Seeing a herd of majestic elephants is a highlight of any safari – and you’re almost guaranteed to see them, whichever national park you visit. In Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, huge groups of elephants stroll along against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, while in Botswana – where almost a third of the continent’s gentle giants live – vast herds migrate from the Chobe River to the south-east pans during the wet season. Watching families graze by the waterside as you cruise along the river in a solar-powered boat is an unforgettable moment. Located over the border in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park’s Somalisa Camp is a great place to just sit and watch as herds come to the watering hole to drink. Over at Mana Pools, up in the north of the country, you can step down from your safari vehicle and walk close to grazing herds with your guide. A couple of the resident elephants here have even learnt a cool trick – they can rise up on their back legs to pluck leaves from the higher branches.
Sadly, the number of African elephants is in decline due to the illegal ivory trade and habitat loss which has led to human-animal conflict. In response to these threats, organisations work tirelessly to tend to orphaned and injured ellies, as well as other African wildlife species. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphanage on the edge of Kenya’s Nairobi National Park, just a short distance away from the city’s busy centre, is one of the most remarkable elephant conservation projects in the world – so far the trust has hand-raised over 150 infant elephants whose mothers have fallen victim to poachers. If you’re staying in Nairobi, we strongly recommend a visit to the orphanage. Visitors are welcome from 11am to midday when the babies come in for their daily mud bath. Firstly, you’ll come face to trunk with some of the youngest nursery inmates, covered in blankets to protect them from the sun, and hear their stories from the keepers. The hungry infants get their bottled milk feed and will even interact with visitors if they are feeling brave that day. If you adopt an elephant for US$50, you can enjoy a more exclusive experience and visit the orphanage in the afternoon.
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