Cheetah cubs are as cute as a button, but extremely vulnerable. Fortunately they have devoted mothers, like this female chilling in the shade with her offspring on a hot Kgalagadi day. By Arnold Ras

Where? Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Gemsbokplein area

In the mix? Female cheetah and two cubs

If you’re dreaming of seeing the speediest mammal on Earth, there’s no better place than the Kgalagadi. Along the Auob Riverbed, sightings are practically guaranteed. That proved to be the case for one Wild traveller, who was over the moon when he came across not only a female cheetah, but also two cubs.

#HowWildIsThat

Wild Card member Umar Akoojee ended 2017 on a high note. “It was the 31st of December and I was driving along the Auob Riverbed when the spotted bunch caught my eye. The beautiful cheetah and her cubs were relaxing right next to the road. Great visibility!”

And with a mere four metres between cheetahs and Kgalagadi visitor, Umar managed to take some intimate pictures of the unforgettable moment. The female was resting in the shade and her two cubs were nursing.

Cheetah-cubs-Kgalagadi-Umar Akoojee (7)-min

Pictures by Umar Akoojee

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Cheetah-cubs-Kgalagadi-Umar Akoojee (11)-min

Umar says the feline trio was surprisingly unfazed by his presence. “They remained relaxed all the time, perhaps because we were the only vehicle there. Not bothered by our excitement, the cubs continued to feed.”

Cheetah cubs are dependent on their mother for survival until they reach independence at a year and a half. The little ones are not only at risk from predators; getting enough to eat is a real challenge. Cubs nurse for around four months, but from the age of eight weeks or so their mother will introduce them to meat. They follow mom on the hunt when they are several months old and she will even release live prey so the youngsters can practise.

Cheetah-cubs-Kgalagadi-Umar Akoojee (8)-min

A first twice over

How incredible to be spoiled with the presence of cheetahs during your very first visit to the Kgalagadi? “Yes, this was my first trip, and yes, it’s also the first time I have seen a cheetah and cheetah cubs. We watched them in awe for about half an hour until they got up and crossed the riverbed.”

Although fascinated by the Kruger National Park, Umar says the Kgalagadi stole his heart. “As wildlife lover and keen photographer-in-training, I can say with all honesty: I am now a child of the Kgalagadi!”

Want to see two cheetahs and their youngsters on a hunt? Check out this hair-raising photo sequence by Wild fan Sandra Grobler.

Source: Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa. 2012. Struik Nature.