Christine Iyer and family check into one of Kenya's most comfortable, entertaining and accessible safari properties.
Hotel Insider: Giraffe Manor, Nairobi
A 20-minute drive from Nairobi's Wilson Airport, Giraffe Manor is modelled on a Scottish hunting lodge and consists of two buildings - one built in the 1930s, with tall windows and every inch covered in creepers and the other constructed only two years ago but equally charming and old-fashioned. At the back of the property is a tiny shop selling handicrafts; out front is a wide, grassy terrace overlooking the sanctuary that is home to the endangered Rothschild giraffe. There is no lobby or reception, but a large hallway is made homely with squashy sofas and giraffe-inspired art and images. A magnificent wooden staircase leads to the rooms above. We were taken to our suite in the new building after a quick safety briefing: do not try to touch the animals or walk in the sanctuary.
A Safari Collection property, Giraffe Manor is located about 12 kilometres from the city centre in a hilly neighbourhood full of villas with gardens, high walls and signs on their gates that advertise - as a deterrent to thieves - its state-of-the-art security systems. The manor is beside the giraffe centre, a two-minute escorted walk through the sanctuary. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a 10-minute drive and worth a visit, if only to watch elephant calves stick their little trunks high in the air and clamour for milk.
The property has 10 rooms, all named after the giraffes in the sanctuary. We were allotted "Kelly", an airy suite that sleeps three and is decorated in the traditional style of the rest of the manor. The high, comfortable beds had thin curtains around them and a soft, purple armchair sat by the fireplace. On the mantelpiece stood a crystal decanter filled with drinking water - and a bowl of food pellets to feed the giraffes when they came to the window. The bathroom had lush hanging plants, a deep bath, pretty enamel basins set in a wooden wash stand and a monsoon shower. A skylight and a delightful stained-glass window above the bath, depicting two surprised-looking giraffes, let in the sun.
Intuitive and warm. A request for toothbrushes resulted in one of the staff nipping out to buy them. Our son - who spent all his time feeding the giraffes and gambolling with the warthogs and Bluka, the pet dog - was popular among the staff, who plied him with juice and cookies.
When we visited there were only a few guests, all occupying the chairs on the terrace and looking out over the green spaces of the sanctuary. The atmosphere was of an English country house - except there were giraffes all around us and warthogs underfoot.
Meals were delicious, three-course affairs - my favourite was the mandarin salad in crisp Parmesan cups, fish kebabs served with sautéed cabbage rice and chilli and a tart melon and mango sorbet. At breakfast, we hardly paid any attention to our eggs, platter of local fruit and aromatic Kenyan coffee, busy as we were trying to persuade the giraffes to stick their long necks through the windows so that we could feed them.
Snuggling up to the hot-water bottles tucked into our beds at night and waking up in the morning to find a giraffe at our window, patiently waiting for a treat.
The enormous mosquitoes that appeared at dusk and set to work on us. Make sure you buy strong insect repellent before visiting.
Genteel living in a beautiful old house and hanging out with exotic, endangered animals - holidays don't get better than this. Don't leave without a "kiss" from Ibrahim, one of the younger, bolder giraffes (put a pellet between your lips and he'll oblige).
The bottom line
A double room costs from US$485 (Dh1,780) per person, per night, full board, including Wi-Fi, a visit to the giraffe centre and taxes. Giraffe Manor, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya (www.giraffemanor.com; 00 254 20 502 0888).