During our trip to South Africa I rented a lens from Borrowlenses.com in order to bring the ‘action’ closer to me. The lens I rented was the new Tamron 150mm – 600mm and it certainly did the trick as I found myself able to zoom in tight and bring the animals right to me. For example, in this image the cheetah’s were probably 20 or 25 feet from our safari vehicle but because I had the long lens I was able to zoom in tight and frame this shot perfectly so that this guy and his brother were both in the shot as the sunset over the horizon. I intentionally let the light leak into the frame as I wanted the image to be warm and for the sunset ‘feel’ to be established without actually bringing in the sky. I did have to wait several minutes with the camera up to my eye for the cheetah in the front to do anything interesting but finally he looked towards us and yawned – clearly he was ready for us to move on as well.
While in Phinda our driver/game tracker was able to locate two cheetahs out hunting and we followed them for a bit – hoping to see some action on the trip. We kept a respectable distance to allow them to do their thing but ultimately they wound up just heading up to a lookout point and waiting for the sun to set – whether they were going to hunt later is something we weren’t able to witness. As they strolled over to an elevated position we watched just how relaxed they were as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Unfortunately, the cheetah is on the ‘vulnerable’ species list so while technically not ‘endangered’ they are on their way. It isn’t for lack of effort by South African officials and fortunately for them game drives like ours and people who are truly interested in seeing them aid in their recovery. However, our guide explained that relative to other ‘big cats’ cheetahs are just a disadvantaged species and despite their speed are unable to overcome both poaching and competition with other big cats – lions, leopards, etc… – which have done better in what is an ever shrinking ‘wild’ footprint. Phinda is a private game reserve and as such has a vested interest in protecting them. I believe they have 33 cheetahs spread over 175 square kilometers and the trackers/guides keep a close watch on them.
Downward Facing Cheetah (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)
This cheetah made me feel lazy just sitting in the safari jeep as he practiced some high intensity yoga in the late afternoon heat of Southern Africa. Shortly after this house cat like pose he and his brother started over to a termite mound where they waited for the sun to set and the tourists to leave so they could go about hunting.