At a Glance
One of Kenya’s most unforgettable stays, the antique-filled Giraffe Manor allows guests to meet and dine with giraffes, an incredibly special, but ever so slightly contrived, experience.
- The sense of being completely cloistered away from the bustle of the city
- The fact that it works as both a romantic retreat for couples and a family-friendly adventure
- Old World touches like fireplaces and hot water bottles
- The resident Rothschild giraffes, so tame they stick their elegant necks through the mullioned windows to be fed
Having breakfast with a giraffe probably tops the list of best-ever meals for those lucky to have experienced it. Giraffe Manor, on the outskirts of Nairobi, offers its guests the chance to live on the grounds of special giraffe sanctuary, and yes, to dine with the glorious animals. Guests who check in to Giraffe Manor, can open their drapes in the morning and see a parade of beauties. Downstairs in the breakfast room, Lynn or one of the other gregarious giraffes will reach her head right in the window to request her morning pellets. Cosmos, the head houseman, serves coffee and eggs to guests while they, in turn, can feed the giraffes (and their companion warthogs).
The handsome ivy-covered stone lodge, the kind you would expect to find in Scotland, has the trappings of many colonial estates—fine antiques, family portraits, well-worn books. However, in their love for animals the Leslie-Melvilles, the family who lived here for decades, went beyond collecting sculptures and painting of game. After a trip in 1974 to a Kenyan cattle ranch, Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville brought a baby endangered Rothschild giraffe home with them. At the time, there were only 120 of the species alive, and the Leslie-Melvilles were the first people known to raise a giraffe, which they called Daisy. Their initial success inspired them to acquire four more babies, which grew into a breeding herd, and eventually the Leslie-Melvilles were able to relocate offspring to reserves in Kenya and Uganda. There are now approximately 500 Rothschild giraffe living in the wild. A number of the descendants of the original Daisy still wander the 140 acres surrounding the manor. And with the breakfast ritual in place, sightings are guaranteed. There’s a wonderful ambiance in the house, which still feels like a private home, thanks to the family’s memorabilia. (Be sure to look for the book Raising Daisy Rothschild and other titles that Betty wrote documenting her animal adventures.) Guest rooms resemble those that you would find in the house of a grand elderly aunt with floral bedspreads and ceramic tiled bathrooms.
Who Should Stay
Since many international visitors going on safari in Kenya or Tanzania will need to overnight in Nairobi, this is a charming option that is especially popular with families. You will feel that you are a guest in a friend’s grand manor house with Dr. Doolittle worthy breakfast companions. Most guests spend only one night and visit the adjacent Giraffe Centre after breakfast. Guests should know this is more of a European-style guesthouse than a modern hotel, so those who want CNN and a mini-bar in their room are better off at the Norfolk.
Tip: Since there are only six bedrooms in the house, you need to reserve way in advance. If they are full, it’s worth putting your name on the wait list as spots do open up. You may also want to try to specify your room as not all have ensuite bathrooms. The best one for a family is the one above the living room, which has a master with a bathroom connecting to a room with twin beds for kids. It is also possible to reserve a day room if you are departing on a late flight from Nairobi.
Indagare Impact hotels have been carefully vetted according to our Sustainable Hotel Standards.
Like Indagare’s Pillars of Impact, Giraffe Manor maintains their 4 C’s: Community, Culture, Conservation and Commerce. Their Conservation Scholars program promotes education through scholarships, with over 40 participants from disadvantaged communities, 11 having transitioned to college. But the real star is, of course, the giraffe conservation program. When the Manor opened, there were fewer than 100 Rothschild’s giraffes left in Kenya. That number has increased tenfold in the years since, thanks in no small part to the multiple conservation projects run through the Safari Collection. This includes over $3.5 million into community and conservation projects across Kenya in the last 5 years.
Please note that while physical contact with wildlife is against Indagare’s Wildlife Welfare policy, this property has proven itself to be an important contributor to the conservation of the species. Please follow all recommendations when interacting closely with wildlife in the care of this property.
Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley