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On Giraffe Table Manners

On a work trip to Kenya, Hayley takes some time out to meet Nairobi’s long-necked residents and learn more about their home, the Giraffe Centre
Above: No need for a knife and fork

Having joined the Angama team at the start of 2024, I was thrilled to be going to Kenya at the end of January for a two-week whistle-stop orientation tour of our lovely lodges; but what surprised me most about the trip was delightful Nairobi.

Needing to become familiar with some of the activities that our guests will experience while visiting us, on a sunny Friday morning in Nairobi, our Angama City Guide, Daniel, ( a key member of our fully-fledged in-country logistics team) and I set off to get more acquainted with this eclectic metropolis and some of it’s most famous inhabitants, the tallest animal on earth.

A warm welcome to Giraffe Centre

Giraffe Centre, established in 1979, is in the leafy suburb of Lang’ata, on the outskirts of Nairobi, and is the passion project of Betty and Jock Leslie-Melville. Though born in America, Betty loved Kenya and giraffes best of all, so she was distraught when she discovered that there were only 120 Rothschild giraffe left in the world. Determined to help this critically endangered subspecies of giraffe, Betty and Jock started a conservation organisation, the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW Kenya). A few years before starting AFEW, the Leslie-Melville’s had bought an English-styled manor house eight miles outside of Nairobi that had extensive grounds surrounding it. This would not only be their home, but also home to their children, horses, warthogs, dogs… oh, and giraffes.

Jock points out which trees his new giraffes can eat
Betty was all for hand-feeding them

On the grounds of Giraffe Manor, which is now a well-known hotel, Betty and Jock built a centre where visitors can interact with the giraffe and are educated in conservation. Did you know, there are a total of nine subspecies of giraffe throughout Africa and three are found in Kenya? There is the reticulated giraffe, which is found in Northern Kenya, the Maasai giraffe which is found in the Maasai Mara and finally the Rothschild giraffe. Did you also know that because of Betty Leslie-Melville, the Rothschild giraffe is no longer critically endangered with over 900 individuals thriving and breeding in different locations across Kenya?

Betty stands in front of Giraffe Manor with all her animals in the early '80s
Nowadays, guests at Giraffe Manor are able to feed giraffes from the hotel's patio

To this day, the highlight of the centre is that visitors are given a small bowl of two different kinds of pellets. One is made of lucerne grass and the other from cereals and molasses – a favourite for these gentle giants. A guide then walks you onto the feeding platform where the giraffes stand in wait, with necks stretched elegantly over the rail.

The giraffe delicacies on offer
The raised platform allows your to get face-to-face with the giraffes

With some apprehension, we held out one little pellet at a time, and a long grey tongue would curl out to receive it with such precision that I could almost call it table manners! But don’t be fooled, not all the giraffes have learnt to behave at the table. Be careful of Daisy IV who is very choosy to whom she shows affection – and who might well give you a head butt if you’re found to be empty-handed. Salma is also one to keep an eye out for, but this time for her overly enthusiastic sloppy kisses. 

Filed under: East Africa Travel

Tagged with:

Angama Team , Angama Travel , Giraffe Centre , Nairobi

About: Hayley Walls

Browse all articles by Hayley Walls Meet the angama team

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