Shenton Safaris

The fast and the furious of the wild

Puff adder

© Vaughan Jessnitz

Written by Gerhard van Niekerk from Bushwise

Different creatures employ different ways to be successful survivors. Some use strength, others camouflage, and some mimicking, but there are certain animals that have evolved certain ways to generate incredible speed.

Here are some amazing creatures that display mind-blowing speed and other tactics that make them successful in the African wild:

• Puff adder (Bitis arietans)

This seemingly sluggish snake can strike at a rate of 0.25 of a second, making it one of the fastest striking snakes in the world. A combination of cryptic camouflage, tactics, venom and speed ensures many successful hunts.

• Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

As the fastest land animal, the cheetah’s ultimate strategy is its exceptional lightning fast speed. At around 112 and 120 km/h and an acceleration of almost 1 G-force, there is not much that can escape this predator. Combine that speed with those striking spots and you have a recipe for success.


© Jacques Briam

• Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis)

This beautiful reptile uses speed in combination with other tactics to acquire its prey successfully. A chameleon will use camouflage and stealth to get close to its prey, moving extremely slowly until it is within shooting range, where it will shoot out its tongue at incredible speed. The tongue can accelerate from zero to 95 km/h in a hundredth of a second. This means that a chameleon needs only 20 milliseconds to snag its prey!

Flap-necked chameleon

© Ben Coley

The main reason for animals to display such record breaking speeds is to be able to survive. To put some of these in a human perspective consider the following: The average reaction time for humans is 0.25 seconds to a visual stimulus, 0.17 for an audio stimulus, and 0.15 seconds for a touch stimulus.

Students at Bushwise are lucky enough to see these amazing creatures in action during the Field Guiding course, with some even witnessing the speed of a cheetah during a kill recently.


Bushwise offers comprehensive 50 and 23-week FGASA Professional Field Guide courses and Hospitality Internship Placements at safari lodges in Southern Africa – a life altering experience and ideal platform for a successful career in the challenging and competitive ‘Big 5’ industry.

Africa Geographic