If you look up a list of the best things to do in Nairobi, the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage comes out tops on most lists. Visiting this elephant sanctuary is one of Nairobi’s most popular tourist activities. Here, visitors have the opportunity to follow the lives of elephants that have been rescued from dicey situations in the wild.

Many of the elephants, mostly orphans, are raised from infanthood until they are fit to return to an independent life in one of Kenya’s National Parks.

24 hours in Nairobi

When we first moved to Nairobi in the last quarter of 2020, the orphanage was closed to visitors. However, it has since reopened and regular guests are allowed to visit during the feeding hours between 11 am and 12 pm.

I arrived at the orphanage shortly after 11 am and was pleasantly surprised to see that the nursery was not as crowded as I had seen in some images. I believe this is because walk-ins are now discouraged and visitors are expected to book a visit beforehand.

PS: Some updates have been made to the booking procedure. The booking calendar has been reverted to the previous email method – better in my opinion!

sheldrick elephant orphanage

The viewing lasted exactly one hour, during which two groups of elephant herds were brought out to be fed and to play before going back into their enclosures. While the elephant and their human caretakers interacted, a guide gave us a detailed lecture about each of them and the centre.

We learnt about the conservation efforts of the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and how individuals and groups can contribute to these efforts. We also learnt about the state in which each elephant was found, how they were rescued and their current rehabilitation progress.

Elephant Rehabilitation Centre in Nairobi

Overall, it was quite an insightful visit that I enjoyed very much. This was my first time being close to elephants, even being able to touch them. It did feel quite surreal.

It was also wonderful to see these magnificent creatures getting another shot at life and I feel very grateful to everyone involved in making this happen.

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Ticket Price (or Donation)

The price to visit the elephant orphanage is $20 or the equivalent in Kenyan shillings for adults and kids above 12 years old. While children below 12 pay $5 or the equivalent in KSH. This is a donation fee and visitors are welcome to either donate more to the conservation efforts or even ‘adopt’ an elephant at a small fee.

In addition to the fee, a recent update has made it compulsory for visitors to pay Nairobi National Park entry fees to access the Elephant Nursery.

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Nairobi Opening Hours

The elephant orphanage is open to visitors from 11 am to 12 pm exclusively. In the past, there used to be another exclusive timeframe for visitors who have adopted an elephant, however, with COVID restrictions, the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage no longer offers this timing.

Visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Travel Tips

The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is situated in the Nairobi National Park, so you can take the opportunity to combine your trip with a safari in the city. The Giraffe Centre and a few other attractions are also close by and they make a good day out in Nairobi.

I have a 24-hour Nairobi guide which you can read here. But if you would rather go with an organized tour, then there are some available via Get Your Guide.

If you would like to learn more about the work the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is doing, you can check out this publication on their website. Also, if you would love to adopt (or sponsor) an elephant for as little as $50/year, you may also do so via this link.

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  1. Great information! I see that a lot of the dates are fully booked on their website, but tour companies still offer spots. Do tour companies reserve tickets/what is the best way to get a ticket?

    • I just checked it out too and see the same. When I visited, bookings were done via email, so it was easier to confirm a slot. You’re probably right, tour companies may be booking these tickets in advance, I’m sure centre will find a way to curb this in the future. What you can do for now is to call the centre at least a few days before your planned visit to confirm any openings and ask for a closer date.

      Maybe also try checking the site late at night. My guess is that the companies may cancel their reservation if they don’t get enough bookings to fill them.

      You could also attempt risking a walk-in. The worst case scenario is that you get turned away but you can plan to visit other attractions in the area, so that the trip is not wasted. Lastly, you could book one of the tours – at least you’re guaranteed an entry that way.

  2. This piece is very good in guiding especially if you want to explore Nairobi county , I actually put it on my reading blog lists

    thanks a lot.

  3. I enjoyed this piece, with the usual great photography. I think getting up close and personal with elephants is one of the great privileges of life. I treasured the experiences I’ve had with elephants in India, Thailand and Cambodia, while I’d love to do a similar sanctuary somewhere in Africa. Thanks for bringing this place to my attention.