Tourist takes selfie with cheetah only to discover photographer had snapped the encounter – and won an award for it
A tourist who took a selfie with a cheetah while on safari was shocked to find a photographer had won an award for capturing her unique encounter on camera.
Clara Vela, 27, was on safari at Masai Mara National Park, Kenya, when a couple of cheeky cheetahs leapt onto the roof of her jeep.
The student, from Barcelona, along with her friends, Matiola Liberal, 41 and Jorge Alesanco, 44, came within just inches of the big cats and couldn’t help but take a selfie.
Clara captured several pictures of her and her friends with the cheetahs as they prowled the edges of the open-topped vehicle in search of prey.
But it wasn’t until almost two years after her 2013 trip, Clara realised she wasn’t the only one to capture her unique encounter on camera.
Astonishingly, a photographer had captured pictures of her and her friends taking selfies with the cheetahs and had gone on to win an award for his work.
Wildlife photographer Yanai Bonneh, 24, from Ein Habesor, Israel, was just metres away from Clara in an adjacent Land Rover and had documented her entire encounter.
Clara only learnt of the existence of Yanai’s images when one of them was awarded third prize in National Geographic’s 2013 Traveller Photo Contest.
She said: “When I saw the cheetahs jump on the roof I couldn´t believe what was happening.
“I was a little bit confused and scared, and of course surprised, but it was an incredible moment, especially when all the people in the car started to take selfies with them.
“Cheetahs are not dangerous if you are respectable with them.
“They just use the cars to see their prey better.
“Since I discovered Yanai´s photo was one of the winners of a National Geographic photo contest, I was determined to find the author.
“I found him on Facebook and started chatting to him on there; he couldn’t believe I’d got in touch with him after so long.”
Shocked by the revelation, the pair compared photos and swapped stories before deciding to meet up in London, where they had both planned to go on holiday.
The pair met in London earlier this year, where Yanai presented large prints of the famous photo for Clara and her friends.
Yanai said: “I was on holiday with my family in Kenya when I took the photos.
“We stopped by a couple of cheetahs in Masai Mara National Park, two minutes later both of the curious cheetahs jumped on one of the vehicles in front of us.
“Luckily I had my camera; I immediately pulled it out as not to miss the special moment.
“I didn’t have any idea who these tourists were nor did I ever meet them after the encounter, which was odd, given the infamy of the picture.”
“But when Clara got in touch out of the blue, I was in shock.
“Having talked at length about our experiences, lo and behold, we were both planning to go on holiday at the same time, again.
“But this time it was in London, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to meet up.”
Clara added: “The meeting in London was strange and amazing, you could even say it was destiny, but something I’ll never forget.
“I don’t think anyone will ever take a better photo of me in my life, it was a truly special moment.”