Here’s a bucket list experience that you and your kids can agree on: a stay at the colossally fun Giraffe Manor. Sure, it’s a bit of a stretch — reservations need to be made well in advance and there’s a hefty price tag — but nothing beats the sheer delight of an up-close encounter with these wondrous beasts in the most civilized of manor house hotels. And while you’re enjoying high tea with your favorite camelopard, you’ll be contributing to the conservation of these amazing animals. So forget what you think you know about giraffes and come meet one for real.
A brief history of Giraffe Manor
Built in the 1930s by Britain’s Mackintosh Toffee magnate, Sir David Duncan, the original manor house is 11 miles southwest of Nairobi on 150 acres of untamed forest in Kenya’s Langata region. The brick and ivy estate was modeled after a Scottish country lodge and provided a colonial home base from which Sir David and friends would hunt.
By the late 1960s, the manor had changed hands several times and, sadly, fallen into disrepair along the way. Thankfully, however, American conservationist Betty Leslie Melville and her husband, Jock, purchased the property in 1974 with an eye toward restoration.
Elsewhere in Kenya, the sole habitat of the native Rothschild giraffe was coming under significant threat from the Kenyan government. Given that the Leslie Melville estate was already home to three wild bull giraffes (purportedly donned Tom, Dick, and Harry), Betty and Jock agreed to add two more – specifically, two baby Rothschild giraffes they named Daisy and Marlon (after Marlon Brando).
Not surprisingly, Betty and Jock gave in to their conservationist leanings further and established a Rothschild giraffe conservation park on the estate. This included a Giraffe Centre where people could learn about and feed the magnificent endangered animals.
It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, however, when the manor house was transformed into a giraffe hotel where guests could indulge in fanciful, up-close encounters with the gentle giants. And though the hotel was sold to the Safari Collection of lodges and hotels in 2009, it has retained its quirky and lovable character that makes a stay such a unique and whimsical experience.
What you need to know
Giraffe Manor comprises two houses: the original manor house from the 1930s and a second replica house built in 2011 called the Garden Manor. Each one has six luxuriously appointed rooms, though the Garden Manor is reserved for guests who have booked additional nights at other Safari Collection properties during the same trip.
Rooms are named in honor of the manor’s previous residents, such as “Betty,” “Jock,” “Daisy,” and “Marlon,” and include all the period furnishings and rich textiles of your “Out of Africa” dreams — along with all the modern amenities and excellent service expected of a contemporary five-star resort.
Common areas continue the theme of high-end colonial chic with comfortable sitting rooms and light-filled dining rooms, as well as beautifully appointed details throughout. From the wildlife-inspired chess set to the bronze giraffe napkin rings, every detail has been addressed.
The houses are nestled within 12 acres of stunning lawns, English gardens, and breathtaking landscapes that adjoin 140 acres of forest. Just across the lawn is the Giraffe Centre where visitors (including those staying at Giraffe Manor) can learn about the Rothschild giraffes, as well as other wildlife conservation projects in Kenya.
Giraffes are often lurking, tending to move back and forth between the Giraffe Centre and the manor throughout the day — but never miss daily feeding times at the manor in the morning and during high tea. Warthogs, harmless though slightly intimidating, also roam freely around the manor grounds.
A stay at the manor starts at $875 per adult and $605 per child under 12 and is inclusive of three sumptuous meals each day, afternoon tea, and all the gin and tonics you might want while reclining on your terrace lounge chair. It also includes arrival and departure transfers, local transportation to area attractions, and as much time as you want at the Giraffe Centre. An onsite spa offers services for additional fees.
Giraffe Manor is open throughout the year except for mid-April to mid-May when it closes for repairs and maintenance. Thanks to the relatively small number of rooms available, however, Giraffe Manor tends to be booked well in advance – as in, years. While there are pockets of availability for 2020 (as of this writing), do not expect to schedule a stay until deep into 2021 at the earliest. Best to check Giraffe Manor online for details.
What to do
Enjoy breakfast with a giraffe (or two).
Prepare to be amazed as these soulful creatures meet you “in” the breakfast room for a hearty first meal of the day. While the giraffes aren’t strictly in the room, it feels like it as they poke their enormous heads and long necks through the windows for you to stroke and feed. Rest assured, they’re not interested in your eggs Benedict; rather, they’re after the bucket of grass pellets that staff provide for giraffe feeding. Pro tip: Get to breakfast early to get your choice of table (preferably close to a window) for that Insta-wow shot without other guests in the frame.
Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to get a second-floor room, get yourself up just before dawn. Oftentimes a giraffe will be waiting at the balcony to see who’s offering a pre-breakfast snack.
Amble through the sanctuary to the Giraffe Centre.
A brief walk through the manor grounds gets you to the Giraffe Centre where more opportunities for interaction await. From the feeding platforms, you can reach out and touch the giraffes, stroke them, and feed them some more. Also, learn about Rothschild giraffes and what’s being done to protect them.
Take high tea on the terrace with your new favorite quadruped.
Feast on a tasty assortment of sandwiches, cookies, scones, and fresh fruit as you meander among your new spotted friends on the late afternoon lawn. Take photos, get up close, and enjoy a “giraffe kiss,” in which the giraffe takes a grass pellet from between your lips with its tongue. Yeah, it’s a thing.
Get serious about relaxing with a massage or beauty treatment.
The Giraffe Manor onsite spa offers a range of treatments designed to restore and revitalize your body and soul. All treatments feature premium organic products from Healing Earth that support local organic farming. Details and pricing are available from Giraffe Manor upon request.
Explore area attractions.
Add to your giraffe adventure with a little local sightseeing. Try the Karen Blixen Museum (aka the home of celebrated writer Isak Denison); Bomas of Kenya, featuring traditional Kenyan village exhibits; or Nairobi’s National Museum.
Shop like a local.
Explore the area’s rich artisan markets for handcrafted items of all kinds, like leather belts and sandals, carved olive wood bowls, jewelry, and masks, just to name a few. Haggling is routine here and part of the fun, so be sure and check out our piece on how to haggle like a pro if you feel you need a refresher. Fixed-price shopping is also available at nearby shops offering locally designed clothing, jewelry, artwork, furnishings, and more.
For more information, visit Giraffe Manor online.