Cheetah and Leopard- Seeing spots on safari

feature leopard and cheetah

Spotting a cheetah and a leopard is definitely something you need to add to your must-see list while on safari in Africa.

Spotting wildlife in Africa from the back of an open-top safari vehicle guarantees great adventures and memories. From elephants brushing past the vehicle to lions enjoying their lazy afternoons. But it is when travellers see spots that they really get excited.

Spotting the leopard on safari

The leopard is part of Africa’s renowned Big Five, and nicknamed as the “elusive leopard” for a reason. Leopards are naturally shy and nocturnal, spending most of the daylight hours hidden from view. The best advice we can give you if you want to spot a leopard on safari is to “look up”. They are excellent climbers, using trees to scan for prey and to store fresh kills away from scavengers like lions and hyena.

Leopard enjoying the last bite of its recent feast. ©Robin Pope Safaris

Spotting the cheetah on safari

Elegant and charming best describes the cheetah. They can’t climb trees like their fellow feline friends but they are incredibly fast. They are renowned for their speed and the fastest running animal on land, reaching a top speed of 75 mph. Cheetahs are small in size and can be found in open grass plains where their can use their gift to its full advantage.

The difference between a cheetah and a leopard

Spotting the difference between a leopard and a cheetah is easier than most people would think. Ironically their spots are different. Cheetah have spots that are single, black spots all over its body where as a leopard have rosettes, smaller irregular shaped spots that group together in circles to form rosettes.

Leopard on safari Robin Pope Safaris

Leopard spotted in South Luangwa ©Robin Pope Safaris

Cheetah on safari credit Alissa Everett

Cheetah spotted by Cottars 1920s Camp guest ©Alissa Everett

Leopards are also bigger and more muscular than cheetahs and cheetahs are smaller built with longer back legs and black tear stripes on their face.

Cheetah and leopard Conservation

Sadly, both the leopard and the cheetah are under threat a recent study estimated that there are only about 4500 in South Africa. It is hard to know exactly how many are left in the wild but their studies have shown that they are diminishing in other areas.

The future for cheetahs are a bit scarier than that of the leopard with populations continue to decline across Africa. It is estimated that there are only 7,100 wild cheetahs left in the entire world. While the situation is critical, there is hope. For the first time in two decades, cheetahs are running freely in Malawi as the African Parks reintroduced four cheetahs to Liwonde National Park earlier this year. We are super excited to share with you that cheetah cubs have been documented since the release of the 2 cheetah pairs.

When a cheetah and a leopard meet

Cheetahs and leopard are hardly every spotted together because their habitats are so different. Imagine the excitement when Cottar’s 1920s Camp guests got to witness an extremely rare sighting of a leopard and cheetah meeting face to face in the Masai Mara. Amazingly the cheetah won! Luckily, no injuries to either the leopard or cheetah.

Cheetah and Leopard fight

Pictures by Cottars guests John Sidey & Laura

Cheetah and Leopard Fight 2


Pictures by Cottars guests John Sidey & Laura

Where to stay to see spots on safari

Here are our top picks on where to stay to see spots in Africa:

South Luangwa in Zambia is the place to be if you want to experience outstanding sightings of leopards. The area is aptly named “The Valley of the Leopard”

  • Robin Pope Safaris Luangwa River Camp– This Camp is ideally situated opposite one of the most productive game areas in South Luangwa with a unique access directly across the river either by boat or by car depending on the time of year.
  • Robin Pope Safaris Tena Tena Camp– Located in Nsefu sector of the South Luangwa National park, this area boasts one of the more exclusive game drive areas of the National Park. Tena Tena is sandwiched between the river and a complex lagoon system under a magnificent mahogany grove and is a magnet for wildlife and you do not need to go far for some incredible sightings.

If you want to spot a cheetah on safari we suggest the Masai Mara. The Mara has a significant cheetah population with its flat, open terrain it is perfect for their speed hunting style. Cottar’s 1920s Camp guests often spot the famous cheetah brothers together in this area a sure favourite considering how hard it is just to spot one!

To experience the great work conservationists, do to save cheetahs we suggest Malawi. You could spot on of the new arrivals and witness history in the making. We suggest a stay at Central African Wilderness Safaris Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Lodge as guests often spot the new arrivals.

Seeing spots on safari is really a memorable moment and definitely something that you need to add to your must-see list while on safari in Africa. Do you want to see spots on safari?

Get in touch with us and let us help you plan your safari in wonderful Africa.