iStock/Thinkstock/Johannes Gerhardus Swanepoel

6 Memorable Encounters With Elephants

August 1, 2018

In recognition of World Elephant Day, on August 12, we gathered our favorite elephant memories from staff and editor trips. As global leaders in the travel industry, we have a strong interest in the conservation of the wildlife that makes an experience so unforgettable.

Elephant populations have drastically decreased in recent years and could nearly be extinct in the next decade without intervention. Visit the World Elephant Day website to see how you can help in the conservation and preservation of elephants in the wild.

Our Favorite Elephant Memories

Mateya Safari Lodge

Elephants at Mateya Safari Lodge Tyler Govaars

Where: Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

Favorite elephant memory: On the second day of my stay at Mateya Safari Lodge, we loaded up for an early-morning game drive. As we rounded a bend in the ochre dirt road, we stopped to watch a herd of elephants grazing. I sat there in awe as a sweet baby elephant moseyed across our path, less than 20 feet away. I’ve fostered an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for the past three years and have always dreamed of going on a photo safari to see them in the wild — so finally being in their majestic presence was a life-changing moment for me. — Former Web Producer

Did you know? With more than 900 elephants in the Madikwe Reserve, the elephant population is higher than any other protected area in South Africa.

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort

Where: Chiang Rai, Thailand

Favorite elephant memory: Our stay at Anantara Golden Triangle included a choice of signature activities. The one we chose was the “Walking With Giants” trek through the jungle with the baby elephants and their mahouts. It misted that day, but it was perfect timing — baby elephants apparently love the rain! We fed our companions massive amounts of bananas, bathed them and got to see one slip-sliding away on a muddy hillside. It was unforgettable! — Senior Digital Editor

Did you know? The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation is committed to the welfare of these magnificent animals. It has rescued more than 30 elephants from the streets, along with their entire mahout families, giving the animals a stress-free life and giving the families shelter, English lessons and an education. For more information, visit the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation site.

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

When we came across this family of desert-adapted elephants in the dry bed of the Hoanib River, one of the youngsters was enjoying a dust bath. Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Where: Kaokoveld, Namibia

Favorite elephant memory: The desert elephants of Namibia have adapted to an astonishingly harsh environment. Sometimes I’ve seen a herd striding across the giant red dunes in the searing heat and wondered how on earth such animals could survive. But the elephants eat the vegetation that still grows in the seasonally dry riverbeds and know that if they dig a hole three or four feet deep, a pool of water will quickly form. On a trip to the Skeleton Coast, just over a year ago, I came across a family group in the dry bed of the Hoanib River. Under the watchful eye of their mothers, the youngsters were showering each other with dust and rolling over on their backs in an exuberant display of high spirits. It was a moving illustration of nature’s ability to flourish even in the most superficially unpromising of circumstances. — Editor-in-Chief

Did you know? Desert elephants have broader feet, longer legs and smaller bodies than other African elephants, and they can survive for up to three days without water. Since the 1980s, conservation and anti-poaching efforts in Namibia have been comparatively successful, and about 600 desert elephant now survive there.

Living With Elephants Foundation

At the Living With Elephants Foundation in Botswana Laura Treibe

Where: Okavango Delta, Botswana

Favorite elephant memory: While I was in Botswana I met the neatest couple, Doug and Sandi Groves. In 1999, they founded the Living With Elephants Foundation in order to study and care for three remarkable African elephants named Jabu, Thembi and Morula. I spent the good part of a day with them learning about and interacting with the elephants. — Advisor with Andrew Harper Travel

Did you know? Botswana’s Okavango Delta is known as a safe haven for elephants and has a stable elephant population of more than 120,000.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Elephant orphan at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Where: Nairobi, Kenya

My favorite elephant memory: Walking among the baby elephants after they had been bottle fed and bathed in the dust. Our 45 minutes passed so quickly, I would have thought it was but a dream if not for the elephant trunk marks on my jacket. — Creative Director

Did you know? To date the trust has raised over 150 orphaned infant calves and reintroduced some into the wild that have gone on to have babies of their own. Giraffe Manor, which is where we stayed, organizes daily group visits for guests for a $50 tax-deductible donation. However, if you choose to donate an additional $500, you can get a private visit instead.


Elephant encounter in Sabi Sand, South Africa Scott Dubois

Where: Sabi Sand, South Africa

Favorite elephant memory: My wife and I went on safari for our honeymoon, and seeing elephants in the wild was our biggest reason for doing so. Before going I didn’t know how close we would get, so I was surprised when the first thing we saw upon arrival was a bull elephant drinking from the lodge swimming pool. It was one of many close encounters we had throughout the trip.

Our guide was skilled at predicting the path of the herd and could position our Range Rover so the elephants would pass within feet of us. It’s wonderfully humbling to be in the presence of such large and intelligent animals. When the elephants gathered along the runway the morning we flew out, I was moved to tears. We’ve been planning our return trip ever since. — Creative Director

Did you know? At 11 pounds, the brain of an elephant is larger than that of any other land animal in the world.

All of Andrew Harper’s recommended luxury safari camps and lodges have been vetted by our editors with the utmost regard for sustainable tourism. Learn more ways to help elephant conservation efforts by checking out our World Elephant Day page.

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