Maasai Mara: CHEETAH ON THE HUNT!

A week ago I returned home from a two week photo tour in the Maasai Mara in Kenia. My good friend Marijn Heuts organizes every year photo tours to this area. This year I finally joined him on the trip. ...a trip which I will never forget!

I filled my memory cards with loads of images of exciting encounters with the local wildlife. I have not yet managed to go through more than 20% of the images and have no clue which images I should share online. There was one thing I was really hoping to see during our stay in the Maasai Mara. That was the hunt of a cheetah. We were very fortunate and saw a total of three cheetah hunts, of which only one was successful. This happened exactly on the very last game drive of the 26 game drives we did. An amazing farewell gift!

On the last game drive we spent some time with a female cheetah and her 3 cubs. In the early morning she made an attempt to catch a gazelle, but it managed to get away. After that, they laid down together, the cubs drunk milk and played a bit around. Suddenly the female got up and started to sneak towards the bushes a couple of hundred meters further away. We quickly spotted what she had seen. In the bushes there was an adult impala and a gazelle standing. Our guide positioned the car on the other side of the bushes, waiting for what was coming. From our position we could only see the impala and gazelle but not the cheetah. We didn't know when she would strike and which of the two she would go for. My guess was that she would go for the much smaller gazelle. After a short moment, the impala took off from the bush and the gazelle stayed. So I focused on the gazelle, while my heart was beating like crazy in my throat, of excitement of what could happen. Suddenly I see from the corner of my eye how the adult impale runs back into the bush, straight towards where I guessed the cheetah must be waiting. Before I knew it, the impala changed direction and this time with the cheetah right behind her. What happened in the following 3 seconds I managed to capture on photo and don't need more words. I just want to say that I'm VERY pleased with the auto-focus speed of the Sony a9 camera and Sony 100-400mm GM lens! This in combination with no black outs during the exposures, I managed to nail the focus on almost all of the images!

All images are taken with the Sony a9, Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS, on 400mm, f5.6, ISO 800, 1/3200s.

Here I missed with the focus-points. The focus is on the leg of the impala.

In the next frame the focus has jumped back to where it should be.

Game over!

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