On the last day of my parents' visit to Kenya, we ventured over to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in hopes of learning more about their orphan's project for baby elephants and rhinos. It's a landmark I had been interested in visiting for a while and after reading all the positive reviews, I thought it would be the perfect place to take my parents for a quick day trip in Nairobi.
Among their many conservation activities, DSWT is perhaps most famous for their orphan rescue and rehabilitation program. Baby elephants and rhinos who have been orphaned as a result of poaching or deforestation are taken in, hand-raised, and then reintegrated back into the wild. DSWT is open to the public daily for just one hour (to prevent the animals from being too acclimated to humans), from 11am to noon for 500 KSh per person.
I debated whether to drive us over there in our own car but at the last second arranged for a taxi to take us, a decision I was later thankful to have made for two major reasons:
1.) When I looked up the orphanage on google maps, it was marked in a location that was somewhat misleading as the actual way in was a little more circuitous than the map suggested. If it wasn't for Julius, our taxi driver, I'm not sure that I ever would have found it myself. I think the problem has since been remedied as long as you search for "David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary." Travelling south on Magadi Rd., look for a KWS sign on your left.
2.) While it has an expansive parking lot, it quickly fills up with hoards of safari vans and large tour buses, making it somewhat of a nightmare to get in and out. If you plan on driving yourself, it's highly recommended that you get there early. Despite our best efforts, we ran into some unexpectedly nasty traffic on the way and so arrived just past 11am. Thanks to Julius, we could just dash out of the car without having to spend another half hour looking for parking.
After getting out of the taxi, we rushed from the parking lot through what appeared to be the elephant stables until we arrived at a large crowd huddled around a roped off area. Peering through the people, we could see about 15 baby elephants drinking from buckets and pools, playing amongst each other and even approaching some of the members of the crowd. In the meantime, one of the head caretakers introduced each of the elephants by name, explaining how they had come to DSWT and even describing their unique personalities. In time, these 'babies' were herded back to their stables and a slightly older group of 'toddler' elephants were introduced as they fed from giant milk bottles. Afterwards, we continued to watch them play and meet the crowd around them.
I knew poaching was still a reality for the elephants and rhinos of Kenya, but visiting the orphanage really drove the point home about how devastating it can be. Certainly the elephants are painfully adorable and their stories equally as tragic, but the sheer number of orphans, the number of animals still being poached, and the dwindling populations of elephants and rhinos are staggering to fathom. If you're looking for a quick and easy day trip from Nairobi, I recommend you consider the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. It's an experience that will both break and warm your heart.