Eating Breakfast with Giraffes in Nairobi

We just dropped pellets on Lynn’s black-purple tongue as fast as we could from the second floor of Giraffe Manor’s Daisy’s Room balcony above the Breakfast Room. Warthogs below eat the pellets that Lynn misses.

Lynn was hungry at 7 am because it was her breakfast time with 17 people feeding her pellets, giraffe pellets. She had put her head and mouth in our bedrooms, at the balconies, and on the patio to eat pellets non-stop from anyone who would feed her by hand or mouth. Now it was time for the Breakfast Room.

Oh, this Breakfast food is delicious. And Lynn eats several plates of pellets before she leaves to greet the tourists at the Giraffe Center.
The Breakfast Room “BL” Before Lynn and her giraffe family.

It was recommended that we feed her one pellet at a time but she wanted more, a lot more. She even wanted to eat at the breakfast table with us, and eat she did. She found her own plate full of pellets at each breakfast table, licked the plates and wanted more.

Lynn eating off of our table and stealing a fruit shish-kebob in one second flat while we watched in shock.
The fruit Shish-Kebob before Lynn.

But, then, all of sudden, without warning, she grabbed my 10-inch long fruit Shish-Kebob, full of watermelon, mango, pineapple and honeydew melon, and ate the whole thing in one gulp.

I screamed “Lynn, you stole my fruit.” And then, one at time, she spit out a watermelon chunk, followed by a pineapple chunk, and a mango chunk and honeydew melon chunk. It seemed like the fruit spitting would never end. And to my amazement, the chunks were in the original shape and condition.

That fruit-on-a-stick was right next to my scrambled eggs on my plate. Lynn had stolen food off of my breakfast plate without my offering it. Now, my fruit-was sprinkled all over the table, and I didn’t get more fruit  because Lynn had already “eaten” it.

The 3 windows in the Breakfast Room can have several giraffes at each window.
Lynn eating a snack right before Breakfast in the window.
The Giraffe Manor, built in 1934

Lynn Giraffe had eaten people’s breakfast food many times as she was one of the 8 resident severely endangered Rothschild giraffes at the Giraffe Manor Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1974, the owners of the old 1930’s style ivy covered English manor, Betty and Jock Melville, were asked to take a baby Rothschild giraffe to help save the species from extinction. Her name was Daisy and soon, Jock, a young male giraffe followed and many baby giraffes thereafter. Betty always loved feeding her 2 giraffes at breakfast through the open windows and a tradition began.

Calling the Rothschild Giraffes from the surrounding 140-acre complex in the Karen subdivision of Nairobi, Kenya.
Here comes Lynn for Breakfast, and the windows were perfect height for her13-foot height.

Now, Giraffe Manor is the only hotel in the world where a giraffe eats breakfast with guests.

To call the giraffes to breakfast, a hotel employee stands near the Manor’s front door around 7 am and rattles a plastic bowl full of giraffe pellets.

THE food in THE cauldron in THE Fireplace in THE Reception Living Room.

The pellets come from the Manor’s reception room fireplace where a huge brass cauldron full of giraffe pellets awaited for feeding them. In one minute flat, the giraffes started arriving from the 140-acre property around the Manor.

Lynn picks up the pellets that were dropped and the Giraffe Manor’s resident warthog family eats the pellets on the ground. The warthogs get on their knees to eat the food.
Hand feeding wasn’t fast enough. Lynn wanted a bowl full at a time.

Soon, we were surrounded by giraffes, each with a name like Jock, Marlon, Betty, Daisy, Lynn, and Karen in honor of Karen Blixen who wrote “Out of Africa”. The Manor is located in the Karen section of Nairobi and Ngong Hills. In honor of each giraffe, the Manor’s bedrooms were given their names.

We stayed in Daisy’s Room that had a balcony and Lynn Giraffe came around to eat our pellets at the balcony railing. It was the first time I had even seen her long, deep mouth and black purple tongue, and teeth. She just stood with her head pointed to the sky and mouth wide open, and I dropped pellets in her mouth.

