Friday, June 06, 2008

Meow Part 1

Picture it: It was our first day in the Masai Mara, our first official game drive, and we were less than five minutes away from the hotel. After taking the first of what would be dozens of zebra photos, our driver noticed that all of the animals had suddenly become skittish. We urgently searched the grass, each trying to be the first to spot whatever had spooked the zebras. That’s when we saw them: two incredibly beautiful, and majestic cats. But not just any ‘ole “big five” cat – cheetahs!

Hubby and I have a great love of cheetahs since we first saw them in South Africa six years ago. It was only natural, then, that we suddenly started blubbering like fools when we realized what was in front of us. DikDik drew the van closer so we could get a better look.

To call cheetahs regal looking does them an injustice. From the sleek and smooth way they moved through the grass, to the disdainful looks they cast toward both zebra and human alike, these cats, the fastest mammals around, simply know that they’re the coolest kids in school and they don’t need anyone to validate them.

That afternoon, we saw what looked, for all intents and purposes, like a mini cheetah. The Serval Cat looks like a slightly large house cat until you notice its eyes – this is definitely a predator and woe betide the poor animal it has selected as dinner. We spotted the short-tailed cat right next to the road where it was kind enough to pose for us for a few moments before continuing its walk into the tall grass.

The Serval Cat sincerely looked adorable and it wasn’t until we looked at our photos back at the hotel that we really noticed how vicious it seemed. But that was a common misconception throughout our weekend in the Mara. The desire to take home random cubs and small animals, feed them anti-growth hormones, tame them, and keep them as pets is common to all visitors in the region. (Or maybe it was just us …) But when you gazed at the predatory look in the adults’ eyes, and huge size of their paws and teeth, you realize that wild animals are just that – wild and quite as happy posing for a few moments as eating you.

Despite looking in the grass for a white tail stalking lunch, and up in the trees for a napping kitty, we never saw any leopards – an official member of “the big five. ” But I can’t say that we were at all disappointed. The chance to see wild cheetahs was more than cool enough for Hubby and I and the Serval Cat was the icing on our Mara cat cake.

Check back in tomorrow for news about the king of the savannah – the lion!

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