There are few places in the world as iconic as the Serengeti.
The mere sound of it sends shivers down your spine. Many romantic love stories immediately jump to mind, tales of passion and adventure on the great plains of Africa.
I recently hosted our incredible annual Migration Calving Photo Safari to the south of the Serengeti, and I was astounded at the number of cheetahs to be found. It is ideal country for the world’s fastest land mammal. With massive open spaces to reach maximum hunting speeds, and all of the required prey species to keep the cheetahs full-bellied, why would they not thrive in such an eco-system?
I wanted to share some of my Ndutu cheetah encounters with you, and what better way than stunning imagery of these spotted beauties!
The scene’s above were captured on our first morning, and not 500 meters from our luxurious mobile tented camp. We could hardly believe our good fortune! Seeing one cheetah would have been more than enough, but to encounter 4 at once was special, and 3 cubs and a mother at that!
We followed them for more than an hour as the frolicked and played right next to our vehicle. It was incredible! When I hear the camera shutters of my guests firing at 10 frames a second, I know that the going is good!
This incredible sighting set the tone for the remaining 6 days of the Migration Calving safari experience.
Not a single drive went by where we did not see cheetahs. In fact, at times we even skipped a sighting on purpose as we really wanted to see more of the general area and game! Can you believe that?
Cheetahs are interesting in that the female’s are solitary (except when they have cubs), and the males tend to form coalitions of up to 4 or 5! The only other real social cats are lions. It seemed as if we were right on time for the cheetah baby-booming season as we saw an incredible number of cubs, and of a large variety of age groups.
In total we spent time with 20 individual cheetahs. On one particular morning we saw 12 different cheetahs! That’s incredible, almost unheard of! Or so I thought at least. Our expert local guide informed us that this was not uncommon during this time of year.
See, the purpose of our Migration Calving Photo Safari is to witness the massive herds of wildebeest & gazelle give birth. It is one of nature’s most incredible spectacles! Roughly 300 000 to 400 000 wildebeest will give birth within the months of February or March, and our safari was perfectly timed for this! It was an incredible sight and experience for my guests.
This event is exactly what draws a massive amount of predators to the area! They know full-well that there’s new-born life on the plains and they take full advantage of the abundance!
The cheetahs are no different. Territorial lines are crossed as many of them come in search of the easy meals the calving season presents. They will never be able to dent the population of wildebeest, there are simply too many of them. That said, to see the predators on the hunt on a daily basis sure is something special and unique!
Our encounters with cheetah just kept pouring in! Fortunately, our comfortable mobile camp is placed within a woodland. This gives fantastic variety to your images. The cheetahs often venture into this small acacia woodland for water and shade. The cubs absolutely love climbing and we often photographed them up the tree’s within the woodland itself.
One special sighting that really stood out took place on our last full day in the Serengeti.
We had followed a mother cheetah and her 4 cubs on the hunt. She eventually chased and only just missed out on killing a young wildebeest.
The mother cheetah regrouped her cubs and started moving towards the woodland where our mobile camp was set up. All of a sudden the cubs grew interested in something up ahead. I noticed a change in their behaviour and as we moved a little closer we spotted another cheetah family! I could not believe our luck!
There was brief interaction between the two families and then they quickly parted ways. We decided to stay with the new family as the cubs were some of the smallest I have ever seen, perhaps only 3-months old at most!
We followed them for over an hour and were rewarded with incredible intimate moments between mother and young. That’s what it is about! To spend time with these cats and to gain a glimpse into their secretive lives is something I hold dear!
Our 2016 Migration Calving Safari promises to hold in store for you all of this and more! It is one of Africa’s most iconic and known reserves and I have never left without a life-changing experience!
Gerry van der Walt and I will both lead this safari together, and our main priority is your experience.
Till next time,
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