Introducing Addo Elephant National Park
Located 72km north of Port Elizabeth, near the Zuurberg Range in the Sundays River Valley, this national park protects the remnants of the huge elephant herds that once roamed the Eastern Cape. When Addo was proclaimed a national park in 1931, there were only 16 elephants left; today there are more than 450 in the park (their rehabilitation has been so successful that contraceptive measures are being considered), and you’d be unlucky not to see some. Addo, which was once farmland, now encompasses five biomes and over 180,000 hectares, and extends to the coastal area between the point at which the Sundays and Bushman’s Rivers flow into the sea. There are plans to add a marine reserve that encompasses islands featuring the second-largest breeding population of African penguins.
A day or two at Addo is a highlight of any visit to this part of the Eastern Cape, not only for the elephants but for the zebras, black rhinos, Cape buffaloes, leopards, lions, myriad birds and even the prehistoric-looking dung beetles, endemic only to Addo. Female beetles bury elephant dung underground to eat, which both fertilises the soil and encourages the growth of the bright-green spekboom plants – the leaves of which are the main source of moisture for elephants and are referred to as ‘elephant’s food’. Great white sharks and southern right whales (in season) complete the ‘Big Seven’.