The Kruger park is bigger than Wales and contains an estimated count of only 120 cheetah’s who are often illusive due to their spotted fur and constant movement. Therefore the idea of seeing just one would be a strike of luck but seeing three now that’s just crazy…
I left the last post on the note that we were leaving to camp in Kruger for two nights, now almost a week later I’m still amazed by our time there. We left extremely early clutching our duvets as we drove through the 5am air to Kruger. Once we arrived at our camp, that was cornered off to avoid any late night meetings with lions and hyenas, we set up our tents and quickly headed off in our jeeps. Throughout the day we saw many animals, so many that we were distracted enough to almost drive past a family of cheetah’s positioned perfectly- only 15 meters from our jeep! After one yell of “Cheetah’s!” an explosion of hushed excitement we were face to face with a mother and her two cubs. They remained unfazed by our presence before slinking off into the grasslands. This brief encounter made me realise how lucky we were to have witnessed one of the most illusive creatures at such close range in the wild.
During the rest of our stay at Kruger we also saw a pride of lions from afar as well as a clan of hyenas and plenty of elephants. Another natural beauty we were able to appreciate were the stars which lit up the entire camp at night.
Once we returned from Kruger it felt this week could not be topped, however our trip to the Hoedspruit endangered species center certainly equaled it. The center was originally created to breed cheetahs who are verging on being endangered and release them into the wild. However, throughout the years it’s also become a center for any injured or vulnerable wild animals who are either rescued from mistreatment or found by the public. This includes Shavu the baby elephant who was found wandering on his own through fields after loosing his herd. As he is the only elephant on the site the center used their resident sheep as a companion for Shavu as sheep are known to be nurturing to animals of a different species. After admiring Shavu and his friend from afar we then moved on to visit the cheetahs.
The center separates the cheetah’s once they reach adulthood as they are solitary animals however keep them in small groups during their ‘teenager faze’ where there too old for mum but not quite independent. We visited one of the teenager enclosures, a massive space full of trees, waterholes and plenty of ground for them to practice their famously fast run. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and explained the centers role in nurturing the cheetah’s from birth in order to allow for as many as possible to be suitable for rerelease in the wild. It was refreshing to see an animal center with the animals best interests at heart and be completely confident in their treatment and facilities for the animals. After three weeks this now marks the halfway point in my trip which has gone so fast but been so full of memories that I feel I have been here for twice as long!
See you soon!