Nestled in the ever-green heart of the Umgeni Valley, Karkloof Nature Reserve offers unspoilt trails amidst an undulating plateau – which has an average altitude of approximately one-thousand meters – mistbelt forest, grasslands, wetlands and wildlife – the non predatory type.
I first hiked the reserve in February; as dawn descended and the sun exposed itself the sweltering heat appeared to increase at least five degrees per hour. The lush vegetation, a pulsating green as dense as a nineteenth century novel, kept the giraffe from sight. From the top of the jagged cliff face far in to the distance we spotted the head of a giraffe grazing the tops of acacias. Unfortuntately, we didn’t have the time to get up close and personal and vowed to return in the near future.
Five months later, our pledge met, we returned in persuit of the elusive giraffe. The lush green grasslands moved over for the wintery browns and the blackened grasslands caused by controlled fires. The sun took a little longer to warm my bones, and only increased a degree per hour. As a lone yellow-billed kite, unusual to see at this time of the year, hovered on the thermals overhead, we came across a herd of zebra grazing peacefully. Just beyond the zebra we spotted a few wildebeest munching away at the stark landscape. But no giraffe. Walking for hours, along the fence line that marked the private reserve, down to the river, the giraffe proved as elusive as ever. Time came to give up, pack up our rucksacks and call it a day.
Maybe giraffe prefer to be seen in summer at the serene Karkloof Nature Reserve.