When the clock strikes 5 a.m., the hot, Kenyan sun makes its ascent into a pale, watery sky. Though they don’t wear watches, the guests arrive at the manor for breakfast like clockwork . They are 20 feet tall, each uniquely patterned, a juxtaposition of sandy tan and earth brown. They are accustomed to the routine, bending their graceful necks to peer into the breakfast room and dine with the human guests.

At the Giraffe Manor in Kenya, the extraordinary is just another morning.

Michelle Karam first set her sights on Kenya after a recommendation from a close friend who had returned from the country with a full heart. Eager to experience the magic for herself, Michelle tried continually to book a trip — one that, disappointingly, kept getting either postponed or cancelled.

But Kenya was always in the cards for Michelle. Not long ago, a tourism board there contacted her, offering a slew of projects for her to choose from. In awe of her good luck, Michelle dropped everything else and went, knowing the experience would be transformative.

Little did she know she would leave her heart there.

In anticipation of her trip, Michelle spent time researching and planning trips to sites she knew she had to visit. Inspired by a Pinterest post she’d stumbled upon years ago, she decided to book a stay at the Giraffe Manor — a stately brick home famous for its multifunctional grounds.

The Manor is a small hotel as well as a conservation site for endangered Rothschild giraffes. Michelle pulled into the property and stood in front of the brick building covered in lush ivy, nestled among tall trees, populated with unique, leggy visitors. She felt as if she was returning to a place she knew well.

The highlights of her time there included early morning breakfasts and afternoon teas spent with the giraffes. Close proximity to wildlife was a constant throughout her time in Kenya.

One day, Michelle took a drive through the bush in Laikipia and encountered a mother elephant and her babies. Taken by surprise, the mother elephant instinctively turned to protect her young. The encounter with their Jeep was a close one, and the electricity of the moment both frightened and exhilarated her.

When she reflects on her time spent at the Manor and in Kenya as a whole, Michelle recalls how happy she was — the kind of happiness that’s almost frightening, where everything is going so well it seems impossible that it is reality.

The people, the culture, the vibe, the authenticity of the place, the exhilaration of being there.

Kenya had stolen her heart.

See more of Michelle’s photos on Instagram.