When planning my trip to East Africa, the destination I looked forward to the least was Nairobi. For me, I was heading to this part of the world to head on safaris and trek with the gorillas in Uganda, so Nairobi was just the place I had to travel through to get there. However, there was one thing that topped my list for my visit to Kenya’s capital city, and that was visiting the Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Centre.
Is there anything cuter than big, clumsy, baby elephants? The Elephant Orphanage is run by the Sheldrik Wildlife Trust who work to rehabilitate orphaned baby elephants to set them up for success in the wild. Why are they orphaned? From a variety of reasons such as poaching, habitat destruction, and even in some circumstances the baby elephant just got himself into a sticky situation that the mom couldn’t rescue them from. For example, falling into a hole that they couldn’t get out of.
This orphanage takes these baby elephants and helps raise them until they are old enough to be out in the wild without their parents help. When an elephant is orphaned, they often can die from starvation, dehydration, or injuries caused by predators or humans. Not to mention the psychological impacts being orphaned has on the animal. The caregivers at the orphanage care for these babies 24 hours a day. They even sleep in their quarters with them on rotation to ensure the elephants don’t feel lonely.
By the age of three, these elephants are ready to be reintegrated into the wild. The Wildlife Trust has three reintegration centres in protected conservation areas. At these centres, the elephants are gradually weaned and learn how to live as wild elephants. It’s here they’ll interact with wild herds and learn about elephant society. The process of fully being integrated back into the wild can take years (8-12 to be exact). Part of this process is that the young elephants will begin to form relationships with other elephants who will introduce them to a more independent life.
Visiting the young elephants is truly a magical experience. You’ll have the opportunity to witness their feeding and get information about the process of their rehabilitation. It’s an experience you seriously cannot miss.
Where is it?
Located in Nairobi National Park about 17km south of the city centre.
How to get there
You can take a taxi for around $20-25 USD, the drive is about 30-minutes. Alternatively, you can sign-up for a tour that will include your entry ticket and transportation. I did mine with Urban Adventures through Intrepid Travel.
Tickets for entry are around 500 shillings and go back into the conservation efforts.
The Giraffe Centre
I’ve paired both these experiences within one article as both are located very close together and you might as well do both in one day. The Giraffe Centre is a sanctuary for, you guessed it, giraffes. This experience truly allows you to get up close and personal with these beautiful animals.
The Giraffe Centre’s purpose is for conservation, as well as education. They specialize in breeding the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. The calves are then released into the wild at 2-3 years old when they are independent enough to survive on their own. To-date they have released more than 40 giraffes into safe parks across the country. They also strongly believe in educating the next generation on conservation and offer a variety of tours and educational opportunities for kids.
Visiting the Giraffe Centre you’ll be able to feed the giraffes right out of your hand. You’ll learn about the animals and get as close to these wild animals as you’ll ever get. Also, if you are like me who has been daydreaming about going to the Giraffe Manor in Kenya that you see all over Instagram, this is a good, budget-friendly alternative. In fact, the same people own the centre as the manor, and these are the same giraffes!
Where is it?
Located about 20km from Nairobi city centre and only 7.5km from the Elephant Orphanage.
How to get there
Look above at my tips for getting to the Elephant Orphanage as you can essentially do the exact same for the Giraffe Centre.
The cost to enter the Giraffe Centre is 1500 kshs. for tourists. All proceeds go towards the conservation efforts.