Lions, Elephants and Dung Beetles-Addo Elephant National Park revisited
A day in a great Game Reserve in South Africa
A family wedding in the beautiful Cape St Francis area of the Easter Cape meant that we would pass the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth on our way. The temptation was just too much and so a night was booked in the Matyhoweni Rest Camp in the southern part of the Park.
Addo Elephant National Park, at 164 000ha, is the third largest Game Reserve in South Africa after Kruger and Kgalagadi. Positioned in the Eastern Cape near Port Elizabeth, it is situated in the transitional zone between the winter and summer rainfall areas. It enjoys 5 of the 6 biomes found in South Africa and will eventually include a 120 000 ha marine reserve as plans are afoot to increase its size to 686 000 ha.
Today it is a National Park where you can see the big six mammals. The normal big five is extended to six with the addition of the Southern Right Whale. It is also a great place to look out for some of the smaller animals such as the Black-backed Jackal, Yellow Mongoose, 5 kinds of Tortoise, 23 different Lizards and the interesting Flightless Dung- Beetle. Little did we know what a treat we were in for! According to our research, Addo has 95 mammal species and 417 bird species.
Arriving at the camp at lunch time, we decided to do an afternoon drive to the main camp before unpacking. What a good decision that was! Addo is one of the best places in Africa to see Elephant and as usual we were not disappointed. At one stage a huge male in musk, came down the road towards us showing some serious signs of discomfort at our presence. We had to reverse for some time until he decided to leave the road to us and depart into the bush. This caused some serious discomfort to those in the vehicle. Recently a car had been overturned in the Kruger National Park when it came too close to an Elephant so we were taking no chances. The problem can be that other visitors behind you block you in but we did not have that problem.
Zebras, beautifully set against a backdrop of yellow flowering bush were a sight to behold. Some Ostrich galloped past using their typical gait. Kudu and Red Hartebeest entertained us with their appearance near the road and after lifting their heads to see who we were, simply went on grazing in the beautiful green late summer veldt. It was, however, a group of Zebra with several very young ones that stole the show.
Stopping to watch a Black-backed Jackal feeding on some smaller mammal, another visitor to the Park stopped us to tell us that there were two lions on the road ahead. Lions are always a special treat and so we drove on in anticipation. As we came around a corner we could hardly believe our eyes. Two large male Lions were walking down the road next to each other with an entourage of cars following them. As we pulled off the road to get some photos, the Lions walked right past the car and to our surprise one came and sat down right next to us. We held our breath and I quietly turned my window up just in case he thought of taking a swipe at me. This was the closest I had ever been to a Lion, even in a Zoo!
The Flightless Dung-beetle is protected in the park and drivers are encouraged not to drive over the many heaps of Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo dung that is left on the roads. This time of the year seems to be a great time for these interesting insects and we saw many and were careful to avoid them.
After this excitement the rest of the journey to the main camp seemed to be a bit of an anti-climax but at the same time a couple of tortoise, a green snake and a group of Mongooses also entertained us. Several interesting birds added to our enjoyment including a Steppe Buzzard and an African Fish Eagle. Our bird list came to over 25. A group of Elephants with youngsters and three Savannah Buffalo rounded off a great game drive – perhaps the best we have ever been on.
As we prepared supper in our bungalow with a braai on the veranda that overlooked the mixed forest, the final excitement of the day came in an unexpected way. As I was working on my computer I heard Audrey shriek and looking up I saw a large Vervet Monkey sitting on the kitchen counter right behind her. Jumping up I shouted and waved and he left through the veranda door where he had sneaked in looking for some food. A notice on the door of the fridge warned about looking out for monkeys that have been fed by visitors or have become used to stealing food from unsuspecting people.
All in all Addo again surprised us with some great game viewing in a short space of time. It is indeed a great animal and birding venue and being located in the Eastern Cape is Malaria free, and this appeals to many visitors.