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Being South African and haven grown up in Port Elizabeth which is about 100 km from Addo Elephant Park and remembering how bad the Addo Elephant Park was, I was
somewhat surprised when I was told that I NEED to get to that National Park as
it had been seriously upgraded.
So while we were in PE my wife and I took a day and went to
Addo National Park and was I
surprised. Not only have most of the roads to the park been resurfaced and are
no longer dirt roads, but the primary roads in the park are also no longer dirt
. The entrance to the park is really nice and the main campus building that has
the restaurant and gift store in it is absolutely superb and is themed in a very
African Bushveld style with off white walls and thatched roofs.
The park has been enlarged and it took us all day to drive it and we really needed a second
day if we were to see everything, after being to the park on at least 3
different occasions and each occasion all I saw was a few elephant and those
were from a distance, so I really did not hold much hope for a great viewing
day. As a result we did not get going bright and early and by the time we
arrived at the park it was mid morning and the summer sun was baking down. In
fact it was a toasty 98°F (36.5°C).
We drove up to the entrance and the attendant stepped out of the shade into the searing heat and charged us
R50.00 per person ($7.00) each. We happily paid this and we went through the gate
and up to the restaurant for lunch in an attempt to get out of the midday sun.
After a hearty South African lunch in the revamped restaurant we decided
that it was time to get going and drive around the park and see if we could spot a few elephant.
After about 5 minutes we spotted a sign that says watering hole and off we go. We arrived at
the watering hole parking lot and there was a young elephant standing at the edge of the road eating some shrubbery.
Animals in the park are wild, they are not tamed in any way, though some have grown accustomed to the human intrusion, but also have been known to
trample or charge people that have appeared threatening.
Click on image for picture gallery of animals
I took a few pictures of this elephant with my Canon point and shoot. In fact I got so close that you could see
whites of its eyes (see picture). From there we walked to the watering hole and found a herd of elephant ranging from
older males to females with their young and approached to within 100 yards of this
herd. Being this close to a herd of wild or semi wild elephant is an experience
unlike any other. After that we decided to take one of the dirt roads that took us off the regular track and into the
bush. We had no sooner turned down the dirt road when we spotted a family of
Warthog. As we ventured further into
the game reserve we started spotting some very shy animals, such as a male Kudu.
A little further along there was some sort of scuffle and a dust cloud that
suggested some sort of action so off we went
and we found 2 female kudu staring into the bush, so intently that they
either did not hear us or just did not care, as you can tell by the posture and
ears of the female in this photo.
As the day progressed we saw more and more animals and birds, way more than I could have hoped and
far more than expected. By 6 pm we decided that it was time to head back home, and our final experience was about to happen.
As we progressed down the road we saw a few cars parked at the side of the road, and
as we approached we saw that the herd of elephant was making its way up towards
the road. We joined the parked cars and watched. As we watched the elephants got
closer and closer and after about 15 minutes we were in the middle of a heard of
elephant. The elephants were so close that had I stuck my arm out of the car
window I could have touched the female and her baby as they passed around the car.
By the end of the day we had seen African Elephant, Warthog, Bushbuck, Greater Kudu, Leopard
Tortoise, Black Backed Jackal (extremely rare), Blue Heron, Red Hartebeest, Burchells’s Zebra,
Ostrich, Springbuck, Buffalo, a family of meerkat and any number of hawk and eagles.