Addo Elephant National Park

About Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park covers 170 000 hectares of the eastern cape, making it the third largest national park in South Africa, after the Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Planned expansions will increase the size of the park to 240 000 hectares on land, and 120 000 hectares of protected marine areas. Ultimately, these expansions will consolidate the park and eliminate the railways, roads, and fences that currently intersect it.

The Park comprises five of South Africa’s nine biomes including Fynbos, Albany Thicket, Nama Karoo, Forest, and the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt.

Location

Addo Elephant National Park covers the area between the Bushman’s River mouth and Sundays River mouth. The Park incorporates the Colchester area, the Nyathi Concession area, and much of the Zuurberg mountain range, up to the Darlington Dam and Kuzuko Contractual Area, to the R400 between Jansenville and Paterson.

The St. Croix and Bird Island groups also fall under the ambit of Addo Elephant National Park.

You can access the park via one of two gates, namely:

  • Main entrance gate at the Addo reception
  • Matyholweni gate near Colchester

There are signposts for both gates along the N2 from Port Elizabeth

Brief History

Initially, the Iqua, Damasqua and Gonaqua clans of the Khoesan lived in this area, hunting and keeping cattle. Tragically, smallpox eradicated these people in the 1700s, and the nomadic Xhosa tribes arrived shortly afterwards.

At this time, the area was home to an abundance of elephants and other species, but hunters and agriculture rapidly decreased the elephant numbers over the next century.

In 1919, farmers called on the government to exterminate the elephants and 114 of them were culled between 1919 and 1920.

A public outcry ensued, and in 1931, the South African Government proclaimed the (then) 2 000 hectares of park, Addo Elephant National Park to protect the remaining 11 Addo elephants.

In 1954, park management installed the first elephant-proof fence around its perimeter to protect the population of elephants which now comprised 22 individuals. The original fence, made of tram lines and lift cables is still in place today.

Over the years, the park underwent several expansions to include more species in its conservation plan, culminating in the addition of marine conservation space in 2005.

Accommodation

You’ll find no shortage of accommodation when you visit Addo Elephant National Park, at the following camps:

  • Addo Rest Camp
    This is the main camp with a wide selection of campsites, tented accommodation, chalets, rondavels, and cottages as well as two luxury guest houses.
  • Matyholweni Rest Camp
    This camp is in the Colchester area and has cottages sleeping up to three people.
  • Narina Bush Camp
    This secluded escape nestles in the foothills of the Zuurberg Mountains and offers four rustic safari tents. This camp is available for exclusive use bookings only.
  • Nyathi Rest Camp
    Similarly, Nyathi rest camp offers a secluded and exclusive experience near the Zuurberg, with 11 dome-styled and thatched homes built in the traditional style.
  • Spekboom Tented Rest Camp
    Spekboom has five rustic safari tents located in the fenced area of the Spekboom Hide, accommodating two people each.
  • Woody Cape
    These forest accommodations feature two huts and a cottage, available for exclusive use only.
  • Gorah Elephant Camp
    Gorah Elephant Camp is a luxurious all-inclusive tented camp and large manor house overlooking a busy waterhole.
  • River Bend Lodge
    River Bend Lodge features five-star accommodation in eight rooms and a private villa accommodating six people. There is also a wellness center onsite.

There are abundant options for accommodation close to Addo Elephant National Park including campsites, backpackers, and luxury lodges.

Children

Like all SanParks offerings, Addo Elephant National Park welcomes children of all ages.

Activities

Guided and self-drive safaris are the main activity at Addo Elephant Park, but you can also enjoy hiking trails and guided walking safaris.

The two main hiking trails are:

  • Zuurberg Hiking Trail – 9,8 km loop
  • Alexandria Hiking Trail – A two-day, 38 km hike

The caves in the Zuurberg Mountains contain rock art and stone implements.

The Alexandria Dunefield, which forms part of the Addo National Park and is often referred to as a “dune sea”, is home to many important archaeological sites including middens of shells, broken pottery, and animal bones left behind by the ancient Strandloper people.

The Interpretative Centre at the main camp is filled with interesting information about the park and its history including the shell of a giant mountain tortoise, named Domkrag, famous for walking under cars and lifting them up.

Here at the centre, you’ll also see the mounted head of Hapoor, the elephant bull who dominated the park for 24 years until 1968. This aggressive animal eventually fled from younger challengers by climbing the park fence and was shot before he could cause any harm to nearby farmers.

Nearby Adventures

You’ll find numerous recreational activities in the touristic area surrounding the park, including 4 x 4 trails, horse trails, and river cruises.

The Park is a convenient base to explore several places of interest in the Eastern Cape.

These include:

  • Grahamstown
  • Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area
  • Gamtoos Valley
  • Zuurberg Mountain and historic Anglo Boer War sites

Dining

The main rest camp offers a shop for necessary supplies and there is an a la carte restaurant on site. You’ll also find many quaint eateries in the small towns located close to the park and Gqeberha is just 48m away.

Fauna and Flora

Addo Elephant Park is a Big Seven conservation area. That means it’s set up to protect the traditional Big Five plus the Great White Shark and the Southern Right Whale.

The islands incorporated in the park are a bastion for African penguins and home to the world’s largest collection of gannets.

There are over 600 elephants resident in the park as well as healthy populations of Cape buffalo and lions. During your visit to the Addo Elephant Park, you might get to see black rhino, red hartebeest, eland, and kudu as well as smaller creatures like warthog.

The flightless dung beetle is unique to the park. These animals have lost the ability to fly as they don’t need to travel vast distances to follow migrating elephant herds.

Packing List

Some essential items to bring along when you visit Addo Elephant Park include:

  • Sunglasses, lip balm, moisturizing lotion and sunblock
  • Swimming costume and towels
  • A map and guidebook
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Binoculars, preferably one pair for each person
  • Camera
  • Torch

The Park is located in a malaria-free area, but insect repellent will help keep pests at bay in the evenings.

Getting There

Addo Elephant Park is located close to Gqeberha. The easiest way to get there is by flying into Port Elizabeth International Airport (named Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport in 2021) and hiring a car for your visit. You can take the N2 towards Grahamstown and follow the signs from there.

If you choose to travel by road, you can proceed as follows:

From Johannesburg:

  • Take the N1 towards Colesburg
  • At Colesburg, take the N10 to Cradock and Paterson
  • At the Paterson intersection, take the R342 to the left
  • Follow the signs

From Cape Town:

Take the N2 towards Gqeberha then take the N2 towards Grahamstown and follow the signs.

Get Your Recommended Dose of Nature

Southern Africa is the ultimate playground for adventurers and curious travelers. Whether you’re after an adrenaline rush, an unforgettable African safari, or a laid-back escape, you’ll find something that appeals to you here.

Browse our blog for more great travel ideas, consult our maps for guidance and remember, Arebbusch Travel Lodge offers the ideal overnight accommodation for your travels to Windhoek.

Disclaimer
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.

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