The Great Chase
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
When I imagined what going on a safari would be like I thought of elephants, zebras, wildebeest and giraffes. I thought seeing a baby elephant would be the highlight of the trip, and I assumed we may see a lion or two in the distance. I honestly never even thought we would see a cheetah! I mean there is not a large population of them, and they can run really fast, so what is the odds of seeing one?
Well was I wrong! It was our first morning waking up in the Serengeti, our group was keen to spot all the animals so we knew waking up early would give us the best opportunity. After a perfect breakfast and coffee in the dining tent, we loaded in the safari truck at 6:30
am. The excitement from the group was electric even though it was still early in the morning. Although we had only spent two days so far with our guide, it was clear he had some sort of gift when it came to spotting animals, reading their behaviour and just knowing where we may find them. As we took off across the savannah the early morning sun just rising in the sky, none of us expected the adventure we would be in for. Early on we came across a family of hyena’s. We stopped for a while to observe and listen to the interesting sounds these animals make. Although not the most beautiful of creatures, up close they are kind of cute, and apparently curious! A juvenile hyena walked right up to the side of our truck and began nibbling on the running board. I was literally inches from his face. We fondly named the hyena cub Charles and joked whether we could get him a visa to come back to Canada with us.
As if sensing there was something important to be seen our guide announced it was time to move on, and like that we started to drive again across the savannah. And there she was, in the near distance a female cheetah was coming over the crest of a hill, and she wasn’t alone. She had four almost full-grown cubs with her. To our left was the family of cheetah’s and to our right a large herd of Thompson gazelle. Our guide reading the body language of the mother cheetah immediately knew she was ‘on the hunt’. Our guide quickly and carefully positioned the truck so we could watch the action without interfering. The mom cheetah subtly signaled to her cubs to stay put, the four of them immediately stopped and sat on the road just in front of the truck. The mom cheetah continued slowly through the burnt off grass, crouched as much as she could heading towards the herd of gazelle. We all began videotaping and frantically snapping pictures as we anticipated what was about to go down. Now I swear that cheetah was still so far away from the gazelle when the herd sensed a threat and began sprinting away… in the cloud of dust, we watch her sprint towards a gazelle and make a tackle. She instantly disappeared; our guide explained if we cannot see her it means she made the catch. A few moments later she reappeared in the grass, clutching the throat of a gazelle…a clean kill. She then signalled to her cubs to come to join her for their breakfast, and literally four feet from the truck we watch in amazement as this cheetah family devoured their catch of the day.
Seeing a hunt is on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but I never imagined I would get the chance to see one firsthand…let alone so close. I still get goosebumps thinking about this magical and primal moment that very few people get the privileged to experience, nature at the core.