She would also come back for more pellets in the afternoon for tea and evening for dinner on the terrace.

Staying at the Giraffe Manor was an awesome experience that we highly recommend for a giraffe experience of a lifetime. Plus, giraffes are everywhere inside the Manor from the photos and paintings on the walls, to giraffe dinner plates and chargers, to hot water bottle bed warmers with a giraffe on it, coffee and tea pots with a giraffe pattern cloth wrapped around them to keep the liquid hot, and a gift shop with, you guessed it, giraffe items for sale.DSC_0171

Now at 8 A.M., the giraffes left our breakfast as fast as they arrived earlier. Inquiring as to where the giraffes went, the Giraffe Manor manager said ,”to the Giraffe Center on the edge of the Manor property to meet the tourists”. They had eaten all the food for them at breakfast so now it would be tourists feeding each giraffe because they were hungry. Photo Copy ©  2015 



United States of America

Almost Human in a Gorilla Suit


Fernando serves Maka his first spoonful of banana baby food.

  He ate sitting up just like a baby as Fernando fed him a snack of banana baby food from the jar with a metal spoon. And he ate it fast because he LOVES human baby food. But, instead of being a baby, he is an silverback adult male Western Lowland Gorilla named Maka living at the San Diego Zoo, California, United States of America.


He opened his big pink mouth full of big white teeth and ate each spoonful in an instant. Fernando Covarrubias, a gorilla keeper for 30 years at the San Diego Zoo, cannot feed Maka fast enough. And if he stops, Maka knocks on his bedroom door or wall for more. Maka has 98% DNA of a human yet he is a gorilla with 2 chromosomes from being human.

All gorillas have access to the open air yard, and are rotated on exhibit and off exhibit throughout the day. When they are off-exhibit in their bedrooms, it gives keepers a chance to check their health and work on training.


Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.
Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.


Many times, Fernando explained, vitamins and needed medicines are mixed in the baby food to keep Maka healthy. And Maka always takes his meds because he loves his baby food so much and he doesn’t even wear a bib or get one drop of food on his beautiful black hair or his body.


Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.
Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.

For their main nutrition, Fernando gives each gorilla daily biscuits full of plant matter and vital nutrients because gorillas are leaf eaters. These biscuits are formulated to be like the nutrients gorillas eat in the wild. As the gorillas eat their biscuits each morning, they are kept separate so Fernando will know each one is getting complete nutrition.


Now it was time for different vegetables and fruits like bananas, apples, figs and plant-based foods they feed the gorillas. Between the bite-size fruit treats, Maka showed how he communicates with Fernando.  “Show me your left ear,” Fernando said, and Maka showed his left ear through the bars in his bedroom. “Show you right foot,” and Maka lifted his huge right foot into Fernando’s hand so he could check it out.

Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.
Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.

 Next, Maka stuck his left hand out and Fernando held his hand and examined it. It was the cutest big plastic-looking hand with huge fingers twice the size of a male human adult’s. “Turn around and show your back,” and Maka showed his beautiful silverback so Fernando could look at it. “You are good to go for today,” Fernando told Maka, as he had just completed his daily medical exam.DSC_0428


“We train the gorillas and all the animals here in the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park to respond to our requests so we can keep them healthy just like a Mother would do her child.”We are their keeper, primary nurse, chef, behavior specialist, maid and cleaner, friend, and teacher,” Fernando said admiringly. “We would like to teach Maka how to work a touch screen computer.”

20-month-old Monroe in constant motion
20-month-old Monroe in constant motion

While all of this was going on at the San Diego Zoo, 20-month old Monroe was romping, tumbling, rumbling, running and eating carrots for all the visitors to see at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where he was born June 17, 2011. In a second, he would be riding the back of his surrogate great-great-grandmother, Vila, for a few feet and then she would put him off.

