The sunlight seemed to melt into the golden African grasslands around us as we drove toward Okerfontein. The road stretched out in front of us, never losing its postcard appeal.
A herd of Springbok were grazing absent-mindedly in the low grasses, and we came to a halt as they were spotted.
Their muscular hind legs were relaxed, their heads bowed, and jaws moving as if they were chewing on a large toffee. There was a sense of calm serenity in the air.
Though as we stopped, they started becoming distressed by our presence. One head after another quickly perked up and stared at us with beady eyes. When they had eventually decided we weren’t very threatening, they huffed and turned back to their meals.
Suddenly we spotted a peculiar shrub a way off from the Springbok. It did not rustle with the winds as the others did. Through binoculars a muscular, shiny back became visible. Nearly impossible to distinguish from its surroundings, it moved forward ever so slowly. Its muscles tensing and relaxing as it crept.
The Cheetah struck with a calculated ferocity. Its sleek body appeared like a piece of glass glinting in the distance. For the Springbok, there was no time to react. The cheetah pounced, her teeth bare aimed at the Springboks neck.
It was soon over, the other springbok had used the opportunity to choose flight over fight, and were already far across the grasslands, carried away quickly by their expert leaps.
The single Springbok left lay limp, the Cheetah lay next to the body, her fangs still buried deep in its neck. She looked wary though, and as she let go of the Springboks neck she paced around the body, scouring the area for any other predators who could be looking for an easy lunch.
Once she was satisfied, she again sunk her fangs into the body and began dragging it to a near patch of shrubs. It was then we noticed the two cubs, nestled safely out of the way. They sprung out of the grasses joyfully when they say mom approaching with food.
She laid the carcass in front of them and lay down. Immediately the cubs started tearing the Springbok apart, filling their bellies at an unhealthy looking speed. The mother Cheetah stood slowly and began taking her share as the cubs happily and lazily lay on the warm earth.
Once she was done eating, the mother dragged the carcass to a shadowed bush, out of sight from other predators. She then called to the cubs, which bounded after her. They continued their journey, likely toward the Okerfontein watering hole.
As they again became one with the golden grasslands, we sat in the tour truck in silence, unable to fully accept what we just witnessed.
This was nothing like watching National Geographic. It doesn’t even come close. There is something about being in the wild that leaves you in awe. The balance of nature is right in front of you, its all around.
This was my best day ever.
Jonathan – Mushara Guide