The Elephant Sanctuary runs conservation and rehabilitation programmes which afford people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to touch, feed, walk trunk-in-hand and even ride these highly intelligent gentle giants. It's an amazing and enriching experience that should be on every visitor's to-do list.

Did you know?

An elephant's trunk has about 100 000 different muscles.

There are some things about elephants that you will only learn by being close to them, like the fact that they smell like freshly cut grass, or that their padded feet enable them to move soundlessly or that their trunks are more dexterous and sensitive than our hands.

The Elephant Sanctuary offers a family orientated programme that lets people of all ages get close to these gentle giants to discover their innermost secrets.

The company runs three different elephant sanctuaries in South Africa: one in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains on the Garden Route; another close to Hazyview, near the Kruger National Park; and the last at Hartbeespoort Dam, an hour's drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The Elephant Sanctuary prides itself on its elephant conservation and elephant rehabilitation efforts. The most important part of the operation is to have happy, healthy elephants.

Trainers and other staff have a highly ethical approach to the animals and guest numbers are limited to ensure maximum interaction between visitor and elephant, making this a memorable and enriching African experience.

The rescued elephants at the sanctuary can't be released into the wild, as they would not survive. Instead, they have found a home in the sanctuary and as a result of years of care and attention, the personnel at the sanctuary have built close relationships with the animals. Insight into elephant rehabilitation is also shared with visitors to the sanctuary.

In essence you will be able to touch the elephants, feed them, walk with them and ride on them. It's an unbelievably moving experience and one that you'll never forget.

All three sanctuaries are focused on education through interaction. Their programmes are aimed at educating people about elephants. each of which is unique in terms of character, personality and temperament.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Elephant Sanctuary, Hartbeespoort Dam
Tel: +27 (0)12 258 0423

Elephant Sanctuary, Plettenberg Bay
Tel: +27 (0)44 534 8145

Elephant Sanctuary, Hazyview
Tel: +27 (0)13 737 6609

How to get here

The Elephant Sanctuary at The Crags near Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route is two minutes from the N2 highway. The sanctuary at Hartbeespoort Dam is an hour from Johannesburg and Pretoria. The sanctuary in Hazyview is 5km from the town of Sabie.

What will it cost

The Elephant Sanctuary offers a variety of programmes for visitors, ranging in price from about R300 to R1000 per person.

Length of stay

A visit to The Elephant Sanctuary makes an ideal day trip.

What to pack

Bring along a hat (but don't be surprised if an elephant nicks it from your head).

Where to stay

The Elephant Sanctuary at Hartbeestpoort Dam is the only one of the three sanctuaries offering overnight accommodation, but the other sanctuaries are in close proximity to a number of accommodation options.

What to eat

The four-course dinner is served around an open fire in the boma; breakfast and lunch are served on the main deck overlooking the elephants at Hartbeespoort Dam.

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