Marveling at giants: The best places to see Elephants in Africa

Few creatures represent the magic of Africa like the iconic elephant. Observing these massive, highly intelligent animals in their natural habitat is a cherished travel experience. African elephants, the largest land mammals on Earth, awe visitors with their sheer size yet often gentle nature.

From thundering herds crossing the plains to playful calves staying close to their mothers, elephants never fail to impress. For travelers journeying to Africa to admire these beloved giants up-close, this guide covers the prime spots to witness elephants in the wild.

Getting to know Africa’s Elephants

Africa is home to two distinct subspecies of elephant: the larger savanna elephant and the smaller forest elephant. Savanna elephants inhabit the open plains and grasslands of East and Southern Africa. Forest elephants, as their name suggests, dwell in the dense rainforests of Central and West Africa.

All African elephants share signature traits like long ivory tusks, large flapping ears, a sloped back, and thick, deeply creased skin. These massive animals can grow over 11 feet tall and weigh several tons.

Living in close-knit matriarchal herds, elephants are incredibly intelligent with complex communication. Their remarkable memory and strong family bonds fascinate researchers and safari-goers alike.

Where to see Elephants on Safari


Here are the top national parks and reserves across Africa for witnessing elephants in the wild:

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

Home to over 600 elephants, Addo Elephant National Park offers fantastic viewing from both land and water. Spot the giant animals while driving near watering holes or from a boat cruise along the Sundays River.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Along with hosting one of Africa’s largest elephant populations at over 10,000 strong, Chobe National Park provides close-up sightings on safari drives and river cruises. Watch family herds frolic by the water’s edge.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The open grasslands and riverine forests of Masai Mara protect around 2,000 elephants. Herds cross the Mara River during the Great Migration. See elephants roam across the reserve’s endless golden plains.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Over 6,000 elephants live in this enormous park. The diversity of savanna and river ecosystems offer sightings of bull elephants, breeding herds and lone tuskers. Elephants drink from watering holes at dusk.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Following the Great Migration in Serengeti reveals elephants trekking across the plains alongside massive wildebeest and zebra herds, an unforgettable wildlife spectacle.

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Luangwa’s river oxbows draw thirsty elephant herds in the dry season. Walking safaris allow adventurers to approach small groups of elephants on foot under the guidance of experienced scouts.

National Park, Tanzania

Lesser visited than Serengeti, Tarangire hosts up to 300 elephants who congregate at the Tarangire River. Herds stay close to the water source amid dry bushveld.

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Taking a boat safari along the Nile River through Murchison Falls reveals elephants grazing and bathing along the riverbanks, showcasing uniquely up-close sightings.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

The savanna grasslands and woods of massive Hwange National Park protect Zimbabwe’s largest elephant population, with over 40,000 elephants in the reserve.

Tips for an Elephant-Focused Safari

To maximize your chances of unforgettable elephant encounters, visit the dry season between June and October when elephant sightings increase near water sources. Book stays at lodges with views of watering holes or river areas frequented by the animals.

Opt for early morning or sunset game drives when elephants are most active. Request expert guides who understand elephant behavior to position your vehicle safely close to herds while respecting the animals’ space.

Pack binoculars, zoom lenses and patience – you may be rewarded with elephants interacting affectionately, playing in mud baths or even striding by your vehicle. Getting to admire Africa’s ancient, emotional giants on safari is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.