Best places to see elephants

Monday, 12 August 2013 8:00 AM

Today is World Elephant Day, and to celebrate these graceful giants, we’ve put together a list of the best places in the world to get up close and personal with them. There’s no image that conjures up the word safari more than a herd of elephants plodding across the savannah, trunks swinging and ears flapping in unison.

Botswana is said to have more elephants than any other country in the world (although it’s hard to tell exactly as elephants are often crossing borders), at a population of around 70,000. The best places to see them are the Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta, where their gentle rumbles and trumpeting calls can be heard travelling over the marshes and reed strewn rivers. Families of elephants can be seen bathing in waterholes on a canoe or walking safari too.

elephants on a walking safari


Namibia, specifically the southern Damaraland and Etosha National Park, is home to the unique desert adapted elephants which live in an area of sandy desert, gravel plains and rocky mountains. They have adapted to their dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and larger feet than other elephants. This allows them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach water. They manage to survive such long distances without drinking by sucking and eating the moisture from leaves and plants.

Desert elephants


Sri Lanka
The island of Sri Lanka used to be Asia’s elephant haven, but since the 19th century their numbers have unfortunately fallen by 65 per cent. Despite this, the tear-shaped island is still one of the best places to see them in the wild. The sub-species of elephants which live here are now protected and their numbers are slowly rising once again. One of the best places to see them is Udawalawe National Park, and if you’re here in August or September head to Minneriya or Kaudlla National Parks to see hundreds of elephants head towards an ancient reservoir for the annual wildlife spectacle known as ‘the gathering’.

elephants in Sri Lanka


Elephants can be seen all over Thailand, although most of them are domesticated now and live with their mahouts (elephants trainers who work with single elephants over many years and create a strong bond with them) or in elephant orphanages. Elephant riding is also a popular pursuit for tourists and a way for travellers to see them up close, although it’s important to research any elephant riding places before you go in order to make sure the elephants are treated fairly. If you want the option of being mahout for a day then head to northern Thailand to Chiang Mai and the Baan Chang Elephant Park, where you can learn to communicate with them. You can also head to Phuket in southern Thailand and go on a two-day elephant and boating trek with Siam Safari through the Khao Sok National Park.

elephant riding, Thailand


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