One of the greatest highlights of an African Safari is ability to see elephants and other amazing animals up close, in their natural environment. Africa is on most people’s bucket list for this very reason. If you’ve been dreaming of seeing the elephants in Africa, there’s no better time to start planning than right now.
Whether you are on a honeymoon, family holiday, photographic journey, or just traveling for fun, an African elephant safari is a thrilling experience. In this article, we will highlight some of the best places to see elephants out in the wild to help you plan the perfect trip.
If you are traveling for the first time, it might be a good idea to work with an operator who will prepare your entire safari for you. This will remove the stress out of the process, so you can focus on having fun. However, the best way to start planning is to find the areas of Africa and the specific type of safari you think you would like the most. Then you can narrow it down from there.
Top Spots for an Elephant Safari in Africa
The first place that likely comes to mind for an African safari is probably Kenya, which is so well known because of the famous Masai Mara and the Great Wildebeest Migration that takes place there yearly.
There are many parks and reserves throughout the country, ranging from inexpensive to all-out luxury, so you can choose what fits your style.
In Kenya, the top five parks for an elephant safari are:
- Masai Mara National Reserve
- Lake Nakuru National Park
- Amboseli National Park
- Tsavo National Parks
- Samburu Game Reserve
Each of these parks/reserves has something unique to offer, so acquaint yourself with the highlights to be sure you’re choosing what excites you the most.
Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara is one the most well known safari areas in the world. This is due to the incredibly array of animals, and the largest volume of the Big Five anywhere in Africa.
Tsavo National Park
Tsavo, the largest protected area in Kenya, is home to the highest number of Kenya’s estimated 35,000 elephants. Tsavo is easily accessible from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi and even Mombasa – the coastal town. You can choose to fly, trail or drive.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli is another incredible elephant hotspot in Kenya. With approximately 1,500 elephants in 392-square kilometers, the park is known to be the best place on the continent to get very close to free-ranging elephants. When in Amboseli, you can see herds of up to 100 elephants at a time.
It also houses many big tuskers and old bull elephants. It’s here where you will get a chance to take amazing pictures of elephants with the scenic Mt. Kilimanjaro as the backdrop.
Samburu Game Reserve
Samburu has more than 900 resident or visiting elephants. When combined with the Laikipia ecosystem of 28,490 square kilometers, there are approximately 5,400 elephants. You can go wild on the Samburu Park 4×4 safari or even connect your safari to explore Amboseli National Park and Tsavo National Park. Samburu Park safaris start in Nairobi.
Best Time for a Kenya Safari
One of the best times to visit Kenya for a safari is during the dry season from July to September. This also coincides with the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra. The rainy seasons can also be a great time to go because there are fewer visitors and the plains are vivid green and full of vegetation.
Second to Kenya for safaris in Africa tends to be Tanzania. The great thing is that it’s easy to get from Kenya to Tanzania, so often tourists will combine a trip to both countries, to see the best possible array of animals.
In Tanzania, the main attraction is the Serengeti and Mount Killamanjaro. Add into the mix the Great Wildabeest Migration that occurs in Tanzania yearly, and it’s easy to see why Tanzania is considered one of the best safari spots in the world.
The top parks in Tanzania for safari include:
- Serengeti National Park
- Ngorongoro Crater
- Tarangire National Park
- Selous Game Reserve
Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti Park and Tarangire Park in northern Tanzania are home to 2,000 and 2,500 elephants, respectively. Ngorongoro Crater houses big, old bull elephant queen with tusks.
Take advantage of your elephant safari to have a glimpse at one of the world’s wonders – the Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest move from the Masai Mara to Serengeti in search of food and water. You can drive or book a tour from Dar es Salaam, Arusha or Nairobi to Serengeti.
Rhinos in Kruger National Park
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous Ecosystem (including Mikumi National Park, Selous Game Reserve, and buffer areas) is home to more than 40,000 elephants. It boasts of having one of the largest elephant populations globally. Since the reserve sits in southern Tanzania, the best way to access it is through Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital.
Tarangire National Park
Although Tarangire is not as famous as the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti, the park makes a spectacular spot to stop en route. It is widely known for its giant baobab trees that are widespread across the park and is home to a large population of African elephants. If you are traveling during the dry season, you are sure to enjoy the beautiful view of elephants drinking water at the Tarangire River.
When to Visit Tanzania for Safari
The best time to visit Tanzania is from lake June to October, which is the dry season. Wildlife viewing is at its best during this time because food is more scarce, so the animals are out searching. The Great Migration comes to Tanzania in June and July, but you can also see the wildebeest calves in January and February.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park in South Africa is arguably the most popular self-drive park on earth. It is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, including elephants and other big five members. It is highly unlikely to miss out on elephants while at this park. You will no doubt witness a herd or more here, even from the comfort of your lodge.
Kruger Park boasts of more than 10,000 elephants, and you can view them in the park or in the private concessions like Timbavati, Manyaleti and Sabi Sand Reserve that border the park.
At Kruger, you can self-drive yourself through the park in your own car, which is a unique and interesting way to see the park and the animals, if not a bit nerve wracking at times. You can also stay at one of the many resorts that border the park and go on a guided tour, or set up a day-tour once you arrive at the park.
There’s nothing quite like seeing these majestic animals in their natural habitat, especially for the first time. These African elephant safaris are a great way to experience these beautiful giants on the vacation of a lifetime.