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Dreaming of your next holiday but cant decide between the sea, bushveld, or forest? Addo National Park has it all.

It is time to make date for one of South Africa’s bucket list holiday destinations. Africa’s Big 7, a 4×4 trail, hiking trails, dense forests, sand dunes, and beaches await. Camping, glamping and luxury lodge living are not too far behind.

The Addo Elephant National Park seamlessly fuses diverse fauna and flora with arresting vistas, natural thrills, luxury and privacy. All these make it, without a doubt, the ultimate “get away from it all” holiday destination.

Addo Elephant National Park Location

Map of Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park sits on a 1,640 km² expanse of land located in the Eastern Cape. It’s just 40 km from Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). Travel time takes about 8 hours from Cape Town. If you’re going by car from Johannesburg, travel time is about 9 hours. While it’s a bit on the longer side of road trips, it’s definitely worth every kilometer.

History of Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is not just about safari tours. The area was the scene of many battles during the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902). Scenic views are peppered with the historic tapestry of this expansive landscape.

Addo Elephant National Park Animals

Africa’s Big 7

Addo Elephant Park is the only game reserve in the world where guests can view Africa’s Big 7. This includes the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo (known as the Big 5) plus the great white shark and southern right whale.

Africa's Big 7 includes lion, leopard, African, elephant, African buffalo, rhino, great white shark, and southern right whale
Africa’s Big 7 includes the lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, rhino, great white shark, and southern right whale

The celebrated elephants are Addo Elephant National Park’s main wildlife attraction. If you’re an experienced wildlife enthusiast, you can instantly tell why.

“The Addo elephants are very placid compared to the elephants in other game reserves. On one of our game drives through the reserve, we found ourselves trapped in the middle of a herd of elephants. But, we didn’t feel threatened at all. These elephants seem to have a different temperament to those in The Kruger National Park,” said Adele Viljoen, who grew up near The Kruger National Park.

African Birds

Offshore islands St. Croix and Bird Island can also be found in Addo. Their inclusion adds large numbers of African penguins to the park’s collection of natural wonders. St. Croix and Bird Islands are breeding grounds for African penguins and gannets. St Croix is also home to the largest African penguin colony in the world.

Activities in Addo Elephant National Park

Serial adventurers can test their skills on the Bedrogfontein 4×4 trail between Kabouga and Darlington. This 4×4 trail snakes through a variety of vegetation types. While there, the landscape changes from riverine thicket to forest area, to fynbos on mountain peaks and into the arid nama-karoo.

Addo Elephant National Park 4×4 Trails

The 45 kilometre 4×4 trail carries a grading of two to three. This makes it easy to complete within six hours. However, only vehicles with 4×4 and low range facilities are permitted. This is not only in lieu of the nature of the terrain, but also to minimise the impact on the environment.

Addo Elephant National Park Hiking Trails

The park’s four nature and hiking trails are located in a fenced-off area of the park. This is a place where predatory wildlife is scarce. These facilitate an immersive wilderness experience for those who prefer to wear their 4×4s on their feet (comfortable pair of hiking shoes).

The Alexandria hiking trail is a two-day hike, spanning 36 kilometres. The Three Dassie and Zuurberg Mountain trails are day hikes ranging from 2.5 to 8 kilometres. So, with an early rise and an average pace, you could be back before breakfast and the heat of the day.

The PPC Discovery trail offers an easy ramble through the Albany thicket ecosystem. The first loop of which is accessible to visually impaired and wheelchair-bound visitors.

Addo Elephant National Park Ocean Tour

A healthy dose of vitamin “sea” can be administered by a marine eco-tour. Guests cruise the ocean in search of a glimpse of the elusive great white shark and/or southern right whale.

Playing in the Beaches Around Addo Elephant National Park

The coastal area of Addo is characterised by enormous dunes. All offer hours of holiday fun for energetic adults and children alike. The beach can be accessed either from the Sunday’s River mouth or the ranger’s office at Woody Cape.

Accommodation in Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park has eight rest camps that are situated within the reserve. Each offer a variety of accommodation options. These include luxury lodges and guest houses, campsites and chalets, and rondavels and huts. There’s also a tented camp and a bush camp.

“Individual campsites at Addo main camp are spaced out and enclosed by natural fences which offer nice privacy,” Viljoen says.

Camping at Addo main camp.
Camping at Addo main camp.

Unique to main camps is the waterhole lookout point. There’s also an underground hide that offer close encounters with wildlife in the area. Night-time silence is interspersed by the roaring of lions, spotted hyenas and jackals. This can make for the perfect setting for a good old South African Bushveld braai.

Viljoen’s group also spent a few nights in Woody Cape at the Langebos Huts, tucked away in the Alexandria forest.

“The Langebos Huts form a very small camp with only two huts. Situated in a protected forest area, the camp is very private. The huts are pleasant and well-equipped for the cold Eastern Cape winters. There are heaters and warm blankets but there is no cell phone signal. You have to take your own food,” Viljoen says.

Langebos Huts at Woody Cape.
Langebos Huts at Woody Cape.

Addo Elephant National Park Availability

Addo Elephant National Park is open all year round. There is no booking required unless partaking in an organised activity. However, the best time to visit Addo is during the dry winter season from May to September.

Visit Addo Elephant National Park

While different from the usual safari options, Addo offers more options than you would expect. Whether you’re looking for a luxury game reserve or a rustic Bushveld camping experience, Addo Elephant National Park is truly an all-in-one holiday destination.

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