11/11/2022
Where to See Elephants in Africa: the 10 Best Safari Destinations to Visit

African elephants, the largest land mammal, are intelligent creatures with studies suggesting that elephants are as smart as chimpanzees and dolphins. The African bush (or savanna) elephant, is the largest of the three species of elephants (the two others being the African forest elephant and the Asian forest elephant), spread throughout the African continent and found in many African countries.

In some regions, the elephants have adapted to harsh climates, such as the Sahara and Namib deserts, but due to the lack of water, it is not so easy to see these elephants in the desert regions. It is more common to see them in landscapes of  open plains and lush vegetation. To help you decide where to head to spot elephants, we have curated a list of Africa’s premium safari destinations with the largest populations of elephants in Africa.

1. Chobe National Park, Botswana

Number of Elephants: Over 120,000

Best months to visit: May to October

Botswana has the greatest population of elephants in Africa, with Chobe National Park in the north of the country home to the largest population of elephants in the whole of Africa. The  diverse habitats of Chobe, including mopane woodlands, acacia woodlands, baobab trees, and flood grasslands, offer a rich feeding ground for its huge elephant population.

In the dry season, elephants gather around the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers, so a boat cruise along the river or game drive along the bank  is perfect for watching elephants.

Chobe National Park is home to all of Africa’s big five animals, including the elusive leopard and the endangered rhinoceros, as well as being a renowned birding destination.

Recommended Safari: 7 Day Chief’s Island & Chobe National Park Family Safari

2. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Number of Elephants: Around 20,000-50,000 individuals

Best months to visit: July to October

Hwange National Park has the largest elephant population in Zimbabwe. In fact Hwange’s wildlife authorities are struggling to handle the elephant overpopulation with the adverse effects it has on the ecology. However, from a safari perspective, Hwange offers excellent chances of spotting large herds of elephants throughout the park.

In addition, the Hwange ecosystem is home to around 500-700 lions as well as the remaining big five animals and many more wildlife species together with diverse bird life.

Recommended Safari: Zimbabwe Highlights Safari

3. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Number of Elephants: Over 18,000

Best months to visit: May to October

Although Okvango’s elephant numbers may not be as staggering as that of Chobe National Park, it has a decent elephant population. The Okavango Delta’s unique ecosystem is known for its seasonal flooding that replenishes the region’s water sources while the Delta itself provides a perennial water sources attracting elephants and much other wildlife throughout the year.

The Okavango Delta also offers excellent bird-watching opportunities, stunning aerial views, diverse wildlife, and a chance to experience the spectacular landscape by traditional mokoro (dugout canoe), by boat and on foot.

Recommended Safari: Zambia, Zimbabwe & Botswana Safari

4. Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Number of Elephants: Approximately 15,000

Best months to visit: June to October

Selous Game Reserve has Tanzania’s largest concentration of elephants. One of the less-visited safari destinations, Selous Game Reserve offers elephant habitat with miombo woodland, savanna, wetlands and the Rufiji River The elephant herds have a favourite food, the red fruit of the doum palm, which is found in Selous Game Reserve.

Selous is also one of the few wildlife reserves where you can see the puku antelope, sable antelope and African wild dog. Game activities include walking safaris, game drives, boat trips and, for the more adventurous, fly camping.

Recommended Safari: 3 Days Safari to Selous Game Reserve

5. Kruger National Park, South Africa

Number of Elephants: Over 13,000

Best months to visit: May to September

Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s biggest wildlife reserves at nearly 2 million hectares, has one of the largest elephant populations in South Africa. Kruger’s current elephant population is a credit to the rigorous conservation methods of the park authorities and other non-profit organisations. Due to their large numbers, it is fairly easy to spot these huge mammals throughout the park.

South Africa’s oldest national park, Kruger is home to the big five as well as hundreds of other wildlife species and over 500 bird species.

Recommended Safari: Vic Falls, Kruger & Cape Town.

6. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Number of Elephants: Over 12,000

Best months to visit: June to October

After Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park is the best destination to see elephants in Zimbabwe. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mana Pools boasts spectacular scenery along the Zambezi River and surrounding floodplains, teeming with wildlife and elephants.

The river channels and small lakes of Mana Pools are an ideal habitat for a healthy population of hippos and Nile crocodiles. The park is one of the best places to go on a boat or canoe safari, watching the wildlife as they drink at the river.

Recommended Safari: 9-Day Highlights of Zimbabwe Safari

7. Tsavo Conservation Area, Kenya

Number of Elephants: Approximately 12,000

Best months to visit: May to October

The Tsavo Conservation Area, comprising Tsavo East National Park, Tsavo West National Park, Chyulu National Park and Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania as well as other wildlife reserves, ranches and settlements, is home to the biggest population of elephants in Kenya. Over the years there has been a steady growth in the elephant population due to a dramatic reduction in poaching.

This vast area has remarkable biodiversity and diverse landscapes including acacia scrub, savanna grassland, woodland and riverine forest. It’s home to many species of wildlife including the critically endangered hirola.

Recommended Safari: 4-Day Tsavo East & West Safari

8. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Number of Elephants: Over 7,000

Best months to visit: July to September

Tanzania’s most popular park, Serengeti National Park is well known for its wildebeest migration, it has many other attractions, including a good concentration of elephants, iconic big five, more than 500 bird species, herds of wildebeest and zebra.

In the Serengeti, elephants are an impressive sight, roaming the plains, wandering into the woodlands and drinking from waterholes.

Recommended Safari: 5 Days Safari in Tanzania (Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater)

9. Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Number of Elephants: Over 3000

Best months to visit: January, February, June to October
Known for its large elephant herds, sometimes up to 100 elephants, Amboseli National Park also boasts the spectacular backdrop of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. Amboseli holds the record for the longest elephant tusks and largest elephants.

Amboseli is also a great birding destination with some rare and endangered bird species, such as the Egyptian vulture, and is home to four of the big five (no rhinos).

Recommended Safari: 3-Day Amboseli National Park Camping Safari

10. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Number of Elephants: Approximately 2500

Best months to visit: July to October

Last, but by no means least, on the list of the best elephant safari destinations is Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. The Masai Mara has a large concentration of wildlife and a bounty of attractions, with elephants often seen on the plains, around the marshes and in the riverine forests. The population of elephants is steadily rising due to the hard work of the rangers, Masai community and the government.

The Masai Mara National Reserve also plays its part in the annual wildebeest migration of over two million wildebeest, zebra and other antelope as they cross the Mara River from Tanzania into Kenya.

Recommended Safari: 3-Day Luxury Masai Mara Safari

Other African safari destination where you can see elephants:

  • Addo National Park
  • The Chyulu Hills
  • Tarangire National Park
  • South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
  • Samburu National Park
  • Etosha National Park
  • Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
  • Mashatu Game Reserve/li>

About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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