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Overview: We spent 2 nights in Addo Elephant NP including 3 self game drives and a cute rondavel with a braai overlooking a floodlit water hole. One of the game drives was incredible with 29 elephants at once only 15m away at a water hole, interesting elephant dynamics and 3 hyenas in a water hole.

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Arrival, 4 of 5 stars - strongly recommended! National Park, Game Drive #1, Game Drive #2, Game Drive #3, Car/Airport Departure
Satellite Photo: See this South Africa satellite map with pushpins and then zoom in at least once.
Arrival: We arrived from Port Alfred in the late afternoon. Addo Elephant NP lies 7km past the town of Addo, which is inland, 72km northeast of the coastal city of Port Elizabeth. After the comfortably cool coast, the 32°C weather felt amazingly warm again!
National Park: The 4 of 5 stars - strongly recommended! Addo Elephant NP is 120,000 hectares large, protecting what's left of elephant herds in this region. When the park was created in 1931, there were only 11 elephants left due to the invasive farmers; now there are over 300 elephants.
The main gate closes at 19:00 (this includes access to park accommodation), while the actual game area gate is open from 6:00 until 18:30, accessible from within the main gated area. The park headquarters has a restaurant and store, as well as provides optional guided tours.
rondavel While the park has quite the variety of accommodations, we had an en-suite rondavel overlooking a floodlit water hole. It included a raised patio with a table and chairs, a lockable fridge behind a door on the patio (yet, outside the room) and its own round braai; a building with shared kitchen facilities sat near our group of 6 rondavels. Interestingly, the kitchen had 4 central sinks, plus 6 stoves and 6 lockable cupboards containing dishes, cutlery, pots and pans (i.e. one set per rondavel, and not at all like a hostel kitchen).
We didn't use the A/C, opting instead to hang our mosquito net over the bed and open the screen-less windows.
Tip Tip: Book your accommodation in advance online.
Unfortunately, they were doing some construction by the water hole so we literally only saw a handful of animals.
We bought some firewood, briquettes and snack items at the well priced, reasonably well stocked, little store at the park headquarters, a 2 minute walk away from our rondavel.
Hapoor Having made a reservation upon arrival, we went to dinner at 19:30 at the onsite resto. Although it was well priced, the quality and service were both disappointing. My soup was so salty as to be inedible, and we had to ask to have it removed from the bill.
One point of interest is a huge stuffed head of Hapoor, the legendary local bull elephant, hanging on the wall in the resto. Fortunately, Hapoor had died of old age, not at the hands of a hunter.
We relaxed with a glass of wine on our patio, in the comfortably warm evening (shorts & T-shirt warm) before retiring for the night.
hartebeest Game Drive #1: After a quick yoghurt we went on a self game drive from 7:30 to 10:00 in the morning, which admittedly was a late start and sub-optimal. Also, our low Toyota Corolla rental car made it hard to see into the distance due to the scrubby trees.
Highlights include:
  • lots of non-skittish warthogs, so we were able to look at them more closely
  • kudu and hartebeest
  • zebras, inc. males who were playing
  • dung beetles
  • a good look at 2 secretary birds
  • a scenic lookout with a sign that read "lions! get out of car at your own risk!"
We finished a breakfast of cereal etc. on our deck and relaxed the rest of the morning. Lunch at the only park resto, now filled with families and lots of kids, was only adequate again, and my cappuccino tasted burnt, so we decided to braai for dinner!
We puttered around in the hot afternoon. I decided the communal pool didn't look that enticing. We rejected the notion of signing up for a night drive as they use huge vehicles with 19 or more passengers, which didn't sound appealing.
I bought supplies, including a power adaptor (South African to European plugs, which would also be useful in India) since this was the first time we didn't have any European style electrical outlets at all, and I needed to recharge my batteries for the digital camera.
We also did a final load of laundry using our last little packet of Woolite detergent, hanging our clothes outside in the warm late afternoon sun to dry, before I bought groceries for our braai dinner.
At one point in the afternoon, a Vervet monkey was sitting on top of our car, bending, and playing with, the angled rubber antenna - the cheeky bugger!
elephant Game Drive #2: Before heading out for another self game drive from 17:00 to 18:30 (the gate closing time), we checked the board at the park headquarters, where guests can put coloured magnetic squares on a park map to mark the areas where animal sightings occurred. There were even some lion sightings, which is rare in this park! We drove in a different part of the park this time, sticking west and south from the entrance.
Highlights include:
  • more warthogs
  • more kudu
  • tortoise
  • dozens of elephants near the big water hole towards the south end of our area
  • baby elephants
  • an elephant right on the edge of the road, so close I could have swatted his butt while seated in the car
Interesting elephant factoid: they eat so much, partly because of their size, but mostly because they don't actually digest much (i.e. extract nutrients) of what they eat. Also, their droppings come out looking like a revolver barrel (sorry, no picture, you'll have to imagine that one).
After a lovely sunset, it was already dark when we returned to our rondavel. We fired up our personal braai while drinking wine, which was great fun. I BBQ'd our beef burgers and heated the surprisingly tasty tinned veggies in curry (first on the stove, then placing the pot on the side of the grill). We even roasted pink and white marshmallows. Not a high brow meal yet most enjoyable!
elephants at water hole Game Drive #3: The next morning we did another self game drive from 7:00 to 9:00 which was sufficiently early. Actually, it was a fabulous game drive and a fine end to the main part of our South Africa visit.
Highlights include:
  • jackals
  • 29 elephants at once, at a water hole only 15m away from the car!
  • inc. a baby elephant
  • elephant herd dynamics!
  • 3 hyenas in the water hole
The juicy details: we ended up in the Carol's Rest "parking lot" 15m away from a water hole at the edge of a large field, along with (eventually) another eleven cars. A few water buffalo, zebras and warthogs came by for a drink. Then, across the field to the left, a herd of 29 elephants came out of the forest and made a beeline, in 5 family groups, for our water hole. At one point you could barely see the water hole, it was so crowded!
There was one cute little baby elephant in one family. In another, one adolescent bull (male) elephant was being pushed out of the family unit (this is typical behaviour, as bulls lead solitary lives until they mate), not allowed to drink. Also, in the distance, two old bull elephants were fighting each other; they never did make it for a drink.

