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Giraffe Manor, a small boutique hotel in Kenya, may very well be the most Instagrammed property in the world. Its popularity skyrocketed in recent years and in addition to being one of the most photographed properties, it has also become one of the most sought-after. Reservations have become difficult to secure and must be made a year in advance. The Manor became famous for its resident herd of Rothschild giraffes and specifically for its breakfast (more on that later). I was lucky enough to visit The Manor a couple of years ago and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will not soon forget. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of questions regarding the incredible giraffe hotel, including, “How much does it cost?”, “Is it worth it?”, and “How can I book a stay?”. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting Giraffe Manor in Kenya:
What Is Giraffe Manor?
Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s located in Langata, a residential suburb, and is close to Nairobi International Airport and the capital’s bustling city-center. Giraffe Manor is a beautiful brick and ivy-covered house that was modeled after a Scottish hunting lodge. It was built in the early 1930s and later converted to a hotel in the 1980s. The property remains authentic to the time it was built and takes you back to a period when Europeans first flocked to East Africa for safari.
Giraffe Manor is one of Nairobi’s most iconic buildings. It features twelve bedrooms (six in the original house and six in the garden manor), meticulously landscaped gardens, sunny terraces, and incredible decor. You’ll find elegant canopy beds, oversized fireplaces, and stunning artwork within its interior. The hotel is currently owned by The Safari Collection, which owns a handful of other hotels and lodges in the area. The Manor sits on 12 acres of private land and is surrounded by 140 acres of indigenous forest. Oh, and did I mention it’s home to a herd of giraffes?
History of Giraffe Manor
Giraffe Manor was built in 1932 by Sir David Duncan of the Mackintosh family, famous for Mackintosh Toffee. He sold the property in the 1960s and the new owner repeatedly leased the property until it fell into a point of disrepair. In 1974, The Manor was purchased by conservationist, Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock Melville. Shortly after purchasing the property, the Leslie-Melvilles learned that the only remaining Rothschild giraffes in Kenya were in danger due to loss of habitat. The giraffes sole habitat in Kenya was an 18,000 acre (73 km2) privately owned ranch. The Kenyan government had recently purchased the land and had plans to sub-divide it and slaughter its giraffes.
The Manor was already home to three wild bull giraffes, so Betty and Jock agreed to re-home one of the giraffes. The giraffe was an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) baby that the couple named Daisy. Daisy was soon joined by another baby giraffe, named Marlon and the Leslie-Melvilles began working on a breeding program to reintroduce the Rothschild giraffe into the wild and help expand the population. In 1972, they donated land to The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, a charitable organization that they formed with their daughter, Betty, and built the Giraffe Center on it. The Giraffe Center is now a place where Kenyan school children could learn about conservation and ecology.
In 1983, Betty’s son moved into The Manor and took over as manager for the small hotel. Guests were allowed to feed the giraffes from their bedroom windows and were even joined by the giraffes for breakfast. This was the beginning of the Giraffe Manor that we know today. The hotel is currently owned by Mikey and Tanya Carr and is part of The Safari Collection, a group of incredible lodges and hotels in the area.
Is Giraffe Manor Ethical?
In short, yes, Giraffe Manor is ethical. I tend to avoid interaction with captive animals unless I have done extensive research and have found it to be a true sanctuary-type situation. The main purpose of the giraffes is not to entertain guests. The Manor’s Giraffe Center is just a short walk from the main house. It’s a sanctuary and breeding center for the Rothschild Giraffe, the most endangered species of giraffe. Thus far, they have bred and released over 40 giraffes into parks across Kenya.
Conservation and education are of the utmost importance at the Giraffe Center. It hosts thousands of Kenyan school children each year in hopes of using education to change mindsets and in turn, positively impact the future of these animals. The school children are allowed to get up close to the giraffes and really make a connection with them. There is absolutely no forced interaction between guests and the giraffes at either the Giraffe Center or Giraffe Manor.
The giraffes roam freely between the house and the Giraffe Center. They do as they please and interaction with them is never guaranteed. Although, they do tend to go wherever the food is. The giraffes have a large amount of property to wander; however, they are not wild. They will most certainly snack on trees but are still dependent on the center for food. Hotel guests are allowed to feed “treats” if a giraffe approaches.
How Do I Book a Room?
