Eastern Cape Game and Nature ReservesThe Addo Elephant National Park
If it is elephants you want to see then head to Addo Elephant Park. Now South Africa's third largest national reserve, Addo Elephant National Park lies in the malaria-free Sundays River valley in the Eastern Cape, just over an hour's drive from Port Elizabeth.
The Park stretches from the semi-arid karoo of the north, over the Zuurberg Mountains and down through the Sundays River valley to the coast, to between the mouths of the Sundays and Bushman's rivers.
Addo is home to one of the densest African Elephant populations on earth, roughly 550 of them. They once roamed the entire continent. By 1979 there were only 1.3 million African elephants left, and in 1989 they were added to the international list of the most endangered species, with only sixteen left in the Greater Addo area.
The Elephants play a key role in the environment - pulling down trees, breaking up bushes, and digging waterholes and trails. Their droppings are particularly important as baboons and birds pick them over for undigested seeds and nuts, and the dung beetle (the flightless dung beetle is only found in Addo) use them in which to reproduce.
More recently the Addo Elephant National Park has expanded to become the only park in the world to lay claim to Africa's 'Big 7' - elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark. It has done this by expanding along the coast from the Sundays River mouth towards Alexandria, and by adding an offshore marine reserve that includes St Croix Island and Bird Island, both essential breeding grounds for penguins and gannets. St Croix has the largest African penguin colony in the world.
To see elephant, head to the waterholes of the Addo Elephant reserve. In the hot climate of Africa, elephants need roughly 190 litres of water to drink on a daily basis. Their trunks, which are something like large and long hosepipes, have a 23 litre capacity. The main rest camp in particular overlooks a waterhole with an underground viewing area that gets you up close to the elephants. Often you need do little more than remain around this hole to see herds of elephant.
An overnight stay out of season is even better, as once the noise of the daily visitors subsides then the watering hole becomes quiet and still. Guided game drives at sunrise, sunset and at night offer more chance of sighting the rest of the Big 5. And if you prefer to do the viewing in the comfort of your own car, guides are available in a 'hop-on' service. Elephants are known to come within metres of visitors' cars.
There are four accommodation options in the reserve – the Addo main rest camp, camp Matyholweni rest camp, Narina bush camp, and the Spekboom tented camp. At night you can hear hyenas and lions really close to the camp.
Hiking trails in the reserve include the Alexandria Hiking trail – a 2-day, 36km trail in the Woody Cape part of the park, Tree Dassie Trail – a 7km day hike, Zuurberg Mountain Trails that range from 2.4km to 8km in length, and the PPC Discovery Trail through the Albany thicket ecosystem. To reach the coastal area of the park, head to the Sundays River mouth off the N2 near Colchester, or to the Woody Cape ranger's offices off the R72 near Alexandria where there is a walking trail and boardwalk.
Popular Activities in Addo Elephant Park
Horse Trails in Addo Elephant Park
Horse trails within the Addo Elephant National Park are conducted by experienced guides on sure-footed, well-trained horses. Riding hats are available for visitors’ use if required. Addo horse trails depart from main camp to the Nyati area which is home to...
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Eden to Addo Hike
The Eden to Addo hike is considered by some as the longest, if not the toughest hiking trail in South Africa. Regarded as a 'mega' hike, the Eden to Addo entails an 18-day haul from Knysna to Addo and the Addo Elephant National Park, on its way to being one of...
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