hyena in water hole After they left, all but one other car moved on, while we remained parked there, remembering the advice in Tanzania that often it is best to sit at a water hole and wait. We were rewarded with 3 hyenas who came out of the woods on the right and straight to the water hole. Not only did they drink, but they played in the water too! At one point, a hyena was lying on his back in the water with all four paws sticking out of the water, as if to say "rub my tummy!"
Car/Airport Departure: After a patio breakfast and checking out at 10:30, we drove 1 hour (72km) to P.E. (Port Elizabeth) on the coast. P.E. is a large industrial port city, not terribly attractive, though it does have long beaches in the suburbs and 2 beaches on the south side of town. We stopped for quick lattes at Blue Water's Bistro in Summerstrand, one of the main beach/boardwalk areas of P.E., sitting on the 1st floor deck (that's the 2nd floor for you North Americans) overlooking a patio, beach and ocean where jet skis zoomed around in waves near the pier.
Then we drove 10 minutes to the P.E. airport, stopping for gas on the way. Conveniently, I could drop off Susan with the luggage at the terminal before turning into the rental car return lot without having to drive a big return loop.
We had booked a 1½ hour flight to Jo'burg on the discount airline kulula.com (yet, that is the airline name).
Besides our click to expand/collapse the following section(s) 2½ hour delay the flight was good.
Store itemsR55.55
firewoodR12.50
briquettesR11.50
1L milkR7
chocolate barR3.25
sliced kudu biltong 100gR21.30
More store itemsR57.40
electrical adaptorR21.80
340mL grapetizerR6.50
250mL sparkling wineR13.40
Cadbury chocolateR9.20
150g marshmallowsR6.50
Groceries for dinnerR33.10
4 beef pattiesR18.20
25g cheddar cheese x2R2 each
Cholaloha Koo Mild & Spicy
(veggies in curry)
R8.90
Lattes at Blue Water's BistroR22 + tip
latteR10
banana shakeR12

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