In the animal kingdom, speed is everything and can mean the difference between life and death. Whether it be predators using their speed to overtake and overpower their prey, or the prey animals that have fewer defences who solely rely on speed to avoid becoming dinner. We all either know or have heard that the fastest land animal is by far the cheetah, reaching unfathomable top speeds of 112km/hr or 70mhp. Capable of a 0-60mph acceleration in under three seconds, cheetahs would rival some of the fastest supercars. They are phenomenal athletes, perfectly designed in every way to reach these speeds, and quite simply I’m not sure how anything is supposed to get away from a cheetah.
Anyway, this blog is not going to take you down the route of how the cheetah is designed to reach its top speed or how its anatomy is unlike that of any other animals. I am going to take you through how the lightning-quick reactions of a cheetah saved a particular cheetah’s life and most likely the lives of her two offspring.
As previously mentioned in a few blogs, we were spoilt with a bout of incredible cheetah viewing. We had a mother and her two sub-adult sons roaming the reserve for a couple of weeks. One particular morning, having only been on a game drive for a matter of minutes, we found the trio resting on the Londolozi airstrip and was swiftly joined by two other vehicles, Nick and Shaun. The three of us then followed the trio as they got up and were walking in the direction of a nearby waterhole. Preempting a low-angle drinking shot of the cheetah we parked our vehicles on the opposite side of the waterhole.
Knowing very well that there are most likely crocodiles in the larger waterholes, most animals are extremely cautious when approaching to have a drink. There was no difference to the trio approaching their morning drink, they approached with caution. The mother was less inclined to walk straight up to the edge of the water, compared to the inexperienced youngsters. Scanning the surroundings she eventually chose her perfect spot.
Laying in wait was a sly, cunning prehistoric beast that’s species has been around for millennia, and for good reason, due to the patience and brilliant tactics of being able to sneak right up the edge of the water underneath their prey’s nose.
She hadn’t been drinking for long before one of her sons approached her. Already on edge, this gave her a slight fright, and in the split second she returns to drink.
Shortly after that the weeds on the surface of the water erupted in her face.
Thankfully for the miniature fright her son had given her, she was locked and loaded ready to react. Springing herself at least six feet in the air, directly over the crocodile’s head, she found herself landing in the water. As fast as she had taken flight it appeared as though she ran on the water to get to safety.
Below is a video of the sighting for you to see for yourself just how close it was.
What are the chances that the crocodile had been lying in wait, right there, in the perfect spot that she chose? Or had the crocodile been able to follow the movement of her silhouette through the weeds. With a decent amount of experience under her belt, it’s strange that the cheetah chose the part of the waterhole covered in the most amount of weeds. However, her positioning at the waterhole led to an incredible sighting and I was so pleased to be in the right place at the right time in order to capture the whole event on camera.