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Addo Elephant National Park:400 Elephants and 54 Birds

Updated on June 26, 2014
Eye to eye with an Elephant
Eye to eye with an Elephant | Source
Warthog on the run
Warthog on the run | Source
Zebra and Warthog at water hole
Zebra and Warthog at water hole | Source
Kudu as sun sets over the Winterberg
Kudu as sun sets over the Winterberg | Source
Pale-chanting Goshawk
Pale-chanting Goshawk | Source
Some of the Elephant herd at dam
Some of the Elephant herd at dam | Source
Red-knobbed Coot and Black Crake
Red-knobbed Coot and Black Crake | Source
Pair of African Shell Ducks searching for food
Pair of African Shell Ducks searching for food | Source
Mother and calf
Mother and calf | Source

Addo Elephant National Park-a winter visit: 400 Elephants and 54 Birds.

Every time we visit this great Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth we are surprised. This is one of the Game Reserves in South Africa than falls in the more moderate climatic regions and so it is Malaria free. It also covers 6 of the 7 vegetation biomes found in South Africa. It offers the “Big Five” and actually includes the Great White Shark in its coastal section and so claims to have the “Big Six”.

This is Elephant country.

In the northern part of the park we are told that there are over 400 Elephants and we seemed to see all of them as they either graze in the bush or come down to the waterholes to drink. This is dry season, but following the good summer rains the vegetation is green and lush. The Elephants have calved and so mothers are guarding their young jealously. Watching these huge animals as they come to the dams is a real delight.

Watching game at waterholes.

Time spent at one of the water places is certain to bring a large selection of wild life. The Warthogs always provide a laugh as they run with their tails up like aerials. There are always at least a couple of water birds present and we were particularly excited to see a Pied Avocet in Hapoor Dam, only the second time one of these beautiful birds has been recorded here according to SABAP2(South African Bird Atlas Programme) records.

Listing birds.

As always we draw up a list of birds seen as part of the SABAP2 team. Obviously winter presents fewer birds as the seasonal migrants have flown north. At the same time a list of 54 birds in just two days is not bad at all. We only list four raptors but strangely see a large number of water birds who are obviously overwintering. This is important information for the bird listing data that is collected by the researchers at the University of Cape Town.

The ‘Big Five”!

Many who visit this and other Game Reserves in South Africa want to see the big five but to us this is not as important as the birds. At the same time we do see a big male Lion and a group of Buffalo coming down to a dam to drink. It, however, the Elephants that are the stars of the show at Addo. It is unusual to see a Leopard as they are nocturnal, but can sometimes be seen resting during the day. We have often seen Rhino but somehow they prove to be elusive this time.


We are campers and so we pitch our tent in the campground at the main Addo rest camp. Like all facilities at National Parks in South Africa, good ablution blocks provide hot water showers and laundry facilities. Also in the camping area there is a well equipped kitchen with stoves, dish washing sinks, a deep freeze and boiling water on tap. At the same time there are bungalows and tented accommodation available but we choose the cheaper camping option. A camp site costs R220 (about 20 dollars) per night for the two of us, while the bungalows and tented option runs at between R800-R1000 for two.


In the rest camp there is a restaurant and shop that supplies visitors with the option of eating out or buying and cooking their own food. Prices are reasonable. The shop also offers a good choice of curios, clothing and books about nature and travel.

A magic moment to cherish and savour.

As we leave the Game reserve we are pulling our trailer behind our car with our tent and camping equipment in it. Coming around a corner we see a big bull Elephant coming down the road ahead of us with two cars reversing ahead of it, coming towards us. Normally we can do a three point turn and get out of the way but with the trailer and the narrow road that is not possible. So I put the car into reverse and join the other cars going backwards. The only trouble is that the cars ahead and the Elephant are moving faster that I can with my trailer and so my only option is to pull over and let the two retreating cars go past. Now it is just us and the Elephant. I pull over well onto the side to let the Elephant pass on his way but to our dismay he comes across the road straight for us.

We are rooted to our seats and now all we can do is pray and hope that he will not flatten our car and us as he is quite capable of doing. As he approaches we do not move a muscle and even stop breathing. About a meter from our car he seems to hesitate at this irritation that faces him. He seems to be saying;" why are you not retreating like the other cars? This is my road and I am bigger than you!" How do you explain things to an Elephant?

We are now looking at each other eye to eye and that is a frightening experience. He decides against bothering with us and moves to the side brushing against our side mirror as he continues down the road. We breathe again and I start up and move on with my heart beating wildly in my chest and Audrey sighing a huge sigh of relief.

Yes, Addo is a special place and full of surprises, some we can perhaps do without!


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    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Yes they are great to watch. Thanks for the comment.

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 

      4 years ago from The High Seas

      Interesting and Useful! Elephants are one of my favorite critters.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      It was great-you would have loved the birds!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Addo sounds great. Wish I had been there to see that elephant…what a thrill!

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for the comment MG.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Wonderful post. Reminds me of the elephant herds roaming in India

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      We always show respect towards animals and are glad the Elephant reciprocated.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      Johan, Thank you for this trip through Addo. I have had a few of those heart stopping moments in Kruger and in Zambia. Like you, we prefer to stay far away. Up, interesting and beautiful.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      4 years ago from India

      Beautiful hub. I like to go for wild life safaris

      Thanks for sharing this

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful, you carried me there and thankfully back again ;-)

      How fantastic our world. Thank you and Thank the Lord.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow; you are very brave; I cannot imagine being face to face with an elephant with no fence in between! I have seen buffalo and leopards, crocodiles and such with a fence and that was very scarey to me. They never seemed interested in us though so I guess they were use to people. Once a baboon; I think it was, went absolutely wild because my little 7 year old daughter mimicked him and if he had gotten out I am sure he would have hurt her bad! They all have their personalities don't they? Glad the elephant did you no harm.

      What accommodations for camping too you had, sounds fantastic! Up and sharing.


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