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Animal encounters

Where to spot elephants

Clive Wedderburn August 11, 2017

As I write this blog article, on my desktop facing me is a lovely picture of an elephant I took while on safari. It was stood right next to the jeep and I was so petrified, I didn’t want to take the picture in case the ponderous pachyderm took exception to the shutter sound. It did not. I lived to tell the tale and I have the picture as evidence.

On another occasion, I was busy filming these attractive beasts, they were so close my heart was pounding with the excitement of capturing the moment, I forgot to press the record button.

These are exhilarating experiences I won’t forget, a mixture of serenity, fear and wonder – and it is something I would advise everyone do at least once in their lives. So if you’ve ever wanted to see these amazing animals up close and personal – here are my top places for elephant spotting.

Thailand

1. Thailand is a stunning country, I think you’ll agree. Sublime cuisine, culture experiences at every twist and turn, laidback locals and some of the most wonderful scenery this writer has ever spent time in. It’s a country that deserves to be explored from top to bottom and not just the glorious islands.

One such place is found in the northern wilderness jungles above Chiang Mai. Here you’ll find the Thai Elephant Care Centre, a place of sanctuary for elderly elephants to live out their days in peace and harmony, lovingly cared for by this sanctuary and the Asian Elephant Foundation. There’s plenty to keep you occupied here; you can volunteer to learn to make grinded grass to feed the elephants and also, under guidance, you can help bathe them too. These are life-changing, emotional encounters, where you can be a small but essential part of this inspiring programme to preserve the welfare of elephants in Northern Thailand.  

2. Also in Thailand, but in somewhat more comfortable surroundings is the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort, a five star award-winning resort with onsite elephant camp set up in 2003 to provide a home for rescued elephants, and they have excelled in doing so.  

Not only do these graceful creatures roam throughout the rugged hill country near the border of Laos and Myanmar, but the resort also offers mahout courses, and other conservation-related activities. If you want to get involved with the animals amid the luxury of a five star resort, this will be the place for you.

Yet, if that weren’t enough to tempt your average Thailand enthusiast to book a guest suite here immediately, Anantara Golden Triangle Resort all inclusive deal also includes a Thai cookery class, a 90 minute spa treatment, a Golden Triangle excursion and an Elephant Camp experience in one amazing package. Face it, you probably won’t want to leave this place will you?

3. Leaving the north, and heading into Southern Thailand and Khao Sok National Park should really top your Thailand travel wish-list. The landscape here, with so many people drawn to the beaches, you’ll mostly have this spectacular region to yourself, plus it is so stunning it will melt hearts.

Another reason to visit this inland place of beauty is the Elephant Hills Jungle Safari – Luxury Tented Camp; a stunning little boutique resort tucked away by forest-clad limestone cliffs. Here, you’ll be greeted by the familiar rumble in the jungle that signifies the close proximity of elephants.

Not only is there plenty of elephant interaction here, but the resort also offers exciting wildlife tours into the jungles by canoe and trekking through forests on foot to spot cheeky monkeys and colourful birdlife, plus there’s the Rainforest Floating Camp to tempt you to swim on the emerald waters of the lake after your enthralling animal encounters.

Botswana

4.Botswana is a country of incredible biodiversity and no experience typifies this more than a breathtaking Belmond Luxury Fly-In Safari.  The best way to witness this vast landscape is to fly-in by light aircraft until you arrive at Chobe National Park.

Here, prepare yourself to see one of the highest concentrations of elephants to be found anywhere on the planet. You’ll arrive at your camp on the banks of the Savute Channel, a dry river bank region that is famed for its lions and herds of elephants (up to forty or so in number).

If you desire more wildlife then continue your African adventure safari adventure further into the Okavango Delta. Expect to see more African Bush Elephants, cheetah, leopards, giraffe, white and black rhinoceros, zebra, hyena, wildebeest, crocodiles and springboks galore.

5. Wish to see elephants roaming by your resort? Head to Kenya and the Elephant Bedroom Camp Fly-In Safari located on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu National Park. Sleeping in luxury safari tents equipped with all modern conveniences, you’ll be thrilled by the wildlife you spot on game drives, including reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx and the long-necked gerenuk antelope.

But possibly the greatest animal encounters you’ll experience will be overlooking your camp perched on the river that plays hosts to many animals who visit the area and even cross the river. Elephants, monkey and impalas are regular visitors, dropping by when least expected, sending you scurrying for your camera.

This boutique camp offers luxurious and comfortable accommodation with unparalleled service and fine cuisine within a natural, wild environment. Dinners under the stars complete the enigmatic experience – and of course, those elephants, bellowing away in the night, will be your constant companions.

India

6. India has a long association with the elephant, present in almost every aspect of their society from kaleidoscopic parades to fashionable weddings. These sacred animals are said to symbolise good luck and prosperity, which is why they are present at so many public ceremonies and events.

If you’re planning a visit to India and wish to get a glimpse of these beautiful beasts, chances are you’ll pass them as you journey through the countryside and towns, villages, and cities. For a prime view, however, I suggest you combine your India wish-list with that other great adventure, a Kerala Houseboat Tour.

Your journey will take you by the peaceful backwaters of Kerala through serene countryside, tea plantations and also to visit the dense forests of Periyar National Park where elephants and other animals roam wild by the banks of the lake. In a country of constant surprises, add elephant encounters to a growing list of amazing experiences.

Sri Lanka

7. You’ll want to visit Sri Lanka for many reasons. Let’s see, the food is absolutely divine, prepare to put on weight here, the people are talkative and good-humoured, the history and heritage is both fascinating and spiritually uplifting – plus the scenery, from tea plantation to golden sand beaches is the stuff of holiday dreams.

When you factor in the amazing wildlife encounters, you realise that Sri Lanka is a country that offers so much on so many different levels – and of course, there are elephants here, lots and lots of elephants.

I suggest you head over to Udawalawe National Park, take one of their incredible safari tours to spot leopards, buffalo, Ceylon Spotted Deer, Crested Serpent Eagles, and Mugger Crocodiles. And of course elephants – you’ll find herds roaming free across the landscape here.

Wherever you travel to see elephants I really do hope you’ll be as transfixed and touched as I was by the experience – but whatever you do, don’t forget to press record on your camera. For more amazing animal encounters check out our safari holiday pages or visit our holiday types pages for further inspiration.