This is real life, and thankfully today we are not the prey. Holding our breaths, (just to be sure) we watch her launch into a full chase with a distracted, yet clearly experienced gazelle. The cheetah is the fastest and one of the deadliest predators in the Maasai Mara, going from 0-60 mph (96km/h) in less than three seconds. However, she must choose her prey wisely, as she can only run for one minute until she needs a rest.
My son squeezes my hand: this time we don’t have the comforting sound of David Attenborough narrating. We are utterly mesmerized by Selenkei, the ‘Queen’ at Olare Motorogi Conservancy, a 10,000 acre private conservancy where the Mahali Mzuri luxury tented camp is located, co-owned by Sir Richard Branson and the Gehlot Family in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. “She likes to patrol and strut around the camp,” says our guide Betty, who is one of Kenya’s first female safari guides, as Selenkei returns to her perch after an unsuccessful hunt… this time. We also return to our perch, and my ‘little warrior’ as they are affectionately called, cannot stop sharing his story at the evening bonfire with guests and the Mahali Mzuri family about the close call he saw today — already a story he will never forget.
Few feelings beat the thrill of seeing a prowling cheetah slowly creeping towards its prey.
We leave the Mara feeling like pioneering explorers as we board our private plane and soar over the lush landscape — the enormous Rift Valley and its busy swamps with bathing elephants below — until we spot Mt. Kilimanjaro and Tsavo National Park in the distance. We arrive at Finch Hattons Luxury Tented Camp, and check in to our extravagant 2000sqft family tent with two ensuite bedrooms, a living room and panoramic deck. We immediately feel as at home as the resident hippos and crocodiles swimming in the natural spring pools dotted around the property. I feel it only responsible to continue my son’s warrior training in the ‘Bush survival class’, where local Maasai teach children how they live in the bush. They learn how to use what is available to them to light a fire, make a bow and arrow and even a handy toothbrush. Afterwards they gather at the research centre to inspect skeletons, study footprints and learn about the geology, ecosystems and wildlife of this fascinating part of the world.
At Finch Hattons, we don’t believe that we inherited the Earth from our ancestors, but that we borrow it from our children. We want to instil a lifelong passion for the bush in the young adventurers under our care, so that they will always appreciate and strive to conserve it.
We have all grown during our great adventure to Kenya. Our journey ends with recounts of captivating stories, myths and folk tales about life in the bush, and the origins of the Tsavo land from our Maasai guides and bush family in front of the bonfire, now a family ritual.