Nairobi’s elephant and rhino orphanage is simply incredible and has got to be one of the best things to do in Nairobi. As well as the chance to spend an hour watching some of the most adorable creatures on Earth having the time of their lives, you will also be donating to a great cause.
I was pleasantly surprised by the high levels of animal welfare demonstrated in Kenya, and through my trip I saw many examples of how the towns and villages are working together to protect the varied and spectacular range of wildlife in this country. Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage was just one example of how people are doing everything they can to save the lives of the animals that people have caused to become endangered.
A Little History
The elephant orphanage in Nairobi is run by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, set up and run by the Sheldrick family who tackle a huge range of conservation issues. While the baby elephant orphans project is at the heart of what they do, it is only a small part of the trust. Alongside the orphanage they also run anti-poaching programmes and have mobile veterinary units to get to animals in need quickly. They run community outreach programmes to educate local people about living alongside wildlife and they run a project to help save wilderness areas so that animals will always have a safe home to live in.
Visiting Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage
It’s a popular place (for obvious reasons!) so try to get there a little early so you can get in and find your place. If you make your way to the left as you enter then you will be able to get a spot near where the elephants enter and exit, so you will be able to see them as they come in.
Make sure you stand behind the cordoned off area, it’s there for a reason. One of the rangers will talk you through the ‘rules’ before the baby elephants arrive. Normally I’m not a fan of ‘organised’ animal watching events. I love seeing animals in the wild, in their natural habitat and I find it hard to see them on show. This was a very different experience though, and one that was refreshing to see.
The rangers were strict with the audience, making sure we understood how to behave around the elephants in the orphanage, and it was very clear that these elephants are loved by the staff that care for them, as well as by the tourists that come to visit. The elephants are only out for a very short amount of time, and are obviously used to the crowds. They are allowed where they want and are treated more like children than like elephants!
When it is time then the elephant orphans come running into the feeding area where you will get to see them bottle fed and playing in the mud baths. It really is the most adorable thing!
While you’re watching them play the rangers will explain a little about each elephant so that you can really get to know them. Each elephant at the orphanage has it’s own keeper, that looks after it and gives it lots of love. The keepers even stay overnight with the babies to make them feel safe and loved.
You will want your camera fully charged and at the ready-these are some seriously cute animals!
Top tip: Try not to wear your best white clothes, the elephants really don’t care what you’re wearing and if they want to spray mud all over you then they will!
Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage Facts And Figures
- Roughly 60% of baby elephants rescued under 2 years old survive
- About 98% of elephants at the orphanage that reach 2 survive
- Every baby elephant sleeps with a person every night
- Elephants “choose’ when to go back into the wild
- An elephant will remember it’s keeper for life (an elephant never forgets!)
How To Get To Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage
Sadly you can’t reach the elephant orphanage by public transport alone. The orphanage is located about 30 minutes away by taxi (which costs around 2000 Kenyan shillings roundtrip = $23). It would be worth combining this trip with another attraction nearby, such as the giraffe sanctuary or the Karen Blixen Museum, that way you make the most of you day.
We found this tour with Get Your Guide that offers a six hour tour of the National Park and Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage. For only £43 you get transport, a guide and the game drive, which is actually an amazing deal, considering you will pay nearly half that just for transport if you go alone. You can book it here.
If you want to save a little money you can take a Matatu that heads to the Galleria Mall. Once at the Galleria Mall you will see taxi drivers parked on the side of the road where you can negotiate a rate.
Where To Stay
As you would expect from any capital city, Nairobi has a range of accommodation to suit every need. You shouldn’t struggle to find somewhere to stay, but you may struggle to choose! There is no obvious centre in Nairobi, and the attractions are spread out so you will probably have to travel no matter where you base yourself.
Here is a summary of some of the areas you may want to consider when searching for the right place to stay, and some of the places you should try and avoid if possible.
Milimani/Dennis Pritt: Central and Cheap
Central, with some reasonably priced options. This district is within walking distance to the CBD but much cheaper. It is also near to many museums and some of Nairobi’s more notable nightlife venues. It is however a long distance from the airport. Try Casablanca Villas for somewhere cheap, welcoming and safe.
Upperhill: Central and Upmarket
Again, this district is very central and within walking distance of the CBD. It is Nairobi’s most exclusive neighbourhood and you will mostly find 4 and 5 star hotels here though there are some budget options available if you search around.
It is also very convenient to get around by public transport (Kenyatta National Hospital bound bus #7 ) which literary stops by the gate of every building in the area.
Kilimani: Cheap and Cheerful
This is the cheapest district listed so far. Here you will find lots of restaurants and places to eat and it is also close to several major shopping malls. Buses to the centre are easy to find.
Palm Valley is in a quiet area and has a nice, homely feel.
There is lots more detail on the orphanages website, including up to date information about the baby elephants that are currently at the orphanage. Check it out here!
Cost-Entrance will cost you 500 shillings (about $7). Make sure you take cash with you.
Opening hours-You can only see the elephants from 11am-12pm, so make sure you arrive a little early to get in the line. The orphanage is open every day (except Christmas day!)
How can you help?-You can adopt one of the baby elephants at the orphanage for $50 a year. This will go towards the elephants milk and care while it is in the orphanage.
For more to do on your visit to Nairobi check out my ultimate guide here.
Planning a road trip around Kenya? I’ve written a detailed and thorough guide to a 10 day road trip here, including some off the beaten track must see destinations.