A Giant's Kiss at the Nairobi Giraffe Center

Want a Giraffe kiss? The Nairobi giraffe center is the place to be. My visit to the Center remains one of the most awesome moments I have ever experienced. It's unreal to be so close to the world’s tallest land animals, to feed them and even kiss them. 

Feeding the Giraffes

Kissing a GiraffeMe "kissing" a giraffe

If you are in Nairobi and you’re planning short activities before heading off on a long safari then the Nairobi giraffe center is a perfect stop over. Once you’re at the Center, there is an elevated platform where you can view giraffes eye-to-eye,  feed them and even take a picture in the act of kissing a giraffe - now that is a selfie to make your friends jealous.

You are provided with a handful of pellets that giraffes enjoy feeding on. More often than not, you’ll find them converged at the platform’s edge and flicking out their tongues for the pellets.

Here you’ll have the opportunity to feed, touch or hug the giraffes and interact with these friendly animals.

You can choose to either hand feed or lip feed them. My favorite was to lip feed them although it sounds a bit weird and scary if you are a first timer. I could feel the giraffe’s rough tongue scratching my lips. A giraffe's kiss is very safe and you can’t contact any infection because its saliva is aseptic, so don’t shy away from trying a giant's kiss.

Something to be mindful about, don’t kiss or hug the giraffes if you don’t have food to feed them. They may headbutt you and giraffe’s headbutt it’s not just painful, it can knock you unconscious. Female giraffes especially tend to be a bit moody  and hormonal when pregnant. So, to win giraffe’s friendship, always have food to feed them… I guess they just don’t want friendship without benefits.

Nairobi Giraffe CenterMeeting the Giraffes

Free Educational Talk

Just within the platform is a large auditorium where you can listen to a free talk from one of the trainers on the giraffe’s way of life and conservation efforts that are being made to preserve and protect the environment.

Nature Trail Walk and Bird Sanctuary

Nature TrailNature Trail

Just across the road is a 1.5 kilometer nature trail walk that’s breathtaking for tree and bird lovers. The wilderness is a sample of large tracts of indigenous dry upland forest that once covered Nairobi city.

You can ask for a guided tour and learn more on what local tribesmen used various trees for as the guide takes you through the thickets. The guide will also help you to spot birds easily. But, if you are in a group, and want to move at your own pace then you’re free to do your own self-guided trail by following the signposts placed at various points. Enjoy the challenge of spotting the 178 species of birds found here.

Although giraffes are the main attraction at the center; there are a few other animals that co-exist with the giraffes. If you are keen eyed, you can sport fresh footprints of Giraffes, monkeys, squirrels, bushbucks, dikdik and warthogs - evidence that they are just nearby. I tend to like the way warthogs grunt while wallowing in mud or digging around in the dirt.

At the far end of the sanctuary is a seasonal river that cuts through the area called “River Gogo”. It has a nice background feature, a small waterfall, perfect for picture taking.

Oh yes, always make sure that you stay 15 meters away from all animals that you see. For your own safety that’s the closest you can be to them on the walk.

Restaurant and Gift Shop

There are refreshing cool drinks and light meals available from the Tea House just overlooking the platform at the center. They have variety of snacks to choose from and their prices are very fair. If you love African artifacts then adjacent to the Tea House is a gift shop, called the “Daisy Zoovenir Shop” it is stocked with beautiful beads, bracelets, handcrafts and various locally made items.

Story Behind the Nairobi Giraffe Center

Rothschild GiraffeRothschild Giraffe

The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, commonly known as the Nairobi Giraffe Center, is a non-profit organization started by Jock Leslie and his wife Betty in 1979. It has a breeding center of endangered “white socks” Rothschild giraffes.

Rothschild giraffes had declined to below 120 after its habitual lands in western Kenya were taken up for agriculture and people began to kill them when they invaded their farms. The center began as a private sanctuary but later an educational aspect was introduced.

The Center breed’s the giraffes in captivity and when newborns turn three, they are reintroduced into the wilderness to continue breeding to increase their numbers. Over the years the program has had many successes and we now we have about 450 Rothschild giraffes in the county.

Conservation education is provided for free so that what happened to Rothschild giraffes does not happen again to any other animal or plant species. Also there are various activities that the center is involved in like children's ecology trips, a national environmental competition for school children among other environmental activities. Any funds that you spend here contribute towards conservation, educating young Kenyans and promoting conservation efforts of endangered species in Kenya.

How to Get There

Nairobi giraffe center is located 17km from the City Center in the Karen suburbs. When roads are clear, it will take you not more than 30 minutes to get there. If you are using public transport then KenCom or Ambassador Bus are preferable. Buses here are more organized and it will cost you about 80 Kenya shilling. PSV Buses and Matatu’s are not allowed to go up to the Center.

You will alight at the Hardy Shopping Center where you’ll get a piki piki motorbike at 50 Kenya shillings to take you to the giraffe center. Or preferably, if you would like a more direct and comfortable means, you can opt to use tour operators or hire a taxi. Taxi rates range somewhere between 4500 - 5500 Kenya shillings.

Nairobi Giraffe center operates daily including weekends and public holidays between 9.00am to 5.00pm. Entrance is 1000 Kenyan Shillings.

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