The African cheetah can be found in virtually all parts of the continent—from Egypt to South Africa and from Kenya in East Africa to Namibia in West Africa. They are also found in the Middle East in countries like Jordan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, although they are much rarer in these areas. Cheetahs require wide open flat spaces in order to spot prey from a distance and in order to chase their prey. Because of this, a cheetah safari will rarely be successful in mountainous regions or areas with dense jungle and forest.
As with its Asian cousins, the African cheetah is the only member of the acinonyx family, which has a paw modification found in no other feline. The claws are not retractable, meaning they do not grip well and cheetahs cannot climb vertical trees like leopards can. They can, however, reach accessible branches, and you will often see them on the topmost limbs of fallen trees. These dead trees (often downed by elephants ) and the top of termite mounds give cheetahs a high vantage point to survey the surrounding countryside for prey.
A cheetah safari in Kenya or neighboring Tanzania is apt to be successful in almost all the national parks and game reserves. The Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya are the two areas where you have the best chance of spotting these rare creatures. The semi-arid desert region of Samburu and Buffalo Springs in northern Kenya are also excellent places for spotting cheetah. While the cheetah is much more rare and endangered than the leopard, you are more likely to spot a cheetah during your wildlife safaris. The reason for this is that the cheetah hunts during the day, while the elusive leopard is primarily nocturnal. The leopard attacks prey by ambush, often leaping on it from a tree. The cheetah will stalk its prey until it gets close enough to put on its famous burst of speed—from zero to more than 60 miles per hour in only three seconds, and a top speed of about 75 miles per hour. It can only keep up this speed for short distances of about 1,600 feet.