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Where to see Elephant in South 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.

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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

22 months

Gestation period


Weight of brain

The top camps for seeing elephant in South Africa

Based on 19 reports by our travellers since Oct 2018, visitors at these camps in South Africa have the best chances of sighting elephant.

Best chances to see

Good chances to see

Some sightings

No sightings yet

Top 10 camps for elephant

% of travellers who saw elephant

Top 10 camps for elephant

% of travellers who saw elephant

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, Ruahaand Serengeti (Tanzania), Etosha (Namibia), and the Luangwaand 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.


Our best South Africa holidays for elephant sightings

Based on our travellers' reports, these ideas for South Africa safaris are likely to give the best elephant sightings

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The Highlights of Africa

17 days • 7 locations

An epic adventure taking in some of Africa’s most incredible sights and wildlife experiences, from Cape Town to the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, the Maasai Mara and an encounter with mountain gorillas.

US$14,370 - US$18,240 per person

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Leopard Safari

13 days • 4 locations

Victoria Falls, Botswana and Cape Town – a classic southern African itinerary combining luxury, wilderness, safari and culture. We can't think of a better way to spend two weeks.

US$12,280 - US$18,070 per person

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Black Wildebeest Self-drive Safari

19 days • 10 locations

Journey from South Africa’s cosmopolitan Cape Town to central Namibia’s Okonjima Nature Reserve during this self-driven safari. The route passes through a stunning variety of landscapes, offering access to this beautiful continent’s rich diversity.

US$3,370 - US$3,870 per person

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Kwandwe Self-drive Safari

3 days • 1 locations

An elegantly stylish lodge that is well suited to families, Kwandwe offers a range of safari activities and the chance to sight all of the "Big 5" during exploration of the Eastern Cape.

US$2,900 - US$4,510 per person

View all holidays to South Africa

More information about elephant in our other destinations

Click here for detailed information about elephant in other countries, including the places for sighting elephant.

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