Mar 25, 2017

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Stories Behind the Photos: “A Walk to a Sleepy Cheetah” (March 22, 2015)

Posted in : Uncategorized on by : Mike

Today is March 25, 2017, and it’s been two years since my first trip to Africa. I spent some time reading my journal entries from that trip and it brought back memories. It’s interesting re-reading my thoughts at the time, where I had no idea when I would see Africa again, or see anything so amazing.

Since then I’ve been to the Galápagos Islands, Brazil’s Pantanal region, and Botswana, and in a few weeks I’ll be heading to Tanzania.

Anyway, one of my favorite events from the March 2015 trip to South Africa was on the morning of the 22nd. That was our last day on safari in Kruger, and we would leave for a cross-country drive back to Johannesburg immediately afterwards. We’d seen a lot of great stuff, and the night before we had a glimpse of two beautiful leopards, so I felt a bit greedy in hoping for more.

The drive was mostly quiet and peaceful, and we saw a family of white rhinos very early on. Over the next hour or two we drove around looking for more wildlife but didn’t see anything extremely exciting. Eventually our guide, Helen (nicknamed “H”), got a call on the radio. I don’t remember hearing the conversation, probably because they were speaking Afrikaans, but we’d all learned by now that a call on the radio might mean another truck has spotted something and that we might be able to join them.

She didn’t say much to us right away, but we started driving for 20 minutes with a clear purpose (not just poking around slowly). Eventually she stopped the truck and broke the news – “we’re in line waiting to see something. It’s another cat. We’re the 3rd group in line, so we just have to hope he doesn’t leave. It’s a cheetah.” I was anxious and disappointed. We couldn’t drive all the safari trucks to the cheetah, and I thought there was no chance whatsoever that a cheetah would hang out posing for pictures long enough for us to get a chance see him. Luckily, I was wrong!

After maybe 40 minutes of agonizing waiting, we finally got the radio call that we could approach. Helen drove us there and parked the truck, and we all looked around but could see nothing. She said: “there’s one other thing I didn’t tell you – we have to get out and walk to the cheetah, we can’t see it from here.” Cool!! We’d normally only gotten out of the truck to take a quick break and have a drink, never to walk into the bush. For those of you familiar enough with Kruger National Park to know that it’s against the rules to get out of your vehicle there – this was not at Kruger, but at a neighboring private reserve, where the rules are less strict.

So we got out and walked a short distance until we saw a beautiful male cheetah lying in the bushes, lazily sleeping the morning away. He was extremely calm, so I’m sure he’d seen his fair share of tourists and this was nothing new to him. He allowed us to get as close as about 10 feet away! We were all as quiet and calm as we could be, while we took pictures and talked about how cool it was to be standing there in front of a wild cheetah.
Eventually we left so another group could see him. On the way back to the truck I spotted a tall termite mound and asked H to take my picture standing near it, which you can see on my “About Me” page.

That picture of me would be one of the last “safari” pictures of the trip, since we drove back to camp and departed for Johannesburg right after it was taken, and it happened to capture me at one of my happiest moments. I’ve been traveling to a lot of other places in the meantime, both Africa and elsewhere, so I don’t know when (if ever) I’ll see that particular safari camp again, but it would be very nice to spend a night there again sometime.

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