The Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel reminiscent of the early European days in Kenya. In many ways, this small hotel still proudly and graciously keeps up the heritage of a bygone era. This 12-acre private land situated within a 140-acre indigenous forest in the leafy suburbs of Langata in Nairobi city offers an exceptional experience within easy reach of the city’s attractions. It is stylish and elegant and is one of the city’s most historic and iconic buildings. Situated 10km outside the city center, it is a magnificent place to stay.
Sir David Duncan built Giraffe Manor in 1932 based on a Scottish sporting lodge. The Manor still maintains the stylish interiors, keeping the heritage of the colonial era. The house is both urbane and upcountry in feel. It is a typical house that the aristocratic sections of the city’s 1930s expat community lived. The Giraffe Manor’s physical surroundings are quite formal but not without a focus on comfort. Moreover, the practical informality of management style places the needs of the guests at the top of the agenda.
Betty and Josh Leslie-Melville
Betty and Josh Leslie-Melville who founded the Giraffe Manor bought it in 1974 and rescued it from dereliction. Both being very much concerned about the sustainability of Rothschild giraffes, converted it into a home where dozens of Rothschild giraffes are reared and reintroduced into the wild. Initially, when they started it in 1974, only five giraffes were brought there and they lived in a private sanctuary within the grounds of this colonial manor. When the young calves at the center reach the age of two, they introduced them back into the wild.
Giraffe Manor has been operating as a country house hotel since 1984. The hotel’s extraordinary appeal is due to its stately façade, verdant green gardens, elegant interior, sunny terraces and charming courtyards. Also, it feels like walking right into the famous film Out of Africa. The name of one of the rooms is Karen Blixen, the Danish author on whose biography the movie is based. Items once owned by Karen are used to furnish the two huge family rooms. The hotel comprises of Garden Manor which is an annex built in 2011. It stays architecturally close and similar in details to the main house. Not surprisingly, the bathrooms here are more contemporary in style with walk-in rainfall showers and stained-glass windows and skylights.
The Giraffe Manor and the Garden Manor together have ten luxury en-suite bedrooms individually designed with early twentieth century pieces of art and furniture. Two of them are family suites with comfortable four-poster beds. It’s frayed softer furnishings add to the hotel’s charm. The manorial hallway and grand wooden staircase greet visitors on arrival. A mix of sofas, armchairs, occasional tables and artworks furnish the spacious lounge.
One can have hearty breakfasts, light lunches, and superb gourmet dinners in the inviting dining room at this hotel. There is also a courtyard between the Garden Manor and the main house which is the usual location for guests wanting to have private dinners. Refreshing cocktails kickstart the evenings.
Giraffe Manor plays host to a herd of resident Rothschild giraffes in its patch of land comprising the Giraffe Center and offers a unique opportunity to meet them. All the giraffes belong to an endangered giraffe subspecies, with just a few hundred left since for many years they were a favored target for hunters and poachers. Hence their depleting numbers brought them on the brink of extinction.
Giraffes wander around here as they please. Although still wild animals, the giraffes at the Manor have become accustomed to seeing residents and guests. Hence, they are semi-habituated. Animal lovers will enjoy interacting with the friendly giraffes. Close encounters with them create an unforgettable memory for guests. The giraffes casually visit the Manor in the mornings and late afternoons to greet the guests. In the hope of a treat, they stick their long necks into the windows. After wandering around the spectacular grounds of the Manor, they retreat to their 140-acre forest sanctuary to spend the rest of their day.
Feeding the wild
Giraffes are found in the most unsuspecting places – at the breakfast table checking out what’s on the plates or vying for attention at the room windows. Visitors to the beautiful Manor always find it amusing to hand-feed these long-necked beauties who come to the veranda. Guests often remark that this is the most attractive thing about the Giraffe Manor.
As part of a conservation project, the Giraffe Manor, the Giraffe Center, the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife and various parks based in the UK, operate a successful Rothschild giraffe breeding program to introduce these subspecies back into Kenya’s wild areas. With these conservation projects, the animals have bounced back. Those who have contributed to the African Fund charity for Endangered Wildlife have the chance to name the giraffes after them. The charity is a world leader in managing wild giraffes.
Guests at the elegant Giraffe Manor can enjoy a variety of other activities such as relaxing walks inside the vast acres of forest to see the bird species and rare animals, visits to the Karen Blixen Museum and excursions to the nearby Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Those in need of pampering can indulge themselves with a decadent massage. The energetically-inclined can enjoy workouts at the gym.
The Giraffe Manor, a peaceful retreat and an icon of Nairobi, continues to attract plaudits and attention from around the world. A stay at the Manor is an ideal way to start or end a wildlife safari in Kenya.