Serengeti Cheetah: An aspiring hood ornament

24 Apr

After visiting the dig and museum at L.S.B. Leakey’s Olduvai Gorge paleo-hominid site in 1988, I decided to take a few days off (before returning home to Jeddah) to go on a “game drive.” Armed with my old Hanimex Praktica TL camera, I took the Abercrombie & Kent grand tour: starting in Ngorongoro Crater (close to Olduvai Gorge), our caravan of three brand-new Land Rovers motored along Tanzania’s mud-choked bush roads. One day we encountered a lone female cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), her buns comfortably parked on an abandoned termite mound.

Cheetah on a termite mound

A female cheetah lost in thought sits atop an old termite mound in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
(Click on image to see a larger version.)

My Rover’s driver pulled off the track and moved us to a respectful distance from the cat so we tourists could take our snaps. It must have been the frantic clicking of our shutter releases that caught her attention, because she quickly moved off the mound and sauntered over to the Rover just behind mine. In no time at all she’d jumped up onto the vehicle’s hood (to the shock of the driver and the delight of the surprised passengers)…

Cheetah as hood ornament: Part 1.

Cheetah as hood ornament: Part 1.
(Click on image for a larger version.)

…and re-parked her buns squarely between the spare tire on the hood and the Rover’s windscreen (Yanks call it “the windshield”). She then began casually scanning the surroundings from her higher (and to her mind, at least, much better situated) automotive perch.

Cheetah on hood Part 2

Cheetah as hood ornament, Part 2.
(Click on image for larger version.)

Despite the nervous driver’s warning to stay put inside the vehicle, one of the passengers insisted on sticking her head up through the open observation hatch in an ill-advised attempt to engage the obviously preoccupied cat in light conversation. Shortly thereafter, the cheetah lost interest in the Rover as an observation platform, abandoned the vehicle’s hood, and strolled off into the bush, sparing one last disinterested backward glance at the Rover and its nosey occupants.

Cheetah says goodbye

The cat says goodbye to the nosey tourists.
(Click on image for a larger version.)

To see some other photos from my game drive and my trip through Kenya and Tanzania, click HERE.

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