Walking with giraffes

Jun 16, 2023

‍ Walking with giraffes in the wild is an incredible experience – and you can do this almost on our doorstep here in the Greater Addo area close to Nelson Mandela Bay.

Just an hour’s drive from the city, Bellevue Forest Reserve offers visitors the chance to walk with these giants of Africa in their natural habitat. The giraffes live free range, finding their own food in the section of the reserve where they live, so this is nothing like a zoo or even an enclosure.

We went earlier this month, on one of those cold but gloriously clear winter days you find on the “Sunshine Coast” of South Africa.

Right from the start we knew it would be epic: we arrived to the sound of a lion roaring, a deep rumbling sound that made my hair stand on end.

Our guide was quick to assure us, though, that Bellevue had three separate “camps” on its 2 500 hectares, and we would not be walking with this apex predator.

Tracking the giraffes

Fortunately, the herd of nine giraffe was miles away, on the other side of the main road, and we had to drive to find them.

As they are free-ranging, finding the giraffe can take some time so we drove up and down and round and round on the roughest of tracks before our guide spotted the head of one peeping out above the thorn trees.

Bingo! It was time to hop off the game vehicle and walk carefully towards the group for a closer look.

They seemed as fascinated by us as we were by them, and it was a delight to see the baby of the group – a youngster of around four months old.

Africa’s big five

Numerous private game reserves in the Eastern Cape offer five-star luxury accommodation along with the chance to see the “big five” of the African veld.

Apart from walking with giraffe, Bellevue also offers the chance to see the Big Five, go on a stargazing safari, explore colonial history and a railway village, or head out to sea to watch whales a in a conservation area stretching from the mountains to ocean.

On our visit we also encountered dozens of buck, mostly impala, springbok, nyala and bontebok.

As there is no malaria in this region, it’s a popular destination for those who want to go on safari in (relative) safety. 

We need to be mindful that wildlife is just that: wild.

In case you don’t know what the Big Five are, they are elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.

And, the Big Five are so named because they originally were the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.

If you ever do forget, they are on the South African banknotes, along with an image of our late, great President Nelson Mandela.

My favourite “big” wild animal, though, is the doe-eyed stilt-walker.

Walking with giraffes was a magical experience!

women in swim cap in sea
close up of giraffe head
giraffe browsing in African bush
woman watching two giraffe browsing in African bush
Giraffe in African bush
Giraffe in African bush
Man and woman in front of giraffe in African bush
mother and baby giraffe in African bush
herd of buck on African plain
buck and thorn tree
buck looking at camera from African bushveld
deep etch giraffe head