The ground rumbles as you sit tentatively, cameras poised. You hear them before you see them, an almighty crunch as the lead female breaks through the foliage and onto the wide savannah plains, shortly followed by the rest of the herd. The first time you see an African elephant in the wild is a moment to behold; overwhelming in size and beauty, they move almost gracefully across the plains.
Elephants can be found across Africa - they charge across the savannah plains of Kenya and Tanzania, bathe in the cooling waters of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and even walk through a certain lodge reception in Zambia. You can even witness shy forest elephants in the Congo, or see the rare desert adapted elephants of Namibia.
I was privileged enough to walk with the trio of orphaned elephants and enjoyed lunch with them on the grassy plains. This interaction will stay with me for a lifetime. Walking along aside these magnificent animals really does bring home their huge stature, as well as their individual personalities.
Sometimes described as ‘Africa’s Elephant Park’, it is true that the area is one of the best places in Africa to observe family groups of elephants and large bull elephants at close range. We recommend staying at Angama Amboseli.
Well-known for its congregating herds of up to 500 elephant, the park consists mainly of arid, open plains filled with more vegetation than the Serengeti, including baobab trees and acacia, with a network of swamps dominating the land to the south. We recommend staying at Olivers.
You can also see big herds of elephants at:
There are two species of African elephant: the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant. The larger of the two, the bush elephant, is the largest and heaviest land mammal on the face of the planet, with males weighing in at up to 5.5 tonnes.
The trunk they are famed for is used for communicating as well as handling objects and food; the trunk alone contains about 100,000 muscles. The two finger-like features at the end of the trunk assist them with grasping objects and sticks. Their huge tusks continue to grow each year, and are used in fights with fellow elephants as well as for marking and digging. The iconic ears of an African elephant look almost like the African continent; they are used for radiating heat, and when it gets too hot, there’s nothing they enjoy more than splashing around in the water, shooting cooling sprays from their trunks.
CONSERVATION STATUS: The status of African elephants is considered to be threatened, and many have been killed for their valuable ivory tusks.
HABITAT: From the savannahs and deserts of sub-Saharan Africa, to the rainforests of central Africa.
COMMITMENTS: Elephants have the longest pregnancy of any mammal, lasting nearly 22 months, and calfs already weigh an astounding 91 kilos at birth.