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Nick Dall sets out in South Africa’s Mountain Zebra National Park to search for the world’s fastest feline, and learn about its behaviour and interaction with its cousin the lion

I’m breathless and starting to sweat, despite the Karoo morning chill. Two Austrian tourists and I have spent the last hour clambering up and down the steep, scrabbly slopes of Saltpeterskop in South Africa’s Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) in search of a collared cheetah. Up ahead — rise in one hand, antenna in the other — field guide Dan van de Vyver is trying his damnedest to find her, but the topography is wreaking havoc with his radio signal. Every time the beeps seem to be getting stronger, they fade away just as quickly.

Just when I’m starting to wonder whether we’ll ever find her, one of the Austrians spots her round ears poking out from behind some grass. We marvel at her from a distance of no more than 10m. At first she just lies there, but after a while she rolls over, stands up and arches her back before walking off into the rocks, never to be seen again. “They like to rest somewhere high, where they can see the lay of the land,” whispers Dan. “She’s probably going down to the plains to hunt now.”

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January-March 2018 (81)
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About Travel Africa

Tracking cheetahs in South Africa's Mountain Zebra National Park • Why you should visit Zimbabwe NOW • The IK Factor • Wildlife lover's guide to Zambia • Secret Sierra Leone • Unusual places to stay • Kenya's great lakes • Birding in Malawi • 48 hours in Windhoek... and much more!