Vila died January 25, 2018 surrounded by her gorilla family group. She was 60 years old and the second oldest lowland gorilla in the world. DSC_1003

Vila held the record as the second oldest gorilla in the world living in captivity. when Monroe was nearing his terrible two’s, most of the adults in the gorilla troop don’t want to run and play full time with Monroe.

Monroe eating s snack on the run.
Monroe eating s snack on the run.

Enter Frank, a 4-year-old gorilla from another gorilla family troop at the San Diego Zoo, as a potential playmate for Monroe”, Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Dept. at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park explained.

Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“We’re bringing Frank and Monroe together so they can be together throughout their lives in a bachelor troop, if necessary, and it is best to introduce them as youngsters.


Watching Monroe!
Watching Monroe!

Monroe and Frank, being from different troops, however, are getting to know one another as they visit through bars in their adjoining bedrooms. Smelling, watching, touching, running back and forth, and playing is helping to bond these cute little gorilla children together so they can eventually grow up together in the same troop. After a careful introduction period, they were brought together in the same exhibit to run, play and have disagreements just like real brothers while the older adults continue to sit and watch. Vila,the great-great grandmother and Monroe continue to be best friends.


Another one who doesn’t run and play much is Winston, the dominant silverback male, born in the wild in West Africa. “This huge gorilla with a beautiful silverback, loves to eat raisins that the keeper throws around the free roaming exhibit for him and his troop members to pick off the ground one at a time with those huge fingers,” Rex Little, volunteer docent at the gorilla exhibit, pointed out. Then 420-pound Winston walked around and collected 15-inch long lettuce leaves then sat on a log to eat them. He was a picture of contentment, happiness and joy as he sat on the log eating lettuce and watching Monroe.

 Monroe’s Mother, Kokamo, also closely watches her active baby as she goes about her daily life in the exhibit and he goes about his baby antics and is into everything. He practices pounding on his chest with his fists like a silverback gorilla does to show dominance. Monroe watches every move the adults make and then copies them.

  Another adult female listening to all the action is Imani. She is Frank’s surrogate mom who waits in her
bedroom with Frank until it is their turn in the exhibit yard. Imani is included  in Winston’s troop with Frank now.
Gorilla females can have a baby every 4 years, and, hopefully, in the future, Monroe may get another playmate in addition to Frank.

 After a full day of non-stop activities, Monroe, Kokamo, Winston, Vila, and Kamilah, sleep together in their bedroom on wood excelsior and other nesting materials. In the morning, after having their morning meal (including low starch primate biscuits), Winston, and Kokamo carrying baby Monroe in her arms, make their grand entrance into the exhibit together for the world to see the leaders of their family troop. The others follow, until all 5 troop members are in the exhibit eating their raisin treats.


Monroe "playing" with an elderly family member.
Monroe “playing” with an elderly family member.

And they all watch Monroe and Frank while they play, explore, romp and get attention and admiration of the guests at the Safari Park while Maka awaits his next snack of banana baby food at the San Diego Zoo. It’s a wonderful gorilla life.

Monroe and his antics.
Monroe and his antics.
Sitting and watching Monroe.
Sitting and watching Monroe.
Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I are talking about.
Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I were talking about.
Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.
Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.
Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.
Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.
Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.
Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.
Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.
Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.
An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.
An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.
OH, what a big yawn!
OH, what a big yawn!
United States of America

Roar, Snore and S’Mores on Safari

Instantly, we became tigers and others became lions, elephants or hippos. And, in case we forgot, a simulated tiger skin wristband imprinted with our tent number reminded us. Next came a t-shirt. Then the tiger group was on its way to a roaring and snoring good time on a safari in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Hand luggage in tow, we began searching for our tent, one of 46 overlooking the African savannah where giraffe, Northern White Rhino, Cape buffalo, African crowned crane, grant gazelle, oryx, and giant egret roam daily in the Safari Park, 35 miles north of the Zoo.

Finally, we found our tent #37 written on a tree stump stool. Unzipping the tent “door” revealed a normal hotel room encased in a heavy canvas tent. The electric lamps, fan, heater and hot and cold water all worked so we were in business next to the elephants..

