Although this post is about Nairobi’s famous retreat, Giraffe Manor, it’s the manners of the resident giraffes that make the place so wonderful. As my readers know, I often write about animal encounters. And, not surprisingly, Africa offers some of the best. Staying at Giraffe Manor is one of them.
Most of the travellers in my group had arrived on international flights that had only landed in Kenya in time for a late dinner at the lodge. I joined them and, as we were going around the table introducing ourselves, I noticed a pair of eyes as big as side plates staring at us from the darkness outside the window.
I jumped in fright, then realised that the gentle eyes belonged to a giraffe. I opened the window and our visitor gracefully manoeuvered its enormous head and long flexible neck through the window, inspecting our hair and our plates (neither appealed to her palate) until she found a bowl of pellets that the staff had apparently put there for just such a visit.
As happens at most five-star hotels, the staff at Giraffe Manor leave chocolates on your pillow at turn-down time. But here they also place grain pellets along the windowsills of the top-floor bedrooms to entice the long-necked visitors to act as morning wake-up calls. Being woken by a giraffe is unbeatable, even better than the soft ‘Jambo’ murmured softly by the Maasai butler as he wakes you (with coffee and biscuits) at the tented camps in the East African bush.
If you know about Giraffe Manor you may have heard that you can get quite intimate with the six endangered Rothschild giraffes roaming the grounds. But before I tell you about kissing a giraffe, let me explain a few things about giraffe tongues. Some 45 cm (18 inches) in length, the tongue has a leathery, resilient texture, with a covering of thick slime to protect it when the giraffe strips the leaves off thorny acacia bushes.
The giraffes here are not picky about how their food pellets are delivered. You have choices:
* You can place your offering onto the giraffe’s tongue, which it will curl into a perfect pellet-receiving cup.
*You can throw the pellets on the ground
*Or, my favourite – you can hold the pellet between your lips, inviting a giraffe kiss.
(I understand this is not for everyone.)
Tell us, would you kiss a giraffe?
If you are still undecided whether you would do ‘it’ or not, this close-up photo of me kissing a giraffe, tongue and all, may help you decide. Let me know once you have decided. Would you kiss a giraffe or not?
Other reasons to stay at Giraffe Manor
Although the giraffes are the star attraction at the manor, the resident warthogs are almost as lovable. They quarrel over pellets on the ground that the giraffes have missed and mock charge the lodge’s dog, which teases and chases them for fun.
Giraffe Manor is one of Nairobi’s most expensive accommodation options. If you choose to stay elsewhere, you can still see the giraffes (and kiss and feed them) by going to the Giraffe Centre, adjacent to the lodge. I would vote both the animal encounters at the Giraffe Centre and Giraffe Manor as one of the most delightful in the world.