I don’t know if there is anything quite as surreal as watching a giraffe put her head through the open window of your lodge’s breakfast room to take a big sniff of your delicious Kenyan coffee sitting on a table set for two.
I’m never one to share my morning caffeine fix. So I quickly caught on and gave the giraffe some pellets the staff handed us, hoping she would leave my coffee alone. My husband and I then spent the next two-plus hours interacting one-on-one with endangered Rothschild’s giraffes as they joined us for breakfast at Giraffe Manor.
Giraffe Manor is part boutique hotel part animal sanctuary
Located in a Nairobi suburb, Giraffe Manor is a boutique hotel with only 12 rooms. It’s an intimate experience with the staff, other guests and of course, the giraffes. It is associated with the Giraffe Centre, which operates a breeding program to reintroduce these animals back into the wild. The centre works to secure the future of this graceful subspecies of giraffe.
The hotel resembles a scene in a movie like something from Out of Africa. In fact, one of its rooms is named after the author of the book, Karen Blixen.
A former hunting lodge from the 1930s, Giraffe Manor is a stately building that elicits memories of times gone by. Its interior is traditionally posh. There are two large terraces where guests can enjoy a cup of tea, a glass or wine, or dinner under the stars as the giraffes and resident warthogs charm you for pellets.
Why you need to book Giraffe Manor a year in advance
Giraffe Manor is a social media darling. The stars are the 10 giraffes that live on 12 acres of private land within the 140 acres of indigenous forest that surrounds it. Photos of Giraffe Manor earn tens of thousands of likes and comments online.
It seems like this magical place is on the bucket list of every person I know. Judging by how long it takes to get a reservation, many others dream of staying here, too. We booked a year in advance to get the second last room available for the night we stayed.
How much do rooms cost?
A stay at Giraffe Manor isn’t for the budget-conscious.
Rooms start at USD$840 for a single and go up to USD$2,700 per room per night, depending on the size and location. Giraffes can access the higher priced front-facing rooms, often dropping by for a personal visit. But no matter your room, a stay is worth every penny.
What to expect from your stay at Giraffe Manor
The hotel is “full-board,” including arrival and departure transfers. The food is five-star, the drinks are plentiful and the service is spectacular.
Each day at approximately 5 p.m., guests gather on the front terrace for tea. The giraffes are no dummies. They know exactly when to head over. Guests anxiously await their arrival with bowls of pellets at the ready. As you can imagine, neither guests nor giraffes are ever late for teatime!
Guests are encouraged to get a “kiss” from the giraffes by putting a pellet in between their lips and leaning in. The giraffe then reaches over and gently takes the pellet, sometimes providing a slobbery lick across your face. Just don’t hold the pellet too far inside your mouth, or it might be a much more romantic exchange.
While teatime is lively and fun—with some squeals of surprise from the intensity of the giraffe kisses—it is breakfast that is most memorable. Maybe it’s because you are up early (6 a.m.) to experience the birth of the day, with the changing light as the sun climbs over the horizon. It could be the great Kenyan coffee that is served. Or perhaps it’s the incredible experience of watching the giraffes saunter gracefully up to the manor. Seeing how they casually move their long necks through the windows. Or coming face to face with you as you sip your orange juice (which they will drink, given the chance).
Don’t miss the hotel’s eco-conscious flip flop art
A fabulous souvenir you can purchase at Giraffe Manor (also available at other fine establishments throughout Kenya) is ‘Flip Flop Art’ made by Ocean Sole.
These bright and beautiful pieces are made from flip flops that have washed up on the beaches of Kenya. This is a good thing: taking pollution and turning it into one-of-a-kind art pieces, each handmade by an artist. The price tag for these unique pieces is quite reasonable, ranging from about USD$23 for a small to USD$299 for a large.
Along with giraffes, lions, hippos, elephants, rhinos and zebras are also available.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience worth repeating
Having the opportunity to interact with the giraffes and warthogs was an unparalleled experience.
I don’t have to worry about a giraffe trying to drink my coffee these days. But I have to admit that every time I take a sip of a Kenyan blend, it takes me back to that moment. It reinforces my dream of returning to spend more time with my long-necked friends at Giraffe Manor.
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