select - Elephants
Written by Oryx
Kids delight in elephants and, even as adults, few of us are immune to a pachyderm’s charms. Here’s where you can go for up-close encounters with the world’s largest land animals.
There are elephants all over South Africa, but Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape has more than most – and allows you to drive your own vehicle through their habitat, providing a great budget wildlife encounter. Watch relaxed herds wallowing in mud pools, tending to their young, and feeding off tree branches. More adventurous visitors can even dispense with the barrier of car windows and take a horse-riding safari among the pachyderms.
Cape Town, South Africa
Distance: 7,427 km
Flight Time: 11 hours, 25 minutes
Frequency: 4 flights a week via Johannesburg
The renowned Pinnwela elephant orphanage and breeding camp lies in the hills halfway between Colombo and Kandy and, with about 80 animals resident at any one time, claims one of the biggest captive elephant herds in the world. Visitors can watch baby elephants getting their morning feed of milk. Twice daily, the herd ambles down past the souvenir shops riverwards, for bathing accompanied by plenty of splashing. If you’re impressed, you can also do volunteer work at the orphanage.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Distance: 3,631 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day
Elephants aren’t native to the southern Thai island of Phuket, but former elephant logging camps have now turned to tourism, making an elephant trek here a top pastime for holidaymakers. Elephant rides take you through the jungle, and shows afterwards demonstrate the elephants’ aptitude for soccer and painting. You’re often allowed to hand-feed elephants with bananas for a personal interaction with these impressive creatures.
Distance: 5,322 km
Flight Time: 10 hrs, 5 mins
There’s scarcely a special occasion in India’s southern state of Kerala that doesn’t feature a gorgeously caparisoned elephant tinkling with bells and necklaces, and painted in gold leaf. Many are associated with Hindu temples; Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple has a herd of 60 elephants. But head to the town of Thrissur in April or May and you’ll find the most spectacular event, the not-to-be-missed Elephant Festival. Dozens of elephants parade through the town carrying mahouts with peacock-feather fans and silk parasols, in an event that incorporates pageantry, religious observance, and sheer spectacle.