Journey of Life - The South Welcomes the Migration

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The southern Serengeti and its great plains have faced a time of drought and hardship. The land is dry and water is extremely scarce. Great numbers of wildlife left, following the rain and rivers to the north. The remaining inhabitants have had to adapt. But things are about to change and between January and March when the calves are born there is nowhere in Africa so alive. Sanctuary Kusini Camp Manager, Isbjorn Viot, describes the Great Migration as it heads south towards their calving grounds in the south of the Serengeti...

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Serengeti National Park

Soon the rains will come and the southern Serengeti shall welcome the Great Migration. With their journey to the plains, the wildebeest begin their cycle of life again as the calving season begins.

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Let there be life...

Ideally located in the rocky outcrops (kopjes) overlooking the southern plains, Sanctuary Kusini hosts one of the most impressive wildlife shows on Earth. While the crystal winter light fades away, the warm, stormy skies of spring embodies the promise of the much awaited rains. Within days after the first heavy showers, the magic of spring occurs: the plains start shining their brightest green, the highly nutritious grasses of the south.  

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The south is finally green again; it is ready for the migration

Each year is unique owing to the meteorological events it has had, and so is the dynamic of the Migration.  Depending on rainfall, smaller groups of wildebeest, zebra and buffalo may first move in before the bulk follows. Other years it seems as though the entire herd arrive as one, blanketing the plains in huge numbers. Everyday is different and surprisingly extraordinary: one afternoon, a few thousand animals may be seen, only to find the next morning a sight that is impossible to comprehend. As far as the eye can see, wildebeest and zebra are so numerous that it overwhelms the senses and feels more like a dream than reality. It has to be felt to be believed. You discover an ocean of wildlife, with its rhythm and sounds in constant movement, teeming with life, and also death. 

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Watching for predators...

Such an extraordinary gathering has drawn the attention of plenty of opportunists. The lions have returned to their iconic "Mowe Ya Simba" - the 'Rock of the Lions' in Swahili.

The pride is strong and in high numbers. At the time of writing this article the Kusini pride had been seen feeding on a buffalo, with 27 lions being counted. The Kusini pride strives around the Simiyu River in the times of drought, thus allowing them to bring up many cubs. The lions know the rituals of the migration. The rock is in the middle of a valley holding numerous precious life resources including water and a variety of flora.

While the lions seize their opportunity, the ghostly leopard also awaits. With the return of the large herds, the leopard sightings increase. The resident male of the Korongo La Simba - 'Valley of Lions' - is extremely powerful and surprisingly unabashed.

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The cheetahs try to stay away from the chaos of the larger predators and take refuge in the vast plains. However, they haven't managed to avoid the ever-opportunistic hyenas.  Large clans roam in search of the weak, the wounded, and the ill. While this is sad for some, it maintains the health of the Great Serengeti

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Dance of the predators

At the beginning of the year, when the migration is thriving in the south, comes the time of the calving. Suddenly most mothers start to give birth to their young on the plains. An amazing spectacle, but such abundance of life has to profit everyone. 

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Birth of the Migration...

The predators all lay in wait; the south will be the impartial judge of who lives and who dies. 

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"Do not try to fight a lion unless you are one yourself", Proverb

The calving season is simply extraordinary. The migration is humbling and nature has put on its brightest colours. The stormy skies are a dream for the Impressionists and all faces of the wild abound. The southern Serengeti welcomes the beginning of a new life and the journey is wild. The slippery terrain (black cotton soil) transforms every safari into an epic adventure in search of a pristine untouched Africa.

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The calm before the storm

Sanctuary Kusini is the only permanent camp in this unspoilt and remote part of the Serengeti and every year wildebeest congregate on the camp's "doorstep." 

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Sanctuary Kusini

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By Isbjorn Viot, Camp Manager at Sanctuary Kusini, Tanzania.