For the last few months, we have had the privilege to photograph and view the female cheetah and her youngster, now aged around 13 months old. We have watched him grow and learn to stalk and hunt. We have watched them encounter larger predators, like hyenas, lions and leopards, while also being chased off their kills and manage to make it through it all unscathed. Although these two cheetahs have made up the majority of our cheetah viewing there have been a number of other cheetahs on the property adding to the already incredible viewing.
Life experience is certainly not lacking for this young Cheetah and his Mother, who I can honestly say is an animal on Londolozi I respect the most. We often speak of the trials and tribulations, the hardships of life out here, the competition and the rise and fall of many animals, and in particular the large predators. Leading us to discuss the hierarchy amongst these large predators, who fits in where and how they all belong here, each playing a vital role in sustaining this amazing wilderness.
However, this majestic big cat, the cheetah, is one that is sometimes overlooked. One that is put at the bottom of this hierarchy, below lion, hyena, leopard and even wild dog. In terms of strength, power and brute force, it is definitely lacking but many other critical features of this cat have kept help it to thrive in a very predator-rich environment.
As a young cheetah growing up out here in the Greater Kruger area, life is not easy. Their beauty, speed and determination has been spoken of, written about and photographed by many. We truly cherish the presence of cheetahs here at Londolozi. If you ask any ranger or tracker what is one of the most exciting animals to find out on safari I’ll bet the cheetah is high up on their list. Whether it’s tracking them down, bumping into one by complete luck or responding to one that’s already been found, we all love spending time with cheetahs and they have to be one of the most exciting things to see.
Recently while searching the southern parts of the reserve for a pack of wild dogs, we bumped into the mother cheetah and her rapidly growing male cub striding across an open clearing. The setting was magnificent. It was early morning, the golden hue of the rising sun was cast across the landscape, mist rolling over the undulating hills and two cheetahs were marching steadily in front of our vehicle. With full, distended bellies, we could see they had both recently eaten and were sure they were on their way to find a drink of water and a safe spot to rest for the day.
Knowing there was a waterhole not too far ahead we decided our best bet was to go and wait there until they arrived to drink. We watched them move towards our direction with extreme elegance. Just like we had hoped the two of them bent down beside each other at the water’s edge and quenched their thirst for a good five-minute period. To watch one cheetah drink out in the open is pretty amazing however watching the two of them do it side by side was absolutely incredible.
Soon after the two cheetahs had finished, we followed them for a little longer where they then settled under a nearby tree. The mother continuously scanned the horizon for any potential threats while the cub took a more relaxed approach. She then settled down too for a short period to gather energy for the upcoming days. What an incredible way to begin our day on safari!!!