Addo Elephant National Park South Africa is a 1,640m2 (639 square mile) wildlife conservation area on South Africa’s southwest coast near the city of Port Elizabeth. It , although when established in 1931 there were only 11 elephants facing the combined onslaughts of poachers and farmers determined to protect their crops.
Addo Elephant National Park South Africa
The project has been remarkably successful. Today, an area almost the size of Mauritius hosts more than 600 elephants, over 400 cape buffalo and 48 endangered black rhinoceros. Lion, spotted hyena and leopard manage endemic populations of antelope including bushbuck, eland, gemsbok, red hartebeest, kudu, springbok and black wildebeest. At the far end of the scale, flightless dung beetles roll their lunch boxes across the open veld with enviable energy.
In the sky above, raptors wheel overhead in search of rodents and small deer to dine on. Vultures and other carrion birds are smarter. When their senses inform them of kills they arrive from nowhere and wait patiently to clean up the dishes. Addo Elephant Park incorporates the St Croix and Bird islands a few kilometres offshore in the Indian Ocean. On the latter, some 120,000 gannets and penguins compete for nesting space to the accompaniment of raucous cries. Out to sea, southern right whales pause to calve while great white sharks patrol the ocean.
With preservation comes the threat of overpopulation. The initial drive to establish breeding herds of rhinoceros and elephant caused severe damage to plants and grasses from overgrazing and trampling. Close to 75% of local flora lists as threatened. Attempted culls meet with determined protests. The Park’s founder Sydney Harold Skaife believed in striking balance within nature. Addo Elephant National Park South Africa waits in hope of something similar.
Some 120,000 people visit every year in absolute certainty of seeing large herds of elephant almost close enough to touch. Just over half the visitors are from overseas with German, Dutch and British nationals forming the majority. The main guest camp is thatched and features self-catering chalets, a swimming pool (essential for hot summer afternoons), a restaurant serving safari-style cuisine, and a watering hole floodlit at night. There are 4 more basic rest camps with camping spots, and stopovers along looped roads.
Addo Elephant Park is not far north of Port Elizabeth with good access from the city airport with 4WD campervan rental available. The road to it is well paved, and passes through numerous towns and villages with restaurants and accommodations of all kinds. Once in the Park the main connecting roads are tarred, although many visitors still prefer following traditional looping dirt roads that enhance the sense of being in the bush with nature.