This experience deserves an entire blogpost to itself. It is the most amazing thing ever ever ever ever ever!!!
After the bungee jump, we decided to go quad biking. I had signed up for a fast quad biking experience in the bush, but we got lumbered with a man driving a quad bike slowly on a set route. Having said that, I still managed to fall off the quad bike, even at the ridiculously slow speed.
But don’t worry, I wasn’t injured too badly. I just got a few grazes, and was quite shocked.
As soon as I got up from my fall, I could only think about how much I wanted to see the cheetahs.
My words exactly: ‘I just want to go to walk the cheetahsss’.
So we wrap up the quad biking (not going back on one for some time, I think), and drive to where the Cheetah walk is. The place is really pretty, with a garden, and small building in which there is a reception desk and a few places to sit. As we walk down the path to the building, I see the cheetahs to my left. They are absolutely beautiful, and so elegant. I actually start to get butterflies in my stomach!
I go to the desk to sign up for the walk, and they charge in Dollars. After collecting the receipt, my father in law takes a look at it, and notices that the price has been written in Zambian Kwacha and amounts to less than a third of what we paid in dollars. He goes back to the desk to ask why we were charged so much, and they explain that the Dollar price is the tourist rate, and Kwacha price is the local rate. That sounds like a fabulous excuse to overcharge tourists. If I wasn’t travelling with my father in law, I would have been none the wiser, and happily paid – what I see now is extortionate – tourist prices. But, thankfully, he is more or less a local, and sorts it out.
I take a seat on a unusually hard chair, and eagerly wait for my big moment. There’s a TV screen displaying the activities they have at this particular centre, which includes a Cheetah run and a Lion walk, as well as the Cheetah walk that I am about to go on.
Somebody comes to call us, and we walk (I skip) to where the Cheetahs are.
There’s only four people going on the walk, and two cheetahs. The guides go through the rules of petting, and walking the cheetahs. We have to approach the cheetah calmly, and not too playfully, as they play with their claws. We can touch them on the head, cheeks, under the chin, back and tail. But not the feet, because they’re ticklish (awww!).
All of the animals in this reservation area have been taken in when they are young. The cheetahs mother’s would have been injured in the bush, and so the cubs are rescued raised on site. Both of these cheetahs are only four years old, and will be reinserted into the wild when they are old enough.
The cheetah to my left is nicknamed Lady Complainant. She doesn’t like long clothes, and head coverings, so I am advised not to go too close to her. The guides explain that they discovered this preference of hers when they all wore raincoats, and she refused to go near them.
I am allocated the cheetah to my right, who is friendlier, but prefers men to women. I’m told that she interprets high pitched voices as a cue to play, so I have to speak in a deep voice when I am close to her. I kneel behind her, pet her head, and she purrs. This cheetah already loves me! Now I am confident to pet her, I scratch under her chin and even touch the tail. A smile is plastered to my face, and my cheeks hurt, but I cannot stop smiling. This cheetah is so beautiful and I want to cuddle it forever.
(‘This is amazing’, I keep repeating in my deep cheetah-friendly voice.)
The guide tells me how I can let the cheetah lick me. He puts his bald head out in front of the cheetah, and she licks his head, which I find cute and gross at the same time. I roll my sleeve up a little and put my hand out. She licks my hand, and it feels disgusting! I think I should just stick to petting and smiling.
After about 10 minutes, the cheetahs are ready to walk. I have to swap cheetahs for the walk. The one I was petting is faster and needs to walk in front of Lady Complainant. If I was to walk her, Lady Complainant would see my long clothes and get scared. So, I am told that I can walk Lady Complainant, and keep back and close to her so she won’t see me.
It truly is something special walking a Cheetah. They walk quite slowly, and so elegantly! Along the way, she stops to sharpen her claws and stretch on a log. I take turns to walk her, but really want to be selfish and walk her all by myself!
Near the end of the walk, as I swap over and take the lead in my hand, the cheetah turns her head and sees me. She immediately starts to panic and looks really scared of me. She runs! And I let go of the lead.
She bolts it into the trees, as far away from me as possible. Some of the guides go after her, while another one tells me that I shouldn’t have let go until I was told to. Seriously? This is a heavy animal we’re talking about. I could never have held on when she ran like that.
As we finish the walk, she avoids me like the plague, and hides behind trees when she sees me. I walk the other cheetah back to the compound.
The cheetahs have water, and go to the shade to cool off. Cheetahs are not designed to walk a lot, and need a lot of rest and hydration after a walk. They are designed to run very fast in short bursts.
I go back to where my husband is waiting (he prefers to see the animals from far), and spill out all of my excitement, telling him everything about my amazing experience. We end the day with a little walk and I see lions (which are so scary!) and a Lynx (which has a strange shape).
After the long day seeing the falls, bungee jump, quad biking and cheetahs, everyone is super tired. We drive back to the lodge, have a rest, and end the day with yet another brai.
To read the previous parts of my African blog, click the links below: