How do you talk to a Giraffe face-to-face? By peeking out of the top-floor window of a very high house, of course. That’s exactly what the owners of Giraffe Manor, in Kenya, do. And you could too, if you went to spend a few nights in one of the 6 rooms of the old manor turned hotel.
The residents of this unique tourist attraction are the Carr-Hartley family, along with eight Rothschild giraffes, one of the rarest subspecies on the planet. The English-style manor was built in the colonial era and is part of a 140-acre estate in the shadow of Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley, both 41, grew up close to the house in Nairobi when they were children and always dreamed of owning it someday. So once they started a family of their own and the house came up for sale, they jumped at the opportunity. Since Michael’s family has been involved in the protection of animals for several generations, they do not mind taking care of the endangered giraffes. In fact, they love it.
Tanya says that having the giraffes so close is very special to them. There are only a few hundred Rothschild giraffes left in the wild, and eight of them live around Giraffe Manor. A conservation project was started at the Manor in 1974, when it was owned by the grandson of a Scottish Earl and his American wife. The couple was responsible for moving the two giraffes into the estate that year, and the third and fourth generations continue to live on to this day. Many of the giraffes that were bred on this estate were successfully released into the wild. The ones on the estate grow up to be over 16 ft tall and their life expectancy is about 30 years. But giraffes aren’t the only animals you can find here. There are also exotic birds, a large family of warthogs and also the elusive bush buck. Guests who stay at the Manor are usually joined by the giraffes at breakfast, and can also feed them from the second-floor bedrooms.
The owners and occasional visitors at the Manor have come to know and love all the eight giraffes that live there. According to Tanya, all the guests end up knowing all of the gentle animals are known by name, during their stay. She says that 16-year-old Lynne is the leader of the herd and is very persistent about getting her treats. 18-year-old Arlene is the smallest in size among the females and is very affectionate. “She loves people and will stand below the terrace and allow people to hug her,” says Tanya. “She quite often loves to just hang out with us and loves to be stroked and touched.” In 2007, Arlene had her only calf, Barney. Mother and son are quite devoted to each other. In fact, the owners say he’s taken after his mother and loves kisses too. Interestingly, Barney is said to be displaying the traits of a typical teenager – he’s a sweet little boy at one moment and full of attitude at the next.
The herd at Giraffe Manor has a daily morning routine – they love taking a stroll to the main house at 9am, when they know breakfast is being served served. They stick their long necks through the windows hoping to get some tasty treats . The owners prepare a feast of very nutritious pellets that are actually meant for race horses, and guests can feed them by hand. The giraffes also snack on the twigs and leaves on the grounds, but as friendly and gentle as these semi-tame giraffes are, guests are warned that these animals are very powerful and are not to be approached when they are roaming in the gardens.
Giraffe Manor sounds like an enchanting place to stay if you’re an animal lover. I doubt I’ll be traveling to Kenya anytime soon, but I’m definitely adding visiting this place to my bucket list.
Photos © Giraffe Manor