Giraffes reside in a fission–fusion social system, with sex, age proximity, kinship and home range overlap accounting for some of the variance in herd composition, while season, sex, age and time of day influence diet, home range size and distance travelled. To increase our knowledge of habitat use and fission–fusion herd dynamics, we placed GPS devices on eight adult female South African giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa) living in the Khamab Kalahari Nature Reserve (South Africa). We tested four predictions about how season, kinship, home range and travel patterns influence habitat use and herd dynamics. Our two key findings were that females with a greater degree of home range overlap were more likely to form herds, but the degree of overlap was independent of the amount of time that they spent together in a herd, and that on the day prior to herd formation, females travelled about twice as far as their daily average and tended to move directly towards their future herd mate. We conclude that habitat use and movement patterns regulating fission–fusion dynamics reflect an interaction of ecological, social and reproductive factors operating in tandem, not independently.