Petting & Walking With Cheetahs in Africa at Mukuni Big 5 Safaris

Petting a cheetah, petting cheetahs

Me petting Cheetahs in Livingston, Zambia (Africa)

Petting a cheetah in Africa with Mukuni Big 5 Safaris is one of the most unique things that I have done in my travels around the world.

I have had an affinity towards the majestic animal since I was young.  It has always been a very unusual connection as I was always one of the fastest kids on the field when I played soccer. For some reason I always connected with the unique felines.

I earned the nickname cheetah because I was so quick to attack an opponent on the field.

Speed, reaction time, and bursts of aggression where all reasons for the relation to the animal.  A bit childish maybe but I have always thought that they were so unique and majestic.

When I first arrived in Zambia and a visit to the  Devil’s Pool was unavailable, I immediately wanted to find out about interacting with cheetahs.

The well mannered management at JollyBoys Backpackers Lodge in Zambia prompted a visit to the Mukuni Big 5 Safari Park.

It wasn’t just walking with a cheetah they offer.  It was also walking with lions and elephants as well.

Click here to see the video on Youtube

The company is on a mission to actively support the dying cheetah population. They have announced a captive breeding program to ensure that the population of cheetahs in the wild continues to grow.

After raising the cubs they are released into the wild.

This program is something I can definitely support because it is reported that cheetahs have significant population challenges.  Everything from lack of genetic diversity, habitat encroachment, and poaching has created significant threats to the cheetah population.

The dilemma with the cheetah populace began with a population crash that occurred almost 10,000 years ago.  The exact reason for the crash is still speculatory.  The crash set forth a genetic diversity crisis where each animal is extremely similar to the other.

Genetic diversity is critical to the survival of a species for a variety of  reasons.

Many of the cheetah cubs have a number of problems when they are born which is another reason a company like the Mukuni Big 5 Safaris should be appreciated.  They take extra care with all of their cubs to ensure they are raised with the best of health and then release them into the wild.

The Mukuni Big 5 Safari company was nice enough to give me both the cheetah walk and the lion walk free of charge which I can’t thank them enough for.  Having been to roughly 40 or 50 countries now as I travel around the world, it is one of my most treasured experiences that I will remember forever.

petting cheetah, petting a cheetah

My walk with the Cheetahs

Cheetahs pur it seems like 100 times loader than cats and are gorgeous creatures.  They are more solitary in comparison with the very social lion but they were still nice enough to give me a nice cut on my forearm.  When they show affection they will lick anything in their path, similar to cats.

Their tongues are not soft, they feel like razor sharp sand paper that you buy at home depot.  I tried many times to get a picture of a cheetah licking my cheek but unfortunately I couldn’t stand the pain due to the roughness their tongues.

petting a cheetah, touching a cheetah

She loved to cuddle

The time spent with these creatures are so unique that it felt as if I was in their midst for hours.  The hop for cubs sprung eternal but sadly I was only able to spend an unlimited amount of time with 3 cheetahs all alone.

What a miserable experience (kidding)

Because they are currently being bread in captivity they are very used to humans and are very affectionate.  Everyone at the Mukuni Big 5 Safari company takes extra care with these animals and its very satisfying to see a company think about the livelihood of these animals first.

It was great to see the cheetahs interact with each other.  I learned these animals are extremely playful after we started to run with a tethered ball around the park.

The Mukuni Big 5 safari company has also started a new out to the new volunteer program at their facilities in Livingstone, Zambia.

Thank you again Cliff for the unique opportunity.


    1. The cheetahs are actually very docile and not aggressive at all. They didn’t even warn me about anything I should know or do with the cheetahs. The are basically larger and faster house cats. There were significant precautions that were taken with the Lions. So much so that I had to put my stick on their teeth every time the lions turned around and looked at me to “distract them”

  1. Marcello, I have just returned from 1 month in Zambia, where I have been volunteering with Mukuni and working with these cheetahs, lions and elephants. I would like to thank you for bringing this place to my attention as I follow your blog regularly. After reading this post, I researched and applied to Mukuni and was accepted as a volunteer to help looking after these beautiful animals, helping care for them every day.
    Living on site, awaking to the sound of roaring lions, being greeted by Lulu (the youngest cheetah) as I walk from my room, playing football with her and taking clients for walks while explaining the importance of our conservation efforts, was a most wonderful experience for me.
    Every day bought joy to me, and I also think the animals appreciated me enriching their lives too. Photography is a hobby of mine, so I now also have a collection of amazing pictures with the animals. Cheetahs were my favourite for sure. The lions really only want to eat you, but the cheetahs are like dogs, and seem to want to play and love you, although they can and do get carried away – they are still wild animals for sure!
    I went to Livingstone solely to do this Mukuni Big 5 volunteer program, flying from my home in New Zealand, so it was a very long way to travel, but well worth the effort. Like yourself, I am also a traveller having been to more than 60 countries over the 30 years I have been travelling on/off for. I follow your posts and having been to many of the same places, bring back fond memories, but love reading the new places that I need to explore.
    Thanks again for this post, and keep up the great work 🙂

      1. What beauties! I have added this onto my things to do! Greg how did you find the volunteering? Did you get enough time to see all the animals? I was initially thinking of doing 2 weeks volunteering but I want to make sure I get enough time to really experience them (and get loads of photos and videos) whilst helping out with their conservation efforts.

        Do you recommend anything else in the area? I want to go to Victoria Falls and possibly look at the white water rafting and boat cruises I’v read about. Is there anything else you’d recommend? See or doing whilst in the region / Africa?


  2. WOW! Cheetahs have never been my favorite animals, but they have always fascinated me. I now have the sudden urge to go play with one and take it on a walk. How long was your trip with Big 5 and what other amazing things can you do other than walking cheetahs and lions? Do you know how they raise the cubs in order to prevent them from having issues once released back into the wild?

    1. In Livingstone there are a ton of things to do. Visit the falls and head to the Devil’s Pool, there are a ton of outdoor activities like rafting. With Mukuni Big 5 you can also walk with elephants. Yes I did know that about the Cheetahs. That is one reason why I support them.

  3. Very cool. I was there 3 weeks ago and did the same. Did the bungee too at Vic falls.

    My understanding is that if Cheetas don’t learn to kill by their mother as these obviously weren’t, they would die in the wild. Typically Cheetas can take down an animal with no training but they don’t know what to do after that. Are you certain these cubs will be released in the wild?

  4. What cute kitteh cats … seriously though, amazing experience despite the fact that they could rip your face off if they wanted to. I need to do this before I leave this Earth!

  5. This look absolutely incredible! Do you know of any other volunteer things that are this good? I’m looking to do a few months next year, but this is a little out of my price range

  6. Hi. We have a similar thing in Dubai…but different animals though…most people have a bad understanding about these animals. But when treated nicely, it’s like having an elephant as a pet….Thanks for sharing and happy new year! 😀

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