The Addo Elephant Park is arguably the best place in South Africa to spot elephants. And almost close enough to touch. Our tips for visiting children - Addo was our highlight in South Africa.
# South Africa's best elephant park
We are too late. And then there is such a long line of people at the entrance. Ryan growls at us a little rude, but still takes us on dusk drive. It's 5pm and the last tour for today starts through the park. Ryan steers the bus and smiles to himself.
He knows exactly where he's going to take his visitors. At any rate, elephants are not. Although around 700 pachyderms are said to live in the Addo Elephant Park, we first only see their dung balls. And far in the distance a herd of gray animals. Ryan tells us these dungballs are important to the flightless Pillendre dung beetle that only occurs in this part of the world. Instead of heading for the elephants, he drives a turnoff into part of the park, which is banned for self-drive. "We have two male lions who are taking their digestive nap since this morning," he says, steering the safari bus over the bumpy roads. To the left of us is already the big fence, which includes the Addo National Park and right even power pylons. Looks rather unromantisch, not Africa, as you imagine it - as a fenceless expanse. But a blond hair moves in the grass. Fully outstretched and relaxed, the two lion-men are lying there. Male lion. My children are delighted. And totally baffled, how relaxed and quiet these guys are there. They are not normal lions, but Kalahari lions.
His mane looks as if a modern hairdresser dyed highlights there - a different tone at the bottom than at the top of his head. If there were a beauty ideal for lions, this subspecies would surely be the idol. Although the Kalahari Lion is not officially recognized as a subspecies, it is indisputably the highlight of many safaris for savanna visitors. No one else in the genus Panthera has such a proud mane, blond hair on the head and black accents on the tips that create an impressive contrast, just as if the animals had put on a black collar. The Kalahari Lion is not only distinguished by its black mane tips from its counterparts in the Serengeti and Co, but his coat shines altogether brighter than that of other lions. This is probably due to the environment he has adapted to over the centuries: in this arid region of deserts and salt pans, he is simply better camouflaged.
With a body height of up to 110 centimeters and a length of up to 200 centimeters, the Kalahari Lion is one of the larger representatives of its kind. While he used to be able to roam undisturbed through his territories in the Kalahari, man today puts a lot of emphasis on the big cats: Das the original area is heavily fragmented, farm fences interfere with its habitat and its passing through. He has now found a protected area in the Addo National Park. Ryan tells us that lions are usually up to 15 years old in the wild, but these two are already 24 years old. Methuselah, then. They are beautiful with their blond-black mane. Although we are now learning that such a lion consumes about 100 antelopes or similar animals per year.
We drive. Wide land, the sun is setting on the decline. And then suddenly we are in the middle of the elephant area. Very close the animals stand on the wayside and pluck the grass. Some even look in the eye. We are all very fascinated. Not only from the animals, but also from the color play of the sun, which makes the elephants suddenly appear orange.
These are moments when I know why I really wanted to drive to this park. Why we drove 900 kilometers from Cape Town to be here. Yes, we also went the Garden Route. and enjoyed all the beauties of the track like Knysna or the Little Karoo. But that's all, nothing is going to feel like being here right in the middle of the elephant. Even though we traveled a long distance through the country, it was really worth it. Our days in Addo Elephant Park were one of the most memorable of our trip to South Africa. Especially for the kids.
# Why Addo Elephant Park with kids?
We decided on our travel planning against the Kruger National Park and for the Addo, because the Addo is malaria free. In addition, the children spontaneously came to the elephant as the first animal when I asked them what they wanted to see in South Africa. And for elephant watching, this park is spectacular. There are few other parks where you can get close to the elephant. Another point is that the Addo is beautifully connected to the Cape Town Garden Route and many other highlights were on our way that make traveling an experience in itself.
Because it was so nice in the evening, we went through the Addo the next day. I had inquired: To get to the coast, it takes a day, it is about 70 kilometers. I doubted that my kids would endure that and deleted it from my list. Because traveling with children always means slowing things down, not packing in too much program, but rather planning times in which they can play, preferably outdoors or in the water. But the whole day in the back seat of the car is rather nothing.
