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See Elephants in the Wild

Are you fascinated by the beauty and power of the largest land mammal in the world? Ever wondered what it is like to be up close and personal with a big yet graceful elephant? A true adventure surely awaits you.

I’m a big fan of Elephants myself – in awe of the big, smart creature’s gentle nature.

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Elephants at Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa. Image credit: Derek Keats

They say an elephant never forgets. What they don’t tell you is, you never forget an elephant.

Bill Murray

In this article, you will learn all about elephants and where to see them.

We decided to include elephants in the wild, rather than elephants in sanctuaries as it is a more captivating experience seeing them in their natural habitat, able to exist and live in their own way. 

You can read the whole article from the beginning or jump straight to the most relevant chapter for you: 

Key Points on Where to See Elephants

National ParkLocationBest Time to VisitAvg. High Temp. (C/F)Chance to See ElephantsSettingRecommended Tour Operators
Chobe National ParkBotswanaAugust – October27-33 C / 81-91 F>90%Along the Chobe RiverSafari with Us, Indigo Safari, Savanna Safaris & Tours, Aritsamaye Safaris, Ker & Downey Africa
Etosha National ParkNamibiaMay-December28-34 C / 82-91 F>85%Along the Etosha pan(not mentioned)
Periyar National ParkIndiaSeptember-April25-27 C / 77-80 F>90%Along the Periyar LakeIndia Trotter, Uvamai Niche Tourism, Travelogy India
Kruger National ParkSouth AfricaApril – September23-31 C / 73-87 F>90%Scenic and diverseKruger Travel, Intrepid Travel, African Safari Adventures, Endless Summer Tours, G Adventures
Hwange National ParkZimbabweApril – October29-32 C / 84 – 89 F>90%Wild and dryWild Planet Safari, The Safari Source, DK Tours and Safaris, Zambezi Safari & Travel Company, Vayeni
Amboseli National ParkKenyaJune – October25-28 C / 77 – 82F99%Amboseli swamps in front of KilimanjaroMufasa Tours and Travels, Amazing Memories Safari, Tazama Africa Holidays, Soul of Tanzania, Tekko Tours

Get to know Elephants

Elephants have long been admired by human beings, the largest land mammals with long trunks and floppy ears, we have always been fascinated by these impressive creatures. They can march with thundering dominance across the savannas of Africa as well as the grasslands of national parks in Asia. 

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African elephant in Addo Park (South Africa). Image credit: Dariusz Jemielniak (“Pundit”)

Nothing can quite beat the feeling of seeing an elephant nearby. Such intelligent and loyal creatures are known to live in large groups, separated by male and female. They also never abandon each other. These are just a couple of reasons why we have compiled a list of the best places to see elephants. 

 

Endangerment of elephants 

Native to Africa and Asia, the numbers of elephants have decreased significantly over the last half a century. 

In fact, Elephant numbers have declined by 62% over the last decade and there are fears that they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. 

With frightening numbers including an estimated 100 African elephants being killed a day by poachers, there are only 400,000 elephants in the wild in Africa, with just 40,000-50,000 elephants living on the Asian continent. 

Why is it such a dangerous time to be an elephant? 

Here researched for you are the main reasons why elephants might go extinct and what you can do to help.

The illegal ivory trade 

An extremely profitable industry, elephants are killed for their ivory. Despite there being an international ban on the ivory trade, between 2010-2014, ivory pricing within China tripled, which led to an increased rate of the killing of elephants. 

Elephants with larger tusks are more in danger of being killed, leading to many female elephants being slaughtered for their ivory. This in turn leads to orphaned baby elephants

Currently, there are more elephants being killed than being born which is a huge warning sign to humanity that we cannot afford to lose this precious species. 

Severe habitat loss 

The Asian elephant lives in over 13 countries in Asia. However, as the numbers decline, Asian elephants are suffering severe habitat loss due to deforestation, development and changes in land use due to agriculture. 

For example: the traditional routes that elephants would take to find food and habitat have been steadily devastated by human activity like building infrastructure as well as increasing palm oil and rubber tree plantations. 

This has led to the destruction of millions of acres of forests and land for elephants to roam and use as their own. 

