All the Giraffes! All. The. Giraffes.

I absolutely adore giraffes.

There’s something I can’t resist about the awkward graceful way they glide around savanna, munching as they go. And there’s that weird shape of their legs and head, not to mention the horns that aren’t really horns.

But then there’s that long delicate neck that sneaks around corners and into places others can’t go.

And of course, they have those dovey eyes with impossibly long lashes. And there are those spots that identify each of them as clearly as a fingerprint.

I love many of the animals I’ve seen here, but the one with which I’m completely enraptured? That’s the giraffe.

We started the morning with another drive around the lake, greeting the zebras at sunrise.

This one found an old fence post to scratch on.

We continued winding through often muddy roads, the 4×4 slinging gobs of mud everywhere, and eventually came upon a group of 14 or so Rothschild giraffes. I kept counting and finding more. Sometimes a head would pop up out of nowhere.

This young giraffe was particularly adorable, his legs splayed in a most unstable manner.

The circumnavigation of the lake brought us past several rhinos grazing near the shore.

And lots of these Egyptian geese (which look like ducks to me).

With that, we exited the Lake Nakuru area and headed south to Maasai Mara. As we pulled up to the gate Sammy had to complete some paperwork, leaving me to find a convincing way to say “no” to several local women trying to sell me bracelets, necklaces, keychains, or fabrics. I tried numerous ways, but it doesn’t seem to translate. Sammy later told me not to worry about being polite, and instead I should just ignore them.

The first thing to greet us in the park was another group of giraffes, these bearing darker spots and a different pattern than their northern cousins.

Sammy sped around the irregular unpaved roads of the park. He’s a much freer driver off-road. On public roads he hews closely to the rules and speed limits, even when those around him aren’t. In the parks, he drives with joy, happily engaging the low gears and aggressively driving into gigantic pools of mud that threaten to engulf us.

As he drives he’s always watching the horizon and listening to the radio. It’s rare that I see anything before he does.

When we came upon a group of 5 trucks encircling a lone tree, I had a feeling we had finally found what we had been unable to locate 2 days ago.

“Look, in the branches,” he said. “She is there, and her kill is on the left.” I could see some spotted fur, but that was all.

In moments like this Sammy is an artist. He’s always thinking about how I might see what I want to, and negotiating for position with the other drivers. He pulls forward, backward, and around others with an aggression rarely seen outside of Italy.

Soon, the leopardess obliged and descended to the crook of the tree, just to gaze upon her surrounding.

We watched for quite a while but little happened. Bored, she let out a huge yawn ….

A big, toothy, yawn … and then continued about her business of sitting there and gazing.

Eventually she climbed back into the branches of the tree and lay down.

We continued on our way, with Sammy taking the faintest of trails to find new sights. And it was worth it, with this herd of buffalo speckling the plain below us.

We met our first hartebeest of the trip on this foray.

And also these topi.

The rain was threatening for the entire afternoon, but fortunately never hit with any force, so I felt fortunate to make it safe and dry to the lodge for the night.

But we didn’t get there without one more giraffe sighting.

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