Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape was established in 1931 to save the area’s last 11 elephants from extinction. It is now home to more than 350 African elephants and it is one of the best places in the world to see the elephants up close.
We visited the park as part of the Garden Route road trip and spent two days exploring the park independently. Addo is very well set up for a self-drive safari. The roads are either sealed or maintained in a good condition, suitable for a 2WD vehicle.
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Addo Elephant National Park self-drive safari
We entered the park through the south gate and within minutes of arriving started seeing wildlife. A Secretarybird was strutting in the tall grass, a pair of Leopard tortoises crossed the road, Warthogs snoozed in the shade and Addo’s famous dung beetles labored along the sides of the road pushing along large balls of dung.
The southern part of the park is quite bushy, but we easily spotted a Red Hartebeast, a Bushbuck, a great old Buffalo and a herd of Zebra on the far horizon. The dense vegetation in this part of the park meant that all the animal sightings we had were at a very close range, much closer than in the more open environment of say, Kruger National Park.
Elephants of Addo Elephant Park
As the name suggests, Addo Elephant National Park self-drive safari is all about the Elephants. The first herd we saw was a bachelor herd cooling off at the waterhole. As we watched the silent giants, a small Warthog that did not seem to have any sense of self-preservation approached the herd and plunged into the muddy water right in front of the elephants. He splashed around for a while and left quite satisfied with his bathing experience.
Next, we saw a huge herd of females and calves at another waterhole. Addo is truly the land of the elephants. They can be found anywhere in the park at any time of the day. You could easily spend the entire day at the specially-constructed hide by the waterhole, watching the elephant families interact and tend to their young. Being so close to these amazing creatures is an unforgettable experience.
Other abundant animals at the park are Kudu, Ostrich and Black-backed jackal. The best jackal sighting we had was of a single male walking purposefully along the path in the bush towards the road. He came practically right up to the car and was completely unperturbed.
Other wildlife of Addo Elephant Park
Of the less common creatures, we spotted a family of Meerkats and a single male Spotted Hyena on the night drive. The night drive, however, was quite disappointing as it started raining just as we set off and rained through the entire drive. The only other animals we spotted were a Porcupine, a few Scrub hares, and an Olive toad.
Second day at Addo
The second day in Addo was even more amazing than the first. We did not see as many different species, but we were able to observe animal families as they went about their day. Late in the afternoon, we came across a family of Black-backed jackals relaxing in the grass. Well, the two adults were relaxing, but their four pups were tirelessly chasing each other and anything else that moved around them.
While watching the jackals I noticed a family of Yellow mongooses scanning the ground near the entrance to their burrow on the other side of the road. We spent most of the afternoon alternating between watching jackal and mongoose families.
All in all, Addo Elephant National Park self-drive safari was one of our most enjoyable wildlife experiences in South Africa. The park was not crowded, unlike the more popular Kruger National Park and wildlife viewing felt more natural and rewarding at Addo.
You can visit the park independently on a day trip from Port Elizabeth, or for a truly immersive experience, stay at Addo Elephant Lodge & Safari.
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