Out of all of the places that we visited during our safari, Maasai Mara was the only one where we encountered cheetahs and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. Our first sighting of a cheetah was actually on the evening that we arrived in Maasai Mara and they are truly beautiful animals. Obviously their coat is very distinctive and stunning, but their facial expressions are probably the closest to a house cat of all of the big cats that we saw. The first cheetah that we saw was a solitary cat, but on the first full day in Maasai Mara we encountered a trio of cheetahs and that is where the real fun began.
Everyone knows that the cheetahs are the fastest animal, but getting the chance to see them actually running was something truly special. We were one of four vehicles in a clearing when a trio of cheetahs made their way across the grasslands. Based on their behavior, it seemed to be a mother and two cubs that were basically equivalent to teenagers. The two younger cheetahs were tackling one another, chasing each other, and being generally playful. Then, at one point, the two came next to one of the Land Cruisers that did not have doors and the one cheetah literally jumped into the back of the vehicle. After a minute, the guide used a pillow to shush him out of the Land Cruiser and we looked at our guide and said “we hope he doesn’t jump into our jeep”.
They continued to run around and play seemingly oblivious to all of us. Then, one of them decided to jump onto the hood of our Land Cruiser. We all stayed relatively calm as he seemed fascinated with something on the dashboard and continued looking through the window. The roof of our Land Cruiser was open and at one point he looked up at the roof and contemplated climbing up there. Thankfully he decided otherwise and eventually jumped off of the hood, but then he jumped back on the hood a couple of minutes later. Eventually he got tired of playing with us and the three cheetahs wandered off and our heartbeats returned to normal.
Of all the close animal encounters that we had during our safari, this was certainly one of the most interesting. Our guide spoke to the guide of the vehicle that was next to us and the people sent us the video that they took, which gave us a different view of the encounter. We’re not sure if the cheetah found us as interesting as we found him, but it was definitely one of the most memorable moments of our entire eleven day safari.