The largest land mammal on earth has its comfortable home in Africa. Although there are some unique species of elephants in South East Asia, they are dwarfed compared to the African giants. The spectacular scenery of these majestic animals makes them a must-see encounter in a lifetime.
10 Best Places to See Elephants in Africa
10. Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Famed for its unforgiving harshness to both sailors and most other beings, Skeleton Coast still has mercy for land’s biggest land mammal. Skeleton Coast is the only place on earth where you can find ‘desert elephants’. The ‘desert elephants’ on this land that ‘God made in anger’ (as popularly known in local dialects) have uniquely adapted and eat quite a different type of vegetation than that eaten by their counterparts in the rich grasslands of Amboseli National Park. They are also smaller in weight, with much longer and slender legs characterized by more dynamic movements. Due to scanty vegetation that barely covers the giant elephants’ nakedness, you can easily spot desert elephants<1> as they majestically straddle this barren land. You can either strategically position yourself near the drought-resistant bushes of mopane tree and camelthorn where they browse for a meal or position yourself near the riverbanks of Hoanib River where they go to quench their thirst and irrigate their drought-scorched hides. Whichever the case, you will have an experience unmatched elsewhere in the world – only in Africa, and particularly in Namibia.
9. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is home to some of the largest herds of elephants – thanks to its fertile lands and rich vegetation. Mana Pools National Park<2> is relatively a small park with just a few dozens of elephants. However, these elephants have some unique habits that attract curious visitors. The elephants here are not just big in size but have a unique acrobatic habit on standing on their two hind legs as they stretch their proboscis to pick the juiciest fruits and tastiest leaves hanging over the tall canopies. This acrobatic is not an easy endeavor bearing in mind that some of the elephants can reach 5 tons in weight. This Park is located along the banks of River Zambezi, one of the mightiest rivers in Southern Africa. The river originates in Zambia, stretches eastwards through Eastern Angola – as if to fetch more water and then turns south-westwards to establish a border between Botswana and Zambia and then stretches further eastwards to demarcate the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe before pouring its precious collection into the Indian Ocean after trespassing Mozambique.
8. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve<3> is located in northern Malawi. It is a world-famous site due to its conservation efforts, championed by none other than Prince Harry of the British monarch. Being a conservationists’ wildlife reserve, most of its elephants have been relocated from other Parks where they faced threats of poaching, drought, overpopulation, and diseases. Among the major sources of this relocation are the Liwonde and Machete National Parks. So far, 500 elephants have been relocated into this Park. The park is optimized for tourist visits as a means of creating awareness of the conservation effort and also making the park more economically sustainable as the proceeds from tourism helps to plow back into the conservation efforts.
7. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park<4> is the most famous game park in South Africa and arguably the third most famous after Masai Mara and Serengeti National Parks. Like the other two Parks, Kruger National Park is home to the Big 5 land mammals and the Big 3 grey ones. Elephants stomp their unmistakable authority as they traverse this Park. With plenty of well-kept driving tracks plus strategically positioned lodges, you can have an up-close view of these elephants as you enjoy the great hospitality of the African people and the soothing breeze of the African warm climate – only brewed in Africa – for you.
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6. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
When it comes to the elephants narrative world-over, Hwange National Park <5>is a paradox. It is a paradox in the sense that, while elephant populations are dwindling at an alarming rate in other natural habitats across Africa, the opposite is the reality at Hwange. The elephant population has been rising sharply in this Park to the extent that it has raised alarm due to the risk of overpopulation. The current elephant population is 46,000 and is threatening to explode past the 50,000 mark in the near future. There has even been protracted battle between the government of Zimbabwe and conservationists due to this encouragingly unique phenomenon. While the government wants to curl the excess population and sell its ivory so as to plow back the proceeds into conservation effort, conservationists are against this as they consider a bad precedent and an excuse for other parts of the world to formalize poaching. The best time to view elephants is during the dry season that sets in between July and October. At such a time the dense vegetation becomes porous and also the elephants stay close to water sources. This way, it is easier to find them in specific locality than when they are spread out in the hugely expansive Park.
5. Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
This is probably the southern-most elephants natural habitat in Africa (and probably the world). Addo Elephant National Park<6> is just about 70 kilometers from the famous Port Elizabeth city. This is South Africa’s third largest national park that claims a whopping acreage of 1,800 km square. Addo Elephant National Park is an encouraging story for conservationists. With a near extinct population of just 11 elephants in 1931, the population has grown naturally to reach a sizeable level of about 450 elephants. The Park boasts of a great tracking infrastructure with plenty of Jeep safaris and horseback safaris available for one to traverse the lengths and widths of this massive park.
4. Chobe National Park, Botswana
Chobe National Park<7> is home to one of the world’s largest populations of elephants. There are about 50,000 to 60,000 elephants in this Park. Found in the semi-arid lands of Botswana, this Park is not so far from the world’s famous Victoria Falls – another of Africa’s great tourist attractions, found in neighboring Zimbabwe. June-November is the best time to sight these giant land species. This is because that is the driest season and as such, most elephants lines the Chobe river to drink water and also to keep their large skins cool. Taking a boat ride along the Chobe River is the assured way to watch and capture this enlivening moment.
3. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage site<8> that is located in North-Western Botswana. Fondly referred to by locals as “plenty of plenty” and internationally billed as the ‘Eden of Africa’, Okavango Delta is home to boastful elephants – the largest land mammal on earth in a habitat natively occupied by some of the shortest people on earth – the pygmies. What a contrast? Well, not so strange in Africa.
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2. Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Tarangire National Park<9> is located in Northern Tanzania in the Manyara region. The Tarangire ecosystem is one of the richest in Africa in terms of hosting a variety of big wildlife. Elephants in this Park are uniquely reddish in color – not natural but due to the red oxide dust that collects on their skin. Other than this unique ‘skin’ color, this is the place with the oldest known elephant twins. There have also been more twins born in this park. This is a rare occurrence. This makes Tarangire National Park, not only a place with the highest population of elephants on earth but the only place on earth where you can witness reddish twin elephants – only in Africa, uniquely Tanzania.
1. Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Established in the Southern parts of Kenya and bordering Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park<10> is home to the world’s longest-running elephant conservation program. Amboseli has one of the most unique and panoramic sceneries of any Park in Africa. This is due to the fact that it is largely a plain land with short Savannah grassland. This makes it easy to make a photographic shot that captures a very wide area without obstructions. Established at the foot of Africa’s tallest mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro, makes it even more spectacular. You can easily capture a large Savannah grassland, the world’s largest land mammal, and Africa’s tallest mountain – all in one photograph. What more? All these while being caressed by the freshest breeze that nature brews atop Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The World’s biggest mammal has its indelible footprints on the land of its nativity – Africa. A visit to Africa without sight of elephants is no visit at all. Herein are the 10 best places to see elephants in Africa. Be glad that you now have a precise itinerary list of your next African elephant safari excursion.
Resource Links:<1> Desert elephants of Namibia <2> Mana Pools National Park <3> Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve <4> Kruger National Park <5> Hwange National Park <6> Addo Elephant National Park <7> Chobe National Park <8> Okavango Delta UNESCO <9> Tarangire National Park <10> Amboseli National Park