Addo Elephant National Park
Traveling to Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant National Park is located about an hour and a half drive north of Port Elizabeth Central. There is fantastic signage along the highway that directs you to the main rest camp of Addo. Before you leave Port Elizabeth, be sure to download your Google Map beforehand or have a tangible paper map. There is no cell phone or data service until you reach Addo’s main rest camp.
If you are driving from Cape Town (8 hours), we would suggest driving along the Garden Route as much as possible. We had an overnight pitstop in Knysna to break up the drive. It was beautiful and there was something new to see at every town. Our favourite view was approaching the small town of Wilderness, South Africa. As the name suggests, its natural beauty was indescribable.
Addo Elephant Park Camping and Accommodation
Our time in Addo was spent at the main rest camp because we had chose to camp in our own tents. There are other chalets and safari tents for guests at the Main Rest Camp. But since we have the equipment and are budget travelers, our small tents were the way to go! We had enough tents and other camping equipment to allow all 5 people in our group to have their own space as well.
At the main rest camp is the reception area which is open from 7:00am-7:00pm. Please note that our group had to wait over 45 minutes to check in due to long queues. Despite full occupancy, there were only two people working the desk. There is also a store with all of the main items necessary for camping open the same hours as reception. The store was the largest that I have seen at any SanParks (South Africa National Parks) thus far. Besides the essentials, there was a gift shop with tourist pricing to match. Next door to the store was a full restaurant. Similarly, this was the largest and nicest restaurant that I had seen in SanParks.
There is a watering hole with an underground hide for guests to visit. It is a bit of a walk, but worth the view. Follow the path near the Ulwazi Interpretive Centre & Game Drive Office and keep walking down the hill. Eventually there will be a small path near a wooden fence that leads to the game hide. I would suggest visiting this at night to see animals you wouldn’t normally see throughout the day! If you are feeling adventurous, go in the middle of the night when you can hear the predators the loudest/at their most active!
Addo Elephant National Park Game Drives
The self-guided game drive area is located at the main rest camp and the park is large so plan time accordingly. The gate for self-guided game drives is open from 5:30am to 6:30pm. The maps that you receive from reception are photocopies, which are poor quality. This lead to a lot of time wasted due to paths not being visible on the map and numbers not correctly labeled.
Addo National Elephant Park offers several safari game drives at all times of day. We were interested in the night game drive because self-drivers are not allowed out at this time and you would see animals that you don’t see during the day. But it was canceled that evening due to weather. I would rather have them cancel it ahead of time than cancel it half way through and have us pay for the whole thing! The game drives are all about R350 and under which is a good price for the experience!
Overall Thoughts on Addo Elephant National Park
Overall, Addo delivered on its promise of elephants. Be sure to go early in the morning to Harpoor Dam on the northern side of the park- you will get a show! There was a ton of game other than elephants throughout the park. We saw in large quantities; zebra, ostrich, warthogs, red hartebeest, kudu, and African buffalo. But if you are interested in large predators, this park is lacking. There are a few lions which hang out on the southern side- but this park is huge so don’t plan on seeing them.
Max and I are used to roughing it when camping and Addo was definitely a tourist attraction that catered to new campers/safari goers/foreigners. This was a great place to bring our friends who were all novice campers and wanted to see elephants. Only being an 8 hour drive from Cape Town was exactly what we needed. If you have a limited amount of time, a limited budget, and a love of elephants, Addo Elephant National Park is great!
*Stay tuned for a post on the Wild Card- a budget saving resource for all parks within South Africa!*
Please enjoy the photography highlights from our time there!