Cheetah day!…Expressions of a cheetah in the wild…Fantastic sightings in Kruger National Park…

Based on our position in the line-up of vehicles our photo taking advantage was limited.  

“Sighting of the Day in The Bush”

The now-visiting-daily mongooses gather in a pile staring at us until Tom mixes up the bowl of eggs. I talk to them to keep them entertained while he prepares the eggs. We’re happy to feed them to keep them around to deal with snakes.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post here, when the power had gone out in the morning we decided to go to Kruger for the day. Not knowing when it would return and based on the high temperature of 42C (108F) it wasn’t such a bad idea to spend the better part of the day in the airconditioned little car.

These cats are easily distinguishable from leopards based on the dark tears running down their eyes.

Our expectations weren’t high on such a hot day. Would wildlife hide under trees and bush to take cover from the heat? No doubt, many did just that as we spotted many herds of impalas, kudus, and wildebeest seeking protection from the heat of the sun.

It was a mere week or so ago we’d been to Kruger traveling along the main paved road (one of few) that we observed the recent “controlled burn” leaving the bush along that road blackened for at least 45 minutes of the hour-plus drive to Lower Sabie. And yet, magically, it already seemed to be recovering.

Every so often, she’d change positions providing us with additional shots.

We decided to stop for breakfast at the Mugg & Bean restaurant in Lower Sabie which overlooks the Sabie River, often providing some good sightings and photo ops. After breakfast, we’d continue on our self-drive traveling on bumpy dirt roads. 

We watched the cheetah for quite a while but she never stood. In the scorching heat, she seemed comfortable in the shade.

The drive surpassed our expectations, especially when early on we noticed a number of safari vehicles driving down a dirt road to a loop we’d never noticed in the past. We believe based on the map that it was at Gasanftom Road/Gezantombi Waterhole/Watergat.

Moments after entering the loop, we encountered no less than eight safari vehicles with passengers hanging out the sides and windows with cell phones, cameras, and tablets in hand.

What a nice face!

They were obviously gushing with enthusiasm as to the creature before their eyes, a cheetah lying in the shade, awake, alert, and seemingly unaffected by the presence of the growing crowd.

Dozing for a moment?

Tom maneuvered the little car to the best possible vantage point and we too felt excited with this sighting. It was one of few cheetahs we’d seen in Kruger over these past many months. There was only one cheetah.

Sure, we’d like to have seen more cheetahs. But, as we’ve learned over this long period in Marloth Park/Kruger National Park, we’ve come to appreciate spotting “one” of any wild animal. Yes, numbers are exciting but it doesn’t diminish the power, grace, and beauty of any species.

She heard a sound in the bush.

Here are some facts about cheetahs, the second-fastest mammal on the planet, from Kruger’s site here:

“The Cheetah’s body is built for speed. Its legs are relatively long compared to its greyhound-like body; it has a big heart and lungs and wide nasal passages. It is the fastest land animal, timed running at speeds of up to 114km/h (71 mph). While the lion and the leopard rely on getting close to their intended prey before breaking cover, the cheetah’s speed gives it an advantage in the more open savanna. Cheetahs are slightly taller than leopards but not as bulky, probably weighing between 40kg (88 lbs) and 60kg (132 lbs). Although cheetahs are members of the cat family, they have dog-like non-retractable claws. This limits their tree-climbing ability but gives them a speed advantage when charging.

This lone cheetah seemed unperturbed by the clicking of cameras and numerous vehicles in the area. We couldn’t believe how thin she was. We’d seen cheetahs in the past but none looking quite this lean.

Typically, a cheetah will start a charge 60m (66 yards) to 100m (109 yards) from an antelope and, within seconds, will be racing at full tilt. If the buck is alerted in time, it will attempt to throw the cheetah off its trail by zigzagging and dodging between trees and shrubs. Using its long, heavy tail as a stabilizer, the cheetah will single-mindedly pursue its intended prey, trying to anticipate which way it will turn. At the right moment, it will knock the antelope off balance and grab it by the throat as it falls. Because of the relatively small jaws and teeth, cheetahs are not as effective in killing their prey as quickly as lions or leopards, and it can take between five and 25 minutes for its prey to die.

A little grooming was in order.

The element of surprise in hunting is as important for cheetahs as it is for other big predators. While its speed gives it an edge, the cheetah’s vulnerable point is its stamina. It will manage to run at top speed for only about 250m (273 yards) before it needs to catch its breath.

After a high-speed chase, the cheetah desperately needs to rest for about half an hour – even before it eats its prey. This is when cheetahs are at their most vulnerable. They are often robbed of their kill by lions or hyaenas during this recovery spell. If the cheetah is unmolested, it normally devours its prey at the kill site. A cheetah’s food tastes are not as broad as that of the leopard, and it concentrates mostly on small and medium antelope. The cheetah’s diet comprises of the young of larger animals, as well as warthog, ground birds, porcupines, and hares, as well as the smaller antelope. The cheetah’s kill rate is hard to determine, but the consensus is that each cheetah kills between 30 and 150 animals a year, depending on its size, hunting frequency, and the condition of the area. Experts believe a single cheetah ideally needs between one and three kilograms of meat a day to stay in shape.”

For the remainder of this story, please click the above link.
Lounging on a hot day in Kruger.
After the cheetah sighting, we encountered several equally exciting wildlife scenes, which we’ll continue to share in posts over the next several days. Please check back for more.
As for today, it’s hot again, similar to yesterday’s unseasonal heat. It’s still winter here for a few more days! As we write here today sitting outdoors on the veranda, it’s currently 35C (95F) and we’re doing fine.  
We’ve got the braai (grill) fired up and cooking tonight’s chicken dinner in the event of a power outage at dinnertime which can easily transpire with added power usage during the hot weather.

We hope you have a fantastic day whether it’s hot or cool or a balmy almost-fall or almost-spring day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 19, 2017:

“The variegated squirrel is a tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus found in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, southern Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. Fifteen subspecies are recognized.”  Tom spotted this squirrel in the yard, alerted me and I took this photo through the glass wall to avoid scaring it away.  For more photos, please click here.

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