Even if the blood-curdling cheetah, hyena and lion sighting of the previous evening was enough to make the trip, we had yet to see giraffe. At our request, during the early morning drive of the third day, Sipho and Louis tracked giraffes. They must have thought us silly since giraffes certainly were not part of the Big Five, nor the Magnificent Seven, and we had yet to see Cape Buffalo. As we drove south from the lodge, towards the border of another reserve, Louis pointed at giraffe tracks on the ground. Sipho stops the vehicle, and Louis looks at a far ridge in the horizon. He spotted giraffes in the distance.
We squinted our eyes, used binoculars with 16x magnification, and maxed out the zoom-telephoto capacities of our cameras. True enough, in the distance, looking like construction cranes, were two giraffes. We could not go any closer because the giraffes were no longer on the property of the reserve we were in, so that was as good as it got. (Good grief, how DID they know they were there to begin with?!)
Resigned to the mini-sighting of giraffes, we proceeded to look for buffalo. As we turned a corner, we were greeted by the sight of giraffes by the roadside, calmly grazing and minding their own business.
They turned to look at us, eyeing us curiously, then looked for their young calf, who was in the distance seemingly playing with a zebra.
One advantage of being in a private reserve, and if the guides and trackers deem it safe, is that they allow you to go off-road and get down from the vehicle. And that is what we did. Sipho explained that giraffes are extremely gentle despite their size, but are very protective of their young.
We walked cautiously towards the giraffes to observe them. Seemingly shy creatures (despite their size!) they walked quietly away as we neared them. Careful to keep a safe distance from them, we watched and took more photos of the adults…
…and as if on cue, the calf made its way back towards the male and female, passing almost in front of us.
Thrilled that we had seen giraffes, and at such a close range, we proceeded to look for the elusive buffalo in the succeeding drives. Little did we know that in the same day, we would run into another family of giraffes in another clearing.
Just as we were surprised to see giraffes again, they seemed more surprised to see us. There were two calves in this family, playful and full of energy. The adults gathered their young…
…and made their way across the road.
We stopped as they crossed in front of us…
…and noticed the curious way they walk. Sipho explained that giraffes swing both legs on each side of the body forward at the same time. Both left legs, then both right legs.
Depending on how you looked at it, it made them incredibly graceful, or incredibly goofy to look at. The young calf demonstrated it quite well.
Safely across, and in the distance, the adults make sure the calves are complete before proceeding on their way.
It was a good day for giraffes.
Note: This post written by Mrs. MM, and she selected the photos as well. Clearly, giraffe were her favorite animals of the trip… :)