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Archive for February 16th, 2020

Giant Giraffe

The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world reaching heights of fourteen to seventeen feet.

Have you ever stood next to a professional basketball player? Well neither have I, but I have stood next to some men who were 6’3” to 6’5″ and possibly taller. You can get a crick in your neck talking to one of these tall folks—though many are totally worth it—but can you imagine standing next to one of these giants and looking up?

It was simply amazing to see their height as they walked down the middle of the road past our safari vehicle. And driving through Kruger National Park, it is not uncommon to see the giraffe with his head above the trees snacking on leaves from the top of the branches. A whole lot of food goes down that long neck as they eat up to 64 pounds of tree twigs, grass and fruit a day.

This gentle giant may be a vegetarian, but the lion is not, and one of the big cat’s favorite foods is the giraffe. For this vulnerable beast, his best defense against predators is to sleep for only short periods of time—from ten minutes to two hours a day. (That kind of reminds me of my colicky babies first months of life.) Another way this otherwise docile animal can defend itself is by kicking–and he can really pack a wallop.

As we slowly made our way through the park, we were lucky enough to catch a group of giraffes visiting a watering hole, and it’s funny to watch them drink. Because of their height, they must part their front legs to lower themselves to the water. This little guy didn’t have quite as far to go as his elders.

And look at the hitchhikers on this guy. On first glance I thought there was something wrong with him, but upon closer examination (with the help of my camera’s zoom), I realized those were indeed little birds. I later learned these little winged passengers are called oxpeckers (or tick-birds), and they’re feeding on ticks or other parasites.

This unique and strangely beautiful animal is quite social, and if there is anything better than seeing one giraffe, it’s seeing three or four or even five standing tall above the trees like sentries looking out over their domain.

In each of our trips to South Africa, I have discovered its beauty was beyond my wildest imaginings. Many thanks to Andries and Steffi Van Wijk who have been our guides. Van Wijk Safaris never disappoints!

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