By Joan Larsen
Enchanting. . . and as you glide up to Kenya’s Giraffe Manor, you will find that your breath is actually taken away by the sight of a stunning estate – made of bricks from long ago — with beautiful vines covering it. But your eye is actually caught by a bevy of giraffes, strolling around as if they owned it.
After a safari that we thought could not be equaled, we found ourselves in the shadow of Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro on the very outskirts of Nairobi, receiving the warmest welcome at this English-style manor , invited to relax and enjoy our last overnight in Africa here. The giraffes walked around us, eyeing us, and – well – seeming to find us not only acceptable . . . but perhaps a tiny bit appealing as well. Or so I wanted to believe.
Our introduction to Giraffe Manor by Tanya was a spellbinder. In 1974 there were only a few hundred Rothschild giraffes left in the wild. A conservation project was started then, at a time when it was owned by the grandson of a Scottish Earl and his American wife. The couple was responsible for moving the first two giraffes into the estate that year. The third and fourth generations continue to live to this day. Many of the giraffes that were born and bred here have been successfully released in the wild. Oh, did I say that they grow to be 16 feet tall and their life expectancy is about 30 years? Did I say that you can easily fall in love with them?
There is no doubt that the giraffes are the pull. But in staying at this mansion, you almost feel like an old aristocrat residing in a home with many sitting rooms, a well-stocked library of Africa, beautiful photos and paintings and Kenyan artifacts. Your room amenities and furnishings are luxurious and stately. Yes, “stately” sounds like the right word for the feeling you have for our room.
The mansion houses one of Nairobi’s finest restaurants. Some would say it would equal any in our large cities. But let’s face it. Who could beat a fantastic breakfast that has a bonus of giraffes popping in, peering through open doorways and open windows, hoping to get some tasty treats.
The owners have prepared a feast of very nutritious pellets that are actually meant for race horses, and when the giraffes stick their long necks thorough the windows, you find yourself sitting at the breakfast table feeding them by hand. When they bow and flick their long eyelashes at you, you are a goner.
A giraffe actually politely knocked on the open window of my second floor bedroom, knowing that his snacks might be offered. All I will say is that once I felt that soft nose, I would have fed him all day!!
Frankly, after a strenuous safari, we were content to relax and enjoy. But it was suggested that the nature trail that ran through their 140 acres of wilderness would give us the last glimpse of the Africa we had come to see. A family of warthogs, darling young ones trailing behind, stopped to pose, begging for the grass pellets we had stuffed in our pockets.
But it was the giraffes, with their long necks and spotted faces poking in the windows and doors of the Manor, nuzzling our hands if we offered them, that will forever be in the forefront of our memories.
It has left us with “forever” smiles. Nothing could be better.
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”