Being the largest land mammal on this planet, the African Elephant has always had a huge attraction for people going on a safari in Africa. Addo Elephant Park in South Africa is home to many of these amazing giants which can be seen in abundance during a visit to the park.

Addo Elephant Park was proclaimed a national park in South Africa in 1931. The reason was to protect the 11 elephants that were left roaming the area in that time. Most of the other elephants had been shot, for being a nuisance to the neighbouring farmers. It was however only in 1954 that the park was fenced and the elephants had their own area to roam around. Currently it is the third largest national park in South Africa after Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi National Park.

elephant heard with baby

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Addo Elephant Park however is much more than just seeing these beautiful giants. Having visited the park quite often a few years ago, we recently decided on returning to visit Addo and see the changes it had undergone during the last years. Visiting the park again was a pleasant surprise, since it is always marvellous to see the African Elephant in its natural habitat. Here are some reasons why we recommend a visit to Addo Elephant Park on your trip and safari in South Africa.

heard of breeding elephants
Breeding herd of elephants by the waterhole
  • The major reason to visit Addo Elephant Park is of course seeing the African elephant. And no doubt you will see them since the park is home to over 600 elephants. The chances of seeing a breeding herd with younger ones is pretty high. The elephants feed mainly on the local Spekboom, a thicket that grows in abundance in the area. However, the height of the thicket grows to more or less the same size as the elephant, so it is sometimes difficult to see these giants when driving around. Did you know there are some very interesting facts about the African Elephant
guy sitting in a landrover with elephant in background
Sean and the elephant
  • In 1954 the park was fenced with a unique fencing system invented by Graham Armstrong using railway and lift cables. The Armstrong fence was the only type of fence at the time in the area that is strong enough to keep the elephant fenced in. Up to today, this fence is still used and can be seen in the park.
woman admiring view over green fields
At certain spots you can get out of your vehicle, just be aware of lions
  • Addo Elephant Park is the only park that is home to the Big 7. Most people go on a safari to see the famous Big 5 animals; lion, black rhino, cape buffalo, african elephant and leopard. In Addo they also include the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Shark. Apart from the Big 7, there are many other animals to see, like various types of antelopes, warthogs, jackals, ostriches, ….
jackal looking at the camera
Black Backed Jackal
  • The park consists out of five different biomes; Forest, Albany Thicket, Fynbos, Nama Karoo and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt. A biome is a large ecological area, characterised by certain types of plants and animals. Seeing all these different biomes in one national park means you’ll come across to a very wide range of vegetation and diversity.
view of the ocean with rolling hills in the foreground
View of the ocean from the park
  • Spekboom is a thicket vegetation native to the Eastern Cape in South Africa. The plant has green rubbery leaves and a thick stem and it helps to fight air pollution (the plant absorbs carbon dioxide but does not release it again in the air). Furthermore the plant is able to sustain high concentrations of animals. Elephants love to eat it, as well as the Cape Buffalo and other antelopes in Addo. It is even used in salads and soups. I have tried it and it has a very juicy and sour taste.
kudu bull looking at camera
Kudu bull
  • Addo Elephant Park is the only large national park home of large wildlife such as elephants, lions and buffalo in the Western side of South Africa. It is located in close proximity to Port Elizabeth making it a great opportunity to visit a national game reserve at the end or start of your visit to the Garden Route.
elephants walking down middle of road with cars to the side
Elephant road block
  • The vulnerable Flightless Dung Beetle is endemic to only a few areas in South Africa, of which the largest population is found in Addo Elephant Park. The park protects this species of Dung Beetle, for which you can find signs all over the park, to request you not to drive over elephant dung. The Flightless Dung Beetle is crucial in the ecosystem for recycling nutrients from the dung to soil. Very often you can see these huge beetles rolling perfect sized balls of various types of dung. It is actually very entertaining to look at it for a while the way they try to roll the balls to the side of the road and fall off of it and try again and again.
flightless dung beetle rolling a ball of elephant shit 5 times its size with its back legs in the air
Flightless dung beetle rolling a ball of elephant shit
  • The Eastern Cape is a malaria free area, so the park can be easily visited without being worried about malaria.
landrover parked at picnic site
The very well maintained Jack picnic site
  • The park has some amazing facilities one can use. Jack’s picnic site is located in the middle of the park, and is perfect for a lunch stopover. It consists out of many separated areas all with shade, picnic table and braai facilities. The waterhole by the main area is beautiful to sit and watch animals that come and drink. It also has a hide that get’s you even closer to the waterhole. On a certain occasion there were about 80 elephants drinking and sitting in the hide I could nearly touch on of them. That’s how close you can get. Very impressive.
looking at an elephant 3 meters away from inside a hide
From the hide by the waterhole, we could nearly touch the elephant

Practical information about Addo Elephant Park

The park is located only 40 kilometres outside of Port Elizabeth, making it a great safari stopover or can even be visited as a day tour.

The park has a wide range of accommodation available, different types of self catering house as well as a small campsite. Take into account that this is a very popular park and accommodation fills up rather fast. To ensure availability of accommodation on your visit, book in advance.

The website of Sanparks is easy to use and shows availability directly online.

We have stayed a few times in the park, as well in self catering accommodation as in the campsite and they are recommended. An advantage of staying in the park is the waterhole which can be visited any time during the day and night.

Have you ever seen elephant in the wild? What was your first impression seeing these gentle giants?

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