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Sri Lankan elephant, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Image credit: Charles J. Sharp

Other reasons why the numbers of elephants are declining include the selling of their meat and body parts as well as baby elephants being captured from the wild and then sold into circuses for example. These elephants are mistreated, abused and then kept in illegal conditions. Raising awareness is imperative in order for us to understand the scale at which elephants are being slaughtered on a global level. And with this knowledge, we can help preserve this majestic creature. 

Where Can You Find and See Elephants

Let’s subdivide elephants into two groups. The Asian Elephant and the African Elephant and their geographical distribution. 

Geographic distribution of the African Elephant 

african elephant
Spekboom Hide, Addo Elephant NP, Eastern Cape, SOUTH AFRICA. Image credit: Bernard DUPONT

The African Elephant is the world’s largest land mammal, with the largest African Elephant at 7.5m long and weighing 6 tonnes.

You can find Savannah elephants roaming around Eastern and Southern Africa, specifically in countries ranging from Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Likewise, you can find the forest elephant around the equatorial zone of West and Central Africa. Also you can meet Giraffes if you are lucky.

Males normally live alone, but sometimes they too will go in a herd with other males. In fact, in certain subspecies, each herd usually comprises of around 10 elephants, but there can be anywhere towards 70 elephants within a unit, while certain other subspecies elephants live in smaller units. 

African elephants are browsers and mostly eat various types of grasses, as well as other plants including bark and twigs. 

Don’t miss the Wildebeest Migration Article.

Physical Traits of the African Elephant 

African elephants, both male and female, generally grow tusks. Tusks are actually modified incisors and almost no different from any other teeth as they continuously grow throughout the life of an elephant. 

The average length of tusks has decreased over time due to the side effects of hunting larger elephants with large tusks for ivory. As a result, genetically, larger tusks are being considerably rare. 

Tusks are used for different tasks in African elephants. For example: moving objects, digging in the dirt as well as defence mechanisms for protection. 

The African elephant is the largest type of elephant – read about the absolute biggest elephant recorded here.

Geographic distribution of the Asian Elephant 

asain elephant
Side view of a sitting Asian Elephant bathing in Tad Lo River, Laos. Image credit: Basile Morin

Slightly smaller than their African cousins, the Asian Elephant can be found in India and South East Asia. They used to have their habitat across the whole continent, but now Asian elephants are restricted to just 15% of their original habitat. 

Among Asian Elephants, there are three subspecies: Indian, Sri Lankan and Sumatran. Their physical differences are related to their geographical location. For example: the Sri Lankan subspecies is the largest and the darkest of the Asian elephants with areas of no skin colour on different parts of the body (for example the trunk and belly).
Also, amongst the three subspecies of Asian Elephants, they differ slightly when it comes to their characteristics and behavior. For example: the Indian Elephant can spend up to 19 hours a day eating, and they feed on mainly grasses but also bananas and rice. You may be lucky enough to see one of these Indian Elephants near a water source as they have to drink at least once a day. 

Physical Traits of the Asian Elephant 

Like their African cousins, Asian Elephants live in small herds of females, their calves as well as younger male elephants. Asian elephants are social and form relationships with others in the group. Male elephants will leave the herd once they reach a mature age, and once they are old enough, they will usually spend more time alone. 

Best Places to See Elephants in the Wild

The following ranking is sorted after criteria that we believe are the most relevant for those seeking to see elephants. We have compiled a list of seeing elephants in the wild.
So, our ranking is based on this criteria: 

  1. How Likely is it to see the Elephants 
  2. The ranking of the ethical nature of the safari
  3. The overall setting 

Chobe National Park, Botswana 

Home to one of the largest populations of elephants, Chobe National Park should be at the top of the list for anyone who wants to see elephants in the wild. 

Estimated to have around 50,000 elephants, these majestic animals are able to roam freely across borders to Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

elephant in botswana
Elephant in Botswana. Image credit: Rad Dougall

Chobe National Park is located in the North-west part of Botswana and is the third largest national park within the country. It has 12,000 square kilometres and its location next to the Chobe River makes for a perfect safari setting. 

Large numbers of elephants can be found roaming around the park. Within the herd of elephants, there is always a matriarch and related elephants with their calves. 

Male elephants will either roam around alone or in small groups. 

