These are some of the best African game reserves, national parks, and safari destinations to see the incredible cheetah in the wild
The cheetah is the fastest land mammal in the world. Easily distinguished by their spotted coats, slender bodies and dark “tear marks” that run down from their eyes to their mouths, cheetahs are built for speed. In the past, cheetahs used to be distributed throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Now, they are only found in a few countries in Africa, with a small population found in Iran. The cheetah’s conservation status is “vulnerable”; however, populations continue to decline. With the cheetah almost entirely extinct in Asia, Africa is the best place to see one of the incredible creatures in the wild. There are several protected areas such as national parks and game reserves where visitors have a good chance of seeing a cheetah.
Phinda Private Game Reserve is found in the KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa. This Big 5 Reserve spans over 23 000 hectares, and is made up of a variety of habitat types that range from endemic sand forest and savannah woodland, to marshes, rivers and grasslands. Besides being home to a plethora of wildlife species and over 400 bird species, the reserve is known for its population of cheetahs. Stay in one of the six luxury lodges on the reserve, where you can expect close encounters with game in open safari vehicles, led by expert guides. The reserve has the added advantage of being located just a few hours away from Durban and the Indian Ocean coastline, a great destination for snorkeling, diving, fishing and turtle-watching. This makes it ideal for a bush and beach holiday combination.
Located in the north of Tanzania on the border with Kenya, the Serengeti is one of the most famous safari destinations in Africa. This enormous expanse of open plains, grasslands, and savannah habitat is home to an incredible variety of wildlife species. Various species of plains game roam the region, and the predator life is unparalleled. The phenomenal Great Migration also occurs here annually. The Serengeti is a must-visit for any safari or nature enthusiast, and is one of the best places in the world to see a number of species, including cheetah.
Like the Serengeti, the Masai Mara is one of Africa’s most renowned safari destinations. It is situated in the south of Kenya, on the border with Tanzania, right next to the Serengeti. The world famous Great Migration occurs annually here, when masses of plains game migrate between the two parks, closely pursued by populations of predators that include cheetahs. While the Migration is extraordinary, the game-viewing in the Masai Mara remains exceptional throughout the year. Stay at one of a number of camps and lodges found in the park, or visit as part of a safari tour that is more budget-friendly.
Etosha National Park is found in Namibia. This exceptional park is one of the best places in Namibia for game-viewing. The park‘s central feature is an enormous salt pan that covers around 4,800km², so large that it can be seen from space. Large numbers of game can be seen gathering at the periphery of the pan, and around smaller adjoining pans and the park‘s many waterholes. Etosha is home to the famous African Big 5, and visitors have a good chance of seeing large predator species, including cheetah. The birdlife in the park is also excellent. A self-drive safari is an wonderful way to explore Etosha; alternatively, guests can try an overland safari tour that visits the park.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park spans portions of both South Africa and Botswana, and provides a unique safari experience. The park is part of the great Kalahari Desert, and the red sand dunes and and vast desert wilderness of the region make for a pleasant change from the common savannah safari regions of Africa. The park is vast and isolated, perfect for solitude-seekers, with a number of camps that offer self-catering and camping accommodation. It is well-known for its excellent predator activity, with cheetahs being amongst the species found here.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is found in Botswana. It is a vast desert wilderness, made up of 5 000 000 hectares of grasslands, salt pans and semi-desert habitat. A wide range of fascinating desert-adapted wildlife call the reserve home, including the feisty honey badger, herds of plains game, over 250 bird species, and a variety of both large and small predators, including the cheetah. Both luxury lodges and rustic camping facilities can be found in the park, with guided safari tours also available.
Liuwa Plains National Park is found in a remote corner of Zambia. This little-known park is made up of 3660 km² of grasslands and woodlands that are home to a plethora of wildlife species. Plains game are prolific in the park, with Africa’s second biggest migration of wildebeest occurring here annually. Predator life is also excellent in Liuwa, with large predators including lion, hyena, and of course, cheetah. Over 300 bird species are found in the park. Liuwa‘s untouched and pristine nature makes it the perfect safari retreat for solitude-seekers and those looking for a genuine wilderness experience.