Lesser known than the popular Kruger National Park in the north of South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park is something of a hidden gem. It is located in the Eastern Cape and is the third largest national park in the country. It spreads for a huge 180,000 hectares through a range of landscapes, encompassing mountains, river valleys and miles of bush land. There are expansion plans in place presently that will see the park double in size, turning it into a mega park that will feature more heavily on the tourist trail.
Addo isn’t a Big 5 park, but it’s home to more than 550 elephants, as well as buffalo, zebras, warthogs, a variety of antelope, spotted hyenas and several lions and leopards which you’ll be lucky to catch a glimpse of. It is also home to varied species of birds and reptiles, and unique to the park is the flightless Addo dung beetle, which frequently stop traffic as they wander along the roads.
Addo National Park is split into several camps, each with its own accommodation options. The Main Rest Camp is where visitors will find facilities such as a shop, restaurant and braii areas, as well as a floodlit waterhole where elephants frequently gather at night. Worth noting is that Addo is in a malaria-free zone, so visitors can rule out the extra costs and potential hassles involved in taking malaria tablets.
Addo Elephant Park cost
Foreign visitors are expected to pay a standard daily conservation fee of R160 per adult per day and R80 per child per day. This fee covers you for a self-drive safari around the park. If you wish to travel with a guide or book a game drive, these will be added extras.
Activities at Addo Elephant Park
Addo is a self-drive park. Organised game drives are available all day, from sunrise to night fall, with a special sundowner drive available with drinks and snacks provided. This sundowner drive is priced at R340, while the standard daytime game drives are R240 and the night drive is R275.
Visitors can also hire a hop-on guide to travel in their car, with prices starting at R180. Horse trails are available for those over 16 years of age, 4×4 tours can be booked and, if you’re feeling fit, you might enjoy the Alexandria Hiking Trail, which is a two day, 36km circular hike.
Addo Elephant Park highlights
Those seeking close encounters with elephants will love Addo. From lone bulls to families with calves, a sighting is all but guaranteed. The park is filled with wonderful watering holes, where you can witness the elephant hordes gather to cool off and refresh themselves.
Getting to Addo Elephant Park
The closest airport is in Port Elizabeth, which is 75km away. Travellers flying into there can hire a car, or opt for a privately operated coach tour of the park from a range of local operators.
If you’re interested in a road trip, the park is set at the end of the Garden Route, so driving from Cape Town is an option. But take note it is a 9 hour drive, so you might want to split it over two days.
Where to stay in Addo Elephant Park
For those seeking a 5 star safari experience, Addo can certainly deliver. There are a range of luxury lodge accommodation options available, with prices starting at upwards of R3500 per person per night, with a steep rise in tariffs during the popular summer months.
Forest cabins and chalets are priced from R640 for a cabin for two, although this may vary depending on the area of the park you wish to stay in. A cosy cottage can cost R960 per night for two people sharing.
There are also guest houses available to rent, which can sleep 4 – 6 people from R2985 per night and are a great option for families or groups.
If you’re happy sleeping under the stars, prices for a camping pitch for 2 start as low as just R190 per night, but you must bring your own tent. For a safari tent, you can expect to pay R485 for two per night, which is still great value.
When to go to Addo Elephant Park
The South African summer runs from November to February, and during this period conditions in Addo are very hot and dry. Winter in the park is mild, but the temperatures will dramatically drop at night, so warm clothing is advised for any nighttime or early morning game drives. Rainfall peaks in February/March and October/November.