Giraffes are common throughout virtually all safari areas. This iconic species is a real favorite that most safari goers are very keen to see and will frequently encounter. In fact, giraffes often seem to be the first major animal sighted on a safari. While the International Union for Conservation of Nature still lists giraffe as one species, there are actually four species, each found in distinct regions of the continent and include Masai giraffe, northern giraffe, reticulated giraffe, and southern giraffe. Subspecies include Kordofan, Nubian, West African, Angolan, and South African. The Rothschild’s giraffe was formerly considered a unique subspecies, but is genetically identical to the Nubian giraffe based on genetic research by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
Giraffes enjoy grazing on acacia, mimosa, and wild apricot trees, and are found in landscapes where their preferred food sources are abundant. There are a few parks where giraffes have been extirpated (locally extinct) and have yet to be reintroduced, so if seeing giraffes is important to you, it’s best to mention that to your travel planner during the planning process.
Best Places to See Giraffes on Safari
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem has large numbers of Masai giraffe, and it is common to encounter gatherings of more than 30. Kenya’s Laikipia region north of the Masai Mara is a great place to see the reticulated giraffe. Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley has an isolated population of Masai giraffe, which were formerly known as Thornicroft’s giraffe, but research is inconclusive as to whether they are a distinct subspecies. Botswana’s Okavango Delta is another great location for giraffe.
Other Areas of Note
The Kordofan giraffe subspecies is found in the historically-unstable range from southern Chad, Central African Republic of Congo, northern Cameroon, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, to western South Sudan. It is estimated that only 2,000 of the subspecies remain, a decline of more than 80% over the last 30 years. It is estimated that 60% of these giraffe find refuge in Zakouma National Park in Chad where the first conservation research project is underway through the collective work of African Parks and the Giraffe Conservation Fund.
The Nubian giraffe subspecies is found in western Ethiopia, eastern South Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda with the largest populations in Kenya and Uganda, including the formerly recognized Rothschild’s giraffe. With a decline rate of 95% over the last 30 years, the subspecies is listed as critically endangered. They are best encountered in the wild from Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.
The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya is a convenient location to visit Nubian (aka Rothschild’s) giraffe. The center was established to educate Kenyan youth about their unique wildlife, and all visitors have the chance for a close encounter with the giraffes. These are the same individuals who visit the Giraffe Manor, which is also on the grounds, but exclusive to overnight guests.