The Instagram-famous Giraffe Manor Has a New Retreat — Here's What It Was Like to See It With My Daughter

The wildlife interactions at Giraffe Manor and new day-use escape The Retreat are spellbinding and meaningful, especially with an 11-month-old baby.

Kathryn Romeyn and her daughter at the Giraffe Manor
Photo: Kathryn Romeyn

Since my daughter was born a year ago, countless times, I've had this one thought: What does she think of all these new places and wild sights as we travel? But never have I been as curious as the morning I woke at dawn to exclamations, coos, and a chubby baby finger pointing out the window at a giraffe. An 18-foot-tall giraffe, to be exact, with a gargantuan bumpy head.

It's not that I was exactly surprised to see one of Africa's most iconic animals out our second-story window. After all, we were at Giraffe Manor, the lush, legendary hotel in the exclusive Nairobi 'burb of Karen. They're part of the package. However, my pure delight was that this fantastical creature had welcomed my 11-month-old, Indah, into a new day. How wonderstruck she must have been when she opened her big green eyes to be met by his deep brown peepers.

I'll never know what she felt at that moment, but I won't forget her animated reaction as we swung open the windows and fed Edd — the knobby-headed mammal lingering outside the gracious ivy-coated brick Garden Manor — his first of many vegetarian breakfast pellets from the provided silver vessel. He led with his sandpapery 18-inch tongue, which searched frantically for another morsel if my increasingly slimy hand couldn't grasp and deliver the next little piece quick enough. "No food, no friend" is the refrain that reminds guests to keep feeding these tallest living land mammals lest they headbutt in retaliation for teasing but not serving up the fare. I tried to keep Indah from getting too close to swinging neck zone.

Kathryn Romeyn and her family at the Giraffe Manor
Kathryn Romeyn

When in Kenya, moments like these, possible only at this Instagram-ready hotel, are a must. But it wasn't only the opportunity to have indelible wake-ups and thrilling formal breakfast with near-threatened Rothschild's giraffes — not to mention socially distanced afternoon tea, during which Indah squealed, shrieked, and reached out to touch a sweet little calf — that drew us here.

It was also the allure of Giraffe Manor's recent expansion, The Retreat.

The original manor, built in the 1930s, served as a hunting lodge. Now, the Safari Collection's exciting addition, which finished in 2021, is all shiny and new, and it's exactly what travelers may be looking for, both for a longer stay and while in transit.

The concept is that of a day-use haven that travelers can use in conjunction with or separately from the Manor at the beginning, middle, or end of an epic Kenyan safari at places such as Sasaab and Sala's Camp as well as just before flying out since many flights depart late at night.

Exterior of Giraffe Manor
Courtesy of Giraffe Manor

The two-story stone building is beautifully grand but not ostentatious, with a series of stately archways that perfectly framed an approaching giraffe named Lily later that morning. (Indah and I fed her poolside with no one else around in arguably the coolest of our rendezvous.) A giraffe print motif echos in subtly impactful design elements alongside stained glass windows of the celebrated wildlife in Daisy's Cafe, named for the property's O.G. long-necked resident.

Unlike the all-inclusive Manor, this side of the property is a la carte. Staff members say that overnight guests like to journey over for lively evening cocktails like the Legless Lily, a pink gin and berry concoction named for that very giraffe. There were glasses of zingy lemonade and cold scented towels presented too, all by a bow-tied butler when we arrived mid-morning on the Retreat Pass, which goes for $250 per person from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Guests coming for the early-bird special, $250 for 6 a.m. to noon access, have continental breakfast included.)

The pool and spa hot tub Giraffe Manor
Brian Siambi/Courtesy of Giraffe Manor

The pool is a focal point, as it's where the giraffes are most likely to come to hang. It's 70 feet long with a lounger-lined deck built around mature trees, which reach upward to brush the four, day-use rooms. As of our January visit, it wasn't yet heated (they're working on it), so the water was decidedly fresh. However, the whirlpool hot tub more than did its job getting baby and me toasty after each scenic dip. A well-equipped gym is available for those who fight jet lag with exercise, and the couples' spa room offers an instant stress-melting vibe. Glow-guaranteeing facials, African goddess treatments, and massages are available. I went for The Traveller, a gloriously deep 30-minute shoulder, neck, and back release and rhythmic muscle drumming that seemed to go on for far longer as birds sang sweetly outside.

The balcony and bathroom from the Waridi room at Giraffe Manor
Brian Siambi/Courtesy of Giraffe Manor

After going to heaven and returning, I reunited with my husband and Indah in our gorgeously appointed room, Waridi (named after one of the giraffes, of course). It has appropriately soaring ceilings, an adorable giraffe print–upholstered headboard, a skylit shower, and a long balcony overlooking the treetops and grassy grounds. We tried to spy animals, but they're apparently still getting to know the new spot, so they don't come around as much. The habituated giraffes are never made to go anywhere on the 12-acre grounds. Eventually, they may get more curious about visiting The Retreat for a post-breakfast or happy hour drink.

Kathryn Romeyn and her family at the Giraffe Manor Breakfast Experience
Kathryn Romeyn

Before leaving the property and Nairobi, we indulged at Daisy's Cafe in a cheerful blue leather booth. Chef Samson gets inventive here, using ingredients from tiny local farms and small-scale producers for bright plates as delicious as the Manor's prix fixe dishes. Some herbs and veggies come from the garden out back, where they grow rocket, dill, butternut, strawberries, and edible flowers. The latter topped my beautiful open-face halloumi and mango pickle sandwich. A mashup of cultures came through in ugali chicken nachos and hot mango chicken spring rolls, which a freshly napped Indah was eager to get her hands on.

We didn't meet another lanky friend that afternoon. Still, the prolific, tastefully themed reminders — like fun splashes of wallpaper and sterling silver water pitchers — kept the fantasy alive for us all. The Retreat is a giraffe's world; we're lucky to visit it.

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