Towards the early dusk hours with sun still up and our second day in Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, we were looking for some more excitement – may be a rarer game, a bigger pack of lions, wildebeest crossing the Mara river again, or a killer’s chase – and we got lucky – our guide Erick, who was listening to the bush-radio connected to fellow safari vehicles in the area, received location of ‘something’ in the area, about a mile from where we were – he sped with low gears – asked us to shut the roof top close and be seated – bouncing on the dirt roads, he won’t tell us what was he hurrying for – I guess, to not to jinx it or not to get us disheartened if not fruitful – all he said was – ‘There is something there!’, in his beautiful crystalline Kenyan-English, as if pleasing with every gap between words of his sentence. We were all anxious – I jutted through all wild animals found in African Savannah in my mental Rolodex, but still didn’t have a clue, what we were heading for.
Finally we arrived and there she was – spotted among the Acacia trees and Croton bushes – on the ridge of a rocky ravine – a female Cheetah, mouth closed, foraging the horizon – hungry, hunting and hiding – oblivious to few safari vehicles parked in the area – Erick told us that the big games think the entire safari vehicle with people inside as one whole object that was harmless and couldn’t be eaten. We joined other vehicles staged and parked on a hill-top to see this live theater in the plains of African Savannah right before the high dusk.
She sat at the same spot for a long time, only moving her head in different directions – gazing for a vulnerable feast or the right opportunity – with immense patience – there were couple of gazelles around in distant – but it was obvious that her eyes were on the one that was sitting alone in middle of the grazed grassland, may be due to over eating, lost or due to a critter bite (Erick thought it was due to overeating). Finally the Cheetah moved to a better vantage point, passing effortlessly among the parked vehicles – now hiding among the slopes of the ravine with only her head jotting out, but still looking towards that same vulnerable feast of the sitting deer, positioned to take a sprint any time – Surprisingly and suddenly the sitting gazelle moved and started walking – either by an alert call of fellow gazelle or by premodel instinct of never-to-be-an-easy-target – Which made the Cheetah move as well, towards the now-walking young lone gazelle. The distance was about 750 m, the Cheetah sprinted just for a fraction of second and stopped, because the gazelle came to know and it fled like a meteor – Cheetah recuperated with the failed attempt and disgust (am sure!). It walked further, in slow pace, in the direction of the failed attempt for a long time, we all followed in a line for a while, keeping distance and giving privacy to the wildlife.
Finally the sun was almost down, we had to head back to our respective lodges as visitors were not allowed after dark without a certain permit.