Explore the Best Elephant Destinations In South Africa

South Africa is home to several species of elephants, including the African bush elephant, African savanna elephant, and African forest elephant.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable African safari adventure experience, then South Africa is a great place to start, especially if you’re looking for a great encounter with elephants.

A perfect destination with its diverse landscape, abundant wildlife, and diverse cultures, South Africa offers an array of exciting and unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. 

The country is home to more than 17,000 African elephants—the largest population of the species left in the wild.

From elephant sanctuaries to national parks and private game reserves, there are many opportunities to see and learn about these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

These destinations provide a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle giants and experience their beauty and power firsthand. 

From classic safari experiences to more adventurous activities, South Africa has something to offer every type of traveler. 

In this article, we will explore some of the best elephant destinations in South Africa, including their history, conservation efforts, and the best ways to experience them.

The photos featured in this post were taken with both a Google Pixel 6 Pro, the Fujifilm x100V, and a Canon 7D Mark 11 camera.


An Overview of South Africa’s Elephant Sanctuaries and Conservation Efforts 

South Africa is home to several elephant sanctuaries that provide a safe and natural habitat for these magnificent creatures. These sanctuaries are dedicated to protecting and conserving elephants and educating the public about the importance of preserving these species.

One of the most well-known elephant sanctuaries in South Africa is the Elephants of Eden in Plettenberg Bay.

This sanctuary is home to a herd of African elephants that were previously used in the entertainment industry. Visitors can take part in interactive educational tours and even have the opportunity to walk with the elephants.

Another popular sanctuary is the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, located in Hoedspruit. This sanctuary is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of injured, abandoned, and poisoned wildlife.

Visitors can take part in guided tours and learn about the rehabilitation process of elephants and other wild animals.

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is another sanctuary located in Limpopo, it is home to a herd of African elephants as well as several other threatened and endangered species.

Visitors can take part in interactive tours and also have the opportunity to feed and interact with the elephants.

Each of these sanctuaries is unique in its own way, but all share the common goal of protecting and preserving the elephant species.

These sanctuaries offer a chance for visitors to learn about the elephants and the importance of conservation, while also providing a safe and natural home for these majestic animals.

For over two decades, the Elephant Sanctuary in Hazyview, South Africa, has been a unique destination for animal lovers.

Additionally, the sanctuary offers educational programs for both children and adults, where they can learn more about elephants, their behaviors, and the efforts that have been made for their conservation.

Here, visitors can observe the elephants at close range and even have the opportunity to interact with them.

_©karelnoppe photography_Elehant herd in Mabalingwe Nature Reserve,South Africa

Discovering South Africa’s National parks 

National parks in South Africa are beautiful places to visit and play a crucial role in the conservation of the country’s wildlife, including elephants. These parks are home to a diverse range of species, and the conservation efforts help protect them.

One of the primary conservation efforts in national parks is the fight against poaching. Poaching is a major threat to the elephant population, and many national parks have implemented anti-poaching measures to combat it.

These measures include deploying park rangers, using technology such as drones, and working with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of protecting elephants.

In addition to anti-poaching efforts, national parks also focus on habitat preservation. Elephants require large areas of natural habitat to thrive, and national parks help to protect and restore these habitats.

This includes controlling invasive species, protecting water sources, and managing the impact of human activities on the environment.

Moreover, many national parks also have breeding programs and repopulation efforts.

These programs aim to increase the population of elephants and other endangered species by breeding them in captivity and then reintroducing them into the wild.

Overall, conservation efforts in national parks play a vital role in protecting and preserving the elephant population in South Africa.

These efforts not only ensure the survival of the elephants but also contribute to the preservation of the natural biodiversity in the country.

©karelnoppe photography_Elephants drinking water at private pool at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve
©karelnoppe photography_Elephant approaching jeep

Exploring Kruger National Park: The Best Place to See African Elephants in South Africa

Kruger National Park is one of the most popular national parks in South Africa and is home to a large population of elephants. The park is located in the northeastern part of the country, spanning an area of over 19,000 square kilometers.

It is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and it’s bordered by Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and home to more than 145 mammal species, over 500 bird species, and around 25 reptile species.

The elephants in Kruger National Park are African elephants, which are the largest land animals on earth. They can weigh up to 6,000 kg and can reach a height of up to 4 meters at the shoulder.

The exact number of elephants in the Kruger National Park is not publicly available. However, it is estimated to have a population of around 13,000 elephants.

Kruger National Park offers visitors the opportunity to see elephants and other wildlife in their natural habitat through activities such as game drives, guided walks, and safari lodges.

Visitors can also learn about conservation efforts in the park and the importance of protecting the elephant population.

The park has also implemented anti-poaching measures and habitat preservation to protect the elephants and other wildlife in the park.

Overall, Kruger National Park is a must-see destination for anyone interested in seeing elephants in their natural habitat.

It offers visitors a unique and authentic safari experience and a great place to learn about conservation efforts and the importance of protecting these majestic creatures.

Visitors can choose a wide range of accommodation choices to suit their needs and preferences. From self-catering units and bungalows to luxurious lodges with full board options.

Kruger has 12 main rest camps, 5 bushveld camps, 2 bush lodges, and 4 satellite camps.

My recommendation is to explore the Kruger National Park in a private vehicle.

It is an exciting and convenient way to observe wildlife for extended periods of time, increasing the chances of catching a glimpse of elephants.

