Elephants are arguably the most awe-inspiring animals on earth.  Not only because of their immense size, but because of their complex level of consciousness and intelligence that is unmatched by the most of the animal kingdom. Elephants are a keystone species in Africa, which means they play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live.

They are a species that commands respect from all those who share a home with them, and many Africans battle a constant love/hate relationship with elephants. Love in the form of a deep connection built over generations of living side by side. And hate in the form of the constant battle for those who live in close proximity to elephants, who have to deal with life threatening situations and crop-raiding.

Seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time is a humbling experience, and watching large family herds interact and go about their daily lives is one of the most enjoyable things you can do on a safari in Africa. Each individual elephant has its own distinct personality, from the protective matriarch to the bolshy teenage males and playful babies who are often the most entertaining. To watch them interact in their natural environment is an experience that few people will forget in a hurry.

Elephants are found across 37 countries in Africa however poaching and habitat loss have led to the shrinking of elephant populations at a worrying rate. Fortunately, however, most of the continent’s most popular safari destinations all still have healthy population sizes and you’re likely to spot elephants in most major parks in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Botswana.

Here are the 7 best places to see elephants in Africa:

1. Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Located on Kenya’s southern border with Tanzania, Amboseli National Park is nestled in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Amboseli’s primary attraction is the herds of elephant that call the national park home, with large herds numbering hundreds of individuals. These gentle giants are encouraged to stay in the park all year round by  the abundance of water available in Amboseli’s natural swamplands fed by the melting snows of Kilimanjaro.

Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peak makes for a breathtaking backdrop for elephant sightings and some of the greatest wildlife photographs ever have been taking against the majestic mountain. Amboseli’s vast grasslands also attract older male, bull elephants with huge tusks. These giants, known as ‘Tuskers’, need to feed on softer grasses as their teeth wear down with age.

Amboseli is the location where world-renowned conservationist Cynthia Moss runs her highly regarded Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The park is also home to many predators including lion, cheetah, and leopard.

the best places to see elephants in africa
Elephant family herd in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro

2. Chobe National Park, Botswana

In the northwest region of Botswana lies Chobe National Park, a magnificent wilderness area renowned for its high density of elephants.

Chobe is home to an estimated 120,000 elephants in total, most of which live in large family herds and spend their days providing exceptional sightings for safari goers. Elephants in the region are known for swimming across the Chobe River at sunset, prodding their little ones forward on a family march through the dry landscape, and nonchalantly stripping the bark and pushing over giant trees.

Along with Chobe National Park, its neighbouring wildlife reserves, Savute and Linyanti, also provide the ideal habitat for elephants. During the dry season in particular, elephants come to visit from neighboring Zimbabwe and Namibia. Many lodges and camps in this area overlook rivers, marshes and watering holes and you’ll likely see elephants coming to drink or cool themselves down right from camp.

Bull elephant wading through a floodplain in Chobe National Park