Here at Andrew Harper, we have a special affinity for elephants. Not only do we foster an orphaned baby bull named Maktao, through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, but we have had incredible opportunities to interact with elephants at various properties around the world. Below are eight Harper-recommended properties that offer guests unforgettable experiences to learn about and observe elephants in their natural habitat.
Abu Camp, one of our readers’ favorite safari lodges of 2016, is known as the preeminent place to interact with African elephants. Set on a 450,000-acre private concession in the heart of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, its six accommodations overlook a tranquil lagoon, shaded by hardwood trees. Here you’ll be able to meet and interact with the resident elephant herd in addition to embarking on a walking safari with them into the bush. Elephant conservation is Abu Camp’s founding principle, and its research initiatives include investigating important aspects of elephant conservation and behavior to keep native elephant populations thriving. Meet the eight elephants of the Abu herd.
This South African safari camp is located within a 12,300-acre private concession 90 minutes from Port Elizabeth, within the malaria-free Addo Elephant National Park, home to the world’s densest population of savanna elephant. Gorah Elephant Camp’s guided game drives allow guests to view this keystone species — and Africa’s largest land mammal — up close.
Another reader favorite, Royal Malewane is located in the private Thornybush Game Reserve along the western fringe of Kruger National Park in South Africa. Excellent wildlife viewing opportunities include game drives where you can view The Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and black rhino) and bush walks, where you have the chance to walk among the same species and explore their environment firsthand.
Although famous for its resident herd of rare Rothschild’s giraffe, this 10-room mansion in Nairobi also offers excursions to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a short 15-minute drive away. This extraordinary organization works to preserve the endangered species of Africa, particularly focusing on elephants and black rhino. At the heart of its conservation efforts is the Orphans’ Project, where orphaned elephants and black rhinos are rescued and rehabilitated. To date, it has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants.
This Thailand retreat and elephant camp, a four-hour drive from Chiang Mai, offers guests the opportunity to walk with the elephants through the jungle or focus on elephant biology, behavior and conservation with the Elephant Learning Experience. For an additional charge, guests can take a yoga class in a rice paddy sala with an elephant companion grazing nearby or dine with the elephants. The camp takes great care to ensure that all activities are ethical. Working with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, it has rescued 40 elephants from the streets of Thailand, along with their mahouts and families, who are provided English lessons and an education for their children.
Located in the 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve in Botswana, this safari camp offers majestic savannas and floodplains teeming with game, including huge elephant herds and populations of lion, wild dog and leopard. The entire camp accommodates a maximum of eight people in its four spacious, luxurious tents. Zarafa Camp is situated to overlook the picturesque Zibadianja Lagoon, where elephants tend to frequent. In the dry season, the Selinda Reserve is a popular area for witnessing herds of up to 8,500 elephants.
Located in the Torra Conservancy in Namibia, in one of the driest regions in all of Africa, Damaraland Camp has won well-deserved accolades for its eco-conscious practices and partnerships with surrounding communities. Wildlife viewing opportunities include sightings of the area’s healthy populations of rare desert-adapted elephant. Nature drives and guided nature walks allow you to experience the elephant in close proximity.
Sasaab is located on a private wildlife conservancy along the Ewaso Nyiro River, which forms the southern boundary of the Samburu National Reserve, the best known of Kenya’s northern game parks. The Sasaab spa is set on the banks of the river, offering guests the opportunity to be pampered as they view the local elephant population.
Learn more ways to help elephant conservation efforts by checking out our World Elephant Day page, and support the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a renowned elephant and rhino rehabilitation organization in Kenya.