Towering above the landscape with a serene grace, giraffe are one of those animals you can never get out of your head. Standing over five metres tall, these astonishing animals celebrate the uniqueness of Africa. There’s something wonderfully iconic about the elongated necks and sublime markings, something that will linger long in your memory
The Silent Giants
Giraffe have an understated elegance. They’re the silent nomads of the savannah, tranquil characters that always seem at ease with themselves. Heads poke above the trees, necks rise like sentinels along the horizon, and their presence adds another layer of charm to the safari experience. They really are silent and we know guides who have spent 30 years without ever hearing a giraffe.
Across the savannah you’ll watch them wandering around, then cantering in an almost baffling slow motion. Everything about the giraffe seems too easy, especially with those huge strides to get them around. Even the new born babies rise up to the top of a safari vehicle. And on a walking safari they’re even taller, dominating the landscape like skyscrapers in the wild.
Where to Find Giraffe in Africa
Giraffe feed from the upper reaches of trees, hence the long neck. There’s an intimacy when you see them on woodland trails, a whole giraffe tower just a few metres away. Then there’s an iconicity when you spot them crossing the open plains; on East Africa’s grasslands you’ll spot giraffe from miles away, their indelible frames lining up along the horizon. The world’s tallest mammal can’t really hide and from a hot air balloon they’re also unmissable. You may even spot giraffe in a light aircraft coming in to land.
The world’s tallest mammal is found across a lot of East and Southern Africa but it’s certainly not a ubiquitous sight. Many famous parks don’t have the food or high trees that a giraffe prefers.
Different Giraffe Subspecies
Nine distinctive subspecies exist, identified by their subtly different markings. Masai giraffe are the most common and you’ll see them in most parks across southern Kenya and Tanzania. Rothschild giraffe are critically endangered, with less than 1,000 remaining in the wild.
Thick woodlands is where you’ll see the biggest numbers. Botswana and Tanzania’s Selous have very impressive populations. Head to Zambia’s South Luangwa for exclusive encounters with the Thornicroft giraffe, or admire the contrasts when a lone giraffe wanders across the desert plains of Botswana and Namibia.
Appreciating Giraffe From Ground Level
There’s something adorable and cuddly about giraffe, almost compelling you to reach out a hand. Babies are particularly enchanting, with their soft fur yet to develop its adult vibrancy. Guides will be careful to restrict how close you get on a walking safari, because giraffe are known to attack when they sense danger; guides have told us of dramatic scenes where giraffe kicked lion cubs to death in retaliation.
We love seeing giraffe on a horseback or mountain bike safari. To be on ground level is the only way to fully appreciate their size. We’ve had some mystical moments with the giraffe staring down at us and you also won’t forget the experience. They stop and stare, chewing insatiably as your eyes meet theirs. And then they’re off again, a few languid strides before they return to their food.
Seeing Giraffe on Your Safari
Such serene animals create a serene state of mind, so our favourite way to spot giraffe is from the camp. By staying at exclusive camps and lodges within the national parks, you’ll be able to sit outside the spacious tents and watch these beautiful mammals crossing the plains. Some might even come to drink at the waterhole below the camp.
We like to make every safari a 24-hour experience, so impressive sights like giraffe are part of what you encounter when not on the game drives. Not all parks are home to giraffe. But in those that are, we know how to get you as close as possible.