Search

Where can I see wild dogs and big cats?

It is no wonder that so many visitors to Africa are desperate to glimpse a pack of African wild dogs - their beauty, their complex social structure and infectious exuberance all endear these creatures to nature-lovers across the world. But it is also true that, for many, a safari is incomplete without a sighting of a 'big cat'. Safari destinations that can boast reliable sightings of both wild dogs and big cats are few and far between - this can be partly blamed on habitat destruction, but it's also true that wild dogs don't always get on particularly well with their feline neighbours (lions in particular). As such, visitors to Africa sometimes feel like they have to choose between the chance of spotting wild dogs and having the quintessential 'big cat safari' experience.


We're here to help! We've racked our brains are come up with our top ten destinations that offer fantastic big cat and wild dog sightings. For the purposes of this post, we are talking about cheetah, leopard and lion when we say big cats - yes, we know, cheetah aren't technically 'big cats', but 'large felines that purr' isn't quite as catchy.


Take a look at our list and let us know your best spots for spotting dogs and cats!



10. Northern Tuli GR, Botswana


Cheetah Rating: 4/5

Leopard Rating: 5/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 1/5


Overview: This south-east corner of Botswana, home to a number of large private concessions as well as the world-famous Mashatu Game Reserve, is an absolutely fantastic location for your next safari. This arid area boasts excellent big cat viewing - it's not uncommon to see cheetah, leopard and lion in a single day - as well as a great chance to spot dry-country species including bat-eared fox. Elephant viewing is also sensational, with Mashatu famed for its hides which offer eye-level photographic opportunities like nowhere else.


Northern Tuli can't offer guaranteed wild dog sightings, despite packs being introduced in recent years in Mashatu and neighbouring Tuli Wilderness, but dogs do occasionally come into the reserve from nearby Zimbabwe and South Africa. Buffalo and rhino only occur here as vagrants, so bear that in mind if you need the 'Big Five' to complete your safari.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris visits Tuli on our 'Tuli Track and Trail' small-group safari in August 2022, available for just £2,495 for 8 nights.


9. Kruger National Park, South Africa


Cheetah Rating: 2/5

Leopard Rating: 4/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 3/5


Overview: There's a whole lot more to Kruger than tarmac roads and traffic jams! The Greater Kruger, home to an array of excellent private concessions, can on its day offer game-viewing as good as anywhere else in Africa. With so many predators in such a small area, it's important to realise that populations are cyclical here - wild dog and cheetah populations in particular tend to crash and rebound, leading to plenty of differing accounts of what game-viewing here is really like. It's true that cheetah viewing here is hit-and-miss, with the dense vegetation not lending itself to these speedsters. But lion and leopard viewing can be exceptional, as a result of high population densities and properties working together to pinpoint animals' movements. Wild dog viewing is much better in the south of the Kruger, with Pretoriuskop in the national park proper one of our favourite spots.


How to Get There: Due to the extremely crowded nature of the safari market in Kruger, we only offer private departures to this great destination. You can enquire by contacting us at contact@pictus-safaris.com, and we would be happy to point you in the direction of other reputable small-group safari operators in the area.




8. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania


Cheetah Rating: 5/5

Leopard Rating: 5/5

Lion Rating: 5/5

Wild Dog Rating: 1/5


Overview: The Serengeti is undoubtedly the quintessential safari destination for many, with its endless plains dotted by zebra and wildebeest. It certainly packs a huge punch, offering near-guaranteed sightings of cheetah, leopard and lion during a typical stay, as well as the chance of observe the 'Great Migration' in full-flight. Sadly, wild dog sightings are more a matter of luck than anything else, as the population here was decimated by disease in the 1980s and 1990s. Recent years have seen significant improvements though, with packs forming in the Ndutu and Grumeti areas in particular. Whilst it is still true that the vast majority of visitors to the Serengeti don't get the chance to spend time with the dogs, it may not be long before sightings are reliable once more in this fantastic wilderness area.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris visit the Serengeti, as well as the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire NP, Arusha NP and the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro, on our 11-night 'Beyond the Serengeti' small-group safari in September 2022.


