For five years we’ve been traveling Africa. I grew up in South Africa. And this is our very first cheetah sighting ever! Absolutely thrilling.
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. It reportedly can reach speeds of 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers.) It’s stride measures up to 28 feet (8.5 meters!) That’s a mighty leap! The cheetah is built for speed, but only for short bursts lasting about 30 seconds. After such exertion the animal is exhausted and takes about 20 minutes to recover.
This creates a two big problems for the cheetah.
First, it really has only one chance to run down it’s prey…usually small to medium-sized antelope. This requires very strategic calculations every time before engaging the ‘turbo booster’ and beginning the chase.
And second, once the prey is brought down the cheetah must first catch her breath before feeding. This makes her very vulnerable to have her prey stolen. Lions, hyena, jackal and even leopard may snatch her kill from her. Cheetah are no match for these larger predators.
The very first cheetah we spotted while traveling Africa were in the Kruger National Park. It was nearing the end of the day. It was a bit stormy and we were headed for the gate to camp outside the park in Hazy View for the night.
Coming round a curve we see a car. It’s stopped. A sighting! “Wonder what they’ve spotted?”
We pull up behind them. They’re looking towards the right. The bush is quite thick. Then I see it. “Oh my Gosh! It’s a cheetah!” The spots, despite the brush, are unmistakable.
Grabbing the binoculars I discover not only one, but two cheetah. They’re feeding. Less than a kilometer earlier we’d spotted a herd of impala.
Russ and I are so excited, we can hardly contain ourselves. Russ positions the Land Rover for the best view. We take turns watching them through the binoculars and taking video. The other car moves off. We have them all to ourselves.
Sure, they’re not right next to the road and in clear sight, but they’re cheetah and fabulous to experience in the wild. The thunder rolls overhead, the sky is grey, and we’re watching… cheetah!
Little did we know that the very next day we would see another two cheetah lazing along side the road. Very probably these same two. Then a few hours later, we spot several others from a distance, resting under a tree, near the Crocodile River Bridge entrance.