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Cheetah


Cheetah, Masai Mara, Kenya safari wildlifeI was surprised to discover that of all Kenya's safari animals and wildlife, I loved the cheetah. Perhaps it was that most distinguishing feature - the permanent black tearstain - that was endearing. It made her look vulnerable.

The cheetah is the fastest animal on land. Ironically, her favourite meal - gazelle - is second fastest. But the cheetah is unable to withstand long distances. It's crucial she gets close enough - by stalking - before she strikes, because a gazelle has the stamina to outrun her. Should the cheetah miscalculate, she would be unable to expend that energy again for some time. For this reason, cheetahs are prone to dying from starvation.

Cheetahs must chase and kill. If it doesn't move, they won't pursue it. Nor will they scavenge - even if they're starving. So there's a tip for you: if ever confronted by a cheetah - stand still! Yeah right! Like my Dad telling me as a child, if I'm ever chased by a bear, I must find a hill and run down it. You see, apparently, bears can't run down hills. But, what if you're already at the bottom of a hill?

Cheetah with kill, Masai Mara, Kenya safari wildlifeA couple of times while on safari game drives, we were lucky enough to stumble across a cheetah with a fresh kill. She sat there, panting hard, looking down hungrily at her prey, but unable to eat. I was concerned our presence and the noisy safari jeep might ruin her appetite, but Kantim said she first had to catch her breath, which could take some time.

In the meantime, she was on her guard, constantly checking over her shoulder. The eating process seemed fraught with danger; predators weren't the only concern, scavengers, never far away, were always looking for an opportunity to steal another's hard-earned meal. A momentary lapse of concentration could mean certain death for the cheetah. Their life seemed so fragile.

The pinnacle moment of the whole trip was when I captured a cheetah's beautiful, amber eyes through my viewfinder. I was spellbound! Read on to experience an armed bush dinner with Maasai dancing...


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