Whether they’re looking out over the African savannah or on the prowl in the Pantanal, all around the world majestic big cats dominate the wilderness. Here are a few of the fiercest felines to spot in the wild…
Often referred to as the king of the jungle, lions are the African savannah’s top predator. They live in prides and fiercely defend their territory. Their remarkable manes, earth trembling roars and expert hunting techniques firmly cement them as one of the world’s most iconic big cats. Despite their ferocious character, they are also the laziest of all the big cats and spend an average of 18 hours per day sleeping.
Our favourite place to spot them: Kenya’s Masai Mara has one of the highest densities of lions in the world, and thanks to its vast open plains, sightings here are particularly impressive.
Distinguishable by their magnificent black-spotted coats, leopards have excellent camouflage and are famed for their extreme stealth and versatility, making them excellent hunters. They spend a lot of their time hiding in the treetops, using their elevated vantage point to ambush prey from above. The leopard can stalk its victim to within metres, before giving chase using its powerful back legs and reaching speeds of up to 60km per hour.
Our favourite place to spot them: Without a doubt the best place to spot leopards in the wild is Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, which boasts the highest density of these elusive creatures anywhere on the planet.
The tiger is the largest of the big cats and is recognisable by its distinctive striped fur; their stripes are like fingerprints, no two tigers have identical markings. They are especially powerful hunters and creep up on their prey with great stealth, often waiting and allowing the unwitting animal to move closer of its own accord. Once in striking distance, the tiger pounces on its victim with one fatal manoeuvre, leaving its prey no chance of escape.
Our favourite place to spot them: The Bengal tiger is the most dominant subspecies and is native to India. Our favourite place to spot them is in Bandhavgarh National Park.
The jaguar is native to South America and is the largest big cat on the continent. Their stealthy nature and unrivalled power confirms them as one of the jungle’s top predators. They tend to lurk in sheltered areas amongst thick foliage, but they are good swimmers too so are able to hunt their prey both on land and in water. Like leopards, jaguars’ fur can range from golden to almost black and is covered in dark rosettes, but jaguars can be distinguished by the smaller spots inside their rosettes.
Our favourite place to spot them: We think the best place to see jaguars is in the Pantanal in Brazil, where the flat swampy wetland makes it easier to spot them than in the thick Amazon rainforest.