In the Etosha landscape one is very lucky if you spot a cheetah. We had been out to Two Palms twice a day on the rumours that a mother and two cubs were sighted there.
Yesterday we finally saw a male much closer to Namutoni, on the road to Halali. We would not have seen him if it was not for the driver of a game drive vehicle from outside the Etosha Park. He stopped next to us at Chudop and told us that a few kilometres back he had seen a cheetah under a tree near the road. We dashed over there and found a few other vehicles on the scene but just could not see the cheetah. We moved our position, and even asked a Frenchman if he had seen the animal. “I cannot see it,” came the reply.
Suddenly, barely 50 metres from us, the cheetah sat up against a small tree, surveying the landscape and probably planning his hunt. Then he laid down again and we knew why we could not see him before. He blended in so much with the vegetation which is somewhat overgrown after this year’s good rains.
Janey did spot the ears and we speculated what would happen next. Some zebras came walking part barely 10 meters away and our smart money was on an imminent attack on one of the youngsters. Nothing of the sort – the cheetah did not stir.
Sometime later he did surprise us by getting up, stretching and calmly starting to stroll away. This created a frenzy amongst the drivers of about eight vehicles who tried to keep up so their customers could get some of the best shots. The cheetah continued walking, our cameras were snapping and we were getting some great video material.
Finally, the tourist vehicles decided they had enough and dashed off in search of other animals which their customers wanted to see. In their case it was a matter of there being only so many hours in the day and they had to do it all. All very commercial!
We stayed and continued up the road with the cheetah walking opposite us for some two kilometres, often stopping for a moment to look around. We joked that he was simply showing off and understood that it was his duty, on this particular day, to entertain us.
Eventually, he spotted a Springbok in the distance and veered off the road towards the Etosha Pan. He did not simply disappear, but settled on high ground, sitting up straight and looking out on what was his hunting ground.
It was a special day! On the way back to camp we met that driver again. We thanked him, and this chance meeting prompted us to take a drive to Andoni water hole near the northern gate of the park for another unforgettable experience today, this time with a male lion who also enthralled us for more than two hours. This time there was no one else in sight and we had the water hole, the lion and hordes of animals waiting to drink all to ourselves.