African elephants are the largest land mammals and live mainly in the savanna or rain forests. The elephants are the most iconic wild animals to spot on an African safari in the wildlife parks or reserves. These gentle giants are also members of the so-called 'big five. They have contributed to the economic growth of the areas they are found in by boasting tourism leading to economic empowerment of the host community. Although the elephants are the highlight of any adventure safari, thousands are sadly killed, and their young calves are left orphaned as a result of poaching. However, successful conservation efforts by various organisations, such as Save the Elephants, have paid off, and the elephant population is gradually increasing.
Arrow Adventures has compiled a guide on the best places to see elephants in Kenya.
David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is an amazing place in Nairobi where you get very close and interact with young elephant calves. The orphanage bordering Nairobi National Park offers safe haven to orphaned baby elephants rescued from the wilderness in Kenya. The nursery cares for the elephant's calves, including hand-rearing them until they are old enough to be gradually re-introduced back to the wild in Tsavo East National Park.
Arrow Adventures organises this excursion and can also be included in our Nairobi city tour package. The orphanage is open to the public for one hour, 11 am-12 pm. If you decide to adopt an elephant, you can visit the orphanage during the daily visit above or at 5 pm when the elephants return for their overnight. An afternoon visit needs to be booked in advance.
Amboseli National Park
Located in Kajiado County, Amboseli National park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants and also offers spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
The Park is 392 km2 in size at the core of an 8,000 square kilometres ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The Park is most famous for its elephant population, where herds of up to 100 can be found drinking in one of the swamps with water that filters up through the rock from an endless underground water supply directly from Kilimanjaro's snow-covered peaks. Some bull elephants here also have incredibly long and impressive tusks. What's more, is that they are also the longest studied elephant population and perhaps the most famous worldwide.
Also roaming the open, flat, dusty grasslands are buffaloes, wildebeests, Maasai giraffes, zebras, impalas and Warthogs, among other African wildlife. Not surprisingly, never far away from these herds of grazers are lions, cheetahs, jackals and spotted hyenas – who are always on the lookout for vulnerable prey.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East is Kenya's oldest and largest national Park, situated mid-way between Nairobi and Mombasa.
It is home to the largest Elephant herds in the country, making it one of the best places to see elephants in Kenya. The Park has huge herds of 'red elephants' as a result of wallowing and dust bathing in the red soil that is common in this region. Other attractions include the Galana River that passes through the Park hence giving life to vulnerable wildlife in this arid area.
There is also the Mudanda rock, Lugard Falls and a wide variety of wildlife. The Park is home to a good population of Giraffes, many Zebras, Impalas and Gazelles, as well as Buffalos. Predators are represented by a large pride of Lions, elusive Leopards, and Cheetahs – the fastest animals on land.
Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary
Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately-owned wildlife sanctuary located in Taita Taveta County, approximately 220 kilometres from Mombasa. The sanctuary covers an area of 110 km2 and is adjacent to Tsavo West National Park and the Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary.
The sanctuary forms the largest protected area in Kenya and is home to most of the larger mammals, vast herds of red elephants. The plains below the hills are also home to lions, oryx, lesser kudu and a wide variety of smaller animals.
The Sanctuary is a success story in sustainable conservation where wildlife – including elephants, lions, buffalos and giraffes – thrive. Game drives are tightly controlled to ensure that animals are not harassed, and some areas are completely closed to vehicles. This commitment to responsible ecotourism, which has been so well supported by visitors, ensures that the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and all its flora and fauna will continue to prosper.
Samburu Game Reserve
This reserve found in northern Kenya promises an authentic wilderness experience.
The original homeland of the Samburu people, this arid terrain features northern Kenya's biggest river, Ewaso Nyiro, quenching the thirst of the abundant wildlife that roams this reserve. The Samburu people were lured to this area due to the reliability of the Ewaso Nyiro that provides water for their livestock. The Samburu Reserve offers a safe haven for elephants. When it gets very dry, the elephants tend to return to the Ewaso Ngiro River. The river flows through Samburu National Park, Shaba National Reserve and the Buffalo Springs National Reserve to the south.
Samburu elephants travel across the landscape, navigating from one area to another through thin strips of land called corridors. Their journey through these corridors is often threatened by encounters with humans and vehicles.
Reteti Elephant Sanctuary
Reteti Elephant Sanctuary was opened in 2016 in Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. The facility rescues young elephants orphaned due to abandonment, drought, poaching, or separation.
Reteti is the first community-owned and community-run elephant sanctuary in Kenya. The local people – the Samburu- have recognised the benefits of protecting and conserving their wildlife, not least for the employment opportunities that this initiative creates and the subsequent far-reaching improvements in livelihoods. Reteti is completely staffed by Samburu people, including a growing number of women. This represents a significant and very positive shift in attitudes and perceptions of women in conservation. In fact, Reteti has the first female elephant keepers in Africa. The baby elephants are bottle-fed individually by the keepers, up close to the viewing platform. Witnessing the genuine love and care that the keepers have for their young charges is truly touching – and something that is clearly reciprocated by the elephants when observing their interactions with their keepers.
Arrow Adventures in association with tourHQ has crafted some packages that are designed to allow our clients to get close to and appreciate these amazing giants, but we also assist you to design a suitable safari based on your interests.
3 days Amboseli adventure safari
7 days Meru Samburu and Reteti Conservation Safari.
8 days Elephant Trails safari.