Shenton Safaris

Butterflies of the Maasai Mara

African swallowtail, butterfly

African swallowtail © Alisa Bowen

The rolling savanna grass plains of the Maasai Mara may not automatically spring to mind as a hotspot for butterfly diversity; yet lepidopterists and amateur butterfly lovers alike are in for a treat when they stay at one of the Governors’ Camp Collection properties.

These four camps are all situated along the banks of the Mara River, amongst ancient riverine forest trees that provide the perfect habitat for a plethora of butterflies and moths. Vibrant flowers attract the huge swallowtails (Papilionidae), and rotting fruit, tree sap and animal dung act like magnets for a variety of brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae).

African swallowtail, butterfly

African swallowtail © Alisa Bowen

Delicate, inconspicuous glass flowers attract some of the smallest species of the ‘blues’ and ‘coppers’ family (Lycaenidae).

The ‘whites’ and ‘yellows’ (Pieridae) are often seen drifting past on the breeze, sometimes briefly gathering in their hundreds to “mud-puddle” at moist patches found on the cool forest floor where they, along with members of the other families, soak up essential nutrients and minerals found in the tropical soil.

Narrow blue-banded swallowtail, butterfly

Narrow blue-banded swallowtail © Alisa Bowen

The best time to witness this spectacle of butterflies is during the rainy season (April – June and October – November), specifically, after a rain shower once the sun is shining and the air is warming up.

It’s handy to wear muted-coloured clothing and move quietly if you are hoping to photograph some of these animals.

African swallowtail, butterfly

African swallowtail (female) © Alisa Bowen

There is a butterfly garden at Governors’ Camp which is the best place to photograph the swallowtails who gracefully flit between the blooms drinking the nectar. Some of the most common species seen here are the African, noble, green-banded, narrow blue-banded and Constantine’s swallowtails.

Constantine's swallowtail , butterfly

Constantine’s swallowtail © Alisa Bowen

Some of the fast flying charaxes can often be found congregating around wounds in tree trunks, where sap oozes out. Look carefully for these for they are extremely camouflaged when they keep their wings closed!

The green-veined charaxes is lovely with luminous green veins running across the underside of it’s wings.

Green-veined charaxes, butterfly

Green-veined charaxes © Alisa Bowen

High ISO, high shutter speed and a wide open aperture are important when trying to capture these often overlooked animals on safari.

Narrow blue-banded swallowtail, butterfly

Narrow blue-banded swallowtail © Alisa Bowen



Governors' Camp

The Governors’ Camp Collection comprises of 7 award winning luxury safari camps and lodges. We are in the heart of the best wildlife viewing areas of Kenya and Rwanda, set in some of East Africa’s most spectacular scenery. Our clients benefit from the incredible location and style of our properties, our commitment to service excellence, the exceptional training of our guides and the strong bonds we have created with our community neighbors over the 40 years we have been in operation.

Africa Geographic