Walk with a Cheetah

The week before we got married Vanessa and I went up to Gauteng to sort out the final details for the event. Planning a wedding from the other side of the country is a challenging task, but thankfully by that final week we only had a few things left to wrap up. We had a little free time to us, and so we decided to take a drive to the Lion and Safari Park in Hartebeespoort.

Vanessa and I both love animals - cats and dogs randomly come up to Vanessa sometimes to say hi - and so we decided to book some close encounters. We booked a short lion cub encounter, and a cheetah walk. On this particular random Tuesday we had the good fortune of being the only two people to book the cheetah walk - usually the groups have 8 or more people in them - and so we had a private encounter!

We had a short drive through the herbivore park where we saw impala, zebra, warthogs, and wildebeest. We parked outside an empty enclosure and waited for a bakkie to arrive. Inside the back of this bakkie was Sitle, the cheetah we would be walking with for the next 40 minutes.

We were lucky, the handler told us, because they had been fed the day before and that usually makes them lazy the next day.

We spent the first few minutes a little scared to approach this big cat, but the handler assured us that it was perfectly safe. “Listen to the purr”, he said to us, “If it stops purring, that means trouble”. Sitle was perfectly happy though, and purred loud as the bakkie’s engine throughout our stay.

We could walk with, pose alongside, and pet Sitle to our heart’s content. We walked along in amazement, our eyes shining, occasionally asking questions, as the handler dropped pieces of bloody meat in choice spots for Sitle to stretch or jump for.

We left with big smiles on our faces to go get a quick drink and visit the lion cubs. As our visit was at the end of the day the cubs were a bit worn out from the day’s activities, but a little bit of coaxing got them to run around a bit have a go at nibbling my face.

To say we enjoyed the day out is an understatement, as we both left with smiles from ear to ear.