It is hard not to think, breath and dream of Africa once you have seen it. From a young age, I was entranced by the BBC and National Geographic documentaries that my parents had on VHS, pouring over them and watching every single one so many times that I knew them play by play. Our African wildlife was (and still is) so entrancing to me, although the documentaries on our predators always seemed pull me in more. Knowing their diversity in appearance, strength and beauty, how could they not?
Light, delicately lean, streamlined and exotic looking; Cheetah are downright beautiful cats that are much sought-after to view and photograph by visitors to the Serengeti. These players in the life of survival in the Serengeti enchant all who gaze upon them due to their seemingly never-ending grace, their amber almond-shaped eyes, emblematic “teardrop” mask, and so much more.
Visiting the Serengeti South in mid-January afforded me some perfect sightings of Cheetah. This period of time to around the end of April is known as the Calving Migration as tens of thousands of Wildebeest, Zebra and Thompsons Gazelle gather on the rich, nutrient dense grassland plains of the Serengeti South to give birth to their calves and foals.
With the beauty of life comes its counterpart, and in this post I am specifically referring to its form in predators. While it can be hard to watch young (and old) being brought down by sheer power and force of our magnificent predators, it is the circle of life and necessary to the sustenance of the ecosystem.
And in addition to that, the sightings of the Serengeti’s predators are plentiful. No longer did I have to experience the predators of the Serengeti through documentaries.
Oh no. Now it was my time to capture my vision and tell my story of the Southern Serengeti Cheetahs.
It was one of the few clear mornings that we had where the sky wasn’t strewn with clouds or completely devoured by a thick blanket of them. It was clear and unmarked as the golden light poured over the life beneath it, revealing all to our eyes.
Thompson’s Gazelle fawns sprung up here and their from their low-lying positions on the ground where they had pressed themselves against the brown coloured earth until the moment to flee came upon them. Terribly adorable little things with long spindly legs, they need move at high speed pretty much as soon as they are born as there are many dangers out there on the great grassland plains of the Serengeti.
As the sun made its ceaseless climb, we moved out from the tree line that separated a forest area to that of the open plains, keen to see what lay (or moved) in the vast land. Up ahead was a herd of grunting Wildebeest, heads down as they grazed away at the recently drenched grass.
“Ahead! Cheetah hunt!”
Heads swiveled in the direction to where our guide pointed ahead. Far in the distance (and I mean far! Our guide had eagle eyes, I tell you) we saw some movement as Wildebeest stepped out of the way or casually glanced over to where a Thompson’s Gazelle fawn was running for dear life as two male Cheetah tore up the ground behind it.
It was over as soon as it started. We made our way towards the satisfied Cheetahs whom had pretty much finished devouring their morning snack. We sat and watched them as they finished up their meal, licking each other occasionally on the mouths as to not waste the blood that had collected there.
The very tender moments between the brothers continued for a while as they lay pressed up against one another, and then raised themselves in unison before heading off to sleep in patches of tall grass in the distance.
It was a beautiful ending of a sighting that had started off with the end of another being. But that is part of the circle of life isn’t it?
She was the epitome of perfection in every way. Her shape, her form, the curiosity shining bright in her exquisitely shaped and coloured eyes.
The cloud cover had built up throughout the day and now lay in thick bands above the horizon, masking the suns visibility at certain stages of its decline towards the horizon.
There was a very dim and soft, warm glow that fell upon the female Cheetah as she relaxed by a thorn-covered shrub. The time to photograph her and capture her essence was now as the cloud cover threatened continuous visibility whilst the sun was still up.
Under the expertise and care of my guide, I slowly got out of the vehicle and lay on the ground whilst she was looking away from us. When she rolled over and faced me, my heart sang and adrenaline pulsed through my veins as we locked eyes and her curiosity peaked.
As none of us moved and I carried on taking photos of her, she resumed her completely relaxed stance and I couldn’t help but be swept up in the moments I had with her. Rolling over, stretching, gazing out upon the plains of Southern Serengeti, gazing at me, she was so playful and sweet and catlike that I felt a smile upon my face and in my soul throughout my whole time spent with her.
All else seemed to disappear.
It was just she and I.
My viewfinder and vision filled with colours of Cheetah.
Never was there such a perfect ending to a day in the Serengeti South, and I cannot reign in my excitement for ORYX’s upcoming Tanzania – Migration & Predators Photo Safari I that I will be hosting.