Elephants in Africa
By far the biggest of the so-called Big Five – indeed, the largest land animal on the planet – the elephant shapes the very landscape it inhabits and is a defining presence on any safari.
Quick facts about Elephant
|Scientific name:||Loxodonta africana||Habitat:||Woodland and savanna|
|IUCN status:||Vulnerable||Adult weight:||2,500–6,500kg|
The elephant familiar to most safari-goers is, technically speaking, the African bush elephant, a distinct species from the smaller African forest elephant (L. cyclotis). This enormous animal is extraordinary in every respect: its tusks, enlarged front teeth, serve for feeding and fighting; its trunk, an elongated nose, can tear down a branch or pick up a bean; and its huge ears are cooling vanes that circulate the body’s blood supply.
Matriarchal herds of females and young centre on a dominant female; mature males form smaller bachelor herds. Elephants communicate over huge distances using infrasound, and co-operate in finding food and water.
They are the engineers of the landscape, creating waterholes and opening up savannahs, although confined populations can be destructive.
Muscles in trunk
Record tusk length
Weight of brain
Africa's top camps for seeing elephants
Based on 1948 reports by our travellers since Mar 2018, the camps below have the best chances of sighting elephants. Simply follow the key below.
Best chances to see
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Where to see elephants in Africa
African bush elephants occur in 37 countries, with today’s largest populations found in Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Visit waterholes during the dry season to see the most action.
Top tips for viewing elephants
The more you watch elephants, the more enthralling they become, whether it’s an individual quietly feeding or a boisterous herd interacting at a waterhole.
Especially impressive gatherings occur in Chobe and Moremi (Botswana) and Hwange (Zimbabwe). Other excellent locations include Amboseli and Samburu (Kenya), Tarangire, Ruaha and Serengeti (Tanzania), Etosha (Namibia), and the Luangwa and Zambezi valleys (Zambia).
Elephants habituated to vehicles generally allow a close approach. However, always be alert to signs of agitation, such as a raised trunk or flapping ears. Cows with young should always be allowed plenty of space. Watching elephants from a boat offers a different perspective – as does a guided walk in elephant country, where observing their tracks, droppings and feeding signs can be as exciting as finding the animals themselves.
Holiday ideas to see elephants
Based on our travellers experiences, these are the holidays which will give you the best chances of good elephant sightings
Our top destinations for elephants
Click below for detailed information about elephants in these countries, including our latest sightings data from the camps and lodges there.