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Great Migration in the Secret Serengeti

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After a long drought the heavens open at Sanctuary Kusini a few weeks before Christmas...and with the rain we normally see our first herds of wildebeest. 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.”

Although everything depends on the rainfall, the Migration starts to arrive as early as December and will stay until about April.

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The beauty of the south is its diversity: from never ending plains, to majestic rocky outcrops (kopjes) to green acacia forests, the south indeed has a lot to offer. 

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The endless plains are a great setting to grasp the full extent of the abundance of life. It is overwhelming to visualize an immense plain “covered” with nothing but animals… 

The kopjes are fantastic for predator activity during the Migration. In effect, the Sanctuary Kusini pride (about 30 lions) resides on the rocks and wait for the wildebeests to come down to drink and feed on the surrounding vegetation. Furthermore, the valley where the kopjes are located, also hosts several leopards often seen with their own “catch” up on the tree.

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The forests offer a different insight of life in the Serengeti with a more intimate and mysterious approach. The light plays with all shades of green while one discovers different scenery and animals. But be warned, the forests also host the over-welcoming tsetse flies! So it is always best to be there very early in the morning and leave when it becomes warmer. 

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Our ever-changing world makes it hard to predict the weather with precision, especially with years of El Nino and La Nina; but nonetheless, it is the start of our rainy season.  Do not be afraid of the word “rainy” as it will rain but it is not a monsoon either. The rain will bring the Migration down to the south therefore we all do pray for it! 

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The temperatures are lovely in the morning and evening with hotter afternoons. The clouds bring majestic skies with incredible light, a true heaven for photographers.

The rain will make the terrain challenging, slippery and sticky. But of course we experience this every year and it is part of the safari adventure! (Sanctuary Kusini is well equipped to face many situations and our tractors and rescue car are always on standby during the rainy season).

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Apart from the obvious dusk and dawn light, the Migration is always photogenic. In effect, as much as the "Blue Hour" (twilight) and the "Golden Light" (shortly after sunrise) will bring the best colours, the Migration is an immense body of life, movement and situations. So many animals in the same place a lot is bound to happen. So even if your preferred “light” may be gone, do not put your camera away as the show has only started… 

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The overwhelming sight of thousands of animals together is definitely a classic favourite, especially in such a grand set as the south Serengeti

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The rainy season brings life, meaning babies! I do not think anyone could resist the amount of cute little creatures present at that time: baby wildebeests learning their first steps, lion cubs learning to clumsily hunt each other, baby warthogs running across the plain…

The predator activity is also a favourite: cheetahs in full speed, lions hunting, hyenas fighting. The south becomes a theatre of life and death. These sightings are intense and do take a lot of patience and should also be considered: nature is raw and unfiltered. Guests need to think about what you are willing to see: many prefer to focus on births and babies rather than go for the accelerating race for survival. 

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The avian activity is also fantastic, as many species have migrated to the south. The birds will amaze you with all their colours, shape, size and sounds.

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Indeed, the Migration in the south is very special as it is the actual birth of the Migration itself. In effect, the wildebeests come to the southern plains to deliver their babies, as the grasses are very nutritious for the nursing mothers. As soon as the calves are born, they must manage to get up and be ready to run as the predators are always nearby. By the end of the rainy season all wildebeests will have migrated further north. The cycle of the Migration starts at birth for the wildebeests and the south is their home.

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As mentioned above, the Migration is an immense body of life in various forms. Although the Migration itself is consisted of wildebeests, zebras and elands, the overwhelming abundance of such animals also benefits a lot of different creatures. The predators are of course the first to come to mind but there is more: insects happy to find nutrients, birds also following the rains, other herbivores happy to blend in the mass, scavengers always scouting… The migration is an exceptional symbiosis as Nature always has the perfect balance in its judgement.

Images taken is by Isbjorn Viot, Camp Manager and resident photographer at Sanctuary Kusini Camp

All photos © Okaroo