Addo Elephant National Park

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.

Addo Elephant National Park

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.

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Dung beetle

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.

Driving through the bush in Addo Elephant Park

Driving through the bush in Addo Elephant Park

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.

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Elephant

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Kudu female

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Warthog

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Kudu

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.

Baby elephant feeding

Baby elephant feeding

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.
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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.
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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.

Cape Turtledove

Cape Turtledove

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.

Burchell's Zebra

Burchell’s Zebra

Buffalo

Buffalo

Heron

Heron

Ostrich

Ostrich

Puff Adder

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.
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Jeffrey’s Bay

Situated about an hour’s drive South-West of Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape, lies the not-so-little town of Jeffreys Bay (also known as J-Bay or Jeffreysbaai (in Afrikaans)). Expect to hear a lot of Afrikaans being spoken while you’re here, as well as a smattering of Xhosa and English, as these are the three most common languages.

Jeffrey’s Bay is one of those “need-to-see” places and has one of the best waves in the world, which is why it’s often listed as one of the top surfing destinations! To get to Jeffrey’s Bay you can either fly to Port Elizabeth, drive the mellow scenic Garden Route from Cape Town (just over 7 hours) or do what we did and experience driving through the Eastern Cape all the way from Durban (a long 11 hour trip).

IMG_5773The break at Jeffrey’s Bay is divided up into eight sections: At the top of the point Kitchen Windows and Magna tubes, then comes Boneyards (the precursor to Supertubes), Supertubes (a perfect, long, barreling righthander), Impossibles (the end section of Supertubes), Tubes (a short, barreling section which leads into Point), Point and finally Albatross.

Supertubes is regarded as the best part of the wave and May to September see Supers performing at its best. On a perfect day, this crowded yet ridiculously long right-hand point break (with its sandy and rocky bottom) delivers world-class rides and a six-foot southwest swell.

Derek Hynd

Derek Hynd

From what I’ve heard, it’s the goal of many surfers to make a wave from Boneyards all the way down to Point; a surf that measures just over one kilometer long. Apparently, it has been done before!

If you’re lucky enough, you may even get a chance to surf with dolphins!

Clement surfing with dolphins

Clement surfing with dolphins

There’s plenty of accommodation near the beach to chose from and we decided to stay in a self-catering guesthouse called Beach Music and the splurb on their website says it all “Situated directly on the beach at the world famous wave “Supertubes”, you really don’t get much closer to the beach than Beach Music. Beach Music offers you a comfortable, laid back atmosphere allowing you to completely unwind and enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful surroundings.”

Beach Music has 5 rooms, a penthouse, a studio and an apartment to rent, with a communal / shared Guest Area which includes the kitchen, lounge and dining area as well as the deck overlooking the ocean (including outdoor barbecue facilities).

If there was one thing I could change about the room/s that we rented for the week that we were at Beach Music, it would be to have a small bar fridge in each of the rooms. It was a bit of a pain having to go upstairs at night to fetch milk for tea or coffee if we’d run out of the little long-life milk sachets that were provided in our rooms. It also meant that all alcohol had to be stored upstairs in the communal fridges and if we wanted to have sundowners on the ‘private’ deck outside our room, one of us had to trek upstairs to fetch it.

Another thing that I did notice was that even though everyone stored their groceries on separate shelves in the kitchen and shared the communal fridges for cold stuff, there were certain people (cleaning staff included) who went digging through other guest’s groceries and helped themselves. This is not cool. It’s called self-catering for a reason, if you didn’t buy it, don’t eat it!  The exception may be something that one guest has specially bought to share with others and has made this public knowledge. If you are going to stay at Beach Music, only store stuff you don’t mind going missing in the communal kitchen, otherwise stash it in your room.

There are plenty of local restuarants and coffee shops along Da Gama Road (the main road that runs through Jeffrey’s Bay) and as the Spar Shopping Centre was within walking distance from Beach Music, we ate at Nina’s a few times during our stay.

Nina’s (Real Food) Restaurant has a friendly, laid-back atmosphere and a menu with a wide variety of food on it; everything from burgers and pizza to calamari, curry, ribs and more! And, they serve craft beer too.

If the surf does happen go flat for a day or two, there’s plenty to see and do in and around Jeffery’s Bay. We chose to take a day-trip down to St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis, where you’ll find Bruce’s and Seal Point.

Bruce's

Seal Point is a great spot to do a bit of whale watching from, although this whale was quite far out.

Breaching whale

Breaching whale

Another option, although it’s about an hour and a half’s drive, is a day-trip to Addo Elephant National Park, the third largest national park in South Africa.

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To read more about the history of Jeffrey’s Bay, visit http://www.jeffreysbaytourism.org/history