Buddhilini de Soyza
Talek River, Maasai Mara, Kenya
When the Tano Bora coalition of male cheetahs leapt into the raging Talek River in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, Dilini feared they would not make it. Unseasonable, relentless rain (possibly linked to the changing climate) had, by January 2020, caused the worst flooding local elders had ever known.
Cheetahs are strong (if not keen) swimmers, and with the prospect of more prey on the other side of the river, they were determined. Dilini followed them for hours from the opposite bank as they searched for a crossing point.
‘A couple of times the lead cheetah waded into the river, only to turn back,’ says Dilini. Calmer stretches – perhaps with a greater risk of lurking crocodiles – were spurned.
‘Suddenly, the leader jumped in,’ she says. Three followed, and then finally the fifth. Dilini watched them being swept away by the torrents, faces grimacing.
Against her expectations and much to her relief, all five made it. They emerged onto the bank some 100 metres (330 feet) downstream and headed straight off to hunt.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV + 100–400mm f4.5–5.6 lens at 400mm; 1/2000 sec at f5.6; ISO 640.