Addo Elephant National Park
In the parks early years, during times of drought (and before the waterholes were artificially kept full) the park keepers fed the elephants on oranges from the local orange groves. Gradually the elephants became addicted to the taste of the fruit! This practise stopped along time ago, but the older elephants still remember the smell and have been known to reach into vehicles and get their favourite fruit!
Through additions over time, the actual park now consists of 5 sections.
The (1) Colchester section is the part of the park to which most people refer to when they talk about the national park. The game reserve within this section can be explored from your own car. Roads are mostly dirt roads, but can be used with "normal", i.e. non-4x4 vehicles. Due to their large populations, elephants, antilopes, zebras and warthogs can be quite easily spotted in this section of the park.
The (2) Darlington Section, (3) Kabouga Section of the park offer access only via 4x4 trails. The (4) Zuurberg Section and (5) Woody Cape Section both offer hiking possibilities.
Flora and fauna
The original Addo Elephant National Park has been expanded since its origin as a small elephant reserve and is now marketed under the slogan "Conserving the Big 7". This slogan alludes to the elephants, lions, buffalos, leopards, rhinos that live in the land-based parts of the park (effectively the Big 5) as well as the whales and white sharks that are believed to roam the ocean off the Woody Cape Section of the park.
Due to its terrain, Addo stays at a comfy 27 - 30 C throughout the Winter.
Addo NP is about 70km north-east from Port Elizabeth. There is no public transport to or within the park so you need your own car (car rental is available in Port Elizabeth). Or book an organized tour but going on your own pace is really the best option. The park can be visited on a day-trip from Port Elizabeth. On the road you might notice signs to the 'Addo Olifant Nasionale Park'. These signs are the old Afrikaans version of the more modern road signs.
There are two gates through which you can enter the Colchester section of the park (i.e. the section of the park which is readily accessible by "normal" cars).
One possibility to enter the park is via the north-western entrance of this section at the Addo Main Camp, which is close to Addo town and connects from the R335 from the N2. The other possibility is via the southern Matylholweni Entrance Gate, which is close to the town of Colchester. This entrance is linked to the N2 via a short road. Both entrances are clearly signposted if you travel via the N2 from the west (e.g. Port Elizabeth).
Note that if you use the southern park entrance at Colchester, the travel up to the rest camp will take you another 38 km on dirt roads and will take approximately one hour. You can, however, incorporate this drive into your visit of the park and drive along a one or two scenic "loop drives" and explore the southern part of the this park section.
There are gas stations at Addo town and Colchester as well as within the rest camp in Addo.
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) pay R40 per adult and R20 per children, per day. SADC Nationals (with passport) pay R60 per adult, per day (children R30).
The Standard Conservation Fee for Foreign Visitors: R160 per adult and R80 per child, per day.
Wildcard Permits may be used by all guests.
Within the Colchester section of the park, you mainly use your own car and hiking is prohibited. There are no regular bus services, but guided tours are offered from the (main) Rest Camp. A very useful map is handed out when you enter the park through one of the main gates.
Hiking or 4x4 vehicles are the main means of transport for the other sections of the national park.
Note that the flightless dung beetle is a protected species in the park and have right of way. Please do not drive over or step on them.
See & Do
The Park is famous for its elephant population that has a special, brownish skin colour due to the red soil. Amongst the elephants are other animals, like ostriches, different antelopes, zebras, buffalos and warthogs can be seen. As part of the park's expansion, a group of lions and a group of spotted hyenas have been introduced to the park in 2004. Animals less frequently observed include leopards and Rhinos.
Within the Colchester section of the park, the animals can be spotted from your own car - this means you drive on scenic loops through the park, which you are not expected to leave, except at designated spots at own risk.
The other sections of the park (see above) are mostly only accessible using 4X4 vehicles, are intended for hiking only or are closed to the public alltogether.
Although the Addo is not as spectacular as other parks, such as Kruger National Park, it is not as crowded and those who know Addo, love it.
Eat & Drink
There is a restaurant and shop at the Addo Main Camp, near the park's main entrance. The shop is focused on curios / memorabilias and has a smallish food section and also offers a few utensils you can use to fire up a BBQ. BBQ (local: "Braai") facilities are available in designated picnic areas. Most chalets also have an own braai facility.
It may make sense to cover your grocery needs before entering the park if you plan to cater for your yourself. Supermarkets in Addo town or Colchester at the southern entrance both offer a larger selection of groceries. The supermarket which is integrated into the gas station in Colchester town also offers a selection of hot meals (which may actually have to be re-heated when you order your selection). Coming from west / Port Elizabeth via the N2, this supermarket can be reached by passing the exit for the Matylholweni Entrance Gate by 2km, where you will find a Kwik-Spar to your right.
Inside the park
There are three camps within the Colchester section of Addo Elephant National Park. The (main) Rest Camp is in the north east near the village of Addo, with an entrance to the R342. The much smaller Camp Matyholweni is in the south at the Colchester entrance to the park on the N2 between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown. The Spekbook Tented Restcamp is within the northern part of the Colchester section of the Park.
The Rest Camp has a restaurant, camping facilities and a number of chalets for overnight stays. Organized tours also depart from here and visitors have a chance to observe a waterhole that is lit at night. The chalets are well-kept and offer private BBQ facilities and a small kitchen, including a fridge. The recently opened Camp Matyholweniare has only chalets. The Spekboom Tented Restcamp has only permanent tents.
All accomodations can be reviewed and booked directly via the Sanpark website.
Outside the park
There are over 70 listed places of accommodation in the area surrounding the Addo Elephant Park. These range in price from R50 for camping to R350.00 per room for basic backpackers accommodation, or self-catering to many exclusive game lodges and a great number of bed and breakfast establishments and guest houses. Prices go up to R5000.00 per person sharing at the more exclusive resorts, but there are many facilities priced in the R250.00 - to R500.00 price range. For more information contact the reception at the park or the backpackers info centre at the Orange Elephant, who have a file containing telephone numbers and prices.
Stay in your car at all times - elephants will charge if they feel threatened and lions have been added to the park to control the antilope population. Getting out of your car is only allowed at own risk at very few designated spots.
Carrying citrus fruits into the park used to be prohibited until a few years ago as it was feared that some of the older elephants still carry an addiction for the fruits.
South African National Parks (SANParks) website: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/