Five Elephant Orphanages to Visit in Africa - Fauna Travel

Five Elephant Orphanages to Visit in Africa

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary / Courtesy of Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

By: Scott Dubois, Fauna Travel Designer

While there are still many places to see African elephants in the wild, the overall elephant population on the continent is in crisis. It’s estimated that there were over 5 million elephants in Africa one hundred years ago, but today only 415,000 remain. This is due to various factors, including habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, and poaching.

As a result of this ongoing loss, many orphaned elephant calves need care. A baby elephant needs to feed every three hours, and until Daphne Sheldrick developed a formula at her orphanage in Nairobi National Park, nobody could care for them. Now the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is one of many elephant orphanages caring for rescued animals in Africa.

Visiting one of them is an experience you will never forget, and your donations help to promote their ongoing conservation work. Most also operate as 501(c)3 charities in the United States if you want your donation to be tax deductible. We’ve compiled a list of elephant orphanages you can visit in Africa, with details of where to stay below. Contact us to start planning your trip.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Nairobi, Kenya

A visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at Giraffe Manor, luxury Kenya safari / Courtesy of The Safari Collection
A visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at Giraffe Manor / Courtesy of The Safari Collection

Established 45 years ago, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) is the most well-known elephant orphanage in Africa. The orphanage is located at the edge of Nairobi National Park in Kenya and hosts tours for one hour every day so that the public can learn about the vital conservation work that goes on there. Beyond their Orphans Project, DSWT also runs a mobile veterinary team and 25 anti-poaching units around Kenya. If you would like to visit, we suggest making a reservation in advance to ensure space. For an additional donation of $1000 USD, private tours of the Trust take place at 3 pm and are highly recommended for the serious elephant enthusiast.

Our favorite hotel in Nairobi is Giraffe Manor, and we can arrange a driver from the hotel to the orphanage during your stay. Travelers can also see elephants released into the wild at the private Ithumba Hill Camp in Tsavo East National Park. Learn more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust…

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

Samburu, Kenya

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary / Courtesy of Reteti Elephant Sanctuary
Reteti Elephant Sanctuary / Courtesy of Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

Reteti is the first community-owned elephant sanctuary in Africa. It is located in the once-degraded Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Samburu County in northern Kenya. The sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates elephants from around the north, but its true purpose is to show the value of conservation to the community through jobs and development. The orphanage was officially opened in 2016 and is much less visited than the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Travelers wanting to visit Reteti should stay at one of the Sarara camps. They operate some of the only lodges in the Namunyak area but offer an excellent luxury safari. Learn more about Reteti…

Elephant Havens

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Elephant Havens Orphanage, Botswana / Courtesy of Elephant Havens
Elephant Havens Orphanage, Botswana / Courtesy of Elephant Havens

Botswana is home to the largest elephant population on earth. While conservation has been a priority of the government, there are still orphans in need of care. Elephant Havens sits on the southern edge of the Okavango Delta and hand-rears baby elephants until they can be reintroduced to the wild. They also strongly emphasize local education and finding creative solutions to human-wildlife conflict in Botswana.

The Elephant Havens orphanage is on the outskirts of Maun, Botswana, and can easily be added to either the beginning or the end of your Botswana itinerary. Learn more about Elephant Havens…

HERD Trust

Greater Kruger, South Africa

Elephant orphan with the Jabulani herd at HERD / Mike Eloff / Courtesy of HERD
Elephant orphan with the Jabulani herd at HERD / Mike Eloff / Courtesy of HERD Trust

The HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development) Trust has a unique inception story. In 1997 an orphaned elephant calf named Jabulani was rescued, rehabilitated, and then rejected by the wild herds in the Kapama Game Reserve. However, in 2002 a small herd of elephants was rescued from culling in Zimbabwe and relocated to South Africa. They adopted Jabulani as their own, and this unique family became ideal for reintroducing other orphaned elephants into the wild. The Jabulani Family has since grown to 16 elephants, including ten orphans.

In 2004 a luxury safari lodge, also called Jabulani, was created to support the work of HERD. The lodge operates at a high standard of luxury and is one of our favorites in the greater Kruger area. Guests can spend time interacting with the Jabulani herd in between game drives and fine dining at the restaurant. Learn more about HERD…

Wild is Life Trust

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Elephant calf feeding / Courtesy of Wild is Life Trust
Elephant calf feeding / Courtesy of Wild is Life Trust

The Wild is Life Trust operates the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) near Victoria Falls and rescues animals from across the country. To date, they have rescued 50 orphaned elephants, and 12 are close to being reintroduced to the Panda Masuie Forest Reserve near Hwange National Park. Travelers can schedule high tea at Wild is Life, which includes interactions with the elephants and giraffe feeding in addition to an elegant tea time.
Learn more about Wild is Life Trust…

Note: Volunteering and Interaction

Because of the specialized nature of baby elephant care, none of these orphanages accept volunteers – only visitors. If you want more hands-on time with elephants, we suggest visiting sanctuaries in India and Southeast Asia. Elephants there are usually rescued from captivity, and travelers can accompany elephants on their daily walks and assist with tasks such as feeding and bathing.

Contact us to start planning your journey into the wild.

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