Addo Elephant National Park

By the early 1900’s the Eastern Cape’s wildlife was being exterminated at an alarming rate. The last lions and black rhinos in the region did not see the arrival of the year 1900, and only about 140 African Elephants remained around the Addo district, which was rapidly developing into an important agricultural area, leading to conflict with the newly established farmers. The government’s decision to intervene was not good news for the elephants. In 1919 they appointed Major P.J. Pretorius to destroy the elephants, and by 1920 he had killed 114 of them and caught 2 for a circus. Only 16 elephants remained when public sentiment swung in their favour and the wanton killing ended, and when the Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed in 1931, only 11 elephants were left. It wasn’t until 1954 when an area of 2,270 hectares was surrounded by an elephant proof fence that the future of the Addo elephants finally looked secure. Along with the elephants, the last free-roaming herds of African (Cape) Buffalo that occurred in the then Cape Province, as well as the unique and endemic Flighless Dung Beetle, finally found a secure refuge. In subsequent years the Park’s area was expanded and species that fell into local extinction through the barrel of a gun were reintroduced.

With the Addo elephants now finally living in a safe refuge, the focus at Addo Elephant National Park is no longer on saving a single species. Today, the park’s management is concerned with the protection of the enormous diversity of landscapes, flora and fauna encompassed within its boundaries, which covers an expansive area of over 178,000 hectares stretching from beyond and across the Zuurberg range to the coastal forests and dune fields of Alexandria. The Park protects portions of no less than five of South Africa’s seven distinct terrestrial biomes, these being subtropical thicket, fynbos, forest, grassland and Nama-Karoo, not to mention the portion of marine environment protected around Algoa Bay’s St. Croix and Bird islands which is important breeding sites for endangered seabirds. Addo is the only National Park in South Africa that can claim to protect the “Big Seven” –  Elephant, Lion, Black Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard, Great White Shark, and Southern Right Whale.

Addo Elephant National Park protects a total of 95 mammals species, including all the members of the famed “Big Five“.

The Park also boasts a list of 417 bird species!

And if that isn’t enough, visitors also have a chance of spotting any of the more than 50 reptile species or 20 kinds of frogs and toads that call Addo Elephant National Park home. The Park’s most famous invertebrate inhabitant undoubtedly is the Flightless Dung Beetle (Circellium bacchus), this being only one of 5 places they are still found. These interesting insects make use of elephant, rhino, buffalo and kudu dung as food, either for themselves or rolled into brood balls in which they lay a single egg before burying it in soft sand and on which the larvae then feeds when it hatches.

The Addo Main Camp is the Addo Elephant National Park’s first and biggest tourist facility. Camping and a wide variety of accommodation (as well as a swimming pool) is available to overnight guests. There are picnic sites for day visitors, an underground hide overlooking a waterhole frequented by all the Park’s animals and floodlit at night (we even saw a brown hyena there when we visited in December), a birdwatching hide overlooking a small artificial wetland, a self-guided discovery trail, guided drives and horse rides, a fuel station, restaurant, shop and excellent interpretive centre where young and old can learn more about the Park and its inhabitants. Elsewhere in the Park guests can overnight at the luxury, full service and privately-run Gorah, Riverbend and Kuzuko-lodges, or in one of the Park’s own camps at Nyathi, Matyholweni, Kabouga Cottage, Mvubu Campsite, Narina Bushcamp, Langebos and Msintsi. Between the Main Camp and Matyholweni guests have access to an extensive and well-maintained network of all-weather game viewing roads, while other areas of the Park can be explored along hiking trails or 4×4 trails.

We spent three nights camping at the Addo Main Camp during our December 2017 holidays at eight of South Africa’s National Parks. The easiest way to reach the Park is along the N2 highway from Port Elizabeth, turning off to the gate at Matyholweni just before you reach the small town of Colchester on the bank of the Sundays River, about 45km from PE’s airport.


31 thoughts on “Addo Elephant National Park

  1. Pingback: Summertide Diary: Exploring Addo (part three) | de Wets Wild

  2. Pingback: Summertide Diary: Exploring Addo (part two) | de Wets Wild

  3. Pingback: Summertide Diary: Exploring Addo (part one) | de Wets Wild

  4. Pingback: Summertide Diary: Arriving at Addo | de Wets Wild

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Addo’s cheetahs and wild dogs occur in the more open terrain north of the Zuurberg range. Around the main camp, where we stayed, the major predators are lions and spotted hyenas.


  5. perdebytjie

    Ek was sommer hartseer toe ek hoor dat twee van die olifante as sirkusdiere gebruik is. Jinne die mens kan dom wees! Gelukkig is die verdere verhaal pragtig en dit wys hoe die natuur kan herstel. Pragtige foto’s en artikel, Dries.


    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Mens dink Suid-Afrika het n trotse bewarings geskiedenis, maar eintlik is dit maar n paar verligtes wat die kastaiings vir ons almal uit die vuur moes krap sodat ons vandag met sulke parke kan spog.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. perdebytjie

        Kgalagadi het ook so ‘n vrot geskiedenis va uitwissing gehad en soos jy sê, Dries, daar was altyd mense wat tot die redding gekom het. Ons bestaande parke is steeds nie veilig nie, want daar is baie druk vir grondhervorming en massas hongeres op die grense van die parke.Laat ons hoop, gesonde verstand oorwin.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. John

    Wow! So many amazing and beautiful pictures.😊 The national parks you have in South Africa is as a smaller country! The white stork do we have here in south of Sweden, and here where I live we have one pair who stay all the year, even if it´s cold and snowy. We have three pairs who breed here. 20 meters from each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      You are right, John – many of our parks are as big as some countries – the Kruger for instance is as big as Israel (which is important to understand why apprehending poachers is such a mammoth task!)

      Very interesting to hear about the pair of white-storks staying year round, as the perception was always that they migrate to get away from the cold. But even here there are storks that don’t “return” to Europe when our winter arrives. Perhaps they are slowly changing there habits in response to climate change or some other human interferences?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John

        Think that’s because the winters have become much milder over the years, and the bigger birds have a better chance of finding food, I think. The bird migrating the longest is the Arctic tern. It moves from Antarctica to Europe, and beyond to the arctic to hedge! A “little” trip on 70.000 kilometers back and forth.

        Liked by 1 person

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