Being born and brought up in Kenya you tend to take some things for granted and don’t realise how unique they are. Seeing Giraffes, and other animals up close, and especially getting to feed Giraffes is one of those. I had visited the Giraffe Centre countless times as a child and teenager, and it was only when I left to go to university that I realised how special an experience it was and how Kenya is truly an unbelievable place to grow up in.
I used to get shocked expressions from new friends whenever I talked about these experiences and it became very clear that these are very special and rare experiences that don’t span all continents. My favourite was when I told someone about the monkeys that frequented our garden at home! The look of horror followed by “I thought you could only find monkeys in the zoo” was what made me realise my upbringing, and that of my fellow Kenyans, was not normal.
The origins of the Giraffe Centre, which is such a gorgeous and magical sanctuary, began back in 1979 when Jock Leslie-Melville, who was the Kenyan grandson of a Scottish earl, and his wife Betty realised the sad plight of the Rothschild Giraffe, which continues to be the rarest species of Giraffe today.
At the time the numbers of Rothschild’s giraffes had severely plummeted to a mere 120 creatures and they were really close to extinction. The couple started by bringing 2 young giraffes to their property, which is now where the Giraffe Centre and Giraffe Manor can be found today in Langata. Now they have several Rothschild Giraffes in Langata, as well as dotted around other parts of Kenya. They are still the rarest species though.
The Rothschild’s giraffes have a distinct look to other giraffes and can be identified by their white “socks”, whilst on other species, the patterning runs below the knee. In Kenya there are 3 types of giraffes – the Rothschild, the Maasai Giraffe and the Reticulated Giraffe. I absolutely love these herbivores, who feast from acacia trees. They have enviable eyelashes and are the world’s tallest mammals. You certainly wouldn’t want to be head butted by them or kicked by those long legs! Despite their strength, they are gentle and calm animals.
At the Giraffe Centre and neighbouring Giraffe Manor, you will find the Rothschild Giraffes and they wander between the two properties during the day till around 5.30pm. Last time I was in Kenya I visited the Giraffe Manor for afternoon tea and was able to feed and kiss the giraffes, mainly Kelly and her new born baby at the time, from there.
At the Giraffe centre you climb the steps to an elevated platform and you’re given a handful of pellets to feed the giraffes with. You should give them to the Giraffes one by one in the palm of your hand and the giraffes will swirl their long sticky tongues around your palm and pick the pellets up.
If you are brave enough, you can even put a pellet in your mouth and go in for a giraffe kiss. At least you can proudly proclaim that you have kissed a giraffe and tick it off your bucket list. Ps. Now is a good time to add kissing a giraffe to your bucket list and book those flights to Kenya.
Also found at the Giraffe Centre and Giraffe Manor are these cheeky Warthogs.
This time, we decided to let the lovely guide Rose, from the Giraffe Centre, educate us about Giraffes and we realised how little we actually knew despite having visited so many times since our childhood.
For instance, she told us that wherever Giraffes are, Warthogs are found close behind as they rely on the Giraffes for protection from any prey. The Warthogs actually burrowed into the ground and made themselves at home at the sanctuary by themselves! They are now permanent residents here.
We also learned that Giraffes sleep for a maximum of 30 minutes in 24 hours. This would comprise of a couple of minutes here and there. They also sleep upright. I can barely manage on 5 or 6 hours sleep so kudos to them!
The third fascinating fact that Rose told us was that Giraffes are pregnant for 15 months and that when a baby Giraffe is born it falls 6 feet to the ground and the impact brings it to life. Within 30 minutes of being born it will begin to walk!
When (not if) you visit the Giraffe Centre I highly recommend learning a little bit more about these majestic mammals as it is so interesting!
There is also a lovely shop where you can buy Giraffe themed souvenirs and I walked away with a brand new Giraffe mug which I am sure you will spot on my Instagram account soon.
The Giraffe Centre is located on Koitobos Road and it costs 1000 Kenyan shillings for adults (around $10) or 500 Kenyan shillings for children (around $5). Even less if you are a Kenyan resident so you really have no excuse! All the money goes towards the conservation of the Giraffes.