7. Chobe National Park, Botswana


Cheetah Rating: 2/5

Leopard Rating: 4/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 4/5


Overview: Chobe, as one of Botswana's flagship and most accessible protected areas, has built a reputation as a safe and reliable destination for great sightings over the years. Game-viewing typically takes place either on the Chobe Waterfront, where visitors can cruise along the Chobe River, or along the now-dry Savuti Channel. Both areas offer great lion and leopard viewing, although the waterfront has become less reliable for both of these cats over the last few seasons. Cheetah viewing is far better in the Savuti area, although sightings are still hit-and-miss. Wild dogs can be seen in both areas - on our last visit we saw packs on the waterfront and in Savuti easily, but typically Savuti tends to be slightly more reliable for sightings.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris only offer private departures to Chobe National Park - contact us at contact@pictus-safaris.com to find out more.



6. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe


Cheetah Rating: 3/5

Leopard Rating: 2/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 4/5


Overview: A big chunk of north-western Zimbabwe, Hwange is Africa as it used to be; pure, unbridled wilderness. Perhaps most famous for its elephant-viewing, Hwange is also one of the very few locations in Zimbabwe with consistent sightings of cheetah. Leopards are present in good numbers, but very few are habituated to human presence, so most sightings are of a spotted rear-end disappearing into the bush! Lion viewing is excellent, and wild dog viewing is brilliant too. Be sure to pay a visit to the HQ of Painted Dog Conservation during your stay, as they do great work for wild dogs in Hwange and beyond. The wild dog viewing perhaps isn't quite as good as Mana Pools, further east, but the big cat viewing is certainly far superior.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris visit Hwange on our 11-night 'The Land of Lycaon' small-group safari in September 2022.


5. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya


Cheetah Rating: 2/5

Leopard Rating: 3/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 3/5


Overview: Tsavo has so much to offer visitors - including all of the 'Big Five', stunning scenery and many species rarely seen elsewhere (such as the deeply threatened hirola). Wildlife densities are relatively low, largely owing to the vast size of the national park, but game-viewing can be sensational when you know where to look. Wild dogs regularly move through the area, as do cheetah, with significant resident populations of lion and leopard. The deep red sand of Tsavo makes for unparalleled photographic opportunities - Tsavo is simply a must-visit when in Kenya.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris visit Tsavo East, as well as Tsavo West, the Masai Mara, Amboseli NP, Shimba Hills and Arabuko-Sokoke, on our 12-night 'Migration and More' small-group safari in August 2022.





4. Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana


Cheetah Rating: 2/5

Leopard Rating: 5/5

Lion Rating: 5/5

Wild Dog Rating: 5/5


Overview: Possibly the finest safari destination on the continent, Moremi is given life each year by the floods that permeate the Okavango Delta. This seasonal influx of excellent grazing draws in a large diversity of prey species and, in turn, the significant predator populations here thrive. Leopard, lion and wild dog are all easily seen here, with the areas around Khwai and Xakanaxa being particularly productive. Cheetah were once all-but-guaranteed to be seen on the plains near Third Bridge, but in recent years sightings have become few and far between - those seeking out good cheetah viewing in Botswana are advised to look further south.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris only offer private departures to northern Botswana - contact us contact@pictus-safaris.com to learn more.


3. Laikipia Plateau, Kenya


Cheetah Rating: 3/5

Leopard Rating: 4/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 5/5


Overview: Most visitors to Kenya head directly for the southern border with Tanzania, stopping off at the Masai Mara and Amboseli. Whilst these are fantastic destinations, the best wild dog viewing in Kenya is found further north, on the central Laikipia Plateau. Despite challenges in recent years, including conflict between conservationists and local communities, the wild dog population has rebounded impressively and Laikipia is once more a premier destination for wild dog sightings. A number of conservancies sit on the plateau, with Ol Pejeta being perhaps the most famous, on account of the presence here of the last two northern white rhinos on earth. Laikipia also has the highest densities of predators in Kenya outside of the Masai Mara, with regular sightings of leopard, lion and cheetah, as well as the elusive striped hyena.


How to Get There: Pictus Safaris visit Ol Pejeta and Laikipa Wilderness, as well as Samburu NR, Aberdare NP and Lake Nakuru NP, on our 10-night 'Kenya's Neglected North' tour, available for £3,395 in August 2022.




2. Kafue National Park, Zambia


Cheetah Rating: 4/5

Leopard Rating: 4/5

Lion Rating: 4/5

Wild Dog Rating: 4/5