The northern part of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve is set amidst the rugged evergreen hills of Zululand, forming a dramatic backdrop to the prolific wildlife in this area. Although the terrain makes up-close game viewing difficult, as opposed to the more open grasslands around the iMfolozi rivers, the mountains can add an interesting perspective to the composition of your photos. We spotted this giraffe struggling with a steep slope near Hilltop Camp, pausing on the ridge to scan the surroundings that made him look so small.
“I had time after time watched the progression across the plain of the giraffe, in their queer inimitable, vegetative gracefulness, as if it were not a herd of animals but a family of rare, long-stemmed, speckled gigantic flowers slowly advancing” – Karen Blixen, Out of Africa I simply love giraffes, the way they look, eat and walk in all their gracious glory. These were not the first animals we came across on this golden hour morning drive near Orpen: lions and black-backed jackals had crossed our path just five minutes earlier. Although the predators didn’t offer the same photo opportunity, I’ve never had such an exciting start of the day!
Browsing giraffes are a common sight on any safari as they love the tender leaves and twigs of acacia trees. Since a giraffe eats up to 34 kilograms every day in order to sustain its bulk, acacias have developed clever defence mechanisms to avoid being stripped completely. Apart from their big thorns – that can be negotiated by the giraffe’s flexible upper lip and prehensile tongue – acacias charge their leaves with alkaloids, chemical compounds that bind with tannins, rendering the leaves indigestible. As soon as an acacia starts this chemical defence it warns other trees in the vicinity, forcing the giraffe to browse upwind in order to continue his love affair with these thorny trees.