A cheetah and a leopard are two completely different big cats. Both are magnificent sightings that contribute to the allure of the African wild, but spotting the difference can sometimes prove challenging for first-time safari-goers. We’ve put together some distinct features and characteristics to make identifying cheetahs easier on your next game drive.
You will find cheetahs hunting during the day, rather than at night.
Cheetahs have a distinct coat of fur with solid black, round or oval spots.
Cheetahs have a black ‘tear line’ running from the corner of the eye to the mouth.
You will find cheetahs in the grassy plains with their prey rather than up trees as they don’t have retractable claws needed to climb.
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest animal and hunt using speed over short distances, rather than furtiveness.
Cheetahs have smaller teeth and cannot chew through large bones. Their smaller jaw allows for a bigger nasal cavity so that they can breathe faster.
Cheetahs are more sociable than leopards.
Cheetahs are lighter, taller and more slender than leopards.
The most intoxicating feeling will be when you see a big cat hiding amongst the tall grass, moving with a graceful and sophisticated aesthetic – and you’ll be able to tell if it’s a cheetah or leopard through the camouflage vegetation (like a pro).
Here are our top five destinations to spot cheetahs in the wild:
Liuwa Plains National Park
This well-kept secret is found in a remote corner of Zambia. This park is home to a plethora of wildlife species, including large predators such as cheetahs.
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The Masai Mara
The Masai Mara is situated in the south of Kenya and is one of Africa’s most celebrated safari destinations. While the Great Migration occurs annually, the predator game viewing is extraordinary year-round.
Serengeti National Park
Next to the Masai Mara, is Tanzania’s famous Serengeti National Park – a wonderful destination to look for cheetahs. They are in abundance during the migration, as they lurk, looking for their next meal. Despite their rarity, the Serengeti’s open plains make it the ideal terrain to spot them among the sparse grass.
The Kalahari is one of the best places to see cheetahs in Southern Africa as the landscape is flat, making it easier to spot cheetahs in the grass. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is also remote making game-viewing more exclusive.
The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park has around 200 cheetahs in the park. This number is not very high compared to other countries and parks, but your chances of spotting a cheetah whilst on safari here are pretty decent.
Cheetahs are one of nature’s most beautiful, yet endangered cats. With less than 10 000 cheetahs recorded in the wild, sighting one of these big cats is definitely a bucket-list moment.