If you are visiting Kenya for a safari, you will likely be flying in or out of one of the Nairobi airports; JKIA for international travel or Wilson for domestic travel. Therefore, while in the city, you should allow time in your Kenya safari itinerary to visit the nearby orphaned baby elephants at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi.
As someone who has had the incredible opportunity to visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, I can assure you that it is a must-do activity in Nairobi, particularly for animal lovers.
The Elephant Orphanage Nairobi booking website is informative. Nonetheless, before visiting I hoped to find more details from people who had personally visited the elephant orphanage in Kenya.
As a result, this article will take you through all the information you need to know about a Sheldrick Wildlife Trust visit. As you will soon learn, you cannot just show up and see the elephants.
You should ensure you allocate a free morning because you can only arrange a Nairobi Elephant Orphanage visit during their set visiting hours. I booked my Nairobi Elephant Orphanage visit for the end of my Kenyan safari on the day we were flying back to England because our flight was not until 11:00 PM.
Read on to find out more about how to make a Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage visit happen.
What is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage?
There are several common names for this elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. Officially, it is known as the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, but it is also referred to as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or even Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary.
Daphne Sheldrick is the founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, but it was named after Daphne’s late husband, David, who was a founding warden of Tsavo National Park and managed wildlife protection operations in Tsavo East.
Nowadays, the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is run by the daughter of Daphne and David Sheldrick: Angela.
However, the wildlife trust does not only care for elephants. It also raises endangered rhinos. Nonetheless, when you book a public visit to the wildlife trust, you will only see the elephants. But know that your donation is going towards the rehabilitation of elephants and rhinos.
The David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage aims to locate and rescue rhinos, baby elephants without parents for various reasons, and other wild animals that require assistance.
The animals are transported to the nursery using planes, helicopters, or vehicles.
The elephant orphans are cared for 24 hours a day to gain their strength before they are reintegrated into protected conversation areas from around the age of three.
How to Visit Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage?
It is not possible to visit David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust without making a booking online.
There are two types of visits available at this elephant orphanage in Nairobi National Park.
Firstly, it is possible to attend during the public visiting hour, which takes place every day (except Christmas) at 11:00 AM.
To arrange a public visit, you must book a spot for each group member on the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website. The dates are released approximately three months in advance.
Therefore, you should keep an eye on when your preferred date is approaching and be ready to book it on the day it is released, particularly if you are visiting on a weekend since these slots usually get taken first.
Read on to learn about booking Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage as part of a tour.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Entrance Fee (Public Visits)
- 1,500 Kenyan Shillings or USD 15 – per person over 12 years old
- 500 Kenyan Shillings or USD 5 – per person under 12 years old
It is generally cheaper to pay in shillings because the exchange rate is not always comparable – particularly for visitors from non-USD countries.
You will pay the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage entrance fee when you arrive in cash. You do not pay anything when you book online.
You can cancel your Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage booking free of charge if you can no longer make it to clear up the spots for other visitors. Similarly, if your desired date is full, you should keep checking online to see if any spaces release from cancellations.
Do not attempt to walk into Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage because you will not be accepted. If you want a last-minute visit, keep an eye on the website and book your slot online. You will be required to show your reservation upon arrival.
The second option for visiting the orphaned elephants is to arrange a private visit.
Only one group is allowed a private visit per day; therefore, availability is low, and demand is high.
The private visit takes place at 3:00 PM during a scheduled feed time for the orphan elephants.
In the past, this second viewing of the day opened to those who had adopted an orphan. However, this process has changed in the last few years.
The private viewing costs USD 1,000 for a group of 1 to 10 people, and it can be arranged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This booking, however, does carry a cancellation fee of 50% for 11 to 20 days out and 100% for less than 10 days out.
What Time to Arrive at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Nairobi?
As stated on the booking confirmation, you should arrive at Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage at 10:30 AM.
You may feel that arriving 30 minutes early is too much, but by arriving at this time, you will avoid the rush of cars all arriving later.
When I visited, there was a long line of cars arriving at the same time waiting to show their booking confirmation and pay their fees in cash, so it took a while to get to the front entrance.
There is no service in the park, so ensure you have a screenshot or a printout of your Sheldrick booking confirmation.
My group arrived at the entranceway to Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage at around 10:40 AM, but we did not get through the front gates and parked until 10:57 AM; therefore, we had to run to get to the feeding.
Another perk of arriving a 10:30 AM is that you will get to the front of the viewing area. There are around 200 people at each visit; therefore, you want a good view in front of the crowd.
My favourite view was of the elephants running over to the keepers to get their bottles, so you should stand in a relatively central part to get a glimpse of this.
Plus, it is fun to be near the elephants playing in the mud pool. I also liked the angle from behind of the elephants walking back after their feeding.
Therefore, you may want to be on the front-on side, to the right. But you will have a great time no matter where you stand if you get in the inner circle and have no one in front of you blocking your view.
