Life is Not Easy on the Serengeti, Part Five: Sprint to the Finish

Cheetah on the huntThe herds are within yards from the wildebeest. We are within yards of the cheetah, but not sufficiently close enough to impact their hunt. The cheetah are up, the herds don’t smell them, and the winds are in the cheetah’s favor.

We cheer for the babies to get away, yet we also want to see the fastest land mammal complete their hunt. We watch, knowing they will be too fast for us to film.

They have now spotted their prey.  In unison, they spring up from the grass, one tears off towards the herd, the other goes in front.  Their mission: to steer the baby away from its mom, right into the jaws of the second cheetah.  Excitement builds, as the speed of the cheetah escalates into maximum speed.  Wow….look at them go……. suddenly the mom seems to switch sides with the baby as they run.  The cheetah isn’t built for endurance like the lion, it can only run so far until they lose their breath and have to give up the chase.  This repositioning actually saved the baby’s life. So this time – an unsuccessful hunt.  We have mixed emotions, disappointment, at not seeing the ‘end’, yet happiness that the baby lives another day. For the cheetahs, their hunger grows.

Wildebeest and zebraWe wait to see what the cheetah will do once they catch their breath.  Another herd of wildebeest approaches. This one, with many babies. Surely, the cheetah will have success now.  It’s pretty obvious!  The herds are right in front of them, all they have to do is reach out and trip the young wildebeest. They carefully take their positions in the grass.  They stay hidden until the herd gets close enough to pounce.  Suddenly they spring into action.  We can’t tell if they are targeting the young zebra or the young wildebeest running in tandem with the mom.  They move in towards the wildebeest, when suddenly, they just give up the chase.  WE don’t know why, what spooked them, but THEY likely do. Maybe it was the wildebeest staring them down.  We just don’t know!  Disappointed again, we continue now to encourage the cheetah.  We see that an opportunity is in front of them, they just have to make the right decision, as several mothers and babies pass in one herd after another.  Maybe it’s just an off-day for them.  They are about 10-year old brothers, so surely they didn’t survive these years being inexperienced.

Looks like with all the activity and drama the morning has brought us, it was coming to an unsuccessful end.  For us though, seeing the hunt was an incredible experience, which I, after more than 40 safaris, had never seen like that before. We decide to move on to see what else we might see. Maybe we can even find some more accomplished cheetah on these flat un-ending plains of the Southern Serengeti.

Safari Kay

Read More
Part One – Wildebeest Migration
Part Two – Lion in Wait
Part Three – Cheetah
Part Four – Cheetah



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