Cheetah!

Oh, my god! I probably repeated that overused expression a dozen times. I was photographing a lone cheetah on a rocky outcropping on the far side of the Sabie River in Kruger National Park, using my long reach Nikon 200-400 with a 1.4 tele-extender.

The shots were so-so with the day very bright and very hazy and with no tripod, monopod or beanbag support. I was certainly beyond the range of my gear, but how can any photographer resist the chance of capturing an image of the elusive cheetah?

Another photographer with me thought she had seen a second cheetah, but we dismissed that when there was no other sighting. Then, it happened. That second cheetah had swum across the shallow waters and was literally 50 feet from us! OMG! OMG! I whispered to our small group.

It shook itself off and then walked steadily toward us.

At one point the cheetah was so close, I had to switch to my 70-200mm lens to get it all into the frame. For the next few minutes this magnificent animal surveyed the scene. At one point it stared us down. I have to say that there is something primevally creepy about a predator staring straight at you. Is it sizing you up for a meal? I can only think of the primal fear our primitive ancestors would have experienced. In another moment it walked off. It was the day’s highlight… except for the lions later in the day… or was it the white rhino?.

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