Do you dream of spotting majestic elephants roaming the wild plains of Africa? These highly-intelligent gentle giants can be observed on safaris across the continent, from tuskers in Zimbabwe to rare desert-adapted elephants in Namibia and Botswana’s population of towering Kalahari elephants. Here are the top destinations to visit in Africa for elephant safaris.
Botswana: Chobe National Park
Nearly a third of Africa’s elephants live in Botswana, with the world’s highest concentration, an estimated 120,000, based in Chobe National Park. This watery wonderland is known as the world’s elephant capital, where you can observe herds of colossal Kalahari elephants during 4×4 drives along the floodplains and on solar-powered boat trips on the Chobe River. For incredible sightings, stay at Chobe Game Lodge, the only camp inside the park, or Savute Elephant Lodge on the quiet banks of the Savute Channel.
Kenya: Amboseli, Samburu and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Amboseli National Park is famed for the thousand-strong herds of tusked elephants that ramble its wide-open scrubby savannahs. There’s nowhere else in Kenya where you’re guaranteed to see wild elephants in such huge numbers, parading against a backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, snow-capped Kilimanjaro. The dry landscape – Amboseli means Salty Dust in Maasai – draws elephants to wetland areas for supreme viewings.
Further north in Kenya’s arid Samburu region, you can stay at the aptly-named Elephant Bedroom Camp. Set in Samburu National Game Reserve, this unfenced tented camp allows elephants to wander in and out freely, drawn to the river. The elephants, including seven bulls that visit frequently, feel so safe that they sleep here, hence the camp’s name. Often, you’ll be greeted with elephant sightings when you unzip your tent in the morning.
Tour the renowned Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on the edge of Nairobi National Park to meet cute baby elephants, many orphaned by poachers. Set up over 40 years ago by conservationist Daphne Sheldrick, the trust runs the most successful rescue and rehabilitation scheme for elephants in the world. Take a tour to learn about their work and meet baby elephants enjoying their daily milk and mud bath.
Namibia’s untamed Damaraland is loved for its rugged peaks, petroglyphs and dry riverbeds where rare desert elephants roam. Classed as endangered, there are only around 150 of these elephants left in the wild and most live around ephemeral rivers, including the Huab, Hoarusib and Uniab. Take an elephant safari from Mowani Mountain Camp, where Rosie, one of Namibia’s first female guides, has an excellent track record of locating the elephants. She’ll point out unique adaptations that allow these animals to survive in the desert, including larger feet so they don’t sink into the sand.
Zimbabwe: Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks
Zimbabwe’s most famous National Park, Hwange, is home to around 40,000 tusker elephants. Witness herds on walking safaris and game drives from camps like Somalisa, or ride the Elephant Express, an open-sided railcar that ambles along a railway line built by the British in 1904. From Bomani Tented Camp, you can even take part in elephant conservation, delivering supplies to man-made waterholes that help elephants survive during the dry season, from May to November.
Head to the far north of Zimbabwe to Mana Pools, a lush national park dotted with flood plains and bisected by the mighty Zambezi River. These vital water sources are a magnet for wildlife, including elephants. The safari guides at Nyamatusi Camp know many of the park’s elephants by sight and can take you on 4×4 drives and walking safaris to the animals’ favourite haunts. You might even spot elephants on their hind legs munching from trees – it’s thought that one of the resident bulls, Boswell, learnt this trick and passed it on to others in the park.
Tanzania: Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park in north-east Tanzania is home to over 4,000 elephants. They roam the baobab-dotted plains and forests in herds as large as 600. During dry season between July and October, thousands more migrate here, along with grazing game, drawn to the life-giving waters of the Tarangire River. This is the best place to park up on safari to watch elephants drink and bathe, you can also watch them from a luxury treehouse at Tarangire Treetops or from your private deck-side bathtub at Mpingo River Lodge, which sits on an escarpment overlooking the river.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Gemma, who's travelled extensively in Tanzania. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it on their own. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife, the village chiefs who'll give you a genuine insight into local life and the camp managers who can recommend the very best spot to enjoy your sundowner.
Freephone an expert 01306 744 656