For many, elephants are a must-see animal during safari. These social giants are fascinating to observe, whether enjoying the playful calves in a matriarchal herd or the charismatic bachelors as they practice their sparring technique. They are protective, sensitive, intelligent creatures that never cease to entertain. Fortunately, elephants are common in most major safari areas so typically seeing elephants is not a difficult task. However, concentrations vary greatly seasonally and throughout their range. If one is seeking to observe large numbers of elephants — in the hundreds or thousands — it is best to plan accordingly with season and location.
Best Places to See Elephants on Safari
Northern Botswana is currently home to an estimated 150,000 elephants, about 30% of the total population. Chobe National Park and private areas in the Linyanti/Selinda concessions are particularly good in the dry season, while the Okavango is good year round. Viewing by boat on the Chobe Riverfront is a fantastic way to observe elephants at the water’s edge and snorkeling in the river.
A completely different best place for elephants is to visit desert-adapted elephants in Damaraland, Namibia. Here the elephants allow a very close approach of game drive vehicles, allowing you to see how delicately they live off of their fragile environment.
The Elephant Experience with Grey Matters in Botswana is available to guests at Baines and Stanley’s Camps. Here you will spend hours in the company of two orphaned elephants, learning about their behaviors and walking with their trunk over your shoulder as you move as a herd might. You will also touch their ears, the bottom of their feet, learn their vocalizations and a host of other things during your intimate time with these soulful animals.
While not all elephant interactions are as intimate or as ethically-operated, there are a few other opportunities that contribute to good quality conservation programs and allow visitors to unobtrusively observe the elephants while contributing to the conservation efforts. These include the Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary & Orphanage, Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.