I am blessed to live in Africa. More to the point, I am blessed to live just 1.5 hours drive from the Addo Elephant National Park, the 3rd largest park in South Africa. Needless to say, we go there as often as we can, at least 3 times year, and as you will see, I have many reasons why it is my favourite park. South Africa, fortunately has a number of wonderful national parks (such as the Kruger National Park) which are dedicated to protecting our amazing wildlife and precious biomes.
How the park came about
Each park is very strict about protecting animals that are endemic (native) to a particular area. A number of years ago (2003), Addo re-introduced lion into the park, as they were originally in this area. Elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and eland where plentiful before human settlement, hunting and farming diminished the numbers. By 1919, rhino, lion were non-existant and all but 16 elephants remained. These 16 elephant found refuge on a local farmer’s land, Mr Harvey. In 1931, Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed to protect the remaining elephant and since then other species were re-introduced. Source (2)
Since then the park has expanded in size and in the diversity of animals it protects. It is the only park in the world to boast Africa’s “Big 7” in their natural habitat (elephant, rhinoceros, lion, buffalo, leopard, whale and great white shark). The park has a section along the Eastern Cape coast, known as the Woody Cape Nature Reserve that extends from the Sundays River mouth towards Alexandria and a marine reserve, which includes St. Croix Island and Bird Island, both important breeding habitat for gannets and penguins and other marine life. Bird Island is home to the world’s largest breeding colony of gannets – about 120,000 birds – and also hosts the second largest breeding colony of African penguins, the largest breeding colony being St. Croix island. Source (1)
I’ve been reflecting on why I love the park so much, so I started writing a list. It turned into a post!
The 7 reasons
Our part of the country does not have malaria, so we don’t need to take tablets to go game viewing
You have the choice to drive yourself, hop on a game drive or hire a guide to go with you in your car. If you choose to drive, the park has numerous routes (or loops as they are called) to choose from, each with a story. You can meander along (the speed limit is 40kms/h) “Harvey’s Loop” which is named after the Harvey family who provided a refuge to the last 16 remaining elephants. This loop also has a distinctive tree which is known as Harvey’s tree (pic 1). “Ngulube Loop” its named after the bushpig, “Mbotyi Loop”, meaning bean (referring to the common Karoo boerbean tree Schotia afra) and “Ndlovu Lookout” after the isiXhosa word for elephant. Source (3)
The views of the park at some points are breathtaking. I have two favourite areas: one is the cross-roads intersection at Lismore Waterhole in the Southern section, where the animals congregate in great numbers as do the glossy starlings! (pic 2) My second is the open plains of the Eastern side of the Gorah Loop in the Northern sections, where there is less spekboom and more open grassland (pic 3). A more unusual landscape is the deeply furrowed and cracked soil in a valley along the Ngulube Loop (pic 4).
In springtime, the vegetation bursts forth in a riot of purple, mauve, orange and yellow, which compliments the green of the spekboom so beautifully (pic 5) and provides more food for the ellies, who eat anything really!
The park protects the Cape Fur seals (who breed on the Algoa Bay islands which are part of the park) and the flightless dung beetle (pic 6). The road signs caution you to give way to the beetles as they nest in elephant dung, which is abundant on the roads.
Black-backed jackal (pic 7) are plentiful, as are the comical warthogs and ancient, plodding tortoises (pic 8).
Who wouldn’t want to see at least some of the 600 elephant (pic 10) and their adorable babies (pic 9), the 400 grumpy Cape buffalo, endangered rhino, striking antelope, a profusion of birds and other small game?
What is your favourite local place? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
- (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addo_Elephant_National_Park
- (2) http://platinumgolf.co.za/blog/addo-elephant-national-park/
- (3) https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/library/2009/addo_sept_oct09.pdf
- (4) https://www.sanparks.org/docs/parks_addo/maps/latest-main-map.pdf
- (5) https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/tourism/map.php