As the mist slowly rose across the plains I had a feeling that this was going to be a good day. Well actually, I feel like that every time I depart the lodge. Singita Sabi Sand is in one of the wildest areas of Africa and one of the best places to come face to face with the largest mammals that roam this land. Not to mention the insects and bird life that could fascinate you for hours by watching them survive in the varying harsh conditions. The biodiversity of the area is a large component of why this wilderness thrives.
Experiences are what we make of them and the ones we wish for are not the ones that surprise us. It’s the things that we never thought we would ever see that keep us on the edge of our seats, wanting more. The radio earpiece whispered that a female cheetah and two young cubs had been found on our southern boundary. My guests saw my smile and knew that something was up. The question followed, “Ross, what are we going to see?” I answered politely, “Something special.” Little did I realise that it was going to be spectacular…
Upon arriving at the sighting we saw the mother cheetah grooming her cubs in the shade. We decided to watch them as they continued with their normal routine. The mother cheetah stood up, stretched and seemed interested in the snorts and grunts that were emitting from an open area to our east. The sounds were from impala rams establishing their hierarchy, in preparedness for the rutting season.
Being fixated on each other and worrying about who is peaking in condition, the rams start running wildly, chasing each other, which offers an excellent opportunity for a cheetah to make a swift kill, without them being aware of her presence. It felt like we were watching an extreme scene in a movie cinema. No one moved. No one asked questions. She crouched down slowly, watching the impalas intently. Her muscles stiffened, she stood up slowly and this was it, all or nothing. She was off, sprinting ahead of us straight into the rutting rams.
We sat dead still listening carefully. Suddenly it sounded like a branch broke. That was it – she’d been successful.
As we drove toward the clearing there she was, holding onto a large impala ram. Life and death was happening right in front of us! The impala ram kicked a few times with his long legs but it was evident that his back right leg had been broken – this obviously was the sound we’d heard.
As the impala gasped its last few breaths, one began to wonder, “Perhaps this was not what I wanted to see.” Mixed emotions overwhelm you but you watch in awe and feel for both animals. Within a split second the male impala stood up, lifting the cheetah between his large rack of horns and almost impaling her. “Oh no!” gasped one of my guests. The tables had turned and, as we watched mesmerised by the action, we too suddenly switched teams. The cheetah cubs would not survive without regular meals. One cub moved forward and instinctively used its weight to bring down the rump of the impala, and soon the other sibling joined in. Shortly after, it was over.
We sat in silence after all the action, taking a while to take it all in. We had been privileged – we gained a vivid understanding for survival and natural instinct. Soon all the questions flooded in and we all agreed that we could not wish for a better experience, particularly this one that we never expected. What more could you ask for? Anything could happen at any time – and the best experiences start here!