Kruger Park and Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park are two famous South African National Parks that were part of our South Africa itinerary. These parks already treated us with impressive sights of zebras, buffaloes, giraffes, rhinos and elephants. I loved watching every single one of them, but the power and presence of elephants struck me particularly. At the Addo Elephant Park we experienced them in big herds and up close: experiences that we not easily forget.
Best safari near Kruger Park
Addo Elephant Park (another beautiful South African National Park) is very suitable for a self-drive and easy to navigate. It took a while before we spotted some of the (larger) animals, but we didn’t complain because our first encounter actually was a large herd of elephants! Just park your car on the side of the road, open the window and enjoy the sights and sounds of these majestic animals. Of course you will also spot other animals, like zebras or the red hartebeest.
It’s interesting to see the animal behavior in a group of elephants, big or small. You probably spot the little ones quickly. They always seem to run around a bit nervously as if they are waiting for instructions from their parents about what to do or where to go. The leader(s) of the herd pays attention to what happens in the nearby area, taking the initiative for the group to move to another place whenever the time is right.
Our most beautiful encounter definitely was with a group of around 8 elephants, some youngsters included. The group was bathing in mud alongside the road, literally 10 meters from where we parked the car. We went totally silent… It’s the impact of these impressive animals that made us all just sit and watch. No words. With no other cars around, we were the only ones witnessing how the group prepared to move. Youngsters were pushed out of the pit, all covered in mud. They do take it slow and luckily we were not in a hurry…
The elephants don’t mind about your car. Of course they notice you, but as long as they don’t foresee any danger you are totally ignored. Being ignored by such a group of elephants is the best thing that could have happened to us!
We spent at around 20 minutes just watching the group. In the meantime, another elephant came walking towards us on the road. Passing our car within 1 or 2 meters distance we felt scary and totally awesome at the same time! Again, the animal didn’t care about our car and graceful passed by, waving his trunk from left to right. What beauties!
About Addo Elephant Park
The Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed in 1931 to protect remaining 11 (!) Addo elephants. In the 1700s and 1800s elephants and other animals were killed extensively, almost totally exterminating them. Luckily today the situation (although still critical) is much better, with over 600 elephants living in the park. Check the website for further information, including entrance fees.
How to get there
We had an early morning flight from Durban to Port Elizabeth and traveled to Addo Elephant Park immediately after picking up our rental car. It’s about an hour drive north from Port Elizabeth. There were no waiting lines whatsoever and after a check of our car we quickly entered the park.
Sliding sand dunes
I would recommend staying at least one night in the area. After visiting the Addo Elephant Park we took our kids to the village of Colchester where we hopped on a small cruise boat to visit the sand dunes. They can only be reached by boat and views are stunning. Care for some more excitement? Go sliding down the sand dunes! That’s exactly what we did; read all about it here.
Addo Elephant Park combined with the sand dunes was one of many highlights during our South African road trip. Our 24-day itinerary is described in full here. Just click the link.