Tanzanian Safari: The Giraffes

My favorite African animal–the giraffe–is also the national symbol of Tanzania and aims to please visitors with its effortless grace. During our nature walk in the Tarangire, our guide pointed out that the giraffe is the first to spot newcomers to the plains…and as a result other animals always stay near to the giraffe in order to have early hints of any impending threats. It’s the lighthouse of the plains. When we approached a couple during our nature walk, they hid their bodies behind acacia trees while getting a good look at us from afar.

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But perhaps my favorite thing about giraffes is that they are gentle giants. Don’t get me wrong…they can fight. And fight well they do. Our guide mentioned that they kick the **** out of one another when necessary. But really, giraffes mind their business and move from tree to tree grabbing the acacia leaves from the thorny trees as they can. And because they’re so proficient at gathering leaves, nature’s developed an innate defense. The acacia tree’s first defense is often it’s prickly thorns–making the giraffe feel the pain for its trouble. But, secondly, when the giraffe (and other elephants) begin to chomp on an acacia’s leaves, the tree immediately sends out bitter tanins to the branches being consumed. This makes the giraffe move from tree to tree–never completely consuming all leaves on the given tree, but instead moving from one to the other causing no significant damage to any one tree.

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And if that pesky giraffe doesn’t get the idea from the first and second defense, acacias can offer up a third! Whistling Acacias are home to ants (they live in the whistling holes). When a giraffe comes over for dinner, the ants fight back by biting their tongue! It’s incredible how nature has evolved.

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Also fascinating about the giraffe is its social tendencies. Just like cattle (yes, I grew up on a beef farm :) ) and other animals they tend to be social rather than solitary animals. In fact, all the females have their babies at the same time of year so that they can have collective ‘babysitting’ trade–hosting all babies in one area overseen by one momma while the others graze.

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But perhaps most striking is the giraffe’s unmatched (in my eyes) beauty. The patterns and colours are absolutely stunning. All were gorgeous, but the variety of colour variations in the Mara was most notable with all a red/orange colour, but some as light as lions coat and others so brown that they were nearly black.

During our time in Tanzania, we saw giraffe in Tarangire National Park, Olduvai Gorge, the Serengeti and the Mara Triangle. None are present within the Ngorongoro Crater as their body impedes them from dealing gracefully with steep inclines. They happily stick to the plains instead.

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