Unlike the Pilanesberg National Park, the Addo is ideal for self-drive, because you can see well and far and the grass is not so high, hills do not obstruct the view here. So the animals can be watched well. And these are mainly elephants that you see here. And that's why you're here too. We will not be disappointed, because they are coming soon. Right on our car too.
First we had only seen their legacies, but suddenly one breaks out of the bush and a whole herd follows. I quickly turn off the engine, have heart palpitations, if this proximity, in which they pass us and just look fascinated. One even makes eye contact with me. Such a soft, deep look that immediately touches my heart.
We do not even notice that we're on the road for hours, because the elephants come close to our car or wash themselves at the waterholes. We remain fascinated and just look. These are moments that we will never forget.
#History of the Addo National Park
Sometimes you realize just how valuable something is when it's gone. So it was probably in the Addo. There the elephants were almost extinct. The adjoining humans, big game hunters and others had it on the elephants apart and they just shot like that. Sometimes because they wanted the ivory, sometimes because they wanted to protect their farms from the hunger of these animals and feared for their orange harvest. So in 1930 the elephant in this area was almost extinct.
Railway lines were built, the wood of the forests, which were once impenetrable, was used for industry and more and more of the habitat of elephants and other large mammals like lions destroyed and a dam should also be built. In 1931, however, there was a growing awareness that the elephants could not be driven out of the area and shot down, and a reserve was established: the Addo National Park, which has been growing ever since and is now South Africa's third largest park.
#Fauna and flora in Addo Elephant Park
Fauna: One of the smallest animals is possibly the most spectacular in the park: The flightless pill-twisting dung beetle rolls balls of elephant dung in front of him - and backwards. Kudu, Elanantilope, Kuhantilope, Bushbuck, Mountain Zebra, Warthogs, Southern Whale Whale and Penguins, Great White Shark, Black Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lions, Seals, Springbok, Bear Paw, Southern Green-gnome are less spectacular but also native to it. Meanwhile, cheetahs have been settled in the park. The Big 5 can thus also be found in this park.
The rare species of animals in Addo Park include: Steppe Forest Tree Sloth, Earth Wolf, Honey Badger, Black-footed Cat, Leopard, Hippo, Aardvark, False Cat.
Also Puffottern occur there, as well as the Kapkobra, the Booms>
Birds in the Addo: Silverstorm, King Penguin, Chestnut Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, Black-breasted Short-toed Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Cape Booby, Secretary, White-backed Vulture, Gluttonous, Marabou, Siberian Golden Ringed Plover, Red-eared Night Owls, Miombonectar Birds, Giant Fish, Cobalt Siskin, Tree Hump, Trumpeterhorn Bird, Cranes, Weaver Birds, Egrets and the colorful Narinatrogon. Overall, the list of birds spotted there includes almost 900 species, the English->be viewed here.
Flora: The coastline Woody Cape, St Croix Island and Bird Iceland came to the Addo sanctuary in 2002 as new regions. Since then, the park stretches over 5 vegetation zones. It is the Fynbos vegetation, which is mainly determined by heather, Hartlaub and silver trees. The forest vegetation, Albany Thicket, which consists mainly of forest. The Nama Karoo at Darlington and Kuzuko is desert, and the Indian Ocean coast is dotted with dunes and seascape. Indian Ocean Coastal Belt. These landscape forms are also called booms. 500 different plant species dominate the scenery, including the Boer bean tree, the bacon tree, midday flowering plants and prickly pears, whose fruits are favorite food of the elephant.
# Activities in the park
A total of 120 kilometers of road through the park, you can do the park well in one day. And yet he is big enough to easily lose his bearings, because the streets meander as loops through the park, also called loops. It's not always easy to find the right turn, in fact we drove the same loop three times to finally find the road that pointed farther south. And it was not just us, we met many cars several times and saw them for a long time at the signposts and discuss. So watch out and always follow the direction on the map, the navigation devices are not necessarily reliable in the park.
