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Addo Elephant National Park 1
Addo Elephant National Park 2

Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape covers an area of around 1,600 km2, encompassing sections of the Karoo, the Zuurberg mountains, the Sundays River Valley and the coast. Addo has five of South Africa’s seven biomes; the forests in the Woody Cape and Zuurery sections, Fynbos in the Zuurbergy area, Indian Ocean coastal belt, Nama Karoo and the Albany thicket.

The origins of the park’s name are quite intriguing. In the Khoisan language, the word Addo is a representation of the terms ‘Kadouw’, ‘Kaddo’, and ‘K’adouw.’ While we do not have the literal translation of the word, it loosely translates to salt ravine or salt pass.

Addo is home to the densest population of elephants in the world and they play a key role in the environment of the park. The park is the only place in the world to have ‘The Big Seven’, which are elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo, southern right whale and great white shark.

The History of Addo Elephant National Park

  • 1700s: The Khoisan lived in the Addo region, sharing the land with the wild animals. The clan was wiped out by a smallpox epidemic and over time, some European farmers and Nomadic Xhosa tribes settled in the region.
  • The 1700s-1800s: Due to the conflicts between wildlife and farming, farming became non-existent within the region.
  • 1919: The farmers pleaded with the government to stop the destruction caused by the elephants to their crops and water supply. The government, in turn, issued a decree to exterminate the elephants.
  • 1919-1920: After the government decree was issued, 114 elephants were killed.
  • 1930: The death of these elephants changed public opinion, which led to the creation of the reserve in 1931.
  • 1931: Sydney Harold Skaife, a concerned naturalist, established a wildlife protection and conservation society in 1929. As the chairman of the organization, he helped establish various conservancies. To save the remaining elephants in Addo, Sydney Skaife assisted in the establishment of the Addo Elephant Reserve which covered an area of 20 km2.
  • 1954: Farmers continued to suffer heavy losses due to the destruction caused by elephants. To resolve the issue, Graham Armstrong developed and erected an elephant proof fence around 2270 hectares of land, fencing in 22 elephants into the Addo National Park.
  • 2005: A section of the park was established as a Marine Protected Area for the conservation of African penguins, abalone, Cape fur seals, Cape gannets, four whale species, great white shark, kob and roseate terns.
  • 2020: Addo National Park has more than 600 elephants and is also home to many other wildlife species.

Wildlife In Addo Elephant National Park

Addo is the third-largest national park in South Africa, but unlike the other larger national parks in Africa, Addo doesn’t have a huge variety of animals. It does have diversity in landscapes,  stunning views, the famous elephants, abundant birds (417 species) and ocean animals as well as 13 species of antelope and 22 carnivore species.

Addo also has a decent population of Cape buffaloes, Burchell’s zebra, black rhinos, eland, lions,  leopard, red hartebeest, spotted hyenas, warthogs and wild dogs, some of which were reintroduced to the park.

Addo is known for its unique coastal bird population, with the African penguins and Cape gannets being the foremost attractions. Bar-throated apalis, brown-hooded kingfisher, bokmakierie, Cape robin-chat,  fork-tailed drongo, fiscal flycatcher, Greater double-collared sunbird, malachite, Southern Tchagra, spectacled weaver, are a few easily spotted birds species.

Addo Elephant National Park also has flightless dung beetles, which are unique and originate in the park. In other African wildlife parks, dung beetles have to migrate with herds of the animals.

Camps In Addo Elephant National Park

  • Addo Rest Camp: Floodlit waterholes and an underground hide for optimal game viewing experiences. Elephants, lions, spotted hyenas and Cape buffaloes are easy to spot. The camp is also an ideal spot for viewing flightless dung beetles. Bird watchers can catch sight of bokmakierie and francolin at dawn.
  • Kabouga Camp: Surrounded by dense vegetation and mountains, the camp is an ideal location for viewing baboons, ostrich, red hartebeest, hippos and fish eagles. Both hippos and fish eagles can be seen in and around the Sunday River.
  • Matyholweni Rest Camp: Located 39 km from Addo Main Camp, Matyholweni camp provides plenty of opportunities for viewing bushpig, bushbuck, Stanley’s bustard, malachite sunbird and buffaloe.
  • Narina Bush Camp: The camp isn’t ideal for people interested in big five or larger wildlife sightings. However, it is a treat for the bird watchers, with Narina trogon and forest weaver sightings. Small animal species found in the area are bushbuck, bushpig, blue duiker, Cape clawless otter and tree dassie.
  • Nyathi Rest Camp: It is the spot for sightings of the big five, the most sought-after animals on African Safari.
  • Spekboom Tented Rest Camp: Fiery-necked nightjar and spotted thick-knee sightings for ardent bird watchers. Night-time viewing of animals gathered around the waterhole. Also an ideal location for viewing black-backed jackal, lion and spotted hyena.
  • Woody Cape Camp: The camp provides a spectacular view of the Alexandria dune field. Ground hornbill, Knysna turaco and trumpeter hornbill are some of the uniquely beautiful bird species found in the area. Tree dassie and bushbuck are also prevalent here.

When To Visit Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is a unique safari destination that can be visited anytime during the year. The park is pretty crowded during October to March, due to school vacations and ideal weather conditions. During the dry season, June to September, the chances of viewing herds are high as they gather around the waterholes, but these months can be very cold.

Due to its location in the Eastern Cape, the park is malaria-free, which is a huge bonus.

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