The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, located inside Nairobi National Park, is one of the most moving places I have ever been. It is an orphanage for young elephants who have been rescued all over Kenya and brought to Nairobi. Baby elephants are not able to survive without their mothers' milk, so the staff at Sheldrick feed them a special formula that mimics elephant milk. (Milk from cows will cause them to die.) Unfortunately, Sheldrick receives more and more baby elephants all the time due to poaching. The baby elephants eventually move to another park in Kenya where they are slowly introduced to other elephants in order to join a wild herd. They have had amazing success with these transitions. The keepers' dedication and love for elephants is heartening. They feed the babies, teach them to browse for food, and even sleep in the stalls at night!
There are several opportunities to visit the baby elephants if you are in Nairobi. The elephants have a mudbath everyday at 11:00 that is open to the public. You have about an hour to view the elephants from behind a rope. It can get quite crowded, but you get to see the elephants play and interact with each other. Tickets can be purchased when you arrive (roughly $7.) At 5:00, people who have fostered an elephant are able to come see the elephants return from browsing in the forest to get their evening bottle and go to bed for the night. You are able to be quite close to the elephants and get to meet the keepers. You must foster your elephant and reserve your spot ahead of your visit. They will have your name on a list when you arrive. Fostering costs $50 a year per elephant. The fostering program is an important source of funding for the Trust. They do amazing work and I was happy to support their mission.
The orphanage is in the Karen area, and a visit can be combined with the Giraffe Center, Kazuri Beads, the Karen Blixen house, or the Utamaduni Craft Centre. Your hotel or tour operator will arrange a ride for you. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that you can clean off and long pants to walk around the paths. For the 5:00 visit, get there at least 10 minutes early to sign in with the security guard. If you are interested in visiting, be sure to follow them on Facebook or Instagram to keep up to date with the elephants!
Check out the FAQ section if you want specifics about fostering or visiting.