Tracking Cheetahs

Seems like a lifetime ago that we visited South Africa but always good to look back on the amazing places we did visit when we could and share our fantastic experiences to hopefully inspire others when the doors eventually re-open.

As a family, we visited South Africa in 2017 and we do love the South African National Parks – they are such great value and give you a new perspective of the bush and share some of the country’s less known heritage.

One such national park is the Mountain Zebra National Park, located about 3 hours north of Port Elizabeth and located in the interior of the country, known as the Karoo. The nearest town to the park is Cradock (about 20 min away) which has numerous museums and a supermarket for provisions.

Most SA National Parks offer cottages for self-catering and the larger ones have fully functioning restaurants and enormous gift shops. The Mountain Zebra National Park is much smaller then the likes of the Kruger National Park and has a small gift shop and restaurant as well as a booking office for guided game drives and walks.

We stayed at the park for 2 nights in what is called ‘The Guesthouse’ on the website. It is an old farm house and has been declared a national monument as it dates back to the 1830s. The décor is modern but in keeping with the heritage of the house…and the views are breath-taking!

Just bear in mind that as there are predators (lions!) in this park – you should not get out of your vehicle or walk around unless you are in designated areas!

Take note!

Look what we saw on our drive to the cottage…..

We booked the Cheetah Tracking the next day and that started at about 08.30 where we were driven out into the park for about 40 minutes by the guide on the back of a landrover.

Now, something about the cheetah tracking here  – only one of the cheetahs (a female) has a tracking collar….while this might be cheating for some (sorry about the pun!) – when you see the terrain of the park, it would literally be impossible for the untrained eye to see cheetahs as they camouflage themselves so well!

We walked around for ages it seems with the guide using his telemetry set every now and again to hear if there was any pinging….

Ping -tastic!

After a while, he took us back to the vehicle and we drove to a different location which appeared to have a stronger signal.

Off the vehicle we all got and continued on foot again.

Other animals looked on curiously.

After another 30 min with the guide following the pinging of the telemetry set…..the signal grew stronger and the pinging more consistent.

And yes, there they were, right in front of us. (note the comment above about camouflage)

‘I’m sure they are here somewhere….’

We stayed with them for quite some time as they were very relaxed.

A truly amazing experience to see these elusive and endangered animals – there are fewer then 7000 still in the wild – and we were extremely privileged to see 4 of them (Mother with tracker and 3 adolescent cubs).

They are my favourite big cat – such grace and poise.

Just simply beautiful.

Other guided walks of interest at the Mountain Zebra National Park:

  • Saltpeterskop Hike – See a very rare relic from the Anglo Boer War and a stunning view of the Park. British soldiers created a chessboard on top of Saltpeterskop – a 1500 m high hill – while hiding out during the Anglo Boer War. They played chess with fellow soldiers based at the fort in Cradock and transmitted moves by means of a mirror.
  • San Cave paintings – These are evidence of Late Stone Age inhabitants (known as the San) who depicted human and animal life on the walls of rock shelters.

There are also numerous options to join guided game drives with the park’s rangers.

Just to note: animal sitings are never guaranteed.

TOP TIP: If you are planning a visit to this park, hire a 4 x 4 or SUV as the roads are dirt roads and can be very stony in places. Normal hire cars (sedans) might struggle.

For more information on this national park, look here

Links included are for information only and aren’t affiliate links. Opinions expressed are our own based on personal experience.

All images used are personal photographs taken during a family visit to the Mountain Zebra National Park, South Africa in August 2017.

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