It is said that the only guarantees in the bush are that, there are none. Planning ahead is vital, but a plan is just that, it just gives you direction which combined with experience and knowledge does give a glimpse of hope towards achieving the desired goal. Weather patterns also come into play by influencing the wildlife activities.
On this morning safari the plan was to search for cheetah which in our type of woodland savanna bush is very challenging, but we do our best with a positive attitude. There’s always more than a cheetah to look for, although the request remains on your mind. Rocks and tree stumps have a sneaky way of disguising themselves as cheetahs, but it’s all fun and entertaining. We had limited game viewers out in the field, so covering our area of operation was quite a challenge. We got a call on the radio that a cheetah was spotted a short while ago hunting impala, and we were about five minutes from that position. We made it in good time and the animal was still strategizing… It was all excitement and clicking of cameras, but the situation called for patience and calm. The female cheetah was lactating which told us she had cubs. She needed food desperately and so, as always, we gave her space to hunt without any human element of distraction.
She used the situation profitably as she caught herself an impala ewe and we got to watch the whole episode. The acceleration of the cheetah was unbelievable, the agility and manoeuvring through the trees and around bushes, remarkable. You would think they actually practice every day to be able to achieve such a complex challenge, but it’s all dependant on the prey species and their behaviour. So, we killed two birds with one stone: we saw a cheetah and a kill!
We came back to check for the cheetah that afternoon, and she was only starting to feed, which was interesting, because generally they would eat as soon as they can after making a kill and move on. She left the remains late that afternoon and headed off in the direction of where the cubs were last seen.
Featured photograph of cheetah cubs at Singita Sabi Sand by Ross Couper