I haven’t seen many cheetahs in my lifetime.
In fact to count exactly, I have had only five cheetah sightings.
Of these five, two have been recently at Londolozi. Before last year and the commencement of my training as Londolozi guide, the last cheetah I saw was over a decade ago and it was barely a sighting; a distant speck seen through binoculars.
Needless to say, seeing a cheetah eleven years later was an incredible moment that I will admit left me a little speechless. The best part of the sighting was the sheer surprise of it all. We meandered our way towards the more open grasslands in search of a herd of buffalo. We then stopped to look at a pair of harlequin quails that were ambling in the road.
There ahead was a termite mound that from a few hundred metres away looked odd; I felt as if my eyes were deceiving me and there were three funny protrusions from this mound, and suddenly one of them raised its head.
And so, with a rather enthusiastic voice I turned to my two guests (who were in the first row) and exclaimed, rather loudly, “Cheetah! Cheetah! Cheetah!!’ and brought the vehicle to an abrupt halt, at least 400 metres away from the three big cats.
It might seem unauthentic, but I just felt so present at the sight of these three animals which I had seen so few of in my life. And I promised myself I would remember that moment some 400 metres away in which I got a glimpse of what it would be like as a first-timer or someone who has travelled many hundreds of kilometres to see an animal like this.
When you work at a place like this you regularly find incredible sightings,simply due to the amount of time you spend in the bush.
However, you sometimes forget the raw feeling of it all.
I’m not sure if it is because you become somewhat focused on a set plan to try and track and find certain animals that you almost anticipate the sighting itself or that you’re constantly thinking ahead of where you should drive to try predict the animals movements. Maybe it is that you become almost desensitised over time to the different sightings you have witnessed. Regardless, if you stop and pause for a moment, no matter the sighting, that pull that keeps you coming back to the bush or in our case keeps us wanting to head out each and every day.
Oprah Winfrey once said that “one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is time.”
Every so often, you then get that one sighting that isn’t what you expected and that feeling lasts a few more seconds and you know that this is why you are here. A fellow ranger said to me once, ‘The bush will always heal you’ and I think he is right, but more so it will allow you to pause and almost freeze the moment to appreciate life and the importance of being present.
Seeing those three cheetahs reaffirmed the reason I am here and more importantly that there really is not any other place I would rather be.