Addo Elephant National Park is now the third largest national park in South Africa. It stretches from the semi-arid Karoo (in the north) around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River Valley and south to the coast between the Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s River mouth. In total, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares (444 700 acres) and includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups.
Apparently, the park receives about 120,000 visitors annually, with International tourists making up almost half of this number. The main entrances as well as two looped tourist roads in the park are tarred, while all other roads are graveled.
The original elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only eleven elephants remained in the area. Today this is a sanctuary to over 600 elephant, lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique and almost exclusive flightless Addo dung beetle.
The park exclusively claims to be the only national park in the world to conserve the “Big 7” which is classed as the “Big 5” (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White/Black rhinoceros) as well as the Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark (which are in the coastal section of the park, off the Algoa Bay coast).
We began our day trip through Addo Elephant Park by starting Addo Main Camp and drove down through the park, meandering along some of the side road loops, until we finally exited through the Matyholweni Entrance Gate a few hours later.
We saw plenty of warthog, eland, kudu and red hartebeest before finally spotting our first herd of elephant. We were worried that we’d driven all this way to an elephant park and weren’t going to get to see a single Ellie! Our first sighting was of quite a large herd of elephant and after that we saw many more, either on their own or in smaller groups.
I was lucky enough to capture quite a tender moment on camera; that of a baby elephant drinking from its mother. The baby ellie didn’t drink for very long but I just happened to have my camera ready and snapped the shot moments before they parted.
Shortly after this, the car in front of us stopped to take photos of a large elephant bull grazing right on the side of the road. We’d spotted this particular (tour guide) vehicle a little while before when they’d stopped on the side of the road and the passenger had climbed out. This is prohibited in the park, with the exception of designated spots, and this rule is in place for a reason … there are lions in the park as well as all the other wild animals. These animals are wild and the rules are there for our own protection. If you do climb out of your car and get mauled by a wild animal, please don’t blame it on the animal. You were in the wrong and they’re just doing what they naturally do, in their own habitat. It’s not their fault, it’s yours! Sorry, rant over, it just irks me when people do stupid things and expect the animal to be put down.
Anyway, this guy sat in the car right next to this bull (on the opposite side of the dirt road) and took hundreds of photos. We waited for a good five minutes while he was busy, as we didn’t want to drive between him and the elephant. Eventually the bull started to get aggravated and walked towards the car, so they accelerated and drove off, not worrying about all the other vehicles behind them and the problem that they’d now created.
Unfortunately, we were directly behind them and became the next ‘target’ in the elephant’s line of sight. We put our vehicle into reverse (so did the car behind us), made sure our seatbelts were secure and secured any loose items in the car, just in case.
As the elephant came closer, so we reversed, constantly keeping a respectful distance (about 100m) between the elephant and us. We stopped and he kept coming, so we reversed again (and so did the car behind us). This happened three times before the elephant finally tired of this game and sauntered off into the bush on the side of the road to carry on grazing.
If you do pull over to take photos of animals, please be courteous to those around you as well. Try not to aggravate an animal and then drive off making it someone else’s problem to deal with. Thankfully there were two other cars behind us, so that if something had gone wrong, there would have been someone in the area to assist or make emergency phone calls.
Eventually, after a few hours, it got to a point where seeing elephant became “it’s just another elephant” or “just another warthog”. But we also saw a few Burchell’s zebra, a buffalo, a Bokmaklerie (which flew off before I could photograph it!), a few black-headed heron, an ostrich and a Puff Adder.
Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to see any rhino, leopard or lion but did spot a black-backed jackal on our way out of the park and were treated to a beautiful South African sunset while driving back to Jeffrey’s Bay.