I Kissed a Giraffe and I Liked It: Visiting The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

I closed my eyes in anticipation as she leaned her face close to mine. I could tell this 18-year-old female was totally into me. I saw her tongue come out of her mouth, and braced myself for what I hoped would be a magical experience.

And then Betty planted one on me.

giraffe kiss nairobi

Her tongue was softer than expected, not rough at all, but a bit slimy. And that’s how I had my first giraffe kiss at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

After we locked lips, Betty moved on to some other guy. But that’s fine. I wasn’t interested in being exclusive, anyway. I’ll always treasure our moment.

Getting a Giraffe Kiss at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi

giraffe-centre-kenya-visit

I could say that I came here because I support the Giraffe Centre’s mission of protecting the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. I could say I came here to support a wonderful local establishment that needs tourism dollars to carry out its mission. Both of those are awesome reasons to visit.

But truthfully, I came to the Giraffe Centre because I wanted a smooch. The giraffe kiss has become a thing, and it brings lots of tourists to this place on a daily basis to get those Instagram-worthy photos.

rothschild-giraffe-close

How do you get a giraffe to kiss you? Well, it’s not really kissing you. It’s feeding. Guests at the Giraffe Centre are given a couple of handfuls of food pellets, and they can hand feed the giraffes. You hold out a pellet, and the giraffe comes over, extends its lengthy black tongue to grab the treat, and curls its tongue back inside its mouth.

feeding-giraffes-kenya

Guests who want those giraffe kiss photos can hold a pellet between their lips, and the giraffes will lick it out, slurping your face with their long tongues at the same time.

It’s a good idea to check in with the guides before doing the kiss, as some giraffes are less friendly than others. My smooch partner Betty is the oldest of the giraffes at the centre, at 18 years of age. She’s lived here for 16 years and undoubtedly has kissed hundreds of other tourists before me. She loves to spread the love.

giraffe-kiss-centre-morning-less-crowded

Details about the Giraffe Centre

The Giraffe Centre currently houses 12 giraffes of various ages. Betty is the oldest, just ahead of 17-year-old Kelly.

giraffe names betty

There’s an elevated platform where you can stand to get super-close to the faces of these magnificent creatures. Seeing their spotted hides and long necks at such close range was a cool experience.

If you have a local SIM card in Kenya, Uber is the cheapest and easiest way to get around. You can get a ride to the Giraffe Centre for a handful of dollars. Admission price to enter the center is 1000 Kenyan shillings, or approximately $10 USD. They have a gift shop, a bathroom, and a coffee shop with small snacks, so you can hang out for lunch and soak in the atmosphere if you like. I found it fun to sit there and people-watch as new groups of tourists continued to show up.

Arriving early is recommended because more tourists tend to show up in the afternoon. I got there not long after they opened at 9 am and found the crowd to be a manageable number. Lots of families came by, and the kids loved getting up close with the giant animals and feeding them.

giraffe-centre-kids-visit

Also on the property is a boutique hotel called Giraffe Manor. If you’ve ever seen any photos of people sipping coffee while a giraffe sticks its neck through the window next to them, you can bet those pics were taken here. Good luck affording a room, though – rates begin at $565 USD per person. So most visitors have to skip the Manor and settle for stopping by the Centre for the giraffe kiss instead.

Important note: Google Maps shows two “Giraffe Centres” in Nairobi – one on Langata Road, and one on Duma Road. You want the one on Duma Road, next to Giraffe Manor.

If You’re Going: Giraffe Centre, Nairobi

Address: 7602-7604 Koko Head Park Rd, Honolulu, HI 96825 (Google Map)
Cost: 1000 Kenyan shillings (roughly $10 USD) for adults, 500 shillings for kids
When to Visit: Sanctuary is open 9am-5pm everyday, including holidays
Time Needed: 60-90 minutes
Website: https://giraffecenter.org/
Budget Lodging Nearby: Longview Suites Hotel
Upscale Lodging Nearby: Hemingways Nairobi
Further Reading: Giraffe Reflections: A Comprehensive Portrait of the World’s Second-Largest Land Animal (Amazon)

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    About the Author

    Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who seeks out offbeat attractions and awesome destinations around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

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