Travel and Photography Blog
Going to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage is one of those things you have to do when visiting Nairobi. It is located next to the Nairobi National Park, so you can easily combine it with a safari trip. Since 1977 this organization has been rescuing not only little elephants but also rhinos whose mothers were killed (mainly because of poachers) or had an accident that separated them from their herd. The foundation also has an excellent rehabilitation program which ends with the reintroduction of the young orphan elephants and rhinos into the wild. By visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Nairobi you can learn all about the organization’s efforts to protect these beautiful creatures from the damages caused by the expansion of human population.
Visitors are only allowed within the orphanage during the feeding time, which is every day from 11:00 to 12:00 hrs. We were very excited to come see the orphans because we love animals, especially baby elephants. We also had in mind the idea of fostering an elephant, which, besides contributing a little bit to the project, gives you the possibility of coming back later that day to see your baby elephant go to bed. It costs the orphanage 900 USD per month to care for an orphan elephant, so all contributions are good.
Seeing these lovely little African elephants drinking their milk and playing in the mud will make them stay in your heart forever. Going to the DSWT will allow you to have a great time and at the same time help a very well-planned and developed trust.
What to do
After paying the entrance fee of just 500 shillings you are allowed into the feeding area. Try to get a good spot right behind the rope that separates the visitors from the elephants so you can have a good view of the entire playground. After all the visitors are settled in, a member of the staff will give an explanation about the project. Then, the first group of adorable babies will arrive running in line to the playground and feeding area. Watch them being bottle fed, eat some tree branches, play, show love to their caretakers and try to enjoy an extra bottle of milk. After the first group is finished and gone, a second group of older elephants will arrive. While you see them play, the staff will tell the story of each of the babies, including its name, age, reason for being there and maybe a fun fact. You might even get to see a family of warthogs that likes to hang around!
If you can, adopt an elephant! For the minimum of 50 USD a year you can sponsor an elephant and receive a certificate, a water painting of an elephant and documents with more details about the organization. You will also receive pictures and updates about your elephant through email each month. As an extra bonus, fostering parents are allowed to return to the center later that afternoon (around 17:00 hrs) free of charge to see their elephant come back from a walk and go to bed. You then get an hour of interaction with the orphan elephants. They stay inside their den the whole time, but they like to come and touch you with their trunk. You are even allowed to pet them if they get very close to you. We decided to adopt a baby elephant named Kauro and being able to watch him fall asleep will stay in our heart forever.
Lastly, the staff will show you a beautiful genetically blind rhino named Maxwell, who cannot be returned into the wild because he would be killed by his own kind, as rhinos are very territorial and he wouldn’t be able to defend himself.
How to get there
If you aren’t going on a safari in the Nairobi National Park and only want to visit the elephant orphanage, you can do it via public transportation. From downtown Nairobi you need to take matatu 24 which leaves from the train station, just south of Nairobi’s Central Business District. Make sure you take the matatu, not bus 24; we made that mistake and had to walk for 4 kilometers and then we took a taxi for another 9 kilometers! You should also ask the matatu driver if he knows where the entrance to the DSWT is. This is very important as ours did not know and we ended up several kilometers before the entrance. The matatu should leave you right at the gate, and then from there you have to walk 1.5 kilometers to the orphanage. It would be much easier to take a taxi to the orphanage from central Nairobi, but it is also much expensive. Since we visited the orphanage two times the same day (first for the feeding time and then at bedtime), we opted for using public transportation in the morning (when traffic isn’t that horrible in Nairobi) and in the evening we used a private taxi. He charged us 2,000 shillings for the round trip, including an hour of waiting time at the orphanage.
Get to the center early. It receives many visitors and if you arrive before the groups, if possible between 10:15 and 10:30, you can choose your spot for the best view.
If you want to know more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you can visit their website at: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
Written by Stephany
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