How and Why to Visit the SWT Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi
Unlike most cities, Nairobi boasts many special spots for wildlife viewing within city limits. Many of these spaces coexist side by side with modern facilities for humans, so you can enjoy the local nightlife and then feel close to nature by visiting the National Park the very next day.
In addition to a National Park, this unique city offers various other places of interest to see animals. Let us explore one of these gems—the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphanage, commonly known as the Elephant Orphanage.
There, you can learn about elephants and other Kenyan wildlife. The baby elephants at the orphanage are a treat to see. You will find this is a must-see place in Nairobi.
What Is an Elephant Orphanage?
As the name hints, this is an orphanage for the elephants. Here, you can see orphaned baby elephants and get to know more about them in detail. There are wardens who care for the elephants around the clock until they are ready to be released back into the wild. The wardens are like parents for the animals and endeavor to support them in every way possible.
Where Do the Elephants Come From?
The elephants at the orphanage are rescued from various parts of the country, usually due to poaching. In these tragic incidents, they lose their mothers and need help to survive. Without human intervention, young elephants are unable to survive in the wild.
Below are the details of some of the elephants who were at the orphanage when I visited last.
At the time of my visit, Ziwadi was the newest member of the orphanage. She was rescued from Masai Mara after being found roaming alone. How she became separated from her mother and herd remains unknown, but humans were certainly involved; at the time of rescue, Ziwadi had two arrow wounds on her body and was visibly weak. She was also suffering from temporary blindness.
Thanks to specialized medical care and 24-hour support at the orphanage, she is recovering well. She is a gentle and sweet elephant. The name Ziwadi means “a gift” in Swahili.
This was another new addition to the orphanage, rescued from Olarro conservancy in Masai Mara. Like Ziwadi, conflicts between humans and wildlife led Larro to lose her mother. She was very weak when rescued.
Larro's name is borrowed from her place of rescue. Her favorite thing to do is take mud baths.
Kiasa was rescued from Tsavo East National Park after losing her mother to drought. They found her roaming with two bulls and airlifted her from there to Nairobi. Initially, she was not keen to get closer to the other elephants at the shelter. Now, she has overcome her trauma and mixed well with the other elephants.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rescued Nabulu from Mara North Conservancy. The reason behind Nabulu’s parting from her mother is unknown. They found her roaming alone for two weeks, as no other elephant herds would accept her. Thankfully, KWS brought her to the orphanage and she is now on her way to a healthy and long life.
Maktao was rescued from Tsavo West National Park. Unfortunately, he was not in a very elephant-friendly community, and he lost his mother due to human-wildlife conflicts. He was severely dehydrated when found, but is recovering well.
Mukkoka was rescued from Tsavo East National Park. The reason behind his separation from his mother is unknown. Thankfully, he is doing well at the orphanage and will make a full recovery.
Below, I invite you to enjoy a video of the baby elephants at the orphanage enjoying a mud bath and drinking milk.
Full Rehabilitation Is the Goal
The staff at the elephant orphanage are doing a great job. They take excellent care of the elephants and help them grow into young adults. The eventual goal is to help the elephants become healthy and strong enough to return to the wild. I was delighted to see these elephants leading healthy lives after such initial hardships.
How Can I Contribute to the SWT Orphanage?
You can contribute to this trust's noble work by "adopting" an elephant. One can adopt an elephant for a mere $50 USD at the orphanage or online. They even provide a certificate of adoption.
Opening Hours and Entry Fees
The orphanage is only open to visitors between 11 AM and 12 PM daily, so you get just one hour there to watch the baby elephants (of which there are usually around 10 to 12). The crew feeds them and educates visitors about the babies and their behavior. The one-hour show, while short, is very informative and engaging.
The entry fee is KES 500 ($7 USD) per person, cash only.
Note: If possible, I recommend planning to visit on a weekday. That way, you can avoid the rush on weekends and public holidays.
How to Get to the SWT Orphanage
The Elephant Orphanage is a 40-minute drive from Nairobi's Central Business District (CBD). One can choose any of the below options to get there.
- Book a Tour: Various tour operators provide their services for the Elephant Orphanage tour. Some offer the ability to combine the tour with a visit to the Giraffe Center and Karen Blixen Museum. The tour operators are quite reasonable. You can have a private tour or join with other groups.
- Rent a Car: Hire a car and self-drive to reach there. In that case, you may want to use Google maps to get there.
- Take an Uber: One of the most convenient ways is to get an Uber there. In this case, you don’t have to worry about parking.
This is a good place, and the staff are doing a great job helping the baby elephants. The Elephant Orphanage aims to support the elephants and help them return to the wild, where they can lead a healthy and long life.
If you're looking for an unforgettable activity to do while in Nairobi, then plan a visit to this place. Please comment with your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions in the comment section below.
© 2019 Dshibu