After an early modest buffet breakfast we booked out of Brooke’s Hill and wound our way up the coast of Port Elizabeth heading towards the Addo National Elephant Park. The main roads are generally in good condition and the signage is decent and visible, we passed some inner city urban decay alongside the stretch of highway, after that it was a few minutes or so and we were taking the Addo turnoff, from here there is a long stretch that runs through sub-economical housing developments with many solar heating panels on roof tops for the geysers.
Keeping with the theme of the day we noticed some rather large rear-ended traffic cops hid under bridges with sophisticated camera equipment, occasionally getting out with much reluctance and a bad attitude to match, waddling into the road and pulling over the odd car. After a stretch we left the populated areas, from hereon its pretty much straight open roads into the countryside. We arrived at the gate to the Addo Elephant National Park and took our place in the slow moving queue as the staff took their time getting the details of those who sought entrance to the park. We drove through to the main reception area and paid the entrance fees, the room was not ready and we opted for lunch at the restaurant before taking a leisurely game drive in the afternoon. Lunch was a typical SANP experience, served by unsmiling staff and plated with the care and attention only found amongst protected employment.
Addo Elephant National Park was established in 1931 to save 11 Elephants on the brink of extinction, and is now home to more than 350, 280 Cape Buffalo, black Rhino, a range of Antelope species, as well as the rare flightless dung Beetle. Now the third largest national park in South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park has expanded to conserve a wide diversity of biodiversity, landscapes, fauna and flora. Stretching from the semi-arid Karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s river mouth, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares (444 700 acres) and includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups. This park offers some of the most spectacular elephant viewing in the world. Antelope species abundant in the main game area of the park include red hartebeest, eland, kudu and bushbuck whilst Gemsbok, black wildebeest, springbok, buffalo and black rhino are found in the arid nama-karoo area. The Burchell’s zebra, Cape mountain zebra, spotted hyenas, mountain reedbuck, baboons, blue duiker, aardwolf and red rock rabbit are some of the other game species found in the Park.
The first game drive – we entered the park and within a few minutes we came across the first of the Elephants, there were two of them (that we could see) right alongside the road. There were a few other cars there within a minute so we moved on. A few kilometres further down the road we spotted elephants, many of them in the distance. At first we were not sure if they were elephants because of the volume (dozens), but it was soon very evident that we were in the Addo National Elephant Park. This first day’s game drive was predominantly up close and personal elephant sightings.
Arriving again at the reception we collected the keys, only to find out that the chalet is only one open plan room, we requested a second chalet but received no assistance so we ended up finding accommodation outside the park. Something we were a bit reluctant to do at first, but once you compare the prices and accommodation standard it is far more affordable to stay outside this park in the evenings. You simply sacrifice a view over the watering hole, if you have no problem with this then its no major loss.