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InsideOut Adventures: Addo Elephant National Park

Updated: Apr 22

What a crazy time the last while has been. We were so excited for Namibia but the closer it came the worse the covid situation became both in South Africa and Namibia. Emergency services in Namibia were broken and the risk outweighed the benefit. We have once again delayed this trip by another year.

Jay and I decided to have a simpler break closer to home and family, Addo and Mountain Zebra was an easy choice. We had never done either in Winter and it was a new experience for us. We camped in both parks with our kids joining us in Mountain Zebra as they enjoyed time with their Grandparents in PE while we stayed in Addo.

It was very quiet, with level 4 lockdown having being just announced and SANParks shutting down online reservations – a strange experience compared to the busy Summer school holidays.

Campsites in Addo are different. There are very few and the ground is very hard gravel, nightmare to peg down a tent. Each site is separated by spekboom walls and limited shade. We had previously decided never to camp there in Summer with the kids. It gets crazy hot and can be unpleasant. The luxury tents and chalets are great, especially around the waterhole lit up at night with an underground hide close up. The shop is well stocked and you are 30 minutes from PE and much closer to Sundays river and surrounding towns. We regularly stock up at the Spar in Sundays River after taking a morning drive from Main Camp to the N2 exit (Matyholweni Gate and Camp) and then a slow meander back up the main Camp.

As a beginner to camping in “the bush”, Addo would be a great start if you live in the southern parts or SA. Interestingly, we started in Pilanesberg well over a decade ago. We grew up in PE, yet we did not even think of Addo. There is plenty of great information in the SANParks website.

Another memorable sighting was two hyena having a swim at Hapoor dam. We have never seen them play in water like this, like watching 2 puppies!

We spent 4 glorious days and nights in Addo, one at Spekboom tented camp. We booked to go again in December, together with Wilderness and Storms River in the Garden Route National Park but since decided it was not for us. The one night in Spekboom was enough, it was unexpectedly noisy, more so than Main Camp, for us, and poor visibility at the waterhole at night. We did enjoy it, but decided a rondawel in Main camp for December, in the heat, preferable.

Self-drives in Addo are great. You can access most of the park easily and the roads are good. Hapoor dam is forever a favourite, but we have had exceptional sightings all over the park. Some of our best photos come from Addo, the spekboom offers a unique backdrop not seen elsewhere. The waterholes have excellent visibility and birdlife excellent – although Summer is always best for birdlife anywhere. The downsides of Addo is also its upside – it is close to towns and noisy at times as sound travels more easily at night. The trains passing through are loud too. It is best for kids, with a day trip to Sundays River beaches easily possible. Addo also has a beach section we have not explored, simply as it seems to be a drive and we can’t get enough information on the Colchester section to deem it worth our time when it is always limited.

Accommodation and budget can suit everyone, from inexpensive camping to private luxury lodges. We know of the broader Addo area, beyond the main Park, but have yet to explore it. It is a beautiful and often forgotten region.

5 days later we departed for Mountain Zebra National Park. It is officially one of our favourites. We look forward to sharing our experience in our next InsideOut Adventure blog!

"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us"


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