East Africa Bush Tails

Governors’ Camp Collection – October 2020 Newsletter

Masai Mara Weather and Wildlife: September 2020

While the Mara may be quieter than usual in terms of guests, for the wildlife September has been anything but. The wildebeest migration continued as dramatically as ever, while mating lions have been found behind almost every rock – and their successful efforts resulting in ‘Mama Kali’s’ cubs, which were just sighted for the first time. Couple this with some of the Mara’s classic thunder storms and it has been a remarkable month.

On Saturday 19th, huge herds of wildebeest were building up by Lookout Hill. While they all remained calm and happily grazing, it was agreed between guides that the next couple of days could see dramatic river crossings. How right they were: The following day, five enormous crossings took place across a variety of points, just within a couple of kilometres of each other. Tens of thousands of wildebeest moved from the Reserve to the Mara Triangle, rewarding the 21 hours we had spent over the weekend to try and witness it all.

Towards the end of September, we experienced torrential rainfall which seems to have encouraged the herds to move further south. Many wildebeest are now congregating south of Serena Camp while a few remain on Paradise Plain. Will we get one more lap before their return to Tanzania? That remains to be seen but we all have our fingers crossed.

Elephants

For some reason unbeknownst to me, the Mara has never been considered a ‘bucket list’ elephant destination. September has proved my long held belief that it very much should be. Twice this month I have seen family groups join together to create herds of 50+, while the Musiara Marsh has regularly boasted over 70 elephants in an area not much larger than a football field. This is an exciting enough proposition before you add the Mara’s enormous horizons, often shrouded in storm clouds. The combination of both this month, has made the area a photographer’s dream.

In early September, just above the Billa Shaka area, a breeding herd formed with two of the Mara’s biggest bulls in pursuit. The herd’s health was demonstrated by the great number of calves it contained and while we mainly now see them as separate families, there have been three occasions where we have looked out from the dining tent at Governors’ Camp to see them moving slowly across the plains.

Sightings of large bulls have been frequent, either following the family groups in the hope of breeding or simply wandering alone, grazing. When not in musth they have been calm around the vehicles, allowing guests and photographers alike a great viewing experience.

Big Cats of the Masai Mara 

Mama Kali has been seen with her cubs near Main Crossing. The cubs, two in total, are already relaxed in the presence of safari vehicles as they approach two months old. Their mother is fairly tolerant of their playful attitude but she did not get her name (‘kali’ is Swahili for ‘angry’) for nothing! When she has had enough of their attention she is sure to let them know.

Marsh Pride lioness Yaya was seen mating with ‘Blonde 2’ on Paradise on both the 8th and 9th of September, and then mating with Chongo on the 10th. Her two adult daughters, Pamoja and Nusu Mkia, were often seen within a few hundred meters, keeping their distance and careful not to disturb. We are all very hopeful that there might be some new cubs for Yaya around New Year, what a way to start 2021 that would be.

The Marsh Pride have been spending time back in the Musiara Marsh, occasionally chasing or being chased by buffalo, but with no harm coming to either party. While the five remaining Marsh Boys (Doa, Kiok, Chongo, Koshoke and Kibogoyo) are spending more and more time on Paradise, two males from the Oloololo pride have been seen showing an increasing amount of interest in the Marsh Pride females. The previously mentioned Blonde 2 and his companion appear to be taking advantage of the absence of the the Marsh males.

Towards the end of the month we had a rare sighting of lions in a fig tree. A breakaway section of the Topi Plains Pride have started to make a habit of it, with the trees whose gently angled branches provide them with a comfortable hideaway in the shade.

A group of four lions (three females and a sub adult male) spent the entire day in a fig tree on Sunday 20th September, until a group of elephants appeared underneath them. The three females made their way to the ground while the male remained on his branch. He seemed amused rather than afraid of their presence and walked up and down the branch before settling to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the grazing elephants below – a sight that many photographers and guests would envy. Bizarrely, the elephants made no obvious objections to the lion above them and we watched for 20 minutes as two of the Mara’s most iconic species (and two that traditionally do not get on at all, might I add), allowed each other the space to relax and carry on as normal.

