Home to the Big 5 of the African animal kingdom, the Addo Elephant National Park is located in the Eastern Cape Province and offers excellent game viewing.
Addo Elephant National Park is located in the Eastern Cape, an easy 70 kilometre (43.5 mile) drive from Port Elizabeth. Home to what is now known as the Big 7, the Big 5 with the additions of Whales and Great White Sharks, Addo offers exceptional game viewing and bird watching.
The game reserve's location, just north east of the Western Cape's magnificent Garden Route makes it far more accessible for those travellers wanting to experience both the Western Cape and all its beautiful attractions and an authentic Big 5 safari experience
. It was for those exact reasons that I found myself driving up the R335 towards the gates of Addo.
I have been very spoilt in my lifetime and have had the opportunity to visit a number of the top safari game reserves in South Africa and Namibia. I have stayed in fenceless camps where African Wildcats curl up next to you by the camp fire at night; a strangely wild and yet domestic experience, and I have stayed in some of the top luxury safari lodges
in the country, where your every need is seen to within the blink of an eye and highly skilled trackers and game rangers ensure that you have exceptional sightings of all of the 'must-see' game and more; serving the sightings up to you as if they were on a platter. Both of these experiences are truly amazing and highly recommended.
But there is something different about staying in a self-catering chalet in a game reserve and being the master of your own safari experience; choosing which roads to explore and facing the consequences of a random guess when all you see for an entire day are trees, Guinea Fowl, Wildebeest and Impala, oh yes... and more Impala.
So after arriving and settling into our 2 bedroom cottage at Addo Rest Camp we had a light lunch on our little balcony that overlooks the bush and then we packed a picnic and some sun downer drinks
and then headed for the gate. We only had 2 hours as the gate to the game viewing area was closing for the evening, but the sense of anticipation was just too much and we had to get a small fix of the wildlife before the evening.
Driving slowly out of the gate we stop as a family of Warthog waddle across the road right infront of us. Great excitement! Our first sighting of the day! The speed limit in the game reserve is 40km/h (24.8m/h) but you will find that you don't really want to go faster than about20km/h (12.4 m/h); which may seem insanely slow, but is ideal for being able to peer into and in-between the bushes when looking for game animals.
After far too many photographs are taken of the mother Warthog and her family posing happily for us on the side of the road, we continue on for a while and decide that we want to stay fairly close to the camp, so we head toward Domkrag dam. Our handy map shows us the way
as we turn off the main road.
Not more than 2 minutes go past when we stumble upon a family of Elephants. 4 or 5 massive giants stand in the bushjust a few metres away from our vehicle. We silently move to the side of the road and sit silently watching them as they make a huge mess of one of the trees.
Being so close to them you can hear the sound of the leaves being ripped off the branches as the Elephant tugs with its powerful trunk
. Gracefully they place their bounty in their mouths and munch away at it. Watching from our vehicle I cannot help but feel a sense of awe as the graceful power and agility of these majestic creatures.
Sitting quietly watching the ElliesI start to take in the other sounds and sights of the bush. A Flightless Dung Beetle, found only in Addo, is slowly rolling a large ball of dung down the road and a family of Weaver birds are making a nest in one of the trees nearby.
The bush is literally teeming with wildlife
and we soon decide to move on from the Elephants, leaving them to their delicious meal. We turn a corner in the road and find a Black-Backed Jackal gnawing on a dried bone. Quick! Take a photo!
Absorded in watching the Jackal we suddenly hear a loud snort as a Kudu races out of a nearby bush followed closely by a young Lioness. We cannot believe our eyes!The bush erupts with shouts and calls as the Kudu scampers past us and a second Lioness appears. Both cats are young and are obviously trying their luck with what will end up being little success, but the excitement and adrenalin of watching the almost kill is exhilarating.
The Kudu manages to get away eventually but not before we are able to get fantastic photographs of both animals
. Other cars have started to gather around and the sense of excitement and the thrill of the sighting is an almost tangible string that links each person and each vehicle. It is against park regulations, and for your own safety, that you do not exit you vehicle while in the game viewing area and everyone is glued to their seats, pointing, whispering and of course, taking hundreds of photographs.
The Lionesses eventually disappear back into the thick bush. The day is starting to draw to a close so we decide that it is time to turn back and head for the camp before the gates close. We have been warned that you don't want to be late as there is a heavy fine if you enter past the curfew.
Navigating our way back to the main road we are forced to a halt just 5 minutes away from the gate by a huge herd of Buffalo
. The herd is made up of huge adults with Oxpeckers on their necks and smaller teenagers with spiky horns on their heads, all of whom 'gwarf' and 'snort' at us as they make their way to their next destination.
The herd is moving lazily down the road and we are grateful that we left enough time to get back to the gate, as otherwise it might have been a fairly stressful experience. Eventually the large herd moves out of the road and we are able to get back into the gate just in time.
For what was meant to be a short taster of a game drive on our first night in the safari park, the experience turned out to be the best game drive
I have ever had on a self-drive game drive!
By Katie Edge
The Addo Elephant National Park is the 3rd largest National Park in South Africa and is situated in a malaria-free area...more