African Big Cats

Written by Thomson Safaris

Some of the rarest and most elusive creatures in the wild are big cats. Tanzania boasts several different species.


The undisputed king of the animals, the lion’s massive mane, raw power, and deafening roar (a lion’s roar can be about 25 times louder than a gas-powered lawn mower) make it a quintessential safari sight.

Luckily, Tanzania is home to over 15,000 lions, more than any other single African country, and around half the remaining wild population in the world. Just the Serengeti lion population—estimated around 3,000—is larger than the entire lion population of neighboring Kenya.

If Simba is on your list of safari must-sees, there’s no better place to travel than Tanzania.


Perhaps the most fashionable of all the big cats (at least if you go by runway trends), the leopard stalks its prey with extreme stealth, often getting as near as ten feet from its target, undetected, before pouncing.

Known for their arboreal lifestyle, leopards often drag their kills up into the trees where they sleep and rest. Leopards have been seen dragging animals as big as three times their size nearly twenty feet up trees.


Around the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 100,000 cheetahs ranged throughout Africa and the Middle East, but today, it’s estimated that fewer than 2,500 remain in the wild, in specific, limited regions.

Tanzania is one of those rare cheetah strongholds, likely because of its long-term dedication to conservation.  It’s one of the few places left on earth where you can see this amazing creature—the fastest land mammal in the world—racing along the plains.

Medium Cats

The term “big cat” is fairly exclusive (even cheetah are sometimes left out of “official” lists), but Tanzania is home to plenty of creatures that, while not as massive and deadly as a lion, are certainly a step up from your average house cat.

One of the more impressive of these mid-sized cats is the serval, a graceful, long-legged animal that is as elusive as it is beautiful.