Iconic Nairobi Hotel
t’s one thing to observe animals on safari, another to have them join you at the dining table. Believe it or not, it happens every morning and at tea time at Giraffe Manor. Nestled on 140 acres of indigenous forest just south of Nairobi, this exclusive boutique hotel and spa shares its home with a very special, very friendly family of Rothschild giraffes.
Our visit to the Manor was one of the most unforgettable experiences we had in Kenya. We went in the morning, sitting down in the beautiful sun-lit dining room for a delicious European breakfast. Soon enough, the giraffes arrived outside the manor walls, poking their heads through the windows to say hello and snag a treat.
We found that giraffes are totally lovable. These unique mammals are peaceful and sociable creatures and thankfully, the Manor and its associated Giraffe Center are working hard to preserve the species. In fact, the property has been a breeding center far longer than it’s been a hotel.
When Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock purchased the 1930s manor in 1974, they learned that the local Rothschild giraffe population was under threat. The animal’s sole habitat (an eighteen-thousand acre parcel) had been purchased by the government to be subdivided and sold—meaning this exquisite endangered species would be tragically slaughtered.
The Leslie-Melvilles wanted to help. Since they already had three wild buck giraffes on the property, they arranged to take in a young female and start the breeding program. They founded the non-profit Giraffe Center to great success, releasing breeding pairs back into the wild at several Kenyan national parks and raising the population from 100 to 800.
In the 80s, Betsy Leslie-Melville’s son transformed the Manor into a small hotel of 10 rooms, each with its own distinct personality that pays homage to the property’s history. Most famous is the Karen Blixen suite, named for the famous protagonist played by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa and furnished with many of her actual belongings.
Over the years, Giraffe Manor has welcomed guests like Mick Jagger, Richard Branson and Brooke Shields. Today the hotel is run by the Safari Collection, a company that’s fully dedicated to sustainability and community development. Proceeds from every stay go the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, which runs the Giraffe Center along with other conservation efforts across Kenya.
Beyond breakfast with the giraffes, activities at the manor include guided walks through the sanctuary and the opportunity to meet, feed and adopt a baby elephant. The hotel’s “Menu of Giving” also offers the chance to volunteer with the One Horizon Women’s Center in Nairobi, inviting guests to take a more conscious approach to tourism.
Glenn and I were absolutely enchanted by the Manor and highly recommend a stop here on your next African adventure. Not to be missed, it’s a one-of-a-kind chance to connect with these gentle giants who share our home and give back to the local community that supports them.