Securing a reservation at Giraffe Manor has become somewhat of a challenge since I originally wrote this post in 2018. The following information has been updated to the best of my knowledge. There are a couple of ways to book a room at Giraffe Manor. If you are considering a stay, I would start by visiting their website and checking availability here. The best way to secure a reservation is by booking far in advance and being flexible with your dates. The hotel books up about 12-18 months in advance. If you have a specific date in mind, I would recommend making a reservation about two years in advance.
Cancellations do happen, so if you don’t see the date you desire then keep checking back. If your preferred date is available, you will want to call the hotel at your earliest convenience. Online bookings are not currently available. Bookings may be made via email but I would advise against it. The reservation agents are great and correspondence is prompt but the drastic time difference causes a delay in communications. Your selected dates could quickly disappear while awaiting a reply.
Giraffe Manor has two separate sets of accommodations. There is the original Main Manor House and the more recently built, Garden Manor. There are six rooms in each (two suites and four superior rooms). The Garden Manor was constructed in 1999 and is a replica of the original house; although, its interior is a tad more modern. The giraffes visit both buildings and guests staying in the Garden Manor will visit the Main Manor House for breakfast with the giraffes. The Garden Manor is exclusively for guests that will be staying in a combination of the Safari Collection’s properties and availability is easier to come by. This might be a great option for you if you are interested in going on safari in Kenya. The Safari Collection has some beautiful lodges.
How to Get There
The closest airport to Giraffe Manor is Nairobi International Airport. It’s only a 30-minute drive to Giraffe Manor but I recommend arriving the night before. You’ll want to be well-rested so you can enjoy the short time you have at the hotel. Almost everything you need is included in your stay, including airport transportation. Check-in at Giraffe Manor begins at 12 a.m. and our pickup from a downtown Nairobi hotel was arranged for 11 a.m. Our driver was friendly and full of great info that he shared along the way.
Is Giraffe Manor Worth the Cost?
Giraffe Manor isn’t going to be in everyone’s budget. It was definitely a splurge for me and the most expensive hotel I have ever stayed at. However, it is absolutely worth the cost. There are two suites at Giraffe Manor, one in the Main Manor House and one in the Garden Manor. For current pricing, click here. The following rates are valid through December 2020:
The Karen Blixen Suite (Main Manor): $3000 USD (based on 2 adults and 2 children)
Finch Hatton Suite (Garden Manor): $2,700 USD (based on 2 adults and 2 children)
Superior Room: $875 per person (based on 2 people) or $1,375 for a single room
I chose to stay in the Betty, a superior room on the second floor of the Main Manor House. It was lovely. It had a four-poster bed, art deco-style bathroom, a large terrace, and came stocked with giraffe treats. One of the perks of this room is being able to feed the giraffes from the terrace and its windows. The rates at Giraffe Manor are inclusive of most things. Rates include arrival/departure transfers from either the airport or around the Karen and Langata areas and any other transport in the immediate area between check-in and check-out.
In addition to transportation, the following are included: all meals, house wines, soft drinks, house beers, house spirits, laundry, WIFI, entrance to the Giraffe Center, croquet, and VAT. The only things not included are Champagne, luxury spirits, select wines, tips, guides, and spa treatments. Rates were considerably less at the time of my visit, but I found Giraffe Manor to be 100% worth it. The staff is incredible and really goes above and beyond. My visit was perfect and exceeded my expectations.
What to Expect at Giraffe Manor
Due to Giraffe Manor always being fully occupied, the hotel adheres to strict check-in and check-out times. Check-in takes place at noon on the hotel’s patio. After check-in, you’ll have some free time to explore the hotel. Giraffe Manor is considered a luxury hotel; the property is stunning and the interior is nothing short of elegant. However, don’t expect to find the same amenities you would in a modern hotel. It stays true to the time it was built. The Karen Blixen suite was named for the “Out of Africa” author, Karen Blixen and even has a dressing table and wardrobe from her original guest bedroom.
Lunch and dinner are served outside on the patio among The Manor’s beautifully landscaped gardens. Lunch is served around 1 p.m and dinner around 8 p.m. Both meals are multiple courses and absolutely delicious. The hotel is very accommodating of any dietary restrictions, just let them know prior to your arrival. Everything at Giraffe Manor is tastefully done and there are so many wonderful details which have clearly been thought about. Everything about the meal presentation was beautiful, right done to the napkin holders. Beverages are included in the meal and a self-serve bar is available inside the Main Manor throughout the day.
