By KOMO Staff
SEATTLE (KOMO) - A group on an African safari got a bit closer than they wanted to a pack of cheetahs while in the Serengeti earlier this month.
KOMO NewsRadio anchor Elisa Jaffe's son Britton Hayes was with a group watching three cheetah brothers on the hunt in the Gol Kopjes of the Serengeti when one of the younger brothers noticed their vehicle and came in for a close look.
"We started to notice the cheetahs became curious of the vehicle," said Hayes. "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."
"This is not at all a common occurrence," he added, but said they were prepared for the event.
Hayes said his group was focusing on a separate cheetah that had jumped on the hood of their SUV, when the other cheetah jumped in the back seat.
"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."
Hayes credits his guide for helping him through the ordeal.
"Alex (my guide) kept me calm and made sure I never made eye contact nor startled the cheetah," Hayes said, "allowing the animal to see that it could trust us."
Hayes said his guide showed him how to react and also helped him slow his breathing to keep the cheetah at ease until it was done exploring.
"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," said Hayes. "I wanted to be as calm and as still as possible to avoid a bad outcome."
Jaffe said her son didn't even tell her about the close encounter until he got back, because he was worried she would have freaked out.
"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.
"I was scared to death, but I've never felt more alive," Hayes said, adding he feels he can now tackle anything.
"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.
He said they actually laughed about it later because they were relieved it was all over.
The video was taken by Peter Heistein as they were on the Grand Ruaha Safari.