When looking to head out on a photographic safari it is imperative to leave early to get out before sunrise. The blanket of mist clings to the bush just as the cool air clings to the goosebumps developing on our skin as we pulled out of the lodge. The overcast morning promised a beautiful sunrise as the cloud cover only stopped before the horizon allowing the sun to irradiate the beautiful cloud formations in hues of oranges, reds and pinks.
We headed off to see if the cheetah that had been hanging around for about a week would be on the move. He had pretty much comatosed after a good feed and hadn’t moved for over 24 hours. As we came through the Msuthlu River and the suns rays spread across the open grasslands, we were greeted by the sight of a beautiful cheetah moving slowly through the long grass.
The light was unbelievable and the dark foreboding sky in the background just created a magical scene. The colours of the drying grasses, the yellows of the cheetah and the dark greys of the clouds melted together allowing the clicks of the cameras and the sighs of the photographers to meld together into a beautiful chorus. As the cheetah posed and we photographed, the 4am wake up was justified and the happiness together with dawn chorus permeated every cell.
Eventually he found his way onto a fallen tree with the sun still shining gloriously on this beautiful cat. His deep orange eyes staring across the open area and fixing on a herd of impala, he watched their every move looking for any sign of weakness. Again he scanned the area and spotted a lone impala ram, and he was a much better choice as a target as he didn’t have the safety in numbers that the herd had.
He quickly jumped down and started moving towards the impala, but as if the impala had a sixth sense he started to move further away. Every time the cheetah approached he bolted off and eventually the cheetah gave up the cause in search of something a little more unwary. He again took up a vantage point on a fallen tree and scanned the horizon but there was nothing. He decided that it was best to take a drink and then move on.
After his drink we followed him through the long grass straight towards a large Apple Leaf tree, which he unexpectedly launched himself into. Like a tight ropewalker he battle to find his balance but eventually settled. He again scoured the grasslands for a meal and we scrambled to get into position for the photos. What an opportunity but unfortunately the sun had risen above the clouds. We now prepared for the dismount. As he started his dismount, we began to fire the shutter at stupid speeds, freezing the very elegant dismount into the grass below! What an amazing sighting as we spent 2 hours watching and photographing this amazing poser!