Things to Do at Giraffe Manor
Visit the Giraffe Center
The hotel’s resident giraffes are not confined to the immediate property. They have access to acres of forest and are free to roam as they please but tend to go whenever the food is. Generally, the giraffes visit the Manor from 6-9 a.m. and then make their way over to the Giraffe Center. As mentioned before, the Giraffe Center is a breeding center for the endangered Rothschild giraffe as well as an education and conservation center. The Giraffe Center is free to guests of The Manor. Simply let a staff member know you would like to visit and they’ll escort you and arrange for a guide. Our guide educated us on their breeding program, the different species of giraffes, and their conservation efforts. You’ll also get the opportunity to feed and interact with the giraffes.
The giraffes tend to stay at the Giraffe Center until its closing at 5 p.m. At that time, they make their way back over to The Manor and join hotel guests for high tea. High tea includes bite-sized sandwiches, pastries, fruit, and refreshments on the front terrace. There are also plenty of treats for the giraffes. This is the perfect time to check out the large garden swing and get some incredible photos with the giraffes. The staff is really great about taking pictures for everyone and got some amazing shots of us.
Breakfast With the Giraffes
Breakfast with the giraffes will be the highlight of your stay. Breakfast is served from 6 – 9 a.m. and the giraffes start making their way to the hotel at the first sign of light. It was still quite dark when multiple giraffes arrived at my room window. Breakfast with the giraffes is one for the bucket list and you’ll never experience anything else like it. The giraffes pop there heads through the windows as you’re enjoying your meal (or trying to). The giraffes have no problem helping themselves to your food and things can become messy quickly. The staff encourages everyone to finish their meal before taking photos. Once again, the staff took so many wonderful photos for us.
Other things to do at The Manor include a private dinner at Orchid House (no additional cost, but subject to availability), spa treatments, chess, and croquet. There are things to do outside The Manor grounds as well but since your time at Giraffe Manor is likely limited, I would wait until after check-out to explore. Make sure to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, some of the local craft markets, and Nairobi National Park.
Other Things to Know
Things to Bring
- Nice outfit for dinner
- Comfortable day clothes
- Walking shoes if you wish to go for a tour
- Cash for tips
A collection box for tips, to be split among staff, is located near the front of The Manor. You’ll want to bring some cash (USD is accepted) and leave something on your way out. The staff really goes above and beyond to give each guest a special and memorable experience. You will want to tip your drivers separately and as you go. You may not have the same driver for the entirety of your stay.
Can Non-Guests Visit Giraffe Manor?
No, unfortunately, non-guests are no longer allowed to visit Giraffe Manor. Years ago, The Manor offered afternoon tea to non-guests but after the hotel exploded with popularity, they have not been able to accommodate the extra visitors. The reason is a good one. It is primarily for the safety of the giraffes and guests. The hotel simply can not have too many people on the property. If you can’t secure a reservation at The Manor, you can still visit the giraffes at the Giraffe Center. A ticket is 1,500 KES (approx. $15 USD).
Other Nearby Hotels
You may wish to stay in a nearby hotel before/after your stay at Giraffe Manor in Kenya or maybe you don’t have a reservation at The Manor but would like to visit the Giraffe Center. These are some great options for accommodation in and around Nairobi:
Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport Hotel
Crowne Plaza Nairobi is a great option for the beginning or end of your trip to Nairobi. It’s a safe and secure hotel located in the city-center and is just blocks from the airport. It couldn’t be any more convenient. It has an outdoor pool, fitness center, and a couple of restaurants on-site.
Longview Suites Hotel
Longview Suites Hotel is perfect if you are visiting the Giraffe Center or the famous David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It just minutes from DSWT and under 15 minutes to the Giraffe Center. Longview Suites is your average budget hotel but is clean and has the basic amenities.
Acacia Tree Lodge
Acacia Tree Lodge is another affordable option. It’s located in Nairobi’s tree-lined neighborhood of Karen and is about 20 minutes from the Giraffe Center. The lodge is beautiful and the rooms are tastefully decorated. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from your stay will go to the New Hope Initiative.
Have you visited Giraffe Manor in Kenya? How was your experience? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Looking for other things to do near Giraffe Manor? I highly recommend visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It is an incredible organization and you’ll get to see baby elephants. Read more about how to visit DSWT, here.