White Hai Tour: The Marine Reserve, located in front of the Addo, also houses the Great White Whales and some dolphins. There are special tours by boat to get to know the water world better.
Underground hide: Exciting are also the views from the Undero Hide of the Addo, here you can meet some animals at eye level from their own sheltered houses. No animal there? Never mind, just take your time and wait.
Harpoor dam is especially nice for the afternoon. Incidentally, the dam is named after an elephant named Harpoor who was known to be particularly moody and often threatened people in the park. It was not until much later that it was discovered that he had carried a bullet in his ear and probably suffered from constant pain.
Spekboom Trail: On this trail you can walk around in peace and rage, the area is fenced and thus protected from lions and other large mammals. Perfect for a stop with kids who do not like to sit in the back seat.
Children in the Addo Elephant Park: In the Ulwazi Center children can dig for fossils, learn to read footprints or play in the sandpit, the center offers many opportunities to play, but also to learn.
Illuminated waterhole at night : There is a water hole in the park, which is lit up at night. If you are calm enough, you have great chances to see animals.
#Information Addo Elephant Park (Admission and Co):
The Addo Elephant Park is about an hour's drive from Port Elizabeth and is part of the Western Cape Region. Cape Town is about 825 kilometers, or about 9 hours by car. It is worthwhile, however, to divide the route into smaller stages, because the path leads along the Garden Route. The Addopark is easily accessible via the N2 towards Grahamstown. The park is good with the normal car passable.
The elephant park has two gates, the main gate is open from Nov-Mar daily from 6 am to 6.30 pm, April / May and Sept / Oct: 6.30-18, June / August 7-17.30.
The southern gate usually opens half an hour later and closes half an hour earlier.
Addo Elephant National Park Reception, Tel: +27 42 233 8600
Admission to the park costs 275 rand for adults (children over 12 years are considered adults) and 138 rand for children.
The passport must be presented, as well as the driver's license for self-drivers. For self-drivers, the trunk is examined (for weapons and ivory).
Games-Drives start at 6 o'clock (in winter 7) and during the day at 9, 12 and 15 o'clock, sunset tours start at 18 (winter 16) o'clock, the game-drives last 2 hours, cost 365 Rand per person, snack (chips) and drink are included.
The restaurant at Africanos Lodge provides high quality food between sushi, skewers and pizza.
If you want to eat right in the park, the Harpoor restaurant is at the main gate, there are burgers, salad and kudu steak.
We stayed at the Africanos Country Estate Lodge - and not only my kids loved it. There you live in semi-detached houses, the bathroom is huge and there is even a shower outside. The garden is nice to run around, the rooms as well and the people there are extremely friendly, especially to the kids. The night costs from 100 €.
The Addo Elephant Park is the third largest national park in South Africa. It is malaria-free and provides a retreat area for about 700 elephants. It can also be used on normal cars, you do not need four-wheel drive. The park is a total of 180,000 hectares (1650 km2) and offers the opportunity to see the Big 5.
Special feature are the many elephant herds, which often run right in front of the car. Who wants to see elephants, is right here.
Refueling : In the park there is a gas station for cars.
Photo tip: Take not only Teleobjektve, but also wide-angle, so that the often very close Elephant packs can better reflect.
You can find more about our South Africa trip here:
- It does not always have to be the Kruger Park, Pilanesberg is also wonderful - especially with children. Here you can read more about our safari.
- Driving in South Africa is not always easy. Here are my tips on how to handle the time in left-hand traffic.
- We especially liked the Addo-Elefantenpark . He was my personal highlight, nowhere have I ever come so close to the elephant.
- And here are some tips from other bloggers and me about Cape Town.
- A township tour, ie a walk through the slums of the country, was oppressive and impressive at the same time. With the children, I found it particularly important. Why? That's what you read here.
Gin also wrote a lot about South Africa's lifestyle blog, just have a look at the two.