On Safari in East Africa: Leopards and Cheetah

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Leopards

Leopards are extremely difficult to spot in the African bush. They’re shy, secretive and nocturnal. So it was incredibly lucky when we saw one on a game drive in Lake Nakuru, Kenya. In fact, it was Root who spotted it, nestled in a bush near the road and he shouted to our driver “Stop! Leopard!” and he slowly backed up the car. I was in the front seat with the window down and when the car stopped I was looking directly into the eyes of the leopard about 8 feet in front of me. As you can see from the photos below, its eyes were amazing. Such a beautiful creature. After a few seconds it turned its attention to some antelope nearby and started to slink its way through the grass towards them.

FACT

Leopards are incredibly strong and known for their climbing ability. They can carry carcasses weighing more than 110 pounds up into the trees and this is how they protect their food.

Cheetah

One of the very first animals we saw in the Serengeti was the cheetah. Built for speed, they are sleeker and lighter than leopards. They are so fast they don’t have to stalk their prey as much as the leopard. Their eyes are very exotic looking, with black "tear stripes" running from the corners of their eyes. These help block out sunlight, which aids them in spotting prey.

FACT

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. They can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 3 seconds.