What Happens During a Visit to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust?
During the public visit, you will watch the elephants’ midday feed and mud bath. One of the elephant keepers will introduce you to each of the elephants.
The elephants come out in two groups. Firstly, the youngest elephants will come out for their bottle and playtime. Then, the older elephant orphans will come out.
If an elephant walks past you, you are allowed to gently touch it. Although, you will soon realise your hand will turn brown from the dust they like to play in.
If you plan to adopt an elephant at the end, pay attention to the names of each elephant. You may notice a particularly playful elephant, so listen out for its name.
Note that some of the youngest or newest orphans in the sanctuary are unable to be adopted yet, so you may want to have a couple of names in your mind.
At the end of the visit, there will be a board with all the orphans that can be adopted.
The board shows information about each elephant, including the location of the rescue, the reason they were orphaned, and a couple of fun facts.
If you adopt an elephant while at the orphanage, you will get your information booklet, adoption certificate, and printed oil painting by Angela Sheldrick. You can decide later to adopt an elephant online, but you will not receive the printed documents.
During the private visit, you and the rest of your family will get an intimate experience whereby you get up close and personal with the elephants. You can touch and play with the elephants, while getting incredible photos with the baby elephants.
You will also get an explanation of the Elephant and Rhino Projects, plus you will hear the individual elephant’s rescue stories.
What to Bring and Wear to Elephant Orphanage Nairobi?
Given that you should arrive early at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, bring some provisions, such as a water bottle and sunscreen. You cannot take other drinks or snacks to the sanctuary.
It can get hot while watching the elephants, so wear a hat to cover your head.
There are toilets on site that you can use before or after the feeding. There is also a hand-washing/sanitisation station, which may come in handy after touching the elephants.
Bring your best camera. I only brought my phone and left my DSLR with a good zoom lens at our Nairobi airport hotel and regretted not being able to take high-quality photos of the elephants.
Do not wear your favourite white clothing because you could get splashed by the elephants in the mud bath or touched by a dusty elephant’s trunk.
Wear comfortable shoes that you can stand in for an hour, but also ones that can get dusty or muddy. When it rains, it can get mucky around the visiting area.
Bring cash or a credit card to purchase souvenirs or adopt an elephant at the end.
Read this article to learn what to wear in Nairobi and while on safari.You can also get a copy of my free printable safari packing checklist here.
Booking a Tour for Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Be careful when booking tours online that include a visit to the orphanage because they may inflate the donation price. As I mentioned above, you pay the donation fees upon entry using cash, so the price is transparent.
You may prefer to book a tour where you pay for the transportation and guide only, and the admission fees are paid yourself upon entry.
Additionally, when booking the tour, ensure the company can confirm your visit to Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary. Remember – if you are booking outside three months, the guides should confirm your timing at the three months mark.
Furthermore, if you are within three months, there may be limited availability to see the elephants, even if the tour company’s website says the tour is available.
You could also include a stop for lunch at Carnivore Buffet or another local restaurant.
Check out tours in Nairobi that include the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust here.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Shop
You can purchase souvenirs after the public visit. They take card payments or cash in USD and Kenyan Shillings.
I bought a Sheldrick Wildlife Trust t-shirt. Plus, there are many elephant sculptures and figurines.
A good idea for a gift for people who love elephants is the book of Daphne Sheldrick. You can also purchase it online before your trip to learn about her story.
Furthermore, if you would like to make additional donations or donate on someone else’s behalf, there are options to donate milk formula or hay bales.
FAQ – Elephant Sanctuary Nairobi
How to adopt an elephant at the Elephant Sanctuary Nairobi?
You can adopt an orphaned elephant during your David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage visit. You will be given an information booklet, adoption certificate, and a printed oil painting by Angela Sheldrick.
Alternatively, you can adopt an elephant online for $35 a year, but you won’t receive the printed documents.
What to wear to Elephant Sanctuary in Nairobi?
Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes that can get dusty or muddy, as the sanctuary can be quite warm and may have muddy areas. Bring a hat to protect yourself from the sun, but avoid wearing white clothing as the elephants may splash mud during their bath time.
How much is the entry fee for Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage?
For public visits to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, the entrance fee is 1,500 Kenyan Shillings (or USD 15) for people over 12 years old, and 500 Kenyan Shillings (or USD 5) for those under 12 years old. You pay the fee in cash upon arrival, not during the online booking process.
What time is feeding at the Elephant Orphanage Nairobi?
Feeding time for the elephants during the public visit takes place at 11:00 AM daily. Arrive at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage at 10:30 AM to avoid the rush and secure a good spot to view the feeding and mud bath.
What is the best time to visit the animal orphanage in Nairobi?
The best time to visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi is during their set visiting hours, which start at 11:00 AM. Plan your visit ahead, making sure you have a free morning in Nairobi to fully enjoy the experience and see the elephants feed and play in the mud bath.