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Impala leaps to freedom… into a car

Durban - Scrambling through the low grass with two cheetahs on its tail, an impala makes a leap to safety… through an open window into the front seat of a Toyota Prado full of tourists.

Samantha Pittendrigh and three of her friends from the University of Pretoria were on a day trip to the Kruger National Park this week when they stopped near the Nkuhlu picnic site about 20km from Skukuza.

In a scene unlikely to be repeated, an impala leaps into a car to escape pursuing cheetahs in the Kruger National Park. The flummoxed cats slink off, not sure where their dinner has disappeared to, while the tourists let the impala out, unhurt, to rejoin its herd. Video pictures: Samantha Pittendrigh. Credit: SUPPLIED

Pittendrigh said the driver of a car they passed told them to keep a lookout as there were cheetah in the area. Moments later, an impala herd started “going crazy” as two cheetahs shot out of the bush and accelerated towards them.

“The cheetahs chased the impala across the road and they disappeared into the bush, but they came back around again,” said Pittendrigh.

The cheetahs had their sights on one impala and were seconds away from taking it down when the animal leapt into the open driver’s window of the SUV.

“We heard a loud bang and then the people in the car started screaming “open the door, open the door”, said Pittendrigh.

One of the cheetahs broke to the left and dodged the car while the other slid underneath to avoid colliding with it.

After the impala landed inside the car the occupants opened the door and the animal was let out.

“I have... never seen anything like this,” said Pittendrigh.

“After that we were scared one of the cheetahs would jump into our car, you should have heard the language,” she said, with the four quickly winding up windows.

Once the impala had run off, Pittendrigh said the cheetahs hung around before slinking off.

Kruger Park spokesman William Mabasa said the incident had not been reported to him.

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