Day tripping: Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is the only park in the world where you can see the Big Seven: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo, plus the great white shark and southern right whale. A day trip to the park and surrounding Greater Addo tourism route provides a huge variety of activities. By Alison Westwood

Route: From Port Elizabeth take the N2 towards Grahamstown. After the Sundays River bridge, turn left at the sign for Camp Matyholweni and follow this road to Matyholweni Gate. Drive through the park to Addo Rest Camp. Exiting main camp, you can turn left and take the R335 towards the town of Addo and the R336 to Kirkwood or follow the winding Zuurberg Pass for about 15km to reach Zuurberg horse trails..

Distance: About 40 km from PE to Matyholweni and 36 km through the park to main camp (this takes about 90 minutes at the 40km/h speed limit).

When to go: The dry, winter months from May to September are the best time for game viewing.

The low down on Addo

Instead of turning left to Matyholweni, turn right towards Colchester to catch an early cruise on the Sundays River Ferry and drift down to the spectacular dune fields at the mouth. Tel 041-468-0140, e-mail maggiemann@addogatewaylodge.co.za or web http://www.addocruises.co.za.

Inside the park, a network of game viewing roads provides excellent opportunities for a self-guided game drive and the new picnic site in Addo’s botanical reserve is a welcome chance to take a break.

On your way to Addo Rest Camp, don’t miss Hapoor Dam, usually bustling with elephants. At the camp, visit the waterhole lookout and Sasol Red Bishop Bird Hide. For kids, there’s the PPC Discovery trail, a short walk that teaches them about the region’s plants and animals.

If you enjoy riding, two and three-hour horse trails in Addo hold the chance of encounters with big game. Tel 042-233-8621 or e-mail addogamedrives@sanparks.org. Drive on north and you can take in the lovely scenery of the Zuurberg on horseback among harmless game. There’s a choice of one, three and five-hour guided trails here.

For an entirely different kind of ride, continue along the Zuurberg Pass to Addo Elephant Back Safaris where you can spend three magical hours interacting with elephants in their natural habitat. Tel 042-235-1400, e-mail res@addoelephantbacksafaris.co.za or web http://www.addoelephantbacksafaris.co.za.

For visitors interested in the area’s history and environment, local guide Stef Delport’s half or full day tours provide a wealth of fascinating facts and stories. Tel 042-230-1311, cell 082-657-1960 or e-mail stef@kirkwood.co.za.

Stef also guides the Bedrogsfontein 4×4 trail, a 45km route between the Kabouga and Darlington sections of Addo, which takes around six hours. It isn’t technically challenging, but a 4×4 with low range is compulsory. Tel 042-233-8169 or e-mail addoenquiries@sanparks.org.

Must do in Addo

  • Ogle elephants at Hapoor Dam
  • Stop for flightless dung beetles crossing the road
  • Ride a horse and an elephant on the same day

Top tips for Addo

  • Addo is malaria free, but bring insect repellent anyway.
  • The park’s roads are suitable for normal sedans. The speed limit is 40#km/h.
  • No citrus fruits are allowed inside the main wildlife area.
  • There’s no natural water in the main section of the park, so animals congregate around waterholes.

Useful Addo contacts

First published in Getaway Magazine

Interested in Addo? Read my feature article about Greater Addo National Park.

 

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