- One of the most popular places to visit in Kenya is Giraffe Manor, a 12-room boutique hotel where guests can feed giraffes over breakfast.
- But the Manor is exclusive and expensive, costing $US620 per person per night, and that’s if you can even get a room.
- Instead, I went next door and visited the Giraffe Center, the giraffe sanctuary where the Manor’s giraffes come from. For $US10, I was able to feed giraffes and learn about the center’s conservation and breeding efforts. It was a blast.
When I told friends that I was going to Kenya this past winter, most of them knew about one place and one place only: Giraffe Manor.
Made famous by thousands of influencers on Instagram, Giraffe Manor is a boutique hotel in a suburb southwest of Nairobi. There, guests can stay in one of twelve rooms at the iconic hunting lodge-style building whose ivy-covered brick conjures images of a by-gone (read: colonial) era of Kenya when Europeans first started visiting.
The real draw of Giraffe Manor is, of course, the giraffes. Opened in the 1970s by Betty and Jock Leslie Melville, the Manor serves as a sanctuary for protecting, raising, and breeding Rothschild’s giraffes, one of the most endangered species of giraffes. In the mornings, guests are encouraged to feed the Manor’s giraffes as they stick their heads through the windows.
As is to be expected, it is both expensive and exclusive. A room at the Manor – the only way you can feed giraffes at breakfast – typically costs $US620 per person per night. During the busiest times of the year, the manor’s 12 rooms are booked up months in advance.
Fortunately, I found an alternative to Giraffe Manor for a fraction of the price.
Enter the Giraffe Center:
The Giraffe Center is next door to Giraffe Manor. All the Rothschild’s giraffes that guests feed at Giraffe Manor are actually from the center, a sanctuary opened by the Melvilles around the same time.
The center is run by the Kenyan non-profit African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. When the Melvilles started the AFEW in 1979, the population of Rothschild’s giraffes was down to 20. Thanks to their efforts, it has now surged past 300, with many of the animals released into national parks and reserves around the country.
Tickets to the Center cost $US5-10 and include a presentation by one of the caretakers on the center’s breeding and conservation work. You also can feed the giraffes as much as you want, no $US620 hotel room necessary.
As one of the caretakers explained, giraffes spend sixteen to twenty hours per day eating – and they consume as much as 75 pounds of food. You don’t have to be worried about how many pellets you are feeding them: They have a nearly insatiable appetite.
Word of advice for future visitors: While you can pet a giraffe’s neck, don’t try getting too close to the side of its head. It might gently – or not so gently – knock you away with a headbutt.
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