The 17 elephants were putting on a welcome show for us: eating hay,  pooping, swimming and submerging trunk and all under water, rocking and rolling and twisting to their silent music, and flipping over in their daily ritual. And they could do this because their exhibit compound had just been cleaned by 4 keepers who had hand raked and collected their poop from the previous day. Each day, 2,000 pounds of poop is gathered and placed in a Bobcat bulldozer and larger truck, then delivered to local farmers for fertilizer.

Too soon, the tiger group had to leave the elephants and continue our orientation tour.  This time our hunt was for the restrooms, as there were none in the tents. A block or so away we found our target, full-service restrooms including showers.

The dinner bell was calling us so off we went for cocktails, then chicken, green salad, squash, and cake overlooking the Park’s African savannah. All 87 of us ate dinner on wooden picnic tables while watching the sun and animals end another day.

On our safari, we were given a glimpse into “as the elephant world turns.” Drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa, allowed the San Diego Zoo to acquire 7 elephants, arriving via 747 aircraft. They were going about their daily lives, eating, pooping, sparring and resting with each other. Since males only associate with females for mating, one solitary bull elephant was by himself and was busy throwing dust all over his body to kill insects, to cleanse and to cool.

Meanwhile Umngani, a female elephant, was standing in the elephant yard nursery waiting her third calf’s birth. Her male and female offspring, Ingadze and Khosi, were visiting every day to see if they had a new playmate.

As we became more involved in the elephant world, we learned that male and female African elephants have tusks, but only the Asian males have them. So, when an Asian bull elephant first saw a female African elephant, he didn’t know she was female. He only knew females did not have tusks. After a few days, he figured it out and started showing her what a strong elephant he was by picking up a log and running with it and dropping it near her over and over.

In the Rhino world, two female Rhinos looked like they were in relationship as they napped side by side in the savannah.  But then we learned only one male and female  Rhino pair was put together in an exhibit, but no baby Rhinos were born. By
1972, the solution was discovered when another female was added to their exhibit. Like elephants, a female Rhino only associates with a male when she is ready to mate. The rest of the time, female Rhinos prefer being with their female Rhino friends. Now, there are many baby Rhinos.

After a break for S’Mores and hot chocolate by the fire pit, we revisited the elephant world to find six elephants of all sizes and ages taking a late-evening bath. They totally submerged themselves in the water, rocked and rolled over with all four feet in the air, and did elephant acrobatics. What a soothing and calming experience this was to watch.

After dark we entered the lion family world, invited there by the lion’s keeper into their kitchen and bedrooms. Their freezer was filled with large round stickless popsicles made from meat blood drippings. “The lions LOVE them, the keeper told us. And every time she works with the male lion, Izu, she collects hair shed from his huge mane and keeps it in a plastic container for all to feel. It was downy soft. What an unexpected and rare glimpse into a world we would never have known.

Finally, it was time to snore at this Roar and Snore safari adventure. We had no trouble meeting the 10:30 PM “lights out” curfew. Having been warned that elephants would trumpet and lions would roar during the night, we asked others if they heard the sounds. We didn’t know since we slept so soundly in our comfortable bed in the tent. So at breakfast, everyone we asked said “Yes” and we never heard one sound as we enjoyed snoring in our tent.

The grand finale was petting and feeding a rare Rothschild giraffe, Chomoa, and a rare Northern White Rhino, Bhopu. Caravan safaris are a regular event at the Park and these two animals know treats are available from the truck. So, each voluntarily nonchalantly sauntered straight to the truck to pose like a movie star with each person for photos in exchange for their favorite green leaf snack. Amazingly, each animal knew when all photos were taken so they just turned around and sauntered off just like they had come. The movie star Choma was finished with this truck and awaited the next safari to arrive. Then it was time to leave an awesome roaring and snoring fun safari adventure in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and return to our normal everyday lives. But it sure was hard to leave those precious, priceless animals and their fun, unique personalities.

Photo Copy ©  2015