My husband LOVES to tell people about how I asked if he could please start the car so that I could roll up my window- as the lion got really close to the car. I was not taking any chances. We had spent the day viewing elephants, kudo, ostriches, wart hogs and other assorted beasts but I was determined to see one of the park's 6 lions before we left (and it had started raining). So we headed to the water hole and there she was. At first, she was just a rock in the distance. Then she started to stir and roll around on her back.
Lions are relatively new at Addo. Four males and two females were introduced in 2003 to help thin out the overpopulated kudo herd. They are fitted with radio/GPS transmitters so that the park can track them.
The Addo Elephant National Park is home to over 450 elephants- each of whom is named.
Unlike some game reserves, where visitors are admitted only on organized game drives, at Addo you can self-drive in your own car, visiting the waterholes and feeding grounds. Some of the roads in the park are paved and others are gravel. You get a number when you enter the park and a pretty good map. Elephants and the other animals are used to the cars - just don't get out or stick any body parts out of the window.
From their website: The Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the remaining 11 Addo elephants. The great herds of elephants and other animal species had been all but decimated over the 1700s and 1800s by hunters. In the late 1800s, farmers began to colonise the area around the park, also taking their toll on the elephant population due to competition for water and crops.
I was stunned by my first elephant sighting in Addo, the young male pushing aside the pesky warthogs at the water hole was an amazing sight.
Even more amazing, then, was the view of dozens of elephants (a female group, young and old) around a second watering hole. These animals are huge, and yet so silent as they drank, washed and socialised. When the head female decided it was time to go they all trudged softly back into the grassland, as silently as they arrived.
Addo is an amazing place to see beautiful wild animals, as well as elephants I saw warthogs, kudu and other antelope, zebra, tortoises, cape buffalo and wildebeest. They have 6 lions, but in a park the size of Wales they are hard to see!
Definetly find a guide to go with you, they have 'hop in' guides at the gates I believe, so you can see the best there is to see without worrying about getting lost.
There are over 400 species of birds in the park. They come up to your outside table, as many are quite tame around humans now.
There are a couple of bird hides in the park too, and these are lovely places to just go and sit for a couple of hours, silently watching the life in front.
In the photo my husband is checking out the life around us fromthe verandah of our cottage. One doesn't have to go far to feel like you are in animal and bird country here :)
Do not forget your binoculars!
They offer a 3 to 4 hour trail called the Spekboom Day Trail.
It takes place close to the botanical section of the park and is relatively safe.
The guide will always carry a gun with him anyway, in case a lion/other predator does appear.
This photo was taken from our verandah at our cottage. You can see how close the elephant is to us in the photo... the fences are so close by.
It's wonderful :)
The best place to view animals is at watering holes.
A really good watering hole here is the Harpoor watering hole. This name comes form the renowned elephant Harpoor, who deeply distrusted and hated human beings. He was shot at (so who can blame him!?)
Elephants congregate here in large groups, anything from 12 to 40 at a time, so it’s a great place to view them interacting with one another.
Best time to view them drinking is early morning and then dusk. In the searing heat of the day they tend to stay in shady areas.
Hapoor watering hole is one of the best spots for watching the herds drink. It is located on an open area that has little vegetation overlooking the valley below. The waterhole was named after the local legendary elephant Hapoor who was well known for his deep hatred of humans. The nick in his left ear from a hunter’s rifle is all good reason to.
In the winter time the elephants did not care to play in the water, however, they usually came to drink between 10am and 1pm everyday. At least 20 to 30 elephants can be seen at the water hole during this time.
There can exist so many elephants in Addo National Park because of the unusually high density of the weird Addo bush. Elephants love them.
Other plants you can find here: spekboom (Portulacaria afra) wuth pink flowers. Its the most common plant around here and what the elefants do eat all day. It can grow up to 3m.
Also we have here Aloe and Pelargonium. Both are used nowadays as healing plants also in Europe.
The Park is very green (as you can see in the picture) and the ground an expressive yellow-red - the elefants take on that color because they are rolling in the mud.
The unsealed roads can only be driven at when they are dry. If its raining they are getting real muddy and slimy, its just impossible anymore (I had the experience).
When it is going to be a hot day, Its best to arrive in the park by midmorning and to stay at one of the waterholes. The elefants tend to get there when the day is hot.
There are several waterholes and about 45 km of park roads, so you may ask the rangers for where to have the best views.
On the waterholes you will not only find elefants but also smaller animals as warthogs and different birds (there are also may ostriches in the park)
This must be the biggest Elefant I have ever seen.
Compared to him our Caravan seemed small, too.
I really wonder how old this one is.
We were standing on the road, waiting for a group to pass. It is advised not to turn off the enginge of the car- just in case some elefants decides to attack you - you must be able to retreat as fast as possible. (Easy said, when there are elefants all around you)....
Anyway, this really big one shows up and walks close to the Caravan -curious, I think. My mom (in the passenger seat) sees him coming -and I swear he is actually looking inside the Caravan with his brown, small eye. Mom gets nervous (very) and begs: "drive, please, drive!"
We did, I think he would have only tried to scratch his back on our car, but... who knows?
As some may see, the female Elephants in the Park do not have tusks.
Why is that so?
By the time the Park was created (1931) there were only 11 elephants surviving. Some of the females didn´t have tusks (probably why they hadn´t been hunted) and that tusklessness got passed on to their daughters.
They are only four females with tusks today and they will probably be the last.
The elefants are impressive enough with or without their tusks. It is also wonderful to see the female wandering around in groups together with their children in different ages.
Addo is great for bird watching as there are over 400 different spieces of birds in the area. So, don't only look out for those big elephants, but keep your eyes sharp and find some beautiful-looking birds, too!
It was fun to observe the elephants swimming.. the just jumped to the water, turned to one side and then to another.. but there was a little 'problem'. When they were bathing on one side, it was quite hard for them to turn to another side. Sometimes they had to try several times to succeed.
Elephants are lovely creatures to observe and often you can see them eating. What do they like to eat?
They mainly eat:
* tree foliage
* bark, roots
* soil for its mineral content
When you arrive at Addo, there are these two huge elephant skulls 'welcoming' you :) I had not see any elephant skulls before, so I was curious...but fortunately I didn't see any more skulls anywhere in the park...