Eventually the lion decided he had had enough, and jumped down, startling the elephants and prompting them to chase the four lions away. A truly unique moment!

Cheetah sightings have been as frequent as lions this month. Kisaru and her three subs (sub-adult cubs), have been seen operating between the Musiara Marsh and Paradise Plain. Their hunting skills, despite Kisaru’s best efforts to teach them, is a work in progress. Towards the end of the month we found the four on Paradise; Kisaru had just caught a young Thompson gazelle and was allowing the three youngsters to practice hunting with it. We watched in awe as they let it go, before closing in and capturing it again. This may seem like harsh behaviour, but the lessons learnt by the three cheetahs will be invaluable later in life.

Since then, the four have been seen making their way back in the direction of Mara North Conservancy – the direction in which they originally came from. A young male cheetah is gently in pursuit, his intentions unclear but in no way aggressive.

Kaboso continues to raise her cub well, with guest from Il Moran seeing her kill an impala on 24th September. Robert, one of our Governors’ Camp guides saw Romi (another well known female leopard), near Governors’ Camp.

Masai Mara weather in September

Mornings have been consistently clear, the sun rising as a vibrant, orange orb over the horizon. As we’ve moved towards the end of the month the mornings have grown colder, and a thick blanket of mist covered the Mara this morning (29th). Watching the hippo walking through the mist, back towards the river after a night’s grazing, was a stunning spectacle.

Over the last week our evenings have seen the build up of giant cloud formations that proceeded to shower us with some of the Mara’s famous storms. It’s a sight that thrills me every time it happens, and I always reach for my camera to capture the storm and the way the animals react, in an image.

Resident wildlife

One of our female warthogs at Governors’ Camp has given birth to two tiny piglets. While by no means tame, anyone who has met any of our local warthogs around camp will know that they are accustomed to our presence. This trait seems to have been passed on early to these piglets as both were found enjoying the morning sun outside the dining tent this month. Perhaps it’s time we start to think of names for them, all suggestions welcome!

By far our favourite visitor is ‘Mama’ – a wonderfully gentle elephant who visits us in camp at least once a fortnight. We’ve been seeing her since mid way through last year, as she feeds on grass and foliage around the tents. Guests at dinner on the 9th got a real treat as she passed by the dining tent, followed closely by one of our askaris, showing that your safari is never quite finished when staying at Governors’.

In all, it’s been another stunning month in the Mara, and we are extremely excited to welcome you all back as soon as possible.

Governors’ Camp Collection – June 2020 Newsletter

With talk of international borders slowly opening up here and there, we are very much hoping that we are able to invite you back to Kenya and Rwanda soon. Meanwhile, Migration season is calling and it’s going to be more beautiful than ever!

It feels as though much has been lost and cancelled over the last two months, but here’s some positivity: Thrilling adventures, incredible wildlife, vibrant cultures and mesmerising landscapes aren’t going anywhere – in fact they are all right on our doorstep and waiting to be explored by you!


THE HISTORY OF GOVERNORS’

As part of our video campaign during the pandemic crisis, we wanted to take you back to the very beginning of our story and who better to tell it than Governors’ co-founder and director Dr. Romi Grammaticas. Listen to her recounting tales from the early days and how the company has transformed over the years. She also explains our new Covid Protocols and what procedures have been implemented so that Governors’ can offer its guests a safe environment for travel. WATCH VIDEO HERE.


A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM HOME

A face that many of you might recognise; here is a message of hope and resilience from one of our driver-guides at Little Governors’ Camp

Hear Collins Kiplangat speaking from his home town Saloi, where he is keeping busy – and most importantly, safe – with his family & neighbours. He provides an interesting insight into how local communities in rural Kenya are taking precautions to keep the virus at bay as well as looking out for one another.
WATCH VIDEO HERE.


