Elephant migrations in Africa
Elephants are some of Africa’s greatest migrants, and for centuries they have been known to move vast distances between favoured sources of seasonal food and water. Many of the continent’s largest escarpments and mountains have been mapped by elephants over the millennia, and their ancient pathways have often been used for human roads. Motorists could rely on the fact that elephants would invariably find the easiest route to the top of any obstruction.
Nowadays elephants’ ranges are a bit more limited. They cannot roam as freely as they did even 50 years ago due to population and fences, but there are several places where you can witness their wanderings.
Elephant migrations in Kenya
In Samburu in Kenya’s north, the elephants come and go all year, although families with very young calves tend not to move far. Numerous older bulls range as far as the forests on Mount Kenya and the remote and undisturbed mountains of the Mathews and Ndoto ranges.
When it gets very dry the elephants tend to return to the Ewaso Ngiro River, which flows through Samburu. Those who head for Mt Kenya do not have such a problem with water and tend to just return for breeding.
Nearby Elephant Watch Camp, home of the Douglas-Hamilton clan and Saba Douglas-Hamilton herself, is a terrific camp to stay in this area to experience elephant interaction.
Elephant migrations in Tanzania
Tarangire National Park in Tanzania has a good year round supply of water, even late in the dry season, something unusual in this part of East Africa. The water attracts elephant from across the Masai Steppe and as far afield as Amboseli in Kenya, some 100 miles away.
They congregate in the acacia woodlands surrounding the extensive swamps along the course of the Tarangire River, taking advantage of the good sources of food and water on offer. Once the rains begin in November, their need for space and fresh food supplies drives them to leave the park, and dissipate across the Masai Steppe once more.
Elephant migrations in Zimbabwe and northern Botswana
The elephant population in Zimbabwe and northern Botswana is one of the largest extant anywhere, numbering more than 100,000, and there is a gentle migration between the arid Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and the Chobe River in Botswana. It’s a gradual drift of animals rather than a mass migration, with bulls always on the move and family groups searching for food and water when the land dries out.
Somalisa Camp in Hwange is famous for the elephants that come to drink from its dedicated ‘elephant swimming pool’, and Chobe Under Canvas in Botswana is a great base from those hoping to see elephants in Botswana.
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