The temperature on the terrace of boutique hotel Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya, is just right, neither too hot nor too cool. Late afternoon sunshine casts lengthening shadows and tints the light with amber.
I’m sitting on one of the shaded settees and on the glass table in front of me are a plate of demi-sandwiches under glass and two bowls of pellets made from corn, wheat, grass and a secret ingredient that the giraffes apparently can’t get enough of--molasses.
Behind me is a table set for high tea and plates of assorted cookies and other munchies.
There are no giraffes in sight and for a moment I wonder if we will be stood up. Then a staff member, dressed in a wine-red shirt and tan slacks, approaches the low stone wall that delineates the terrace, or patio, from the front lawn.
“Ed!” he says loudly. “Big Ed. Come, Big Ed!” He taps on the stainless steel bowl he holds.
I watch the distant fields for sight of a giraffe, and there he is, approaching with those long graceful strides that can cover up to 15 feet in a single stride. Soon, the other giraffes join Ed at the rock wall.
|Rothschilds giraffes are the tallest of thegiraffes, with males reaching 18 feet high.|
The low iron gate is closed, and the giraffes respect this boundary, unlike the resident warthogs that climb the rocks right around the gate. Warthogs like pellets, too. Staff frequently chases the hogs away, but they come right back.
|One excellent reason why the staff tries to keep the warthogs away from the guests. The large "wart" that protrudes near the eye enables the hog to lie on its side and have its head in a reasonably comfortable position.|
|The dropped pellets bring the warthogs.|
|Yes, they have "black" tongues.|
|Charlie checking his camera settings.|
|Giraffes have extra tight skin on their legs that helps maintain blood pressure in their entire body, much like a pilot's G suit.|
Pellets in hand, we guests are soon feeding the giraffes, and I’m careful to determine which one is the head-butting Kelly, the matriarch of this tower of Rothschilds giraffes.
|The Rothschilds are the tallest of the giraffe species. Males can weigh up to 3000 lbs. and females can weigh up to 2600 lbs.|
I also watch out for Daisy, the displaced matriarch, who is also know for getting someone’s attention by “gently” tapping the side of a human heads and knocking them silly.
Later, long after the giraffes are fed and have wandered back to their fields, Greg, Charlie, and I meet in the lounge before dinner. We are offered cocktails, and I choose a glass of Amarula, a sweet, creamy liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree, which has been aged and distilled for three years, then mixed with cream.
Compared with Bailey’s, which one wag called watered down chocolate milk after tasting Amarula, this liqueur with an alcohol content of 17 per cent, is described as tasting like “chocolate-dipped strawberries with hints of mango, vanilla and caramel.” It is delicious.
Elephants like the yellow marula fruit, too, and will travel miles when they smell the aroma of ripe fruit. Then, they put their massive foreheads against the truck of the tree and shake the tree to displace the fruits.
A steward appears and escorts up into a private dining room where a table is set and lighted with candlelight.
The dinner is delicious, but the appetizer, or maybe it’s the salad course, is especially so. It is a ball of sweetened rice, roughly the size of a tennis ball, with a crisp crust as if it had been baked or deep-fried.
|Two of our dinner companions. They will leave in the morning to join a group to climb Mt.Kilamanjaro.|
And then, it was off to our suite and early to bed because we are expecting guests for an early breakfast.
|Charlie and a giraffe.|
|The young giraffes haven't yet discovered the joys of pellets.|