Is there anything more amazing than the elephant? Those majestic giant mammals that can be found from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia are wonders of nature, blending both massive size and strength with human-like intelligence and emotion. Scientific studies have found that elephants can tell the difference between human languages and have been known to come to aid humans when in danger (often from other humans). There have been reported incidences of elephants saving people’s lives and expressing mourning for herd members that have died. So it’s no wonder that one of the big draws for eco-tourists is to see elephants in person and in nature.
In that vein, here are four reserves all around the world that you can travel to in order to see elephants up close and in the wild.
Chobe National Park in Botswana
Located in Northern Botswana, Chobe National Park is one of the largest concentration of wild game in Africa and its elephant population is a major draw for wildlife tourists from around the world. The Chobe elephants have managed to escape the threat of poachers over the past few decades and they include some of the largest subspecies of elephants, so there’s plenty of them and they are BIG! Visitors can choose from a wide variety of packages that range from day trips to camping in the park itself.
Selous Reserve in Tanzania
Tanzania’s Selous Reserve is one of Africa’s largest areas designated for the protection of wild animals, which include elephants. It’s also a region that unfortunately sees a lot of poaching, which is kind of what you get when you name a nature reserve after a famous big game hunter (Frederick Selous). But all that means is that guests checking out Selous will be able to see the iconic tusked elephants that are illegally hunted for their ivory. Like Choba, visitors can choose from day packages to stays within the park, although Selous does feature Honeymoon options.
Sir Lanka’s Udawalawe National Park
Created in the 1970s and stretching to over 100 square miles, Udawalawe National Park is a major habitat for the Sri Lankan elephant (which has faced serious threats to its existence over the past decades and is now endangered). The chance to see the giant animals up close draws tons of Western tourists every year. Guests can choose from campgrounds to upscale hotels within the park for their accommodations.
Cambodia’s Elephant Valley Project
The sad truth is that many elephants in Cambodia are domesticated and put to work giving rides to tourists, carrying heavy loads, and more (with owners often using physical punishment to train and discipline the animals). But in the Elephant Valley Project, domesticated elephants get a chance to retire from work and actually be elephants. Visitors are not allowed to ride the elephants in the park, but can wander through and freely interact with them (including sometimes helping take care of the animals under the direction of staff). So if you visit the Elephant Valley Project, you can rest easy knowing that you’re helping support some elephants in need.
Are you a world-traveling elephant lover? Think we missed a particular location to see elephants in the wild? Let us know in the comments section below.