A loud screech of our car wheels and the scrunching of gravel beneath it announced our arrival. The sun settled on the manor draped with ivy. With a name like ‘Giraffe Manor’ you expect a more African décor, but it looked straight out of a Scottish folk tale, and only the red dust betrayed its Scottish charm and lent it an African touch. It has nothing of an African appeal, except for the name which it lives upto. Giraffes are not hard to find, looking at you with a friendly gaze. Giraffe Manor lives in the Langata area, a bit outskirts of Nairobi, amid an area of 12 acres, bringing the African safari experience live in surreal charm of English architecture. It is a perfect stop-over after a long flight, to lull the heart and prepare the mind for coming wildlife adventures in the country.
I was greeted by the punctual warthogs, who had arrived at dot five’ O clock for their share of free snacks, scurrying past me with their tails held straight, like lightning conductors.
This aged building of 1932 was turned from a private mansion to a sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe in 1974. A decade later, all six rooms of the manor were opened to the visitors. The design is inspired to suit the nobles – expect the nobility in every element in the Manor. Imposing staircases, spacious lobby with a fireplace imparting an Elizabethan era touch and novelty and well stocked bookshelves with antique relics, all wrapped within wood and stone splendor which exudes from every corner of the manor and the airy rooms, opening to the woods, with dark teak floor and cabinets, spa en-suite bathrooms with enamel basins set on wooden wash stands and giraffe motifs in every possible element from towel-hangers, notepad and penholders on desk to floor mats and curtains. The earthy appeal of the interior décor complemented with old world charm of the manor brings a warm sense of grandeur.
And if the décor of the room fails to bring you up close to the two storey tall giraffes, you might well have them sharing meals with you. Be it breakfast in the drawing room or evening coffee in the lawns, you should always be ready to meet the residents of the manor; the giraffes frequently pop their head through the windows, which have been specially designed to allow this popping and intimate interference. During breakfast or over coffee, you can feed them molasses pellets but remember the simple rule that is followed here – ‘No food, no friendship’. After all, you are the guest and they the host. Some of the adult giraffes are even able to reach the windows of the top floored accommodation, so expect a little ‘knock knock’ on your window in the morning. A natural ‘wake-up call’ I’d say. The first time you find yourself eyeball to eyeball, smile to smile with a giraffe, the experience is surreal and unforgettable. Find chance to feed it the molasses sticks (as big as chalk pieces) with your hand or you can keep it between your lips and get a chance to kiss the giraffe. And don’t worry about getting wet, giraffe’s saliva is a proven antibiotic. Stay here for few days and such warm encounters with giraffe will become more common. And don’t forget the warthogs and dik-diks who keep visiting the place over meals.
By this time if you haven’t fallen in love with the Manor, wait for the dinner. The Scottish charm of the place gets complemented with Greek hospitality. Candle light, soulful dinner and the royal hospitality, the different pieces fit each other in elegance to give you a moment to cherish.
It may not look like, but the Rothschild Giraffe is critically endangered in the wild. And Giraffe Manor was born out of this desire to try to save the species. Rothschild Giraffe looks different from the other species (the Masaai Giraffe and the Reticulated Giraffe) and are well distinguished with their white stockings and their more mocha brown colour coat.
A two-minute escorted walk through the hotel takes you to the Giraffe Center. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a 10-minute drive from the Manor and worth a visit, to watch orphan elephant calves stick their curious, little trunks high in the air and clamour for milk.
Rooms and Service
All rooms in the Manor are named after the resident giraffes. The high comfortable beds have thin curtains around them and a soft armchair by the fireplace. And only two words for service – intuitive and warm. You will never realize when the Manor will start growing in you.
The coziest moment of your stay. Forget the eggs and bacon on your breakfast and lull yourself with fresh African fruits and Kenyan coffee and make yourself busy getting attention of the giraffes as they stick out their long necks through the window to be fed. Meals are equally tantalizing – a variety in salad and assorted vegetable options embellished with some finely dressed continental and oriental options in non-veg is a stealer. With its richly laid dining table, the Giraffe Manor shows its steel in hospitality.
Giraffe Manor is a synonym of an exotic stay option – a subtle mix of genteel living and a perpetual, exotic giraffe hangover. Just hold a molasses pellet in your mouth and wait for the giraffe (Jecko is the friendliest of them) to stick out its long tongue to take it from you. Opt for this moment, which stays forever and a snap well fit to be your profile picture on social media.
(A stay in Giraffe Manor costs around $500 a night)