Addo Elephant National Park lies only a few hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth. It’s gone from providing a small sanctuary to eleven elephants to become a richly biodiverse park with over 600 elephants…
We share 13 Secrets of Addo Elephant National Park…
No 1. If you love elephants, then this is the park for you
There are now well over 600 of them, so your chances of spotting great numbers of these huge beasts, is almost guaranteed. And they’re as easy to spot asheading to the waterhole in the park’s main camp. You barely need to hit the road, Jack. They appear in family groups at the waterhole, and dams further out in the park, and occasionally you’ll spot the odd lone elephant whilst driving around the park.
The park is one of the best places in Africa for close-up encounters with elephants. However, be prepared for a little discomfort as they have been known to come really close to cars – they are accustomed to the presence of people. The rest of the Big 5, though, keep a low profile.
No 2. It’s not overcrowded, like Kruger
Provided you visit outside of major school holidays and long weekends, it can take as long as an hour before you see another car on the road. And when you sight an animal, like a lion, chances are they won’t function as attraction magnets for any number of vehicles. You might just have him to yourself.
However, bear in mind this is not the case over the December festive season. Like the rest of the popular spots across the country (Durban’s Hibiscus Coast, for instance), Addo Elephant National Park can be inundated and you will need to book ahead, particularly now that all the provinces have their holidays at the same time.
No 3. You can travel from camp to the extreme boundaries of the park within a day
The 180 000 hectare park has about 120 kilometres of road for exploring and the Colchester section, which is self-drive country, is doable in a day. But don’t think that Addo is small. As Melissa Shales so succinctly puts it:
‘It’s hard to keep up with Addo. I think it has secret plans for world domination.’
Melissa is referring to how the park has ballooned into one of the country’s largest national parks, so that it now incorporates vastly different landscapes – from mountain Kalahari desert to fynbos and coastal sand dunes. As a day trip it shapes up well. Overnight is even better. Other sections of the park are meant only for 4×4 vehicles, or for hiking only, and are closed to the public.
No 4. There are lions, cheetah, hyenas, rhino, leopard, whales and great white sharks
Addo Elephant National Park’s boundaries extend right down to the coastline east of Port Elizabeth to incorporate a marine park, which is why you can also sight southern right whales (in season) and great whites.
The park also includes a couple of islands on which there are penguin colonies. It’s the only park in the world to claim the Big 7, the spotted hyena, over 400 buffalo and a healthy rhino population.
No 5. Hapoor Dam is a great afternoon waterhole
And a great alternative to the main waterhole at the camp, which can be quite popular with visitors. On average, you’ll see more elephants here than you can count (hard to believe that back in 1931, when the park was first declared, there were only 11 remaining elephants).
No 6. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see a LOT of animals
No 7. The sunrise tour is a must
No 8. The main camp’s water hole is lit at night
Chalets are close enough that you can watch animals arrive for a drink after dark, and they do, provided you’re quiet enough.
No 9. There are also little guys worth a mention
Like the Addo flightless dung beetle; completely unique to the park. They are protected and have complete right of way, so don’t think you can drive, or step, over them. But you will have to look for them (it’s not unheard of to stop and examine elephant dung for the pleasure of finding them). The leopard tortoise, with a propensity for hyena dung, is another little guy to look out for.
No 10. There’s stuff for kids too
A fossil dig, a geology puzzle, whisper dishes, a sandbox and animal tracks – all at the Ulwazi Interpretive Centre, which raises awareness and educates about the park’s biodiversity. During holidays there are usually children’s programmes at the park.
No 11. A walk along the Spekboom Trail is a must
It’s fenced off and part of a botanical reserve, allowing you to roam freely without any fear of ending up as lion feed or stumbling into an elephant. This walk is perfect for seeing the park’s smaller animals and birds. And don’t miss out on horse rides in the botanical reserve, through the Zuurberg Mountains.
No 12. The underground hide
This is one of the most exciting elements of the main camp, and overlooks the main waterhole.
No 13. Jack’s Picnic Site is a perfect addition to Hapoor
The picnic site has its own braais and tables tucked in amongst trees. You’re fenced in here, so perfectly safe.
Enter the park at its southern entrance, at the town of Colchester. In this way you add 38 km of scenic dirt road (roughly an hour) to your drive. This section of the park has a couple of loops worth driving; Addo rest camp has a petrol station; there are three camps within the Colchester section of the camp, including a camping area; and there are a variety of guided drives, particularly the night drive, worth doing.
The town of Addo is so close that one can easily stay outside of the Addo Elephant National Park.
Did you know:
Up until a few years ago you weren’t allowed to take citrus fruits into the park because some of the older elephants were considered addicted (all part of an historical plan to keep elephants from raiding neighbouring farms, before the park was fenced, by giving them citrus at the water hole).
Plan Your Trip to Addo