Majestic yet bashful, cheetahs blend seamlessly into the grasslands of East and Southern Africa. They’re secretive animals that can make the prime highlight of any safari. Standing taller and with a longer tail than a leopard, these most agile of cats feed on the small antelopes of the plains. Speed brings them fame. But when you see a cheetah you’ll be remembering their beauty and enchantment.
The World’s Fastest Mammal
Perhaps there’s nothing as thrilling as a cheetah on the move, a swirl of dust accompanying a sprint across the plains. It’s a very very rare sight that we’ve only been lucky to see once. But any glimpse of a cheetah lingers long in the memory, the resplendent predator creeping elegantly through the grasslands. Rather than a long chase after their prey, cheetahs use stealth and we’ve seen the patient opening stages of a hunt on many occasions.
Speed isn’t a cheetah’s greatest weapon and they can only maintain the astonishing 60mph speed for a few seconds. They mostly use agility and intelligence, disappearing into the scorched grass and pouncing from close distance. Cheetahs don’t have the power of a lion pride, or the strength of a leopard’s jaw, so they usually track young members of a herd and will only challenge horned males when food is limited.
Where to See a Cheetah on Safari
When the grasslands have been baked yellow by the sun, cheetahs literally disappear in the grass. Excellent guides help to unravel the camouflage, as does the furious chirping of birds and baboons. We love the interaction between species and the way smaller animals look out for each other. Flocks of birds and monkeys can see the cheetah from on high. They shout vociferously, hooting and tweeting so everyone on the plains knows there’s a predator on the move.
Cheetahs can be spotted on grasslands and savannahs all across Africa. However, they are territorial animals and there isn’t a park or reserve where cheetahs are especially plentiful. Landscapes usually support a handful of them rather than an abundance. Tanzania has many good options for witnessing cheetahs, while the Masai Mara’s private conservancies have evolved into a serene world for cheetahs to raise their cubs. You’ll love the intimacy of this sighting as guides can take you off the trails for a close up of the cute infants.
A Multi-Day to see the Elegant Hunter
Safari is all about surprise. You might see a cheetah crossing the trail in front of you, then disappearing into the high grass. The next safari vehicle won’t be able to locate this cheetah. But roll forward an hour and the grass might move again, revealing the cheetah to the next safari goer. Like the leopard, this is predator that requires time and patience from your side. It’s just another reason why we also recommend a multi-day safari, especially one that can include a couple of destinations.
Cheetahs are less dangerous than other predators as their jaws don’t have the same astonishing strength. If one attacked you’d be badly injured, but not killed (like encountering a lion or leopard on foot). A couple of places in Africa have established cheetah conservation projects that include walking alongside rehabilitated cats. If you’ve got a big passion for cheetahs then one of these would be an unmissable starting point. It’s possible at Okonjima in Namibia’s Central Highlands, along with a couple of private reserves in Zambia and South Africa.
Uncovering Cheetahs’ Camouflage on Your Safari
It’s amazing how five vehicles could drive past a cheetah’s hideout and only one would stop. Great guides don’t just narrate detailed information about what you see, they ensure that you get to see it all. With an Africa Sky safari we’ll put you together with Africa’s finest guides, so the electrifying sight of a cheetah becomes part of your memories.