Masai Mara Game Report: May 2020 Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to visit the Mara in May? If so, then read this blog; we are letting the photos speak for themselves! Despite considerable downpours at the beginning of the month, it’s been absolutely magnificent – something to think about for next year perhaps!

READ MORE


Why a safari is the perfect post-lockdown therapy The travel industry has been at a complete standstill – but – our desire to connect with the wold once again is stronger than ever. It’s become increasingly evident that everyone is using this quiet time to re-evaluate life and think about what kind of journeys to take once it’s all over. 

READ MORE


Please help us help others during Covid-19 We are now more than a couple of months into the pandemic crisis and for those who wholeheartedly depend on tourism, it has been a struggle to provide even the most basic of necessities.  We are therefore determined to assist our community neighbours in both Kenya and Rwanda, and so we have launched an emergency fundraising appeal which we hope will alleviate some of the pressures on both vulnerable people and wildlife. Our promise is to utilise our team and resources to facilitate the purchasing and distribution of essential supplies.

READ MORE


COVID-19 PROTOCOLS FOR GUESTS

Open-spaces, sunshine and fresh air is an excellent environment for avoiding Covid, making a safari one of the best activities to indulge in at this time.

At Governors’ we have assembled a Covid-19 Response Committee, headed by Dr Romi Grammaticas (Governors’ co-founder and UK-qualified GP) whose job it is to oversee our procedures, operations and the guest experience, ensuring health and safety are of paramount importance.

READ THE POLICY HERE


PLEASE VOTE FOR US!

It’s the last chance to vote for us – the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are closed for voting at the end of June! Governors’ Camp Collection is nominated once again, in the world’s longest-running travel awards survey, where the winners are selected entirely by readers (you!)

 We would LOVE your vote! If you have two minutes to spare, please click HERE and head to ‘Hotels & Resorts’ and then type in KENYA (for location) and you will see us listed there. 
A huge Thank You from us all!


Governors’ Camp Collection – June 2019 Newsletter

Dear friends of Governors’,
High season is right around the corner and we have been working tirelessly over the last few months to pull off an exciting array of new projects, upgrades and latest additions including a Cessna Grand Caravan, 5 Landcruisers (straight out of the showroom), 3 Landrovers that have been expertly modified into photographic safari vehicles, 8 brand new tents at Private Camp, 8 brand new family units at Governors’ Camp, 1 new balloon basket and 3 new balloon envelopes. Let’s not forget our northern Kenya property, Mugie House, which is coming along beautifully and will open its doors to our first guests by the end of the year!

Rome was certainly not built in a day, but we do feel as though we have achieved something pretty miraculous here. We have a wonderful ‘cast of characters’ at Governors’, which includes an incredibly dedicated team that has made it all happen. Its been a race against time – lots of pressure, lots of fun and most of all – a huge sense of pride that we have managed to meet all the deadlines and ultimately, we can continue to offer a diverse set of experiences, designed to excite and inspire our valued guests. 

In keeping with all the new additions, we have welcomed back Will Fortescue as our resident photographer for the next four months over high season. He has just returned from a two week stay at our community-owned lodge in Rwanda, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, with the most stunning collection of images including the gorillas (as used in this newsletter), Golden Monkeys and our supported community and cultural projects. Please follow our social media pages (links are at the bottom of this newsletter) to see more of Will’s photography.

Wishing you all the best,

Governors’ Camp Collection

WHAT’S NEW AT GOVERNORS’ CAMP COLLECTION

Governors’ Aviation: In May we welcomed the latest addition to our fleet: a (new to us) Cessna Grand Caravan that made a five day journey all the way from Ohio, across the Atlantic and over to the Azores and then Egypt, before touching down on Kenyan soil at Wilson Airport. All paperwork and maintenance checks aside, we expect her to be up in the air in time for high season, over which we will be operating a total of four aircraft – all Cessna Grand Caravans – the best in the business!

