Experience the Addo Elephant Park – A Must Do For Everyone

Whether you’re a tourist or a local, the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape is a South African national park which everyone should visit. Visiting a park that’s main purpose is to protect and conserve one of the ‘Big Five’ is reason enough to go – here you are guaranteed to see the wonderfully, larger-than-life elephant. The Addo Elephant Park promises a great adventure for all its visitors; there is much to see, great Addo accommodation available and lots to learn about elephants!

The scientific name for the African elephant is Loxodonta Africana. Subspecies include the Savanna or Bush Elephant (Loxodonta Africana Africana) and the Forest Elephant (Loxodonta Africana Cyclotis). The only other places in the world where you’ll find elephants are in Asia; there they’re commonly known as the Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus). Subspecies include the Indian Elephant, Sumatran Elephant, Sri Lanken Elephant and the Borneo Pygmy Elephant. Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. It takes a female elephant 22 months to conceive a baby – it’s no surprise this is the longest animal pregnancy in the world.

The Addo Elephant Park was founded in the 1930’s. Back then there were only eleven elephants left in the area. Today there are over 400 elephants, buffalo, black rhino, lion, hyena, antelope and small carnivores in the park. There are also more than 180 bird species to be seen here. The park is about 45 minutes from Port Elizabeth, and is located in an area which offers over a million hectares of land devoted to wildlife and conservation.

Male elephants weigh up to six tonnes whereas the female elephant usually only weighs up to 2.7 tonnes. There are some notable differences in the appearance of the male and female elephants. The females have a pair mammae low on the side of their chest, just behind the forelegs and both sexes have thick flaps of skin hanging between their hind legs. The male have wider heads and when looking at them it seems they have more rounded foreheads than their female counterparts. Males are of course larger and taller – being twice as heavy as cows.

The Addo Elephant Park is a malaria free area and enjoys a mild to warm climate. Its annual rainfall is about 450 mm which occurs evenly throughout the year. The summers are hot and during wintertime it’s chilly at night throughout the valley. The Addo elephants occupy the area closest to the Sundays River Valley – once upon a time before the park was founded this is also the spot where they roamed freely. This area is also home to miles and miles of citrus trees – the area is renowned across the world for its citrus fruit production and is the largest producer of lemons in the country.

An adult bull drinks about 120 litres of water a day and during winter he’ll eat about 150kg of wet woody plants daily. During the summer elephants mostly eat grass. Elephants have a life expectancy between 60 and 70 years – the eldest elephant in the world was believed to have been 82 years old. New born elephants are able to stand on their own shortly after birth, but they are blind and rely on their trunks to guide them or their mothers.

There is plenty to do in and about the park. Visitors are urged to take trips to surrounding towns. Jeffery’s Bay (one hour from Addo) is a small surfer town with excellent beaches and for those looking for a dose of culture and history, Cradock is a must-see. The Tsitsikamma Forest, where you’ll find Plettenberg Bay and Knysna, is just three hours away from Addo and offers many activities for the nature-loving family.

Addo Accommodation for the visitor is of five star quality and luxury, but will still leave you feeling like you are in the middle of the rugged African bush.