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South Africa: Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant National Park is a diverse wildlife conservation park situated close to Gqeberha in South Africa and is one of the country's 20 national parks. It currently ranks third in size after Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The previous night’s storm had cleared out the clouds and left us with a morning of clear skies and little humidity. The plan for the day was to drive around Addo Elephant National Park. Experience told us that the best time to view the game is early in the morning, so we got up early with the intent of being at the park gates as they opened at 7 am. As usual, it didn’t quite work to plan, but we were still there around 7:30 am before most of the day’s visitors would arrive.

Unlike some National Parks, we have visited, Addo is very well signposted, and they give you a decent map when you enter the park. Part of the road system even has tarmac roads, and the roads that are gravel are well maintained and there are very few potholes and sections that have corrugations. Overall, a nice driving experience. Another thing we liked about Addo is that it is very green, and the vegetation is made up of bushes that have leaves on them – the downside is that the bushes are very thick, so it makes wildlife viewing a bit more challenging. But seeing green in a National Park where most are dust bowls with waterholes made a nice change. The park also has rolling hills, with some spectacular views – so, all in all, we loved this place!

We had come in through the North Gate, which is the main gate where you will find all the facilities – shops, restaurants and accommodation, and decided to spend the morning just driving around the road loops in the northern part of Addo and then do the southern sections of the park in the afternoon and leave Addo via the southern gate, close to Port Elizabeth. From the north to the south of Addo is only 40km – making it easy to enjoy in a day.

The scenery in Addo National Park is stunning - Eastern Cape, South Africa
The scenery in Addo National Park is stunning

As we drove, we enjoyed the windy, sunny conditions and found occasional wildlife, mainly in the form of zebra and antelopes: kudu and hartebeest. Addo does not have the largest variety of mammal species, but its setting and ease of access make it a fantastic place to visit. When we reached the first waterhole where we caught sight of our first elephant of the day, a large bull who was munching away on an acacia tree.

After watching the elephant for a few minutes, we moved on and headed to a viewpoint, high on a hill overlooking Addo. When we entered the park, we had been amused by a roadside sign warning of dung beetles crossing the road – and on the way up to the viewpoint, we saw our first one on the road – alas not pushing a ball of dung. Doing my civic duty I steered around the dung beetle! Of course, we had to stop and take a photo. In fact, we took a lot of photos of dung beetles. As we climbed the hill further, we saw a large black millipede with red legs crossing the road – it must have been four to five inches long. We stopped again for a photo. The further we went up towards the viewpoint the more millipedes we saw on the road, and it became increasingly difficult to miss them. Finally, we reached the viewpoint, and the view was indeed outstanding which made it worth the stress of avoiding millipedes.

On the way down there were more millipedes to avoid. We continued along our way and reached one stretch where there were thousands of large black millipedes on the road and avoiding them was impossible. We got through the carnage of millipedes only to find a tiny tortoise on the road. We immediately stopped the car so Karen could check the tortoise was okay. Soon as she approached the tortoise scuttled away to the safety of the bush.

A Bokmakierie - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
A Bokmakierie
There were a lot of zebras on the plains - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
There were a lot of zebras on the plains
Red hartebeest - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Red hartebeest
A large bull elephant feeding on the acacia trees - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
A large bull elephant feeding on the acacia trees
We loved this sign - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
We loved this sign
A dung beetle on the road - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
A dung beetle on the road
We saw hundreds of thousands on these millipedes on the roads - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
We saw hundreds of thousands on these millipedes on the roads
Karen rescued this small tortoise we came across on the road - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Karen rescued this small tortoise we came across on the road

It was approaching lunchtime and we planned to head back to the main camp restaurant to grab a coffee and then find a picnic spot. Before going there, we decided to head on a loop towards a dam where there was a large waterhole. So far, we hadn’t seen the large herds of elephants that Addo is famous for, but that was soon to change. About 5km into this loop we saw a lot of cars stopped in the road ahead of us, and as we approached, we realised why. Right next to the road were about 20 elephants including some calves. Turning the engine off we just waited. Some of the elephants decided to cross the road, with some coming within a few feet of where we were stopped; a little nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time! Whilst we were watching this group of elephants we could see in the distance another three groups of elephants of a similar size, all heading to the waterhole. When the road cleared up ahead, we went off to see what was drawing all these beautiful beasts.

When we arrived at the waterhole there were at least two groups of elephants in and around the water. The ones in the water were frolicking – some were just splashing around; others were fighting and there were some bulls mounting the cow elephants. There were other groups of elephants just patiently waiting their turn to go into the water. As we sat watching other elephants were arriving at the waterhole. It was lovely to watch their excitement as they caught sight of the water and began to run down the hill towards the waterhole.

We could have stayed all day in the company of these elephants, but we felt it was important to share. We left our space at the waterhole for others to enjoy. We had not travelled more than a kilometre when we came across another waterhole with more elephants. This time we only stayed a few minutes before leaving.

On the way to the main camp, Karen suddenly told me to pull over. She had spotted a dung beetle on the road pushing a ball of dung. It was amazing to see this fellow rolling the ball quite a lick. As he reached the verge another beetle appeared from the grass and tried to take his dung ball away. Having seen the effort of the first beetle we wanted to see him prevail … which he did. Hooray!

A large bull elephant drinking from a waterhole - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
A large bull elephant drinking from a waterhole
Elephants have no fear of cars - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Elephants have no fear of cars
This elephant gave us "the look" - Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
This elephant gave us "the look"
Elephants get playful when they are in the water- Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Elephants get playful when they are in the water

By this time, we needed a coffee, as we had already been driving around the park for about four hours. So, we headed into the restaurant for a little break before finding a picnic area for lunch. Refreshed from the coffee, we decided to check out the waterhole viewing area right next to the main camp. We decided to walk down to the hide, which gives you an eye-level view of the waterhole. There were a few elephants at the waterhole, so we spent a few minutes watching then drinking and washing in the water. The waterhole was not as deep as the dam waterhole so they couldn’t get in beyond their ankles, so they were a lot more subdued than the ones we had seen earlier.

