The Super Cats of Etosha [part 3]: The Fastest of them All

cheetah on the Etosha plains, Namibia

Here comes the final post of our 3-part-series about the 'Super Cats of Etosha' and we're going to talk S.P.E.E.D.!

Imagine you travel on the highway with about 100 km/h ... you look to your side, and... you GASP ... you're overtaken by a cheetah ! ... Well, that's not very likely to happen in real life, I admit it, but theoretically this would be possible, as cheetah can reach up to 120 km/h, which puts them on the victory podium for the fastest land mammal on earth.

Cheetah on the run, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Cheetah are truly built for speed. Slim, light-weight and extremely flexible, they are masters at fast sprints, which they use to outrun, trip and kill their prey. However, they can only sustain this top speed for up to 500 meters, before they need to take a rest, as they are utterly out of breath by then.

Even when they've caught and killed their prey, they first have to recover before being able to enjoy their meal. Unfortunately, this gives lions or hyena the opportunity to steal their kill, which happens quite often in Etosha, leaving the cheetah exhausted and hungry.

Cheetah pair on the short grass plains of Etosha, Namibia

In Etosha, cheetah prefer the open grass savanna as their hunting ground. They use the early morning hours to patrol their territory for prey animals, mostly springbok, and once found, stay with them for an opportune moment to stalk, hunt and kill one of them.

Group of cheetah along the Etosha Pan, Namibia

If you're keen to come eye to eye with this cat beauty on your (next) visit to the Park, your best chance of finding a cheetah is on the short grass plains along the Etosha Pan. We recommend you scan the area thoroughly with your binoculars, as cheetah are very difficult to spot, with their golden-colored fur blending in perfectly with the dry savanna grass.

Close up of a cheetah, Etosha, Namibia

Finally, a little help, in case you also tend to mix up cheetah and leopard, as many newbies to Etosha do. For one, the cheetah is truly built gracefully compared to the stocky and muscular leopard. But mainly it's the cheetah's facial marks that help you to easily recognize it: From above the inner side of the eye down to the corners of the mouth runs a black line, that's truly a trade-mark of the cheetah, and is missing entirely in a leopard's face.

Cheetah at their play tree, Etosha, Namibia

All in all, I'm sure you'll agree with us, that cheetah are real beauties of the African animal world. We are happy and proud to know that Namibia's protected areas as well as its private farmland host the highest numbers of cheetah in the World, giving this endangered cat a safe home, hopefully for generations to come. Dear Namibia lover, we hope you've enjoyed our three-part-series of 'The Super Cats Of Etosha' [here are links to part 1: Meet the mighty lion and part 2: A ghost in the dark]. If you did, we'd love to hear from you about your experiences with these cats, you favorite moments, your best images or any other comments.

In the mean-time, keep well & stay wild. With our best wilderness wishes, Claudia & Wynand


Claudia & Wynand du Plessis | Namibia Wildlife Photographers |

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