You may be lucky enough to see the elephants crossing or simply drinking out of the Chobe River! 

Key Statistics to Seeing Elephants in Chobe National Park 

Best TimeAugust – October
Average High Outside Temperature27-33 C / 48-91 F 
Chance to see ElephantsHigher than 90%
SettingAlong the Chobe River

Best tours in Chobe National Park to see the elephants 

Multiple tours offer wildlife experiences, including seeing elephants. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor)

  1. Safari with Us 
  2. Indigo Safari 
  3. Savanna Safaris & Tours 
  4. Aritsamaye Safaris 
  5. Ker & Downey Africa 

Etosha National Park, Namibia 

Etosha National Park is a national park located in Northwestern Namibia. Covering an area of 13,000 square miles, the Etosha pan covers around 25% of the total area of the park. The Etosha pan is essentially a salt pan which is dry in the wintertime. 

etosha elephant
Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Image credit: Ikiwaner

There are around 2500 elephants in Etosha National Park. Usually, the elephants will visit the waterholes when it gets dark, but can also be seen during the day.

As you drive around the park, there are very few roads meaning that you can spot the elephants from your vehicle. What is even better is, that lots of accommodations within Etosha have their own waterhole, which makes elephant sightings more common. 

Key Statistics to Seeing Elephants in Etosha National Park

Best TimeMay-December 
Average High Outside Temperature28-34 C / 82-91 F 
Chance to see ElephantsHigher than 85% 
SettingAlong the Etosha pan 

Periyar National Park, India 

Spreading over 413 square kilometers, Periyar National Park is one of the most ecologically rich regions in the world as well as being a well-protected reserve area to view all kinds of wildlife and learn more about important ecosystems. Not only is the setting calm, green and beautiful, but also, the chances of seeing an Indian Elephant are elevated. 

It is actually known for being an important Elephant and tiger reserve within India. 

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Wild Indian Elephants in Periyar National Park, India. Image credit: Sundar

Another area of natural beauty with a water source, the Periyar Lake, means that it is a popular point for the Asian elephants to come and drink. Combine that with the grassy fauna means that elephants can thrive in this environment. Also, makes for some great viewing! 

Key Statistics to Seeing Elephants in Periyar National Park 

Best TimeSeptember-April 
Average High Outside Temperature25-27 C / 77-80 F
Chance to see ElephantsHigher than 90%  
SettingAlong the Periyar Lake 

Best tours in Periyar National Park to see the elephants 

Multiple tours offer wildlife experiences, including seeing elephants. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor)

  1. India Trotter 
  2. Uvamai Niche Tourism 
  3. Travelogy India 

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, covering an area of 13,000 square kilometers. With rich ecology, the park holds a range of biodiverse fauna and flora as well as various rivers like the Limpopo River, ensuring that the wildlife has reliable water sources. 

kruger national park elephant
Elephant at Kruger National Park. Image credit: Andreas Wulff

Kruger has experienced significant elephant poaching since the 1980s. Multiple measures have been implemented including a summit to vote down one-off ivory sales. Despite these ongoing, sad problems, Kruger is a beautiful and peaceful area of the wild where elephant viewing is a must! 

Do you like Animal Encounter? Have a look at our recent article about Great White Shark Diving.

Take a tour in a vehicle or hire your own 4×4 and drive carelessly around the park, taking in the natural beauty, and the range of vegetation as well as keeping an eager eye for any elephants that you may encounter

Key Statistics to Seeing Elephants in Kruger National Park 

Best TimeApril – September
Average High Outside Temperature23-31 C / 73-87 F  
Chance to see ElephantsHigher than 90%  
Settingscenic and diverse 

Best tours in Kruger National Park to see the elephants 

Multiple tours offer wildlife experiences, including seeing elephants. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor)

  1. Kruger Travel
  2. Intrepid Travel 
  3. African Safari Adventures 
  4. Endless Summer Tours 
  5. G Adventures 

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe 

The largest natural game reserve in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park lies on the western side of the country. The park is based on the edge of the Kalahari desert, an area with little water and sparse vegetation. There are an estimated 44,000 elephants roaming around the park, making it almost half the population of elephants in Zimbabwe. 

elephant zimbabwe
Herd of elephant in the Hwange National Park. Zimbabwe. Image credit: Jürgen Kehrberger

Take the time to observe the water sources within the park, as here, super herds of elephants will take their time to rest and rehydrate before moving on with their journey. You can spend hours at a time watching and observing the elephants interacting with one another. The young calves playfully splashing in the water, and the matriarch is always on alert to ensure her troops are well protected. 

