In honor of the upcoming Throwback Thursday (#tbt) tomorrow, which only happens once every seven days, I thought would pay tribute to this rare occurence by re-posting the very first photo I ever posted on this 'ol bloggity blog (I say old because this photo was "posted" just shy of 4 months ago... Can you believe it?! That's over 2 yrs old in dog years... And probably like 14 in blog years (if you take into account how long the internet and blogs have been around)... but, I digress... Moving back to our topic of the day: The TBT photo in question:
This photo has garnered quite the commotion since its "release" and this time, instead of just teasing you with the story possibilities of how this fictitious seeming backdrop came to be, like last time, today I am going to give you the full deets. I want to just clear up any notions you might have before we go any further about me holding out on the full scoop for malicious motives. If you have been following my blog since its inception, you will know that, I began divulging personally-related matters on a public forum (see: The Keeley Kraft blog) just after returning from Africa, where I had been living for four months.. Specifically Uganda (I know, I know.. Africa is a whole continent!), with a healthy dose of exquisite traveling afterwards, to... completely contradict my living situation in from the three months prior, among other things. To explain my holding out, I have been struggling with how to discuss the earlier parts of my "Africa" journey on this blog in an upbeat and relevant way... But since I still haven't figured out how to do that.. the broad topic will remain tabled. However, there's no good reason not to just focus on the "pretty" for now...
So, grab your popcorn or tea (I like to imagine my readers as tea-drinkers.. it just seems so civilized and sophisticated.. not to mention fitting for this post in particular :).
As I mentioned in my first post (read it here), it had been a "half-a-lifetime" dream of mine to stay at Giraffe Manor at one point in my life. In all honesty, I expected it to probably happen on my honeymoon but was naturally, over-the-'moon" (literally and figuratively ;) when the fortuitous opportunity presented itself earlier than expected. I personally love giraffes A LOT. Out of all exotic animals, especially those with fake-looking coats (as I like to refer to them), giraffes seem to be the most elegant and unique, in my opinion. Aside from looking ridic-ly stunning, their necks are out-of-this-world... well almost :). And, they can be extremely friendly when placated with food. (And a bit aggressive when merely teased with food, FYI) .
To give you a brief synopsis on the "manor"it currently serves as a home to a fluctuating number of endangered Rothschild giraffes and operates a breeding program to reintroduce breeding pairs back into the wild in an effort to secure the future of the subspecies. Yep, awesome. In 1974, Betty Leslie-Melville, along with her husband Jock (of course that's his name) purchased the manor and 15 surrounding acres of the plot.
Shortly after purchasing the Manor, the Leslie-Melvilles learned that the only remaining Rothschild giraffes in Kenya were in danger due to a compulsory purchase by the Kenyan government of an 18,000-acre, which was their sole habitat. Inevitably the purchase would result in the land being sub-divided into smallholdings, and the giraffes being slaughtered.
Since the Manor was already home to three wild bull giraffes (nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry - ADORBS), the Leslie-Melvilles agreed to "re-home" one of the giraffes, and soon the clan began to grow. In 1983 Rick Anderson, Betty's son from her first marriage, and his wife Bryony, moved into the Manor, and a year later opened the Manor as a small, privately hosted hotel where guests could feed the giraffes. I am immensely grateful for their ingenuity.
I stayed there with my parents and my sister during which time we were celebrating my dad's birthday and also my parents' 30 year anniversary (SNAPS)... The "manor staff" were as professional and polite as you would expect at a "maaaanor" and went all out to help my family experience the stay of a lifetime.
We were invited to pre-dinner cocktails in the parlor where we were able to mingle with the several other guests that were also staying at the manor that evening, of which, there were four, in addition to my family. All together we occupied the six available guest rooms at the manor. Once dinner was served, we proceeded to the dining room which was candlelit and frankly, breathtaking. Of course, all of the other dinner guests where interesting (I mean, would you expect anything less based on the way this story is headed) and after lively conversation and a truly phenomenal meal (which was served through a secret pullout window in the dining room where the server retrieved the dishes directly from the kitchen so as not to let them even spare a second to get cold), we were served an incredible carrot cake (my dad's favorite) in honor of his birthday... When I say no detail was spared, I mean, no detail was spared. Following dinner, we retreated back into the parlor for coffee, tea and cookies (oh yeah)... In order to continue enduring conversations from dinner with the other guests, what else??
Our rooms were decadent but cozy with a fireplace in each room that the staff got going just before we "retired to our rooms." Obviously there was a bubble bath to be had... and it was. But the BEST... the absolute BEST PART EVER was that all of the guest rooms are set up to "receive visitors (giraffes)" in the morning as a wake up call... Have. You. Ever. Heard. Of a more amazing wake up call?! I, have not. The giraffes did not disappoint. They roam free on the property so their visit was completely of their own volition. It was akin to Christmas morning... When I woke up I saw them just upon the outskirts of our room milling about. I ran to the window, thrust it open and stuck my arm out, replete with a handful of "giraffe food" pellets. In a matter of seconds, they sensed what was up and sauntered as fast as their bowing legs could take them to my window and gobbled the food right up with one slobbery swoop.
After we had fed the giraffes about 90 times, we were invited down to breakfast to feed the giraffes in a more "intimate setting." Intimate is merely open to your interpretation.. You can get as close as you want, but only at your own risk! I mean, T.I.A. (This Is Africa) we're talking about, after all. In the parlor/dining area, the giraffes "stick their necks out" (classic giraffe pun) and in any open window surveying the surrounding area for food. If you don't have food and you "summon them" by putting your hand out, close to their face, you WILL get bit (I did). But the euphoria of the circumstance will prevent you from feeling pain in the moment, so really, you can do no wrong.
ACTUALLY, you are encouraged by the staff/handlers to place a pellet between your lips, stick your butt out, and let the giraffe take the pellet from your mouth. Yes, it is gross. But, the adage, "when in Rome" seriously, never felt so appropriate.. So, yes, you get over it. We were also enjoying mimosas with this experience which helped with any "giraffe jitters" you might find yourself prone to.
And now, for the true treat of this post... I am going to share with you the most hilarious video my family has ever produced. (Spoiler alert: My dad gets whiplash from being slapped in the face TWICE by a giraffe while going in for the lip-feed maneuver). You really only need to watch the first 17 seconds (actually the very first second of the video is the most important) but since I am a YouTube uploader novice, I didn't really know how to cut out the rest of the chatter/laughing that goes on for another minute.
One more photo gem: the one where one particularly friendly giraffe can't stop photo-bombing our breakfast photo, geez!
Moral of the story: Stick your neck out for a friend, you might be pleasantly surprised :).