Giraffe Manor in Kenya is not only one of the world’s most exclusive and fascinating resorts, but also offers guests an opportunity to share meals with one of the planet’s most endangered species
Some of the world’s most expensive and exclusive travel exists within the safari construct, and often involves many of the world’s most visionary vacation planners. Among the handful of companies that provide this brand of astonishment, education, and fun are Mikato Safaris (its luxury excursion to Mount Kilimanjaro should be safely on every intrepid soul’s bucket list), the Serengeti Adventure in Tanzania provided by Texas-based Ker & Downey, and the breathtaking tour of Botswana, courtesy of perhaps the world’s most legendary operator, Rothschild Safaris. All have as critical principles proximity to wildlife—both plant and animal—as well as luxurious accommodations—frequently tents that would make the ancient sheik of Araby turn crimson with envy.
A critical difference Giraffe Manor supplies, however, is never more apparent than when breakfast is served at one of Nairobi’s most iconic late British Empire Era mansions, and an endangered Rothschild Giraffe pokes its head in the dining room window in search of a piece of fruit.
Owned by partners Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley and Michiel Hoogerwerf, this one-of-a-kind hotel rests on a reserve frequented by a herd of eight of the extremely endangered species (only a few hundred are known to exist globally), and there, humans and giraffe exist in happy and productive synergy. The animals greet guests in the morning and evenings, often while poking long necks through windows in search of snacks before venturing out in the sanctuary.
One of four Kenyan properties in the Carr-Hartleys’s Safari Collection (the others are Solio Lodge in Laikipia, Sasaab in Samburu, and “Sala’s Camp” in Maasai Mara—thesafaricollection.com), the manor is set on 12 acres of private land within 140 acres of indigenous forest. The home was once the residence of Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, whose ambition became the preservation of the threatened Rothschild species. A new wing was added to the residence in 2011 in order to create an additional four rooms (boosting the total from six to ten), and the renovated manor now features three “superior” rooms named after resident giraffes Kelly, Helen, and Arlene, as well as the Finch Hatton suite, after aristocratic big game hunter Denys Finch Hatton. Each of the ten beautifully appointed rooms, however, maintains a distinct personality.
The home and its grounds offer respite and adventure aplenty, but the manor is also the jumping-off point for a variety of fascinating day trip itineraries. The Gorilla Adventure (from $8,640 per person) takes guests beyond Kenya’s borders into Rwanda to trek through misty highland forests in search of the world’s biggest primate. There’s also a Helicopter Itinerary (from $10,390) that offers a bird’s eye view of Kenya—the excursion including trout fishing on the mighty Mount Kenya River, a night north in the wondrously beautiful Desert Rose region, and later a flight to Lake Turakana, the world’s highest permanent desert lake in the heart of some of Africa’s most extraordinary landscapes. The Horse Riding Itinerary (from $9,590) offers guests a chance to ride through rolling volcanic hills, Acacia forests, and grassy plains, gallop with giraffes, and observe herds of elephant. The trip then courses north to the Carr-Hartley Sasaab Lodge, where guests spend two nights, followed by another two at Sala’s Camp.
Slightly less adrenaline-fueled trekkers will find relief in the Relaxation Itinerary (from $7,580), where they enjoy the simplicity of some gentle bush time, followed by a trip to a nearby beach. More an inner adventurer, the trip culminates in SpaSasaab for an afternoon massage, followed by the white soft sands of Danai beach and a private waterside villa.
Those who choose to stay at the manner throughout the trip hardly have their experiences cut short, however, as quick visits to David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust (particularly its stunning elephant orphanage) and the Karen Blixen Museum (Blixen is the author of famed autobiography Out of Africa) are close at hand, and are simply perfect for kids. The entire Giraffe Manor experience, more broadly, is designed with the younger crew in mind, including a variety of activities, educational short trips, and solidly dependable childcare when the adults are away. The off-site staff, which serves all meals and provides home maintenance and cleaning services, seems to take particular delight in instructing children as to the wonder of their home, and especially its resident animals.
“Our team is passionate about ensuring families have a stress-free and memorable experience when they stay with us,” the owners offered in a joint statement. “We organize exciting itineraries of family-friendly activities for our guests, including a number of local Kenyan attractions. The highlight of course for everyone is always mealtime, when families come together to feed the resident giraffes from their window!”
Getting There, and Rates
Visiting high seasons are December through February, then June through October, with a mid-season of March, April, and November (seasonality is largely determined by temperatures and rainfall). Room rates for Giraffe Manor vary according to season, but expect a daily high season rate of approximately $1,900 and up for the Karen Blixen and Finch Hatton superior suite, and $550-$750 for other rooms in the home. Mid-season prices are modestly lower. The property is approximately 40 minutes from Nairobi Airport, 15 minutes from the regional Wilson Airport.
At press time, Alitalia was featuring a remarkable roundtrip bargain (though with two stops between JFK and Nairobi airport) of $1,054 for a December 5-15 itinerary. KLM, Delta, and Air France featured round-trip (one stop) fares for less than $1,200. United Airlines and Qatar Airlines registered modestly more expensive, at $1,300 and up.