Wim Reports from the Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari:
(Photos from Back of Wim’s Camera)
We headed south as soon as we could leave the camp this morning. We crossed the Talek river without a problem and started our search for the five cheetah brothers. They didn’t hunt yesterday and we hoped that they would be back in action today. We arrived where they had been just as glimmers of colour stared to show in the sky. And there we found hyenas where the cheetahs had been. The brothers had moved off and it took us almost an hour to find them again. They were hunting, but were not really being very enthusiastic about it. They would lie down periodically and look around for prey, so there was not too much effort there.
At one stage a number of animals were in very close proximity. Included in this we could see a Topi with a small calf. One of the cheetahs saw this, and within seconds all five brothers were up. All the animals scattered, including the Topi and her calf. The cheetahs focused on the young calf and there was mayhem as animals streaked in all directions across the large plain. We really thought that the Topi had no chance, but they are extremely fast, being one of the fastest of the antelopes, reaching speeds of up to 70km per hour. And they can run for long distances. This time they outran the cheetahs and both mother and her calf escaped unharmed.
After this the cheetahs were exhausted so they went to have a good rest while we went for coffee.
We returned to find them still flat, and although we waited for some time, the cheetahs did not stir.
After a very late breakfast that doubled as a lunch for us at noon we returned to the cheetahs again. We stuck around there partly because our vehicle developed battery problems and a new one had to be brought for us.
Eventually, our wait was rewarded as the cheetahs were finally up and hunting.
They walked right past our vehicle onto a plain. We drove around to intercept them. As the cheetahs walked onto the open area they spotted a very large lion walking across the same plain. The cheetahs immediately dropped flat and watched the lion, trying to keep a very low profile. Then the lion also lay down and flattened himself. As the lion lay there looking around, unconcerned and relaxed, he suddenly noticed the cheetahs. We parked right behind the cheetahs to see what would happen next. When the lion saw the cheetahs he was up in a flash and started to stalk them. We watched in amazement as he started towards them. Our hearts were thudding – what would happen now? The lion came right past our vehicle – within two meters – and ignored us with our cameras. The next second he charged – and five terrified cheetahs scattered in all directions. The cheetahs ran onto the plain and tried to escape from the charging lion. We spent the next hour and a half watching incredulously as the lion kept chasing the brothers in all directions around the plain. The lion chased the cheetahs until he was out of breath, when he would lie down, catch his breath, and a few moments later another chase would begin. The cheetahs were exhausted, especially when a lioness came to join in and they faced double trouble. And we weren’t the only spectators of this amazing scene. Hundreds of animals including Wildebeest, Topi, Zebras, Thomson’s Gazelles watched the spectacle. It was almost as if they knew that they were OK as long as the predators were at war with each other. Our photographs from the sustained drama are outstanding!
We left them all on the plain with the cheetahs huddled together in a group while the lion and lioness lay about 100 meters away, catching their breath. As we left we saw the remainder of the pride close by. The pride is from the eastern section of the Mara, and they are really intent on giving the cheetahs a very tough time.
We are back at the camp, still trying to absorb what we witnessed this afternoon. It was almost like a Nat Geo documentary unfolding right there in front of our eyes. In the morning we would like to return to the scene for our final game drive …