Back in February, I took a solo trip to Kruger National Park. I am trying to get caught up on my adventures but life seems to keep getting in the way of my blogging (all in a good way). In my last Kruger post, I wrote about my sighting of 2 lionesses that I had all to myself. That day in particular was probably my most exciting ever on safari and today I would like to share another fantastic sighting from that same day.
As I mentioned in my post about the lionesses, this day started out grey and misty with rain showers lurking so my expectations were rather low for the day. My first sighting for the day was one of my favorite eagles, the Bateleur. The eagle was fairly close, up in a tree, just off the road. But with the unfavorable weather conditions, the lighting was terrible. After spending 10 or 15 unsuccessful minutes trying to get a decent shot of this bird, I noticied there had been no other cars coming in the opposite direction and the couple of cars that came from behind me did not even stop and quickly continued up the road.
I started to wonder what I might be missing up ahead and gave up trying to photograph the bateleur. I continued up the road and after about a minute I was greeted by around 20 vehicles coming towards me on both sides of the road. I knew it had to be something big but with the tall grass it took me a minute or so to see this:
Cheetahs in the long grass
After all the many days I have spent on safari over the past few years, this was only the second time ever that I have seen cheetahs. Just to give some perspective, the last cheetah count in Kruger estimated that there were around 412 cheetahs in the park (they are currently running a new survey that you can read about here). If you compare this to the estimated 2000 lions in the park, you can see why cheetah sightings are rather rare and indeed quite special.
I was now the only vehicle going in the opposite direction of the cats so I quickly did a u-turn and joined the others tracking the cheetahs through their trek next to the road in the long grass. This continued for about 10 minutes as we watched the 2 cheetahs walking and listened to them calling out with the high-pitched chirps that they make.
Eventually they disappeared from sight and most of the vehicles continued on their way. I turned back around to continue in the direction I was originally headed and stopped to chat with the only other car that remained. The couple in the car told me that earlier there had been a total of 5 cheetah and that they had been fighting with some hyena that were denning close by. After a few minutes of chit-chat, the wife suddenly exclaims, “there they are !”. I look behind me and the 2 cheetahs are standing in the road and then start to cross to the opposite side, again disappearing into the long grass. Quickly flipping the car around once again, we headed off together to track the cats. We only caught fleeting glimpses but continued to hear their calls. Thinking they were gone, I looked into the rear view mirror to see this:
I’m back !
The two cheetahs were now back in the road behind us and we were still the only 2 cars at the sighting ! Another quick u-turn and we were treated to a amazing display of these 2 cats right in the middle of the road. They kept crossing back and forth over the road and continued to call out and I took hundreds of photos while maneuvering the car to keep up with them.
Calling for the others
Keeping a watchful eye on everything
Looking right at me
Together at last
And back again
They disappeared once again into the long grass as other vehicles started to arrive. They were still close by and then one decided to get a better look, jumping atop a termite mound in a classic cheetah pose.
Eventually I reluctantly continued on my way in search of other surprises, leaving the others to wait for the beautiful cats to make yet another appearance. The day was far from over so stayed tuned for the next adventure.