©karelnoppe photography_Elephant crossing road in Kruger National Park
©karelnoppe photography_Open jeep safari with the elephants

Addo Elephant National Park

The Addo Elephant Park, also known as the Greater Addo National Park, is one of the most popular safari parks in South Africa.

Spanning an area of 180 000 hectares, this park is home to a variety of fascinating wildlife and natural landscapes.

The park was established in 1931 as a sanctuary for 11 elephants. Since then, the number of elephants has risen dramatically, and the park now contains a large population of exotic animals, including buffalos, lions, leopards, and rhinos.

If you’re looking for a luxurious stay in the park, you can opt for one of the many safari lodges on site. These lodges offer an unforgettable experience in the wild, with sumptuous rooms, delicious cuisine, and stunning private decks for game viewing.

For those who prefer a simpler accommodation option, there are also campsites conveniently located in the park.

These sites come equipped with electricity, running water, and braai (barbecue) areas so you can fully enjoy the wilderness experience.

If you’re looking for a more affordable accommodation option, you can also explore the various guesthouses located in the surrounding towns.

A wide variety of basic to luxurious accommodations at reasonable prices, and is a great way to experience the local culture and cuisine.

There are even luxury guesthouses available if you’re after some extra pampering.

©karelnoppe photography_Two African elephants on a gravel road

Private game reserves: A luxurious Journey into the Heart of South African Elephant Country 

A private game reserve is a protected area of land that is owned and managed by a private entity, rather than by a government agency.

These reserves are typically located in rural or wilderness areas and are dedicated to the conservation and protection of wildlife, including elephants.

They often offer visitors the opportunity to experience the wildlife and natural beauty of the area through activities such as game drives, guided walks, and safari lodges.

Private game reserves often have a more exclusive and luxurious approach to wildlife safaris, compared to national parks, and usually have a smaller number of guests.

They also may have more personalized experiences, such as private game drives and guided safari walks.

Private game reserves play an important role in conserving wildlife and protecting natural habitats in South Africa.

©karelnoppe photography_Luxurious lodge in Welgevonden Game Reserve

Tembe Elephant Park 

The Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa is a wildlife sanctuary located in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.

This beautiful park is home to a wide variety of animals, including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lions, and antelopes.

Tembe Elephant Park is the perfect place for anyone looking for an opportunity to get close to wildlife. The park is populated by two separate groups of elephants.

One group is from the northern area, while the second group was introduced from Mozambique in 1995. They live in large herds of up to 30 individuals and roam freely throughout the park.

The park also provides visitors with an opportunity to get a closer look at other animals.

Bird watching is also a popular activity at the park with more than 300 species of birds, including the majestic fish eagle. Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful scenery while exploring the park. A network of game trails and observation hides provide an opportunity to get an up-close view of the animals

The Tembe tribe owns and manages Tembe Elephant Lodge on their own ancestral land. The Lodge employs only local people from the Kwazulu Natal area.

We experienced more unique elephant viewing in this 30 000 hectare reserve than in any other we’ve visited so far.

Don’t miss the Early morning and late afternoon game drives on their 9-seater Jeeps inside the reserve. The local guides are well-trained and have great experience tracking down the tuskers.

©karelnoppe photography_Lapa with ire place.
©karelnoppe photography_African Elephant at sunset
©karelnoppe photography_Elephant herd

Karongwe Portfolio Game Reserve

Karongwe Portfolio Game Reserve is one of the most popular game reserves in South Africa.

Located in the Limpopo province, the reserve spans over 22,000 hectares of the untamed African bush, offering a magnificent glimpse into the diversity of the region’s wildlife.

The reserve is home to over 40 species of mammal, including the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo), as well as countless bird species.

The reserve is known for its exceptional game-viewing experiences, making it a great destination for those traveling to South Africa for a wildlife safari.

Game drives are conducted by experienced guides and trackers, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of the continent’s most fascinating creatures.

Game viewing is made more exciting and immersive by the use of luxury game-viewing vehicles, complete with air conditioning, comfy seating, and an onboard bar and kitchen.

For those seeking a truly unique African experience, Karongwe also offers guided bush walks.

These walks allow visitors to explore the bush in its most natural form, learning about the flora and fauna of the area, as well as gaining insight into the history and culture of the region.

With a variety of accommodation options to choose from, you can be sure to find a lodge to suit your needs.

My recommendation to experience a true African Safari adventure is to overnight at the Chisomo Safari Camp with Luxury tents tucked away deep in the bushveld.

Our latest extraordinary encounter with a herd of wild elephants at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve, located 38 km northwest of Bela-Bela, in the Limpopo Provence.

The elephants came right up to our doorstep and drank water from the surrounding chalets’ private pools.

A truly unique experience!!

©karelnoppe photography_Elephant visit
©karelnoppe photography_Luxury Chisomo tented camp
©karelnoppe photography_Romantic outdoor supper at Lodge
©karelnoppe photography_Bonfire at supper


In conclusion, South Africa is home to some of the best elephant destinations in the world, from elephant sanctuaries to national parks and private game reserves.

Each of these destinations offers visitors the opportunity to see and learn about these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Elephant sanctuaries provide a safe and natural home for orphan elephants.

We highly encourage readers to visit these elephant destinations in South Africa and support conservation efforts.

Not only will you have an opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, but you will also be supporting the efforts to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

In addition, by choosing responsible and sustainable tourism options, you can help minimize the negative impact on the environment and support conservation efforts.

Other great national parks and reserves worth visiting are the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, Madikwe game reserve, and Welgevonden Game reserve.

©karelnoppe photography_Rear view of an elephant walking on a gravel road

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