The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal and can run to speeds of up to 70 miles an hour. These big cats accelerate faster than the fastest cars, reaching 96 kilometres an hour (60 miles an hour) in only three seconds. Cheetahs prowl the open grasslands and bushy areas of east and southwest Africa and the Middle East, hunting small to medium-size animals, especially antelope and hares. Their spotted coats allow them to stalk their prey then pounce at lightning speed. They grow up to 1.4 metres (4.5 feet) in length and weigh between 39 and 65 kilograms (86 to 143 pounds). Their average life span is 10 to 12 years.

Crib Notes:

  • Cheetahs only need to drink once every three to four days.
  • Cheetahs are an endangered species: only 7,000 to 10,000 remain in the wild.
  • After a chase, cheetahs need half an hour to catch their breath before eating.
  • Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605, kept as many as 1,000 cheetahs.

Time of year: South Africa makes a great holiday destination any time of year, but try to avoid the tourist season, from Christmas to mid-January, when prices can more than double.

Destination: Sir Richard Branson’s Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is set in the heart of the Sabi Sand reserve on the border of the Kruger National Park in South Africa. An astonishing resort in and of itself, the Rocks Resort also offers children a Cub’s Club with complimentary babysitting and activities for children up to the age of 11. Ulusaba’s staff of 119 includes some of the finest and most qualified rangers and trackers in the reserve, who guarantee the experience of a lifetime on your game drives.

Price Guide: Stay at Ulusaba between now and December 18, 2013, and children stay for free. Their rates include all meals and drinks, even the finest champagne, together with twice daily game drives and game walks in search of the Big Five! Rates start from ZAR 7,000 per person, per night.