I’ve been to sixty-six countries so far, and I will easily admit that seeing wild animals in their natural habitats has not been common, until I came to Botswana. I’ve seen elephants in Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, and recently Namibia, but always either on a reserve or being used by locals for work.
As I write this in the front seat of the truck we’re roadtripping through Botswana in, I’ve already passed two wild, free, African elephants, just chillin’ on the side of the road like it’s no big deal that they’re there. There’s no fences, no chains, and best of all, no humans near them, dictating their life and freedom.
But the few I’ve seen on the side of the road are no where near as shocking as the ones I saw the night before. I’ll put it this way; imagine camping in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden a herd of massive, wild African elephants pass by your tent in order to get to their watering hole. That happened.
And yes, camping with wild African elephants is a real thing. But before you go thinking I just went and pitched a tent in the middle of Botswana, let me reiterate that a bit.
Just a wild, free, African elephant strolling down the road
There’s a very special campsite called Elephant Sands in Northeastern Botswana, near a small town called Nata, where a controlled campsite and chalets can be rented in order to watch the wild elephants. The reason why the elephants come to the campsite, is because a man-made water hole has been made there for them, and thousands of gallons of fresh water is donated daily for them to drink and bathe in.
About twenty chalets on stilts line the far end of the watering hole, so you can watch the elephants right from your porch if you want to. There’s also a large area for tents or campervans/trucks, which happens to be right next to the path that the elephants walk through to get to the water hole….imagine waking up to that!
On the near side of the waterhole, there’s a large, lovely outdoor eating area, a fire pit, and even a swimming pool! All of the above is awesome, because it’s right in front of the main area where the elephants go! You can literally sit on the edge of the wall, and be 10 feet away from a wild elephant!
You might be wondering if you can touch, or get close to the elephants (you better not even be thinking of riding one!). Well, let’s just say I got scolded like a child by about 5 people just for standing too close to one…because apparently wild elephants can get really aggressive. This was obviously news to me, because I was naively thinking these elephants would be just like all of the other elephants that I’ve seen…friendly. Nothing happened, but I was more afraid of people than the elephants at that point, so made sure to keep my distance from then on. That being said, don’t try to get close to an elephant, stand near structures, and if one starts to flap its ears or come at you…slowly back away.
The elephants started to make their way to the water hole at Elephant Sands around sunset, and there were many there throughout the night. They don’t bother the campsites or the people, they’re just interested in the big pond of fresh water (although I did see a photo of one drinking out of the camp toilet).
You can grab a drink or glass of wine at the bar, and watch the elephants play, drink, and socialize under the extremely starry sky. Be sure to bring a jacket or blanket though, it gets really cold!
Also be sure to watch out for elephants when you’re going to or leaving your campsite! There also may or may not be leopards and cheetah’s in the area!
So if you want a truly incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience, add this secluded spot in Botswana to your travel bucketlist! There aren’t many places in the world where you can see wild elephants in their natural environment, and this is definitely
Alyssa is a self-made, full time travel blogger who loves adventure and typically travels the world solo. She's been to 53 countries and 6 continents so far, and believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!