• Shelly Bandelman

Bitten by a Giraffe

Giraffes' cartoonish looks have lured me in for years! I love their long eyelashes, soulful eyes, funky horns, and soft lips. Herds of over 25 giraffes, running across the delta at Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) in Uganda are almost as awe inspiring as the same herds lined up for miles with their backs to the driving rain of a thunder storm. They are amazing creatures!


When Sarah turned 16, Brian and I took Brie and her to MFNP for her birthday. Rounding a bend we saw several giraffes grazing just a few yards off the road.


Brian stopped the Prado suddenly and said, “Girls! Go chase the giraffes!”


Those two young ladies were out of the car in a flash, chasing the giraffes across the savanna! Sarah had told us many times how much she wanted to chase a giraffe, and this was her opportunity! More of this story will play out in an upcoming book, but suffice it to say we all had a lot of laughs that day.


My recent giraffe experience began innocuously enough. Isaac and I were killing an afternoon at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. We paid our entrance fee (funny thing, they don’t accept cash), washed our hands, and crossed the small park to the feeding area. We each picked a plastic cup of grass pellets from a bucket and moved over to where the giraffes waited patiently. I chose a gentle looking lady and bravely held a few pellets out to her. I made sure they were flat on my hand, just like feeding horses as a young girl, so she could easily scoop them with her lips.

The romance of feeding the giraffe ended at this point. This was not the gentle lips caressing my palm I remembered from feeding horses. NO! Six inches of the 20 inch blue tongue came out to suck my hand into her mouth where volumes of sticky saliva encased my fingers as she removed the pellets. I won’t lie, it was still pretty cool, and I went back for more. My sticky, saliva dripping hand was relieved of the last of my pellets as Isaac and I laughed at the gross fun.


Finishing up, we turned to leave, and our peaceful, albeit sticky, afternoon took a sudden turn! Isaac had been taking videos and photos, so I stopped to get a few of him with his spotted friend. A fellow feeder offered to take a photo of both of us (don’t freak out he couldn’t outrun Isaac), and we agreed. I turned my back on the giraffes, and being a hand talker, I raised my right hand to tell Isaac something. The ranger in charge yelled a warning, and suddenly my fingers were chomped down on by the huge teeth of my former giraffe friend! I jerked back just in time to save my digits, but not before a bit of bruising and the bending of my pinkie ring. It took less than a second to realize this gentle giant believed my fingers were her ticket to more lunch!


I survived to tell the tale, the ring is still misshapen, and I will do it all again someday! If you have a free afternoon in Nairobi, Kenya I recommend a good giraffe feeding. Just make sure it isn’t you they eat!





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