Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ndutu, Tanzania - The Very First Time

There is nothing quite like the first time. The first time for anything seems to occupy its own little domain in the brain almost as if an extraordinary place is created within your head. And so it was with my first time for a cheetah kill.
The cheetah in the distance.
Tanzania’s Ndutu plains do not have a replica anywhere in the world. The vastness is difficult to describe. It is a flat, open space that appears to have no end. There are no hills or trees from horizon to horizon.  This is not a place for the fainthearted or the foolish. Fortunately I am in a safari vehicle driven by a local Tanzanian who needs no directional instruction.
She ignores our vehicle as she scans the horizon.
The sun has just emerged from its slumber and the honey gold glow is gently spreading over the plains. Uncannily my guide spots some movement far off in the distance and he deftly manoeuvres the safari vehicle over the scrubby bush. The progress over uncharted scrubland is both exciting and alarming. Visions of rocks and warthog burrows come to mind but in the moment it is only fleeting as all is focussed on the agile feline picking her way across the savannah.
Each bush is examined carefully.
Intent on her early morning search she completely ignores the approaching vehicle. She carefully picks her way through the scrub. At each leafy clump she carefully scans under and around the minuscule bush. I have little time to admire the graceful sinuous movement as she investigates each bush. Suddenly she freezes, body taught, head down and then with alarming speed she rises in the air tail erect and the chase is on.
Suddenly, she freezes looking intently into a bush.
The object of her focus is a scrub hare who in turn is now making a determined effort to get away from the cheetah. The hare darts erratically from bush to bush with the cheetah in hot pursuit. Each  desperate movement from the hare is followed by the cheetah launching into the air pouncing down where the hare has just been. The inevitable happens when the hare runs out of cover from bushes and has to make a run for it. 
She springs into action.
The superior speed of the cheetah comes into its own and in a billow of dust the hare flies into the air, legs flailing. The dustball envelopes both cheetah and hare and it is not too soon before our curiosity is sated. The cheetah emerges with the hare firmly gripped in her jaws. The lifeless body testament to the efficiency of a big cat’s mercilessness.
The hare flies into the air
The hare and cheetah are enveloped by the dust.
The Cheetah emerges with the hare in her jaws.
She looks for a spot to settle down.
We watch mesmerised as she finds a suitable site and settles down to devour her morning snack. As I reflect on what has just transpired I cannot but feel that I am incredibly privileged to be able to witness the raw beauty of Africa. 
After breakfast she sits in the sun for a while before heading off.

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