April 26, 2017 / Comments (0)

Weird Places Around The World: Giraffe Manor


Giraffes! Giraffes! –“Saturday Night Live”, “Giraffes!” (2008)

Are you tired of the usual tourist stops? Are you looking for something strange or unusual to add that special something to your vacation plans? Then this is the place for you . . . Giraffe Manor.

Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor is a specialized hotel. It’s located in the Lang’ata suburb of Nairobi, Kenya. Together with the associated Giraffe Center, the property also is a home for numerous endangered Rothschild giraffes.

Breeding Giraffes

The owners operate a giraffe breeding program there. They actually reintroduce breeding pairs of the animals back into their natural habitat. The goal is to give the subspecies a future again.

The History of Giraffe Manor

The design of Giraffe Manor was based on that of a Scottish hunting lodge. It was built in 1932 by Sir David Duncan. Duncan belonged to the Macintosh family of Macintosh’s Toffee fame.

The hotel itself is situated on 150 acres of land located along the Mbagathi River. It is bordered on the south by the city of Nairobi. Sometime in the 1960s, Giraffe Manor was sold to an unnamed local investor.

Next, it was leased it to several different people. The last to rent it was the late Dennis Lakin. After Lakin’s death, the building was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Fortunately for the giraffes, it would not remain all but forgotten. Betty Leslie-Melville and her spouse Jock bought the Manor in 1974. They also purchased 15 of the surrounding 150 acres.

Since that historic purchase, an additional 60 acres were purchased. Peter Beard also gifted another 40 acres to the Manor. That land, once a part of his “Hog Ranch” has brought the Giraffe Manor acreage count to 115 acres.

Giraffe Sanctuary

Soon after the Leslie-Melvilles bought the property, they found out that the relatively few remaining Rothschild giraffes in Kenya were in danger. Apparently, the government of Kenya made a compulsory purchase of an 18,000-acre private ranch at Soy, close to Eldoret, which had been their only habitat. Unfortunately, the deal resulted in their natural habitat being subdivided into smaller lots. The giraffes were hunted and slaughtered.

The Manor was, at that time, already hosting a trio of wild bull giraffes known as Tom, Dick, and Harry, the Leslie-Melvilles decided to provide a home to one of the displaced giraffes that had not been killed. They took in Daisy, a 450-pound, 8-foot-tall baby. Daisy would come to be the subject of Betty Leslie-Melville’s book Raising Daisy Rothschild. In fact, the popular book was later made into the motion picture The Last Giraffe.

Soon, however, there would be another baby giraffe added to the fold. This one was named Marlon (as in Marlon Brando). Eventually, Giraffe Manor, working with places such as the Woburn Safari Park located in Bedfordshire, England, would begin a breeding program in order to expand the gene pool and reintroduce the Rothschild giraffe into the wild.

Today, Giraffe Manor is home to approximately 12 giraffes.  Specifically, part of the land is now dedicated to the Giraffe Center. The center is managed by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife which is a non-profit founded by Jock Leslie-Melville back in 1972.

“What’s Your Name”?

Traditionally, the giraffes are named after people who have significantly contributed–financially or otherwise–to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW). For example, the giraffe named Lynn was named after journalist and author Lynn Sherr. Sherr is reportedly a true “giraffe devotee” who wrote a book about giraffes.

The “Giraffe Hotel”

In 1983 Betty Leslie-Melville’s son from her first marriage, Rick Anderson, and his wife Bryony moved into the Manor. The following year they officially opened the Manor as a privately hosted specialty hotel wherein the guests would be able to actually feed the giraffes right from their breakfast table, out their bedroom windows or out the front door. The building has six available rooms.  Additionally, one of the rooms is furnished with Karen Blixen’s belongings.

More importantly, all profits from the hotel venture go towards funding AFEW. Since opening its doors, the hotel has hosted such celebs as Johnny Carson, Richard Chamberlain, Walter Cronkite (after whom one of the Manor’s warthogs was named), Mick Jagger and Brooke Shields. It has also hosted Ewan McGregor, Richard Branson and even Charlie Boorman on the official launch of Virgin Atlantic’s London–Nairobi air service back in 2007.

Finally, in March of 2009, Mikey and Tanya Carr-Hartley bought Giraffe Manor. It is now a part of their Tamimi group which is a chain of hotels and lodges.

Last modified: April 26, 2017

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