A Seattle man, along with a group of tourists, had the experience of a lifetime while on a safari in the Serengeti. The group was hoping to get close to wildlife – just not this close.
Britton Hayes was touring with Grand Ruaha Safari when he and his group came across three cheetah brothers hunting the Gol Kopjes of the Serengeti. As they got closer to the wild felines, one of the brothers decided he wanted to get better look himself.
“We started to notice the cheetahs became curious of the vehicle,”Hayes told KOMO News. “But it was too late to drive quickly away or anything like that because you don’t want to startle the animals, because that’s when things usually go wrong.”
While Hayes and the other tourists were pre-occupied on another cheetah that had jumped on the hood, another cheetah hopped right through the window and into the backseat – directly behind Hayes.
“This is not at all a common occurrence,” he added, but of course, no one really expected it to actually happen.
“One of the cheetahs hopped onto the hood and was sniffing around, so we were all focused on the cheetah on the hood that was looking around,” said Hayes. “While we were all watching the cheetah in the front, one of the brothers had flanked around the back and hopped in back of the vehicle to try and sniff us and make sure that we weren’t a threat.”
Understandably, Hayes’ immediate reaction was to panic; however, thankfully, his safari guide was able to keep him and the rest of the group calm. Peter Heistein, another man on the trip, had the camera on his phone filming the entire ordeal.
The safari guide instructed Hayes to slow down his breathing, avoid eye contact, and to let the cheetah sniff around until he was done ‘exploring.’ Keeping calm would show the animal that he could trust them.
“Honestly, it was probably one of the scariest moments of my life while it was happening. I felt like I had to clear my mind of any thoughts because from everything you’re told about predators like that, they can sense fear and any sort of discomfort you’re feeling and they’ll react accordingly,”Hayes said. “I wanted to be as calm and as still as possible to avoid a bad outcome.”
After surviving the scary ordeal, Hayes decided that it was best that he didn’t tell his mom, Elisa Jaffe, who is a news anchor at Seattle’s KOMO news station, until he returned home safe and sound.
“I was worried that (she) might freak out and would’ve forced me to come home. So I figured it’s best to not have (her) worry, when there’s not much you can do about it when I’m that far away,” he said.
After the cheetah finally decided to leave, to say that Hayes and the group were relieved is an understatement.
“The sheer tension of sitting in a vehicle thinking, ‘I’m going to die,’ and then living. We just, everyone in the car just looked at each other, we paused for 10 seconds as the cheetahs walked away and we couldn’t believe that we got out of the situation, that it was real,” said Hayes.
Driving away unscathed caused the whole safari group to laugh about it later, but the encounter in the video below is certainly not something you should take lightly.
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