ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK
South Africa is renowned for conserving its rich natural heritage and travellers to South Africa tend to opt to visit South Africa’s larger and more well-known parks, such as the iconic Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Africa’s first formally declared transfrontier park, which straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana. Even so, South Africa boasts with a current total of 19 National Parks and albeit not often on your South African bucket list, Addo Elephant National Park is definitely worth a visit!
Here are 5 reasons why you should visit this South African hidden gem…
1. Close up encounters with Africa’s gentle giants
Addo Elephant National Park is South Africa’s third largest national park and spans an impressive 170 000 hectares. The park was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the Eastern Cape’s last eleven remaining elephants after severe poaching activity in the area. Addo is seen as one of South Africa’s top conservation success stories as it is now inhabited by one of the world’s largest elephant herds, with more than 600 elephants calling the park home. The park offers spectacular, close-up sightings of Africa’s gentle giants and the elephants will delight visitors with their antics – a must see!
2. Ideal location and climate
Ideally located close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, one can choose to visit the park at either the start or end of their visit to South Africa’s famous Garden Route.
Addo Elephant National Park has a semi-arid to arid climate, which allows for great sightings year round. Still, the best time to visit Addo Elephant National Park for superb wildlife sightings is between June and September.
Addo Elephant National Park is situated in a malaria-free area, making it a perfect family friendly park to visit.
4. Africa’s Big 7
Addo Elephant National Park stretches from Woody Cape in the South, which is home to the longest pristine dunes in the southern hemisphere, right down to the ocean, to include the Bird Island and St Croix Island Groups. This allows for the national park to boast with the magnificent Big 7, namely the buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, rhino, great white shark and the southern right whale.
Visitors can only access the marine section of Addo Elephant National Park by chartered boat and not from the park itself. Sightings of great white sharks and southern right whales (seasonal) can be experienced by visitors when joining a whale watching boat trip offered by private, licensed Port Elizabeth based whale watching operators.
Apart from elephants galore, which is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why a visit to this national park is a must, Addo Elephant National Park boasts some 400 Cape buffalo, which is one of the largest disease-free herds in South Africa. The remaining Big 7 (lion, leopard and black rhino in the case of Addo Elephant National Park) tend to keep a low profile and are rarely seen.
Additional inhabitants of the park include a diverse variety of other wildlife, such a various antelope, birdlife, reptiles and insects, of which probably the most notable is the endangered flightless dung beetle. Endemic to only a number of areas in South Africa, of which the largest population can be found in Addo. The vulnerable flightless dung beetle is crucial in the ecosystem and is heavily protected by the park. Be sure to keep an eye out for the vulnerable Addo flightless dung beetle when visiting and remember that dung beetles have right of way in Addo Elephant National Park! One is not allowed drive over them or elephant dung…
5. Conservation at the forefront
The expanded Addo Elephant National Park is rich in history and biodiversity. The park strives to conserve an extensive range of significant biodiversity, which includes unique ecosystems, different landscapes, as well as indigenous fauna and flora. Notably, Addo Elephant National Park is the first national park in the world that conserves the Big 7 in their natural habitat and five of South Africa’s seven biomes can be found in the park, namely forest, fynbos, grassland, Nama Karoo and thicket.
More so, Bird Island is a proclaimed Marine Protected Area that supports the largest breeding colony of Cape Gannets in the world and St Croix Island protects the world’s largest breeding ground of the endangered African penguin.