Creativecommons.org/ Ross Huggett
Chobe National Park & Okavango Delta
This national park in Botswana has a resident population of around 70,000 elephants, which is the highest concentration anywhere. These are the largest of all elephants and they can be seen in huge groups along the river or foraging near the road. If you have some extra cash, the Abu camp nearby has one-on-one time with their on-site herd.
If you’re planning to visit Tanzania, you can stay in a camp that sits in the middle of elephant stomping grounds. Guards are there to keep the creatures from getting too rambunctious, but they may watch you have breakfast. A river safari takes you along the waterways used by many of the herds that reside around Lake Manze.
Llwonde National Park
Fewer people come to Malawi to see elephants, but the Shire River cruise and guided walks through the Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve usually have excellent elephant sightings. With more than 900 animals living in this relatively small park, this is one of the densest elephant populations in Africa.
Tsavo National Park East
Creativecommons.org/ McKay Savage
The elephants in this Kenyan park love to take advantage of the dusty ground and can be seen rolling around in the reddish earth, having a blast. About 10,000 elephants live in this area and chances of seeing them during any visits are high. For a more intense experience, check with the Kenyan Wildlife Service about open campsites.
There are only two populations of desert elephant in the world – this region of Namibia and a region of Mali. Efforts are ongoing to preserve this herd and you can travel with the conservationists that track the herd and document their movements.
Amboseli National Park
This is one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the world, offering a mix of terrains across the Kenyan-Tanzanian border. The hot, dry weather discourages a lot of vegetation and the animals that wander the plain are easily visible. You can get reasonably close to the free-ranging elephants and get some great close-ups of elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.
Udawalawe National Park
Creativecommons.org/ Paul Keller
The elephants of Sri Lanka are darker and more speckled than most of the other subspecies and all of the remaining 250 members of the herd live on the open grasslands of this national park. You can visit the elephant orphanage where abandoned babies are cared for until they are old enough to be released.
Mfuwe Lodge, South Luange National Park
You’ve probably seen this story in the news and you can be part of the experience yourself. When the Mfuwe Lodge was built in Zambia, the owners didn’t stop to think that they were on the elephant road to the best mangoes around. They elephants didn’t mind, though, they just wandered through the lobby to get to trees – and they continue to do so. For about four weeks between October and December, the herd of 10 animals shows up to claim their favourite fruit and the lodge has arranged viewing areas for guests to safely watch them.
Mole National Park
Creativecommons.org/ Stig Nygaard
Take a walking safari through this park in Ghana and visit with one of the calmer, more approachable herds in the region. If you stay within the park, you may even find an elephant sunning next to you at lodge. Hot summers often dry up the rivers through the park and the elephants head for the largest watering hole around – the hotel pool.
Nagarhole National Park
Part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the park is richly forested and is home to many tigers, as well as elephants. Take a jeep safari through the park to see one of the rapidly diminishing wild elephant populations in India.
Interact With Elephants
This Cambodian sanctuary is somewhat of an elephant retirement home, allowing mahouts drop of their older animals in this sustainable forest reserve to live out their years in peace and comfort. You can get up close and personal as you watch the beautiful creatures bathe and even offer them treats if the elephants are feeling social.
The Laotian town in Sayaboury province is another large concentration of elephants, although these are domesticated and work in the logging industry. The province hosts an Elephant Festival in February to honour their co-workers, and you can always hire one of the local mahouts to give you a tour on their elephant.
The mahouts of Thailand spend decades working with their elephants forming a bond between two species. This camp will give you the chance to learn some of the ways mahouts and elephants communicate and you can even take a ride on the animal you’ve been working with.