Leslie-Melville was a passionate advocate for of all species of African wildlife, and the Rothschild giraffe in particular. Nicknamed "The Giraffe Lady," Leslie-Melville began a breeding program for the Rothschild giraffe at the manor and watched the giraffe population in the region grow from about 120 to more than 400.
One of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe, the Rothschild is easily recognizable by its legs, which have no markings from the foot to the knee joint, making it appear as though they are wearing pale white knee socks.
In 1983, Leslie-Melville raised enough funds to build a Giraffe Center, which is today open to the public, right next door to the manor.
Ah, giraffes. I've loved them ever since I was a little girl.
I counted myself lucky to find myself in the "Betty" room, named for the founder herself. A stately oil portrait of Betty hung on the wall near to the fireplace. Across from it was the canopy bed of my dreams right in front of a sunny terrace overlooking the lush gardens.
Each of the hotel's 10 rooms boast art-deco features (a lion's mouth bath tub faucet) and four-poster beds. All meals and most drinks are included in the room price.
While Giraffe Manor serves guests an elegant dinner, it is breakfast that absolutely cannot be missed.
"What time should I come down?"
7 a.m., the hotel manager told me. "Sharp."
"The giraffes are early risers."
Just before 7 a.m. I peeked through the shutters and on the front lawn. I saw no giraffes.
It was one of those breezy Nairobi mornings, neither too hot nor too cold, the air still faintly smelling of fires lit for barbecues the night before Perhaps the giraffes had also decided they needed to sleep in. Still, rather than returning to my plush bed, I decided to pad down the winding staircase to the breakfast nook.
There are really no words to describe what I saw next, but I will try to do my best. As someone on my Instagram feed commented, the scene is like "something out of Alice in Wonderland."