On our third day, we decided to opt for a special drive: the Cheetah Walk. This was the only drive where we had a different guide. Going into this, we thought that we’d go for a stroll on a road with a cheetah. We were a tad mistaken. The cheetah walk meant tracking the cheetah with a radio collar. Then we leave the jeep to hike to where the cheetah is. Then we hang out and follow the cheetah if he or she decides to go places. Craziness! As a rule, you never left the vehicle. So this was a completely new experience for us!
On the way to cheetah territory, we happened across another lion, Duku. He was hanging out in the long grass. It was incredible to see how he blended in so well! We took some photos of him but then he wandered off behind a tree. Didn’t like all the attention!
So we kept driving on. Our guide used an antennae to narrow down where the cheetah was hanging out. When we got sufficiently close to her, he parked the vehicle off road and we all got out. As soon as we put our feet in the bush, a lion roar rang out in the distance. We asked, “How far away is that?” Our guide reassured us that it was 3 km away. And he told us that a roaring lion is not a hungry lion!
Then he gave us the ground rules. We had to follow behind him single file in silence. If he held up his gun, we had to stop and pay close attention to him. The cardinal rule of the bush is don’t run. If you see a lion, stand your ground. If you see a rhino, run behind a tree. They won’t charge through things that they can’t see through! Never found out what to do about elephants…
So we began our silent march into the bush. Our guide had the antennae in one hand and a gun in the other! It was crazy to have our feet on the ground. I was a bit nervous about snakes and spiders over fears of poison/venom. But it was a nice walk. At one point, we heard the roars again and our guide raised his gun. He listened and then lowered it. We wandered on.
Eventually, we spotted the cheetah and her two cubs lying in the middle of a wooded area. She was a success story from the Cheetah Conservation Fund. I had done my first marketing project in business school for the CCF so it was super neat to see one of their animals who had been rehabilitated. Apparently, no one had known she was pregnant when she came to Erindi so it was a bit of surprise when she had two cubs. They were nine months old and seemingly well.
It was incredible just watching these three creatures lying about. They began licking each other, grooming each other before they began to hunt. Our guide said it had been about two days since they had eaten so it was time. The two cubs got a bit rambunctious and wanted their mother to get food. It was hilarious as they wrestled and scampered all over!
Then it was time to hunt. The mother stood up and began strolling off, searching for food. Cheetahs have to conserve energy so they do this walk 100 yards, lie down for awhile, get up and wander some more, then lie down again. They can only run for short periods of time so they don’t waste the energy. And we followed behind. Yes, we went hunting with the cheetahs.
At one point, our guide told us to crouch down since the cheetah seemed to see something. We were tall and bright colored so we would definitely be a hinderance. So we crouched. It was sheer will that I didn’t freak out about the giant millipedes just hanging out all around us. I prayed that none of them would crawl on my foot. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. At one point, we ended up crouching over an active termite nest. It was really neat watching these tiny insects pulling twigs and leaves into holes.
After about an hour of following the cheetahs, it became clear that we weren’t going to help their cause. So we decided to call it a day and let them go off without noisy game scaring humans. We wandered back to the jeep to go back to the lodge. On the way, we found an elephant who was just sleeping on a tree. He had his head resting against this tree. Incredible!
When we got back to the lodge, my friend asked: “How far were those lions?” Our guide admitted: “1 km.” 1 km!
That’s all for now!