Thursday 27 October 2016

'I hope that will be my last encounter with a cheetah' Irish man reveals story behind close encounter photo

The Irish tourist made famous following the photograph of his run-in with a cheetah on African safari has revealed the full story behind the snap.

"Everyone has their 15 minutes but I think I have it for the wrong reason. Did you see my face?!," Mickey McCaldin told independent.ie this morning.

"I've been on safari before but that was my first encounter with a cheetah. And I hope it will be my last - they have big teeth and sharp claws."

And that photograph was literally only a snapshot of what was going on behind the scenes."

Fermanagh man Mickey was travelling with his wife and sister to visit his friend David Horsey and his wife Vicky in Kenya when the group all went out on safari.

They were all travelling in a Land Cruiser through the Masai Mara reserve, accompanied by a tour guide, when the group got more than they bargained for.

"That picture shows a teenage cheetah (if there is such a thing) but what happened is that Mom cheetah jumped on to our canvas roof which was so rotten you could see daylight through it."

"Three siblings then followed their mom on to the roof - and that almost instigated heart failure as we could all hear the ominous sound of the ripping of the canvas roof."

But it was the 'teenage' cheetah who stole the photographic limelight as he "decided to take a shortcut through" the vehicle instead of joining his family.

"I had a moment where I thought I might try to make a run for it but I realised that this guy was twice as fast as Usain Bolt, and Usain Bolt would be at least twice as fast as me - so I stayed where I was."

Not one to miss out on a fantastic photo opportunity, Mombasa-based David made the most of his vantage point from the front seat.

"Not one of us had a camera believe it or not. But wasn't David cool to take out his laptop and just keep snapping away?"

Mickey said that the moment of action for him came when the young cheetah attempted to "put his paw in my crotch".

"He was literally going to walk over me to get out so I sort of shooed it in the other direction," he said.

A number of other vehicles on safari had stopped to watch the incredible scene unfold - and had naturally begun to take photos.

"We were hardly going to leave the jeep so we put our email addresses on several balls of paper and threw them from one jeep to the other. We knew their photos would tell more of the full story than what we could take from inside."

When another guide "rolled up" and admonished the group's own guide, they were told that they had to "get those animals off" so the five began to push against the rotten canvas roof "to the sounds of snarling and more ominous ripping noises until the cheetahs jumped from the roof. 

The attached photographs were taken on the day of the incident, Friday, June 12.

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