We left the main camp and headed down to Jack’s Picnic area, about halfway through Addo for lunch.

After lunch, we toured the loops in the southern half of Addo. The scenery was spectacular, and as we reached the highpoint of the hills we were treated to views of the sea in the distance. This is an incredible place. We didn’t see so much wildlife in the afternoon drive. There was one cape buffalo, some more zebra and hartebeest and the occasional elephant – but it was lovely just to drive around and enjoy the day. By mid-afternoon, we were done and left Addo by the southern entrance and headed back to the Tipi Camp. 

About Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant National Park, national park in Eastern province, South Africa. It has an area of 208 square miles (540 square km) and consists of two sections connected by a corridor. The southern part of the park lies in the Sundays River valley south of the Suurberg Range, north of Port Elizabeth, and was established as Addo Elephant National Park in 1931. It is largely covered with dense, impenetrable evergreen scrub and preserves a band of about 200 elephants, remnant of a great herd that roamed the area before an extermination campaign was started by landowners in 1919. It is also the habitat of scarce Cape buffalo, several species of transplanted antelope, black rhinoceroses from Kenya, and numerous small birds, mammals, and reptiles.

The northern part of the park consists of deep ravines and rounded hills in the Winterhoek Mountains and was originally established in 1985 as Zuurberg National Park. It is located 7 miles (12 km) north of the original Addo Elephant National Park, with which it was amalgamated in 1995, thereby increasing the amount of land available for elephant and black rhinoceros conservation. Headquarters are at Port Elizabeth.

Planning your visit to Addo Elephant Park

By Road

By Air

  • The nearest domestic airport is in Port Elizabeth, 75km from the park. A number of car hire agencies have offices at the airport.
  • International airports are situated at Johannesburg and Cape Town, with connecting flights to Port Elizabeth available.

Main entrance gate & Addo reception (off R335 / R342 near Addo)07:00 to 19:00
Matyholweni gate & Matyholweni reception (off N2 near Colchester)07:00 – 17:00 (Reception)
07:00 – 18:30 (Gate)
Fees:South African Citizens and Residents (with ID)R94 per adult, per day
R47 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport)R188 per adult, per day
R94 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee (International Visitors)R376 per adult, per day
R188 per child, per day

Things to bring:

Car Equipment

Two spare tiresSeed net/grillPuncture repair kitSand tracks
Spade/shovelHigh-lift jackKinetic strap/ropeCompressor
Tire pressure gaugeCar tools and spares  


Water and foodFuelBraai WoodFlashlight
HeadlampFirst Aid KitCameraBinoculars
Wide-brimmed hatSunscreenMosquito spray 

Best time to visit Addo Elephant Park

The dry season winter months of May to September is the best time to visit the Addo Elephant National Park. The wildlife will gather around waterholes as water becomes a scarce resource, in turn, producing excellent game viewing opportunities.

Where to stay

One the tipis at the bush camp - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa


TiPi bush camp prides itself on being an environmentally friendly, eco-tourist destination and offers a unique setting in the Addo Afrique estate game reserve, bordering the Addo Elephant National Park.

Three large 6.3 metre diameter TiPi’s, based on the American Indian style can each accommodate 4 people on a self catering, un-serviced basis. All you need to bring is your food, toiletries and clothing. Don’t forget your drinks, cameras and binoculars.

Included are bedding, towelling, crockery, cutlery, sink, cleaning equipment, twin gas cooker, gas fridge, double bed and double “sleeper couch” per TiPi. The “sleeper couch” separates to two single beds if required. You will need to light the gas fridge on arrival. Neat ablutions in close proximity to the TiPi’s provide glass showers with hot & cold water, wash hand basin, flushing toilets and communal sink. All hot water and lighting is by solar.There is no electricity on the site.

Each TiPi is secluded and offers beautiful panoramic views over a valley teeming with game. For the energetic, there are numerous walks within Addo Afrique, where you may roam un-escorted through a wide variety of non predatory game like Ostrich, Giraffe, Kudu, Eland, Bushbuck, Nyala, Impala etc. Fuel and shopping facilities are found at Paterson 8 km to the east and Addo village 28 km to the west.

The main gate to the Addo Elephant National Park is 15 km to the west. All roads are tarmac surfaces. By either of two routes, Port Elizabeth city centre and airport is 80 km to the South-South-West.


Gorah Elephant Camp is situated in the malaria-free Addo Elephant National Park. It features a spacious swimming pool and an open patio offering views of the water hole. Free Wi-Fi is available.

Each tented luxury suite has a private deck with panoramic views and plush interiors. It comes equipped with tea-and-coffee-making facilities and the en suite bathroom has a shower with free toiletries.

Meals are served in the dining room at the colonial Gorah House and in an enclosed outdoor area around the fire, where guests can enjoy a gourmet barbecue and African cuisine. High tea is served every afternoon.


The popular main rest camp of the park offers a wide variety of accommodation units to suit all tastes and plenty of activities to keep visitors busy.

A unique feature is the waterhole lookout point, floodlit at night, within the camp as well as the underground hide, allowing close encounters with wildlife at the waterhole. The evenings are punctuated with the calls of lion, spotted hyena and jackal while francolin and bokmakierie herald each dawn. Accommodation units are situated within easy walking distance of each other and of facilities such as the swimming pool, restaurant and shop. Bookings are made through central reservations.

  • Tel: +27(0) 42 233 8600
  • Email:
  • Accommodations
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