been a month for the Cats…!! With moderate rainfall this month and the grass continuing to get a little longer still, you would think that Cat sighting may become a little more challenging!? Well, not here on the Grumeti Reserve! The cat viewing has been sensational. Our three largest central prides, the Butamtam, Nyasirori and the West prides have been viewed throughout the month in their usual localities. We have experienced good Cheetah and Leopard viewing as well as some lovely Caracal and Serval sightings.
With many of the Migratory Wildebeest and Zebra in the South of the Serengeti ecosystem currently we have noticed good herds of Cokes Hartebeest, Eland and resident Buffalo herds out on the grasslands of the Grumeti. There have been some lovely herds of Zebra viewed out to the West on the Gambaranyera. Small resident herds of Topi, Thompsons and Roberts Gazelle bring the plains to life with their vibrant colours and bubbly persona’s.
The Elephant viewing down on the Grumeti River has been fantastic, often we meet with aggregations of 50 – 60 individuals as they feed upon their favourite grass species down on the river banks. We have had a breeding herd of 40 that have spent much time up on Sasakwa Hill these last few weeks, moving between the Rubana drainage and surrounding hills and valleys.
The Lion sightings this month have been truly phenomenal. We have had a total of 101 individual sightings. We have experienced some great interactions and Lion viewing from all the Central prides, The West Pride, The Butamtam, The Mkuyu and the Nyasirori pride.
One of the most memorable sightings for the month was when we experienced the Nyasirori pride taking down a fully grown female Giraffe. There were 26 Lionesses and sub adults seen on the kill shortly after the animal had been brought down. The interactions between the Lions here was incredible to see.
The approximate total number of Lions from just these four central prides is a staggering 160 individuals. This is testament to how productive the environment really is. These Lions do not move great distances and are able to maintain healthy condition throughout the season. Truly incredible really.
The Leopard sightings this month have been great with a total of 30 individual sightings. This averages in at approximately 1/day which I would say is there or there abouts on the mean. The Leopard continue to do very well here on the Grumeti with our most regular sightings occurring on the Grumeti River Road, The Grumeti North Drainage, The Mbogo drainage and Upstream Raho drainage, close to Sabora Camp.
Many of our Leopards in these areas are reasonably relaxed and happy with the game viewing vehicles offering spectacular photographic opportunities. However, this month we have witnessed other individuals of a more shy nature that suggests they have moved in from elsewhere and have had minimal contact with humans and the game viewers. There has been a mother with two 4 month old youngsters seen on the Sasakwa Hill and a shy single male sighted a few times on the Mkomure drainage.
We have experienced a total of 26 individual Cheetah sightings this month which is very encouraging. For this short month of February that almost brings us up to an average of 1/day which is quite incredible really! Especially as Lion numbers continue to boom. Our mother and son of the central grasslands continue to do well. The young male is approaching a year old now and provides gusts with some stunning chases as he likes to flush the scrub hares out of the thickets. This young male is growing up strong too and will not be intimidated easily as we watched him chase down a Spotted Hyena that simply got too close for comfort!
Other great Cheetah sightings have taken place out on the Sabora Plains, The Nyasirori high ground and on the Grumeti West road. As always, these animals providing us with some fantastic hunts as they target some of the fastest ungulates on the plains.
71 individual Elephant sightings this month which is what would be expected at this time of the year. We usually find that during the month of February the Elephant movements to be sporadic but we have maintained great sightings numbers this month. We have experienced fantastic Elephant viewing on both the Grumeti River and the Raho stream with aggregations up to 80+ individuals. What we are seeing here in sometimes a number of different breeding herds coming together in times of plentiful, feeding together, watering together and rekindling distant relationships.
We have had a breeding herd of 30 individuals spending a lot of time on Sasakwa Hill which has been lovely although I am sure that the trees are not quite feeling the same way! Other great Elephant viewing areas have of course been Sasakwa Dam during the heat of the day, the Mbogo drainage, just N of FF Camp and Koroya Hill area.
We have had a total of 116 Spotted Hyena sighting this month. We have been keeping tabs on 3 different den sights which have offered some great viewing. A particularly busy den sight is that of the Boundary Pan den sight where a number of inquisitive youngsters have been providing us with some chuckles. One group of guests witnessed a single Hyena running down a Topi Bull which is no easy feat, showing that when not rumbling the Lion prides and lurking close to the Cheetah, how efficient these predators can be when hunting large ungulates.
We have had a total of 84 individual Buffalo sightings. The resident Buffalo herds just seem to get bigger and bigger each month and usually one can spot at least 10 different breeding herds at a single sitting from an elevated position such as OP 7.
Our resident Sasakwa Plain herd must number close to 400 individuals now. These animals are more than happy remaining close to Sasakwa dam, rather enjoying the taller more fibrous Red Oat grasses these days.
The Sabora plains may be filled with a number of different breeding herds at any one time and their black mass appearance in contrast to the green grasslands makes for lovely contrasting photography.