Experience Wonder at Giraffe Centre
- The Expat Mummy
Giraffe Centre is one of the top tourist attractions for visitors to Nairobi. Don't miss the opportunity to spend time with these wild giraffe. As well as a chance to learn all about giraffes in Africa, you will get the chance to feed a giraffe by hand and if you are lucky. Even kiss one.
Whether you are here for a day or a week, visiting the Giraffe Centre Page, along with the Elephant Orphanage and Nairobi National Park is one of those trips you can’t miss. I am lucky enough to live next door to the Giraffe Centre. Every day as I drive to and from my house I see endangered Rothschild giraffes waiting at their gate to pass from the centre into the sanctuary. I never fail to slow down and gaze at one of my favourite animals in the world.
How the Giraffe Centre began
Jock Leslie-Melville and his wife, Betty, started the Giraffe Centre's work in 1979. This inspiring couple came to realise that the Rothschild Giraffes were severely endangered, with fewer than 180 Giraffes left in some areas. They brought two giraffes to their home in Langata with the aim of breeding. Since then over 40 pairs of breeding giraffes have been released into the wild. The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife was set up and in 1989 the Giraffe Centre was born.
Spirit of Africa
I love this story. It is emblematic of the spirit of Kenya for me. For many of the people living here are both wildlife conservationists and pioneers. There are incalculable examples of people taking matters into their own hands and actively making a difference. Especially when it comes to taking large strides towards saving animals and habitats throughout Kenya.
Giraffe Sanctuary and Giraffe Centre
The Giraffe Centre has evolved into one of Nairobi’s most popular tourist destinations. The Giraffe Sanctuary is a huge protected site where giraffes are able to wander free and safe. Opposite the sanctuary is a 12-acre area of bush where the Giraffe Centre and infamous Giraffe Manor are located. The Giraffes are wild but have learned that visitors to the Giraffe Centre mean food. They spend the night in the bush, but every morning at sunrise you will find them line up at the sanctuary gate to cross the road into the Giraffe Centre. If you drive past the Giraffe Centre for about 100 metres you will see the gates either side of the road and may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the giraffes patiently waiting. The Giraffe Centre The Giraffe Centre has a gift shop and café and information centre, which provides a great source of information for visitors. Educating groups on the plight of the giraffes and the Centre's rehabilitation program. Of course, the star of the show are the giraffes themselves. As you walk in, you are greeted by the towering forms of giraffes eating from the hands of their human admirers. A raised platform that allows you to interact with them at head height or you can stand at their feet and marvel at their lofty heights. Pellets of corn, wheat, grass and molasses are handed to visitors which the Giraffe gracefully take from your hand. Those that are dropped are greedily gobbled up by the warthogs that dance between the giraffe's legs.
Escape the tourists, visit at a quiet time
Whilst you will be in inundated with tourists going for the classic ‘Giraffe Kiss’ photo. (Hold a pellet in your mouth and the giraffe will gently take it right out.) You can still find a quiet moment to have some contemplation time alone with a giraffe, especially if you go in the morning before the hordes of visitors arrive. Tourists tend to visit the elephant centre at 11.00 before heading to the Giraffe Centre at lunch.
Walk in the Giraffe Sanctuary
The Giraffe Sanctuary entrance is opposite the centre. The sanctuary stretches all the way right to Nairobi National Park. Separated by Magadi road. It is home to many different species of bird and loads of warthogs. You can wander down to the Gogo River or view the Ngong Hills from the viewing platform. The many warthogs live in deep black holes, so be wary. In addition, the odd hyena, leopard and even lion makes its way into the sanctuary. Whilst the sanctuary is cleared if a lion is around, it adds a certain frisson of excitement to an otherwise sedate walk! Giraffes are gentle giants…most of the time. they are still wild animals and will attack if provoked. Giraffes tend to head butt, which isn’t something you want to experience twice. So be mindful and respectful of the animals.
The Giraffe Manor was bought from the Melvilles in the 1990s and has morphed into one of the premier luxury hotels in the world. If you've googled Kenya then you have probably seen pictures of a giraffe poking its head in a window whilst some celebrity is eating breakfast. That is the manor. It's might break every single holiday budget going to spend a night there but it is not a memory that will ever be forgotten. For the less flush with cash, you can call up on the day and see if you can find a space for high tea. Spaces only become available if a guest has declined the space, so you have to be very lucky. In addition Giraffe Manor often shuts for a few months of the year for refurbishment. During this time they sometimes offer charity luncheons, where you can pay for a visit, lunch and to meet and greet the giraffes. Let me know how it goes… I'm still saving up.
Cost of the Giraffe Centre
Tourist : USD 10 /KSH 1000
Resident/ Citizen USD 2.50 / KSH250 (bring your resident or ID card)
Getting to the Giraffe Centre.
The Giraffe Centre is located approx. 20km outside of Nairobi City Centre in Hardy. The Galleria Mall is the local stop off for buses and taxis. From the Galleria, it is a short drive via matatu or taxi. The Giraffe Centre is located on Duma Road in Hardy. Staying near the Giraffe Centre. If you are here as a tourist you are probably here for animals in which case staying in Hardy, Karen, Langata is a great place to base yourself. It's a wonderful leafy area full of tourist hotspots, shops and fabulous restaurants. It is is also where the Giraffe Centre, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (elephant orphanage) and Nairobi National Park is located. It's not rammed full of accommodation, but there are a few gems I'd recommend.
Hemmingways Hotel : Super duper, posh 5* hotel with colonial architecture, a pool, spa and top end restaurant. Here is the link for booking
Karen Gables: Cape Dutch 5* bed and breakfast. With a relaxed informal feel, antique furniture, a pool and outside bar for relaxation and an idyllic location near the forest and river. Link to booking site is here
Karen Country Club: Nairobi's foremost golf course also has 3 restaurants, bars, a gym, a huge pool and is incredibly beautiful. Accommodation tucked away in a leafy part of the course ranges from small villas to individual apartments. Check it out here.