Governors’ Camp Collection:

Photographic safari vehicles: all our Mara camps are set in the heart of the best wildlife viewing areas, amongst some of East Africa’s most spectacular scenery. It’s therefore no surprise, that we attract film crews from landmark series such as BBC Earth’s Dynasties and Animal Planet’s Big Cat Tales, as well as both professional and amateur photographers from all corners of the world. Attention like this from the world of film and photography enthusiasts can only mean one thing …. bring on the photographic safari vehicles! Specially modified to include same level seating throughout, cut out side panels in the middle row (can be closed over with canvas sheeting), high roofs and fully folding windscreens – features that were specifically recommended to us by our professional photographic safari guides. We have converted 3 refurbished Landrovers into a photographer’s dream!

Private Camp: the camp offering an exclusive taste of the Governors’ experience. We have really gone all out here and replaced the original eight dark green canvas tents with completely new beige tents which are higher, wider and have huge floor-to-roof windows, offering more space and air flow. Pretty touches include brass lamps in the bedroom units and in the bathrooms, as well as the addition of Kitengela’s recycled glassware which replaces plastic bottled water (this completes our whole collection of camps in being plastic water bottle free – hurrah!) We have kept the original wooden decking of each tent’s private verandah – the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the activities of the Mara River below you.

Governors’ Camp: we have replaced the previous 6 family units with 8 brand new family tents which have been beautifully crafted out of beige ripstop. They are one meter longer, and slightly wider and higher than the previous units. The windows are much bigger than before, allowing in more light. The bathrooms now feature double sinks, stone tile floors and ‘Lamu finish’ grey coloured walls, all in keeping with the natural and muted colours of the camp’s surroundings.

Governors’ Balloon Safaris: as pioneers of the Classic African Safari, it was only fitting that we should add hot air balloon flights to the collection, more than FORTY YEARS ago! Offering the most scenic flight path in the Masai Mara, we continue to be the top choice for this bucket-list experience, and so we receive a new basket and 3 new ‘envelopes’ (or ‘balloons’) in just a few days time!

In other exciting news, our Mara guides are currently receiving further training, specifically in Ornithology, by bird expert Dave Richards. Not only has Dave been providing relief management across our camps and lodges since the early days, but he is also a professional safari guide, author and photographer, who has written a number of published books on travel and wildlife in Kenya and East Africa.

UPDATE ON GOVERNOR’S MUGIE HOUSE

For those of you who don’t know, Mugie House is our latest addition to Governors’ Camp Collection – a luxury camp up north which will combine perfectly with the rest of our property portfolio. We expect to be open towards the end of the year!

Meanwhile, hard work continues up in Laikipia as the property comes together beautifully. Aside from the actual rebuild and renovations, there are many other ongoing developments such as ‘bush cookery’ training by Antonia Stogdale, Safari Chef and Founder of ‘Antonia’s Kitchen’. We have two chefs taking the course, David and Mungai, and as you can see there are all sorts of delicious and colourful preparations underway, as well as a home-grown vegetable garden which will allow us to supply only the freshest of ingredients!

GOVERNORS’ CAMP COLLECTION BLOGS – MASAI MARA GAME REPORT

Pastel sunrises have opened the days for the month of May, while rainfall has been quite scattered. There has been plenty of mating between the Marsh Pride lionesses, specifically Yaya and her adult daughters, Pamoja and Nusu Mkia, with some of the Marsh males; we are hoping for tiny cubs by about mid August which will clearly delight our high season guests. Serval cat sightings have been frequent as well as leopard and cheetah.

Loldia House: May 2019

Hot weather and little rain in May encouraged wildlife right into the Loldia House surrounds for the green grass and complimentary hay and molasses mixture we have been leaving out in the evenings. Night game drives are becoming more exciting than ever with the use of red filters on our car’s spotlights; May sightings included an aardvark! Thank you to two special guests who got involved in our community & conservation project.

