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So you’ve heard of the Big Five, that’s old news, but what about the Big Seven? Yep, there really is such a thing. And Addo Elephant National Park, despite the limitation that its name may suggest, has it all. Elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo, southern right whale and great white shark – your bucket-list just got seven ticks.
Established back in 1931 to save the area’s 11 African elephants from the brink of extinction, Addo Elephant National Park is now home to well over 600 African elephants – one of the densest populations on earth – and has grown to become South Africa’s third biggest national park. If the conservationists who founded the park ever had a target, they have well and truly smashed it.
Covering a massive expanse of 120,000 hectares, this national park spans from the dusty, semi-desert landscapes of the Karoo, over the verdant slopes of the Zuurberg Mountains and right down to the thick bushvelds of the Sundays River Valley. But with the addition of an offshore marine reserve, Addo’s size has grown even further in recent years. Now, it's even taken the world’s biggest African Penguin colony, that resides on St Croix Island, under its protective wings.
Less crowded than some of the country’s other national parks and situated in a malaria free area, Addo presents the perfect opportunity for a safari self-drive. The only park on earth that’s able to boast the Big Seven, it’s a no brainer really.
Theme tune for this road trip? That catchy 80s hit, “Sisters are doin’ it for themselves” should do it because when it comes to elephants, the sisters really are doing it for themselves. Spotting all-female herds, and their young, being led through the dense shrubbery by a dominant matriarch will not only be your most frequent sighting, but the highlight of your time in Addo. The majesty of the world’s largest land mammal really is spellbinding.
Watering holes get a lot of action in this national park. Aside from the aforementioned Big Seven, Addo is also home to hyena, warthog, zebra, cheetah and a whole host of other safari favourites, who all need to quench their thirst at some point – catch them in the act and you’ll be the one drinking in the sights.
But the big names don’t steal all of the limelight in this park. Dotting the Addo’s roads, “dung beetles have right of way” signs may have you doing a double-take at first but they’re deadly serious. This flightless beetle specie, endemic to the area, is very important to the park’s biodiversity. Bet you never thought that an insect would be high on your safari sighting list.
Fenced off from the wildlife of the main park, hiking in the botanical reserve makes for a great way to get up-close-and-personal with some of Addo’s smaller, and perhaps more overlooked, wildlife offerings. And, if you’re confident enough a horseback ride here is once-in-a-lifetime stuff.
You’d be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t like elephants, and if that person is you then we’ll need to have words because what’s not to love? If you want to inject a few more wild times into your South African adventure simply select the Garden Route as your base itinerary and hit the 'Eastern Cape' button.
Head over to our itinerary builder now to start planning your walk on the wild side.
Lies in the Eastern Cape’s Sundays River Valley, just an hours drive from Port Elizabeth. And don’t worry, you won’t have to pop any pills to come here as this area is malaria free. Phew.
7am-7pm – miss the gate and you’ll be sleeping with the lions, gulp.
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