I’ve had lots of incredible wildlife encounters over the years having been fortunate enough to conduct dozens of safaris in the Serengeti. However, having cheetahs jump on my vehicle was one specific sighting that had always alluded me until last week on a recent trip to the Serengeti.
Ironically, the night before we had a wonderful dinner lecture at our camp by Dennis Minja, the project manager of the Serengeti Cheetah Project (btw, I highly recommend adding this presentation if staying at Sametu Camp since Dennis is usually in the immediate area studying his cheetahs). Dennis was briefing us on the status of the cheetahs in the Serengeti, their behavior characteristics and the types of data they are collecting.
We shared some of our cheetah pictures that we had taken that very day at the Gol Kopjes and he was able to identify each one by their spot pattern and provide some back story. I had asked about cheetahs jumping on the vehicle since we receive pictures from our guests of this interesting phenomenon. He replied that there were currently 5 individuals in the Serengeti (he knows just about every cheetah in his study area by name) that regularly jump up on his vehicle and that he didn’t think there were any negative consequences to this behavior.
The next morning, we headed off to Barafu Kopjes, a remote complex of kopjes on the far eastern Serengeti plains. This is one of my most favorite areas of the park. The scenery is something akin to an alien landscape and the plains, peppered with the gazelle migration, are truly breathtaking out here.
Similar to the more popular Gol Kopjes (see map here), Barafu is also famous for cheetahs except that very few people ever visit this area (I’ve never seen a non-ADS safari vehicle out this way). It was at Barafu we spotted this family of cheetahs including a mother and her two adolescent cubs of about 9 months (one boy and one girl) and it was the cubs that quickly approached our vehicle.
What was even more special about this encounter was that I experienced it all with my family. My daughter, in particular, is obsessed with cheetahs…her favorite animal by far!
One of the things I find most interesting behavior wise is that at about 3.48 minutes into the video you can see the brother jump up and nudge his sister in essence telling her to ‘come down…it’s not safe’. I think he was a little scared of the sunshade as it was rattling in the wind…a very endearing moment between brother and sister!
I hope you enjoy the below video. To expand to full screen, click the arrow icon in the bottom right corner.