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge: May 2019

May was a mixed month of heavy rain and just a few sunny days. The lodge was full almost nightly and many friendships were made over gorilla talk by the fire in our cosy sitting room – it was truly heartwarming! The highlight of the month was the arrival of photographer Will Fortescue. We had the pleasure of his company for two weeks while he captured all aspects of the lodge including the community & cultural activities.

PHOTOGRAPHIC SAFARI – 2020 DATES RELEASED!!

Following the success of our photo safari hosted by Paul Joynson-Hicks MBE in green season this year, we are hosting two photo safaris in 2020! A renowned African wildlife photographer, Paul’s passion started as a photographer’s assistant many moons ago in London and developed into an obsession through the last 25 years living and working in Africa. He is a widely published wildlife photographer, with several coffee table books and exhibitions. Amongst the social enterprises he has been involved in, Paul is the founder of the world acclaimed Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, created in partnership with The Born Free Foundation, and receiving global coverage including BBC and Sky News.
Dates: 23rd – 29th March and 6th – 12th June 2020. Each safari is limited to six places only!


Community Revenue Earned from Governors’ Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

Community Revenue Earned from Governors’ Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Surpasses US$3.25 Million

Governors’ Camp’s Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda is a uniquely community-owned lodge, with revenue received by the surrounding SACOLA Community. In August, we reached an incredible milestone when revenue earned by the community surpassed $3.25 Million.

On 7th September, 2018 Rwanda celebrated Kwita Izina, the annual national celebration where new baby gorillas are named in an event attended by heads of state, world conservation figures, and celebrities. The loud and clear message throughout the week of celebrations is that in order to protect gorillas, you must look after communities. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge’s revenue-sharing model has allowed a community of over 5000 households who live at the edge of Volcanoes National Park to benefit directly from gorilla tourism.

Opened officially in 2008 by President Paul Kagame, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is uniquely community-owned, the only such lodge in Rwanda. The Lodge was designed, built and is managed by Governors’ Camp, with revenue streams in the form of lease fees and levies from each guest stay going directly to the community.

Revenue from Sabyinyo Lodge is invested in socio-economic development projects, as determined by the SACOLA community through an elected board, that uplift the lives of the community members.

To date, some of the projects that have been achieved with the revenue stream from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge include:

  • Connecting 5800 households to electricity
  • Construction of 65 classrooms in 6 schools, including two computer labs
  • Purchase of 40 acres of land to build Nyarubande School – one of the six schools
  • Donation 60 computers to 2 schools
  • Equipping schools with desks
  • Payment of school fees for children from the poorest families
  • Building of 40 houses for donation to survivors of the genocide, ex-poachers and the communities most vulnerable people. All houses are fully plumbed, electrified and provided fully furnished
  • The construction of two villages (34 houses) which house 126 formerly destitute farmers on the fringes of Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda who subsisted from the park. The village provides houses, water tanks and plots of land to people living close to the edge of the national park who are being resettled within the framework of the park extension project.
  • The construction and maintenance of 12 kms of local roads. Construction of bridges over waterways
  • Purchase of land to build a new technical school, aimed at upskilling members of the community with marketable skills
  • Donation of water tanks to community members for household water storage
  • Repair of damaged houses for community members
  • Provision of healthcare insurance for 7000 of the poorest community members
  • Construction of a health centre
  • Construction of piping and water collection points servicing over 10s of thousands of community members
  • The establishment and support of a local pig project.
  • The establishment and support of a local sheep project
  • Provision of capital to create a poultry business run by a coop of widows of the genocide
  • Ongoing support of livestock business with a SACOLA financed vet.
  • Financing of the construction of 2 SACCOS (community banks)
  • Initiating a one family one cow program which provides cows to poor people in the local community, with over 250 cows donated

 Every guest staying at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is making a direct contribution to the uplifting of lives of the people living alongside the Volcanoes National Park, thus ensuring the future of Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas.

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
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