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The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Elephant Orphanage

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Elephant Orphanage

The crowd gathers at the barrier from around 10am.  It’s a mixed bag – foreign tourists, Kenyan families bringing visiting relatives and friends, and several dozen small school children.  At 11 o’clock the rope barrier is dropped and everyone enters the Elephant Orphanage.  The crowd scuttles past the stables where the baby elephants sleep at night and down a narrow path to pay the entrance fee and continue down to a large clearing with another rope barrier.  As the visitors find their place for the best views of the elephant orphans there is a sense of excitement and anticipation.  At last everyone is in and suddenly from the bushes in the Nairobi National Park appears the first group of baby elephants.  They scamper down to the clearing where massive bottles of milk wait for them.  Some of the elephants can hold the bottle with their trunks and feed themselves, while the smaller ones need assistance from the keepers.  They guzzle down the milk; those who are feeding themselves throw the first bottle down and nudge the keepers for a second.  Cameras are snapping wildly and the school children are a bit nervous and a bit excited all at the same time.

In 1948, David Sheldrick became the founding Warden of Tsavo National Park, the largest park in Kenya, where he was forced to deal with the problem of armed poachers.  After his untimely death in 1977, his wife Daphne established the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  Among other activities, the elephant orphanage is one of the projects of the Trust.  It supports baby elephants that have lost their mothers due to death from injuries, natural causes or poaching, or the orphan has gotten lost in the wild.  Baby elephants (like human babies) cannot survive without care and the dedicated team at the orphanage provide both the physical and emotional care required.  When the elephants come of age, they are released back into the wild after an extensive rehabilitation process.

Elephant Orphanage, OTA - Kenya Safaris, www.ota-responsibletravel.com

During visiting hours, the elephants are fed and the keepers introduce each orphan and tell their story.  It’s a rare opportunity to see these young elephants play together and interact with their keepers and potentially you!

The Elephant Orphanage is a great activity for children, conservationists and anyone who loves elephants.  It is located adjacent to Nairobi National Park, not far outside Nairobi’s city centre.  The entry fee is 500 Kenyan Shillings (approximately US$6) and the feeding and talks last for about one hour.

Are you keen to visit the baby elephants in Nairobi?  Contact OTA on tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com to find out how.

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Nairobi to Kigali Tour Part 1 – Nairobi to Maasai Mara

The mess of traffic provided immediate entertainment for Chris and Tom when they arrived in Nairobi.  Roundabouts with traffic lights and policemen all sending conflicting messages to drivers creates a show for new arrivals.  We managed to arrive at Roussell House in one piece, and enjoyed a welcome Tusker (Kenyan beer) in the beautiful gardens.

The trip started with a visit to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.  Elephant orphans from all over Kenya are rescued and reared here after their mothers have died as a result of poaching, falling in a well, or natural causes.

Afterwards we headed to Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and the second largest on the African continent.  Ben and Pius of Amani Kibera met us and we enjoyed a local lunch of pilau (rice with spices and meat).  After lunch we walked to the library and the girls’ centre both established by Amani Kibera.  Despite being confronted with the poverty, Chris commented that there was a ray of hope through Amani Kibera’s work and we were not left with a feeling of hopelessness as often happens when visiting such a place.  Instead, the positive energy from the Amani Kibera team could only inspire us.  At the girls’ centre, a meeting of local performers had just concluded a planning meeting for the upcoming Amani Kibera festival.  We spent time talking with some of them about their work in the community before they invited us to the pub to watch football – go Gor Mahia!  We had been completely embraced by this community and no longer felt the tourist/local divide.  What a great welcome to Kenya!

Tom donates some books to the Amani Kibera library

The following day the “real safari” started.  In the morning we drove to the Amboseli region where we would spend two nights at Maasai Simba Camp.  After lunch we were introduced to the people who run the camp and learnt about the community projects supported by the profits.  In the late afternoon we went for a walk with some of the moran (warriors) to see the sunset over Mt Kilimanjaro.

A full day was spent in Amboseli National Park, one of Kenya’s premier parks.  Before we entered the park we were greeted by dozens of giraffe along the side of the road.  Inside the park we saw elephants, reedbuck, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, zebras, wildebeest, hippos, waterbuck, warthogs and an array of birdlife including egrets, Grey Heron, Blacksmith Plovers, Crowned Cranes, ostriches, Fish Eagle, weavers, Superb Starlings and African Jacanas.

Early the next morning we went for another walk with the Maasai and we were so lucky to see a “naked” Kilimanjaro!  The mountain is usually covered in cloud but this morning it was completely clear.  As we stood on top of a hill and watched the sunrise over Kilimanjaro, our guides showed us how to clean our teeth Maasai-style, with a special stick that breaks down into a brush.  As we descended the hill we found the tree whose sap provides the toothpaste.  We saw a black-backed jackal as we walked, which made us wonder what else was lurking in the undergrowth, but only met some hornbills.  On returning we said farewell to our hosts and headed back to Nairobi, where Tom and Chris went for complete contrast by having dinner at the historic Stanley Hotel.

Tom and Chris brush their teeth “Maasai style”

To the Maasai Mara next for another wildlife spectacular!  We set off early in the morning for the reasonably arduous drive to Kenya’s top tourist attraction.  We were greeted immediately by warthogs, impalas, giraffe, zebras, a mother elephant and her baby and finally some lions.

Join OTA between 3rd and 23rd November for another Kenya to Kigali Adventure.  Contact tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com to book your place today!

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