Where to See Elephants in Africa
Elephants are one of the highlights of an African safari. Being the largest land mammal, these gentle giants are truly remarkable to witness in their natural wild habitat.
The 2016 Great Elephant Census discovered 352,271 bush and savannah elephants across Africa. You can spot these majestic mammals at top safari destinations including Samburu and Tarangire arid regions; water-rich Okavango Delta; desert-adapted herds of Namibia’s Kaokoland and Damaraland regions;
Amboseli National Park
Just the sight of one elephant can send shockwaves through safari-goers; but seeing an entire herd is truly mind-blowing. These powerful leviathans exude raw power and wisdom that is truly astounding to witness first-hand; in addition, each herd member brings with them their own distinct character – from protective matriarchs to bold teenage males and playful babies; their presence is undeniably spellbinding.
Kenya is home to some incredible herds, but Amboseli National Park stands out as the place where most visitors associate elephants. Bordered by Maasai grazing lands with Mount Kilimanjaro towering overhead, Amboseli offers unrivalled views and is considered an incredible spot to spot elephants year round. Herds can often be spotted year-round and its setting makes this destination unbeatable!
Amboseli’s elephant herds are expertly managed, being separated according to age and family groupings. Furthermore, Amboseli Elephant Research Project – which has collected data for nearly four decades on herd movements, lives histories, association patterns and associational behaviour – specializes in elephant research in Amboseli.
Botswana’s Okavango Delta is another fantastic place to see elephant herds up close and personal. Home to one of the largest inland deltas on Earth, and boasting an abundant population of elephants. A popular tourist destination, its makoro trips, walking safaris, and sundowner boat cruises make for memorable encounters with these iconic mammals.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park in Tanzania boasts vast open terrain dominated by acacia and baobab trees that make it a prime location for viewing elephant herds. Although not as well-known as its neighbors such as Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire offers excellent chances to witness elephant herds en masse; hundreds can enter during dry seasons when herds enter to access water from nearby rivers while feeding off lush grasslands in abundance.
Elephants are truly captivating to witness in their natural habitat; their raw power and wisdom is truly mesmerizing, while witnessing matriarchs and young males herding their young will remain with you forever. Additionally, elephants possess a fascinatingly wild character which adds another level of interest and fascination.
Amboseli National Park in Southern Kenya is home to herds of elephants that often appear silhouetted against Mount Kilimanjaro, drawn there for the soft grasses that help wear down their large tusks. Amboseli Park is also renowned for its scenic views and houses renowned conservationist Cynthia Moss’ Amboseli Trust.
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe offers another excellent place to see an abundant elephant herd during the dry season; watching these herds congregate at water holes and swamps during this period can be truly incredible, reaching 350+ in herd size at some points! Watching them from a hide overlooking one of these waterholes is truly unforgettable; Hwange is also renowned for its picturesque landscapes and wide array of wildlife that include all Five Big Cat species!
Ngorongoro Crater may seem empty to many travelers, consisting of only lakes, forests and marshlands; yet in reality it is home to abundant wildlife such as elephants – with herds roaming freely across its floor during dry season and migrating between it and Serengeti during rainy seasons. Furthermore it contains all five Big Five animals as well as plenty of other game including zebras, buffaloes and Grant’s gazelles – making for an impressive biodiversity experience!
Visit Ngorongoro Crater for a chance of seeing an elusive black rhinoceros, though numbers have slowly been increasing due to strengthened anti-poaching efforts, though still rare sightings remain possible.
Ngorongoro Crater, as one of the largest craters on Earth, boasts over 500 bird species – an impressive feat considering its vastness! Be on the lookout for Livingstone Turacos and Black Kites along with various grassland birds.
Katavi National Park in Tanzania’s third-largest and home to herds of elephant, buffalo, and antelope is an ideal place for seeing elephants in the wild. Best visited between August and October when herds are at their largest. Luxury lodges may not be present here but authentic camps offer unforgettable experiences!
Odzala-Kokoua National Park provides one of the last refuges for forest elephants, listed by IUCN as Vulnerable species. These impressive animals are the largest terrestrial animals on Earth with an average height of 10.5 and up to 6.6 tons in weight; Julian Carter-Manning visited Odzala-Kokoua recently and was lucky enough to spot three forest elephants while staying at Lango Camp, one of YZ’s favorite safari camps in Africa.
Chobe National Park
Elephants in the wild are an incredible sight. Intelligent, compassionate, and extremely playful, elephants provide a captivating viewing experience that won’t soon be forgotten. While their numbers in Africa have decreased due to poaching, you’re still likely to witness massive herds at many of its premier safari destinations.
Tanzania and Botswana boast some of the world’s most iconic herds in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania and Chobe National Park in Botswana respectively, both located in southern regions and attracting large herds year-round. Tarangire’s herds stand out as they often congregate along Tarangire River during dry season migration-esque spectacle where hundreds of elephants march towards river before making their journey back again throughout the day – this sight will give any visitor goosebumps!
At Chobe, herds are more concentrated, giving you an excellent opportunity to spot them from either your 4×4 or on a Chobe River cruise. During peak dry season months of September and October, up to 300 herds gather along its banks – providing drinking and bathing water sources.
Botswana offers visitors several chances to see elephants, including in Masai Mara, Kruger National Park in South Africa and Kenya’s Amboseli National Park; but Chobe stands out as being the Elephant Capital of the World due to its incredible number of herds – it’s nearly impossible not to encounter elephants here! A Chobe River cruise offers visitors the best opportunity for encountering these magnificent beasts while experiencing intimate interactions while sipping on some refreshing drinks!
Elephants can be seen throughout Botswana, especially Chobe National Park where large herds can often be spotted. But, for an experience truly unparalleled in Africa and elsewhere, one area stands out: Okavango Delta is famed as the “elephant capital of the world”, home to both an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance with an ever increasing elephant population.
Tlale can hear the low rumbles of elephants as they roam across his field in Botswana’s Okavango Delta panhandle, as he prepares for harvest season. Farmers like Tlale have prepared temporary field camps armed with spears, sticks and pots in order to defend their crops from herds that roam wildly through their landscape.
Delta wildlife populations are of great concern, with some species showing increasing numbers while others experiencing declining ones. This fluctuation could be the result of various factors including habitat change, poor survey techniques and no coordination between surveys conducted by different institutions.
Though concerns were expressed, elephant numbers have shown some improvement since hunting has been banned and awareness raised among local communities that it’s bad for them. Still, sustainable wildlife management must continue to ensure a bright future for Okavango Delta’s elephants.
Between May and November is the optimal time for viewing elephants in the Okavango Delta, when their herds arrive at waterways for drinking. Abu Camp in particular is well known for offering Elephant back safaris which allow guests to get up close with these incredible animals. Another excellent choice is Duke’s Camp which was named for Sarefo ‘Duke’ Sarefo who guards this incredible wilderness retreat.