Ode to Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape: a shout-out to the beautiful national parks in South Africa

Writing this over the Easter Weekend in lockdown South Africa, during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the moment, the concept of travel may be deemed as “frivolous”; a luxury. Let’s leave aside luxury end-users and focus on the fact that tourism provides jobs and income. Post pandemic, tourism is going to be an essential industry to rebuild: Responsible tourism to conserve the environment, combat climate change and generate jobs.

South Africa has a wonderful portfolio of national parks [SANParks- South African National Parks] which provide access at reasonable rates-lower than levied by private reserves and parks. SANParks provides rates for SA and SADC residents and international visitors. The parks are equipped with basic accommodation, camping and some have luxury options.

If you are planning to visit South Africa – post Covid-19 – of course – check out our national parks. Details follow, below.

Addo Elephant National Park

Our favourite National Park is the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. It is our favourite because Jeffrey’s Bay is one of our fave spots. [See article on TheCapeRobyn: Ode to J-Bay].

Addo is about one and half hours drive from J-Bay. It is an easy day trip and an essential excursion during a J-Bay trip, when the surf is not up (that happens frequently – when J-Bay cooks, it cooks and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

We love Addo because we love elephants. The park tends to be teeming with elephants. On every Addo trip, we have been treated to seeing parades of elephants [‘parade’ is the preferred term – rather than ‘herds’]. During our June 2009 trip, our car was surrounded by elephants. We sat terrified as they checked us out. We were the sideshow. Their trunks brushed against the windows. We sat still and waited until they were done. We must have been in a remote part of the park as I don’t recall seeing other cars. It was mesmerising but we sensed the danger. These are big dudes. They eventually lost interest in us and ambled off. We sighed with relief.

WARNING: If you are in Addo or another game park, don’t be stupid and think about opening your windows or feeding the animals- and definitely not elephants. No, they are not cute.

Where did all the elephants go- awkward day trip story

In our many trips to Addo, there have always been tons of these wondrous creatures to see – except for one excursion.

One year, we took along friends. They were not that keen to leave J-Bay. Were we sure that we would see elephants, they asked. Yes, of course, we assured them. ‘It is the Addo Elephant National Park. Sure, you will see tons of elephants.’

On that particular trip, the elephants were hiding or perhaps they needed a comfort break from the crowds. We drove the whole day. Not one sighting. Late in the afternoon as we approaching the exit gate, we saw four specks on the horizon. There were four tiny spots. They looked like elephants but it was too far to tell.  Our friends were not impressed. Their necks were sore from elephant spotting. They were tired and had missed out on a day on beach.  Awkward moment. We felt so bad. Still do.

We did see other animals on that trip: Zebra, rhino, tortoises. Our visitors wanted elephants.

Addo is home black rhino, lion, buffalo, spotted hyena, leopard, eland, Burchells zebra and red hartebeest, Kudu, bushbuck and about 417 bird species [Source: http://www.addoelephantpark.info/addo_elephant_park_fauna]. At 180 000 hectares, Addo is the third largest national park in South Africa.

We are always fascinated by the tortoises and goggas [South African speak for insects] and creepy crawlies in the vegetation. It is nice to see big creatures but it is no sweat if they choose to hide. There is a lot more to see. When you are visiting, check out the information kiosk at Addo, for fact-sheets and activities to occupy the kidlets.

It is no consolation for those whose lives have been shattered financially by Covid-19 but the animals are having a fantastic time. Nature is re-generating. No doubt South African National Parks will be great spots to visit (pity about the carbon emissions, cars, litter). Here is to responsible environmental tourism and to visiting Addo and other SANParks.

Image credit: TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen. Photo taken July 2009.

Travel advisory: Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Rates: As per April 2020 – when the park is closed due to Covid-19- but valid until October 31, 2020. SA citizens and residents – with ID – R82 per day for adults and R41 per day for children. SADC Nationals pay R164/R82. International visitors R328/R164

Wild Card: Buy a Wild Card [annual SANparks membership card] which provides free access to SA National Parks. The parks that one can access, depends on the type of card purchased. Details on https://www.sanparks.org/

Addo website link: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/