It was the last drive of a very successful safari so we decided to leisurely indulge ourselves in a beautiful open area surrounded by cathedral mopane and baobabs. As we arrived we found a clan of hyenas regrouping after their nocturnal activities. They seemed to use our vehicle’s position as a gathering point, and ambled in from all directions, yawning, greeting and playing with one another before settling down in the track for a nap while the sun rose.
I thought it would be good to stay with them for as long as possible, because being such strong and opportunistic predators they will often spot a leopard, wild dogs or cheetah, even lions, and try and steal a kill from them… So we did just that, getting beautiful photos in the early morning light and enjoying the indulgence of watching their regrouping behaviour.
After an hour or so we left, sure that there was nothing else in the area because the hyenas were snoozing. I am not joking when I say I drove no more than 50 metres down the track when I found two cheetahs in the road heading into the intense sunrise gold. They were two males, and just beginning their day with a bit of scent marking and scouting around. After a while they lay down in the track in front of us. We were now sandwiched between a clan of tough hyenas and two ‘delicate’ cheetahs. A late-comer hyena ambled up the track, having to pass the cheetahs and us to get to the clan. When it got within a few metres of the cheetahs they reluctantly got up, moved off, then settled back down. The hyena and its clan paid them no attention at all! Once both species were settled I reversed out of the way and had hyenas to our left, and cheetahs to our right, in full light, framed against the stateliest of cathedral mopanes and a baobab. What a moment!