Malaika, the star of the Masai Mara.

15th September 2016
Anybody ever heard of Talek? No? No wonder. Talek is a small village situated on the southern side of the Mara nature reserve, only accessible from the regional capital Narok via a three hours long drive over washed out dirt roads.
Little Talek was my base camp for my latest Mara assignment. The main reason was Malaika, the most famous cheetah of the Mara. Malaika had eventually come out of her hiding with her two new cubs, now three months old. The area she chose as a new hunting ground was just 30 minutes’ drive away from Talek.
The second reason for choosing Talek over one of the lodges inside the reserve is of very profane nature: I simply can’t afford to pay 400 US per night 60 times in a row. That is the amount of time I’m planning to spend in the Mara until end of this year.
Talek turned out to be the right choice. Okay, the hotel had just four hours of electricity per day, but that was plenty of time to charge all my batteries. The hotel staff even agreed happily to serve me hot breakfast at 4:30 every morning! Try this in one of the big lodges. I managed to find a descent rental 4X4 in town with a driver that didn’t speak a word of English but knew the Reserve as good as his own pocket. We left Talek every morning before sunrise in search for Malaika and nine out of ten times, we managed to find her in pitch black dark. The driver that is, not me.
Those ten days turned out to be one the most thrilling experience in my career as a wildlife photographer. I rarely came so close to a cheetah as on this trip. My pride, the 500mm lens, turned into a liability because most of the time I was simply too close to the animals. The majority of the 15.000 plus pictures I took were shot with a 300mm lens or even the “small” 70-200mm lens.
We followed Malaika and her two cubs from sunrise to sunset and I was witness to the never ending playfulness of the two cubs, Malaikas motherly love for them and her incredible hunting skills. This cheetah simply don’t miss! I saw her taking her cubs to safety when she spotted a group of lions on the horizon and I was left speechless when Malaika decided to play “catch me” with her offspring right under my car. Every day in Malaikas presence was a new adventure and a blessing. At least, that is how I fell now about those days.
My special thanks goes to William from “Cheetah forever”, a French NGO that has taken up the task to protect newborn cheetah in the Mara mainly from recklessness tourists. William and his crew are watching over Malaika and her cubs almost 24/7 and they are taking this job very serious. It was William who allowed me to spend way more time with Malaika then I was supposed to and who endured my constant “give me five more minutes” with a knowing smile. See you soon, my friend.

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