Blinded by Concentration?

While lazily driving westwards along the Crocodile River road towards Malelane one morning, Silvia and I noticed two cars stopped on the left shoulder of the gravel road. We slowed down and stopped behind them.

A warthog sow was grazing in a small clearing some 15 meters from us while her three half-grown piglets ran around chasing and pushing each other – a perfect setting for possibly getting an interesting action shot or two. Silvia sat well back in the passenger seat to take her photos with the camera lens up against the car door window frame pillar, providing me with sufficient space to comfortably shoot past her without interference.

While we sat there enjoying the piglet’s antics, the 2 other cars eventually both moved off, while over a period of about 5 minutes one or two further cars stopped briefly and then drove off again. Obviously the warthogs were of no real interest to anyone else but us. A little while later the sow decided to walk off to our left, the piglets following closely behind.

My camera was on my lap and I was about to start the car, when my senses were suddenly bombarded by very loud panicked warthogs’ squealing. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed two beige blurs accelerating towards our car from about 30 meters behind where the warthog family had just been. All I could do was shout “cheetahs”, snatch my camera, remove and drop the lens cap, and shoot a short burst of high speed frames as a cat ran towards me on a trajectory to take it past the front of the car as it chased one of the piglets.

Silvia also managed to just get in a short rapid fire burst as the second cheetah passed behind the car chasing another piglet.

After 2 seconds it was basically all over. We could still hear the intermittent squealing of petrified piglets being chased deep in the dense bush on the opposite side of the road for another 10 seconds or so, then abruptly, absolute silence. We both just sat there totally overwhelmed by what had just happened. To calm myself I started reviewing the shots that I had managed to take of the cheetah at full tilt – not too bad considering I had been totally unprepared.

A car drove up and stopped alongside our’s. In the absence of any obvious wildlife, the driver, as is custom in the Kruger, asked me what we had stopped for. I was still trembling a from all the adrenalin, and so all I could do was pick up my camera and show him the LCD screen on the back showing a cheetah in full flight. After I had calmed down a bit more, I told the couple in the car the story as it happened, emphasising that the cheetahs had “appeared out of nothing”. To confirm their existence, both cheetahs then reappeared from the dense vegetation about 50 meters from us, skulking away parallel to the road. The two piglets had obviously both survived to live another day.

When we drove off a while later to find a large male lion that the couple had just seen a few kilometres further along the road, Silvia innocently mentioned to me that she had a sneaking suspicion that the cheetahs had not just appeared “out of nothing” as I had insisted during my narrative of the cheetah chase. She was convinced that the cheetahs had been hiding in plain sight at the time we were enjoying the warthog piglets’ antics – why else would the attack have taken place just as the warthogs had turned their back to the direction the cheetahs had come from? I responded with a “do you think I’m blind?” defence. I was pretty uptight just thinking about this possibility, especially all the resulting “what-if” scenarios coursing through my head. I also thought about a hunter friend that had lost out on bagging a prize animal because he was concentrating so intently on his quarry that he completely shut out other much closer animals which then bolted and spooked his intended target. As the day wore on however, the many other wonderful sightings helped somewhat to take my mind off “that” subject.

When we got back to camp that evening, my routine was, as always, to start downloading the files from the cameras’ CFast cards onto the laptop and prepare drinks to celebrate the day. Once the data transfer was complete, we then impatiently scrolled through to the initial images of the warthog family running around in the clearing to see whether or not Silvia’s theory was correct….….

A question. How many of you had to go back to the first photo for a second take?

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