And despite the fact that there are issues with the lack of natural surface water in the dry season, solar-powered pumps have been set up to make sure that water is present at all times of the year. 

Key Statistics to Seeing Elephants in Hwange National Park 

Best TimeApril – October
Average High Outside Temperature29-32 C / 84 – 89 F  
Chance to see ElephantsHigher than 90%  
SettingWild and dry 

Best tours in Hwange National Park to see the elephants 

Multiple tours offer wildlife experiences, including to see elephants. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor)

  1. Wild Planet Safari 
  2. The Safari Source 
  3. DK Tours and Safaris 
  4. Zambezi Safari & Travel Company 
  5. Vayeni 

Amboseli National Park, Kenya 

Amboseli National Park covers 151 square kilometers and is an ecosystem that spreads across Kenya and Tanzania. The local people are mainly Maasai.
The system of swamps as well as the low rainfall means that it is one of the best wildlife viewing locations globally. Added to this, the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro makes it an ideal setting to view animals, including elephants. 

elephant mount kilm
Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park, South Kenya. Image credit: Benh LIEU SONG

1200 elephants are estimated to roam around this park, and it is not hard to spot herds and super herds of elephants in this fascinating bastion of biodiversity. In fact, the national park is known for being one of the best places in the world to get up close to elephants. 

Key Statistics to Seeing Elephants in Amboseli National Park 

Best TimeJune – October 
Average High Outside Temperature25-28 C / 77 – 82F   
Chance to see Elephants99%  
SettingAmboseli swamps in front of Kilimanjaro

Best tours in Amboseli National Park to see the elephants 

Multiple tours offer wildlife experiences, including to see elephants. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor)

  1. Mufasa Tours and Travels 
  2. Amazing Memories Safari 
  3. Tazama Africa Holidays 
  4. Soul of Tanzania 
  5. Tekko Tours 
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The African Bush Elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Image credit: Ray in Manila

Seeing Elephants: Fun Facts

Here are some funky facts that you can notice when you observe elephants.

How long do elephants live? 

African elephants have a lifespan of anywhere up to 70 years in the wild. Asian elephants have a shorter lifespan of around 48 years. 

Elephants ears 

There is a difference in ear size between Asian and African elephants and it is related to their geographic location. African elephants usually live in hotter climates than the Asian elephant and so needs larger ears. Also, by flapping their ears, the elephants are cooled down. 

angry elephant ears
Elephant with ears spread. Image credit: Mister-E

Elephants skin 

The skin of an elephant can weigh up to 900kg. More specifically, the skin of the African elephant is more wrinkled than their Asian cousins. This helps the elephant to retain moisture. 

Elephants diet

The average daily water consumption per elephant is around 100 – 200 liters. 

In the wild, an elephant can feed up to 270kg of food for a single day. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What safety precautions should one consider while observing elephants in their natural environment?
    Maintain a safe distance from elephants, follow the guide for direct instructions, and avoid disrupting animals and their natural behavior.
  2. How can visitors contribute to elephant conservation efforts while on a wildlife tour?
    Choose ethical tours, support conservation initiatives, and respect local wildlife guidelines.
  3. What are the roles of elephant conservation programs in protecting their natural habitats?
    Elephant conservation programs protect elephant habitats by restoring areas, stopping poaching and helping reduce conflicts between people and wildlife.
  4. Which National Park in Africa has the most elephants?
    The Chobe National Park in Botswana has the largest population of elephants in Africa, there is a remarkable concentration of approximately 120,000 elephants.
  5. What distinguishes the African elephant from the Asian elephant?
    African elephants have a concave back and ears resembling the shape of the African continent, while Asian elephants have a convex or level back and smaller, rounded ears.

Summary See Elephants in the Wild

In conclusion, going to see elephants in the wild is a captivating and unforgettable adventure.

Being amongst such majestic yet powerful creatures is a unique experience. Go and explore elephants, you will not regret it.