For many of us, the thought of being up close and personal with wild African elephants can be quite daunting. But at the same time, it’s one of the most magical experiences one can obtain. With their long trunks, floppy ears and magnificent size, elephants can leave you with a newfound respect for nature.
Imagine the chance to encounter these giants in their natural habitat. Interacting with each other in gentle grumbles and gracefully wandering along the plains of Africa while you glance from afar.
Home to the largest density of elephant species, Africa prides itself as being one of the top places to witness these beauties in action. Discover 5 of the best places to see the African elephants below, and learn where to find elephants in the wild.
Where to see elephants in Africa
Two species of African elephants can be found across the continent. The larger African bush elephant and the African forest elephant.. Spot them cooling off in Okavango, trekking through the savanna plains in Kenya or in the arid deserts of Namibia.
- The drier deserts of Namibia: An estimated 4000 desert elephants call Namibia home. The population is said to be increasing due to protection units found in Namibia.
- Central African Republic: Forest elephants are found in the central rainforest areas of Africa.
- Botswana: Home to the highest density of elephant populations.
- Zimbabwe: Sadly, many elephants have died due to extreme droughts on the outskirts of Zimbabwe. But in the central areas, there are still hundreds of elephants roaming around the velds.
- Democratic Republic of Congo: Shy, forest elephants inhabit the lush, warm forests of the Congo.
- Tanzania: Elephant populations are on the rise due to the famed wildlife reserves and anti-poaching protection units.
- Kenya: Elephants thrive off of the plant, fruit and seed supply in Kenya, as well as the flourishing water supplies.
- South Africa: Major game reserves, lush grazing grounds, and impressive rivers keep elephant numbers high in South Africa.
- Sub-Saharan Africa, Sahel desert in Mali, and parts of West Africa: These are some other countries with elephants. Although these destinations aren’t as popular with tourists, it’s still possible to catch a glimpse into the lives of the elephants in these areas.
Best destinations for an elephant safari
You hear them before you see them. Listen to the crunching and cracking of branches as they slowly appear through the thickets of the bush. Or the gentle sounds of their rumbles and grumbles. But what is the best way to encounter these creatures?
Below are 5 of the top safari destinations for elephant tours and encounters. Witness the shy forest elephants in Zambia or the water-loving elephants surrounding Tanzania and Kenya.
Botswana’s Okavango Delta
During the drier seasons from April through to October elephants follow ancient migratory routes to reach regions of the Okavango Delta. With elephants traveling in the thousands, the waters become home to the largest density of these animals in the world. And a great spectacle for tourists.
Set in a grove of trees, Baine’s camp offers unique living with many elephant interactions. Meet orphaned elephants Thembi, Morula and Jabu at Baine’s camp. Having grown up on the campgrounds, they’ve familiarised themselves with human interaction and have quickly become the best three tour guides in Botswana.
Guests accompany the elephants with an unreal experience of trekking through the grasslands and across river beds.
An elephant safari in South Africa
Embark on walking safaris through the Kruger National Park, which is considered by many to be the best place for an African safari. Not only is it home to the largest population of ellies in South Africa, but it’s a chance to observe the Big 5. Traverse through the beautiful landscapes while learning in-depth about the species from an expert guide.
Addo Elephant Park is a great conservation park, boasting an array of accommodation spots suited to fit every visitor’s budget and interest. Navigate your way around the diverse landscapes by joining a walking tour, horse-back ride or 4×4 route to observe the elephants.
Masai Mara in Kenya
With a wonderful culture, friendly people and stunning scenery, Kenya is one of the top safari destinations in Africa. With diminishing numbers of elephants in Africa, many of the reserves and national parks in Kenya remain a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife.
Kicheche Mara Camp has teamed up with the Mara Elephant Project in attempts to reduce levels of poaching as well as monitor up to 23 collared elephants. Guests can partake in a 3 to 4-hour activity in which they can track the ellies and gain insights into their daily excursions.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an elephant protection and orphanage project situated in Nairobi. Another aim of theirs is to support anti-poaching units, conservation initiatives, and habitat rescue. By making a $50 donation, supporters can foster an elephant and have a chance to visit them in their enclosure.
The rolling plains, baobabs, and over-hanging forests found in Tanzania make the ideal environment for gracious elephants. With an estimated population of 8000 elephants, it has become a mecca for those interested in these wise and kind creatures.
Ruaha National Park is the largest park in Tanzania, with the highest population of elephants.
Here, accomplished guides will lead visitors around the frequently visited grazing grounds and waterholes, with a chance to hear exciting stories of the elephant’s lifestyles and habits. Such as the fact that they silently mourn the death of other herb members, and that at times, they cover the bodies in soil and grass.
Zambezi River in Zambia
Zambia was previously the go-to place for elephant safaris, purely because of the elephant back riding. Ethically speaking, this isn’t the way to be treating wild animals. All the parks have now adapted their tours to be regarded as elephant encounters.
Take a classic safari in the Zambezi National Park to get up close and personal with the herds wandering along the Zambezi River beds or frolicking in the waters. The elephants transform from quiet and gentle creatures to playful, and at times dominating creatures when they interact with each other in the waters.
Summing up a safari with elephants
Graceful, magnificent, and well respected, elephants capture observers’ attention not only with their incredible size but also they’re temperament. Their presence alone can bring out something magical and awe-inspiring.
Respecting the wildlife and the elephants themselves is essential when partaking in an elephant safari. The rewards are so much greater knowing that you can contribute to elephant populations surviving and thriving. And the elephant safaris mentioned above do just that.