Addo Elephant Park Safari is an unforgettable and impressive experience that offers you a unique opportunity to observe one of Africa’s most iconic species up close. In our opinion, the real royalty “of the jungle”; the elephant! Located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, this national park is known for its diverse wildlife population, with elephants taking centre stage. With over 600 elephants, Addo Elephant Park provides a natural habitat for these majestic creatures as well as other wildlife animals. Whether you are a true nature enthusiast or simply seeking an unforgettable safari adventure, an Addo Elephant Park game drive safari is definitely worth it!
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Why is Addo Elephant Park worth a visit?
Get ready for your Addo Elephant Park game drive, fellow adventurers! Grab your binoculars because you will venture into the wilderness of over 600 elephants, lions, zebras and much more. In other words, a place where the majestic giant elephants and other wildlife roam free around you. You can be within a one-meter distance! Prepare yourselves for a rollercoaster ride filled with laughter, elephant encounters, and unforgettable memories!
In General, a South African safari trip is mindblowing! You will enter the day-to-day life of elephants, which are entertaining creatures! We have seen lovely and funny moments during our Addo Elephant Park safari while observing their daily antics. The elephants were playing with each other, rolling in mud baths, splashing around and taking care of their mini baby elephants. At one point we even encountered a more scary moment. All of a sudden, the elephants made their trumpet noises and started running around. Making the ground around us shaky and cloudy sandstorms whirling around.
General information and must-knows about Addo Elephant Park
The remarkable history of Addo
While driving around on your safari, it might be good to keep in mind the history of the park. Just like South Africa in general, also Addo Elephant Park holds a rich and fascinating history that spans over a century. Established in 1931, it was initially set up as a sanctuary for the last remaining 11 African elephants in this region. Throughout 1700 and 1800 the elephants were threatened by hunters and farmers who were colonising the area around the park. Sadly, many elephants were killed. By the early 20th century, their population had drastically declined, leaving them on the brink of extinction. In 1931 things turned around with the start of a protected National Park and fence. As a result, the elephant population managed to grow to now over 600. You can read more in detail about the history on the website of Sanparks.
Where is Addo Elephant Park located?
Addo is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The closest big city is Port Elizabeth, and Addo is one of the most famous game reserves near Port Elizabeth. It, therefore, makes the most sense to travel from Port Elizabeth by car to Addo. In General, the distance is about 72KM and it took us around one hour to drive. It is certainly possible to visit Addo for a day if you are staying in Port Elizabeth. Another option is to find accommodation in Addo Park or its close surroundings. Good to know is that Port Elizabeth is a convenient connection to drive to Cape Town via the famous Garden Route. For more routes and updates check the official website of Sanparks.
Does Addo have the big 5?
Yes, they do! Addo Elephant Park has elephants, lions, buffalos, leopards and rhinos. However, we might need to burst your bubble a bit as it is often considered very hard to see them in Addo. There might be many elephants, but just a few of the other wildlife like the lion or Leopard. These creatures just know their hiding spots very well. In the end, we were able to see the elephants (not that hard! haha), buffalos and lions in Addo. However, the lions were in the far distance and only because a “local ranger” pointed them out to us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have taken that side road at all.
Addo has so much more to offer than just the big 5! If you are a bird lover, you will be entertained as well. In general, there are so many animals, some that you never even heard of before. Like do you know the Dung Beetle? This unique beetle is the “king of the road”, and you need to be careful when driving around. You will see the warning signs, but we were still surprised when we saw a small black “thing” moving on the road.
How many days do you need in Addo?
Now, let’s address the burning question: How many days do you need in Addo Elephant Park for a safari? Some might say one day visit is enough to see everything. And if your goal is to see elephants, we do agree on one full day. We did the same, and no, you do not have to drive cartwheels to see the main part of the park. But for those who prefer taking their time and enjoying every moment, I’d recommend staying at least two to three days in this magnificent park. Especially if you have the time and want to do more activities inside the park. Why rush when there’s so much fun waiting for you?
How much does it cost to enter Addo Elephant Park?
But before we dive into the wild wonders that await us, let’s address an equally important question – how much will this adventure cost us? People often get afraid when thinking of safari costs. Besides driving a car you surely won’t break the bank. It truly is much cheaper than other safari tours & private jeeps. Depending on your nationality, the Addo elephant park entrance fee is, for example, between R94 for South African Citizens and R376 per day for international visitors (around 18 to 20 Euro / US dollars). With this day ticket, you can explore from around 6 AM until 18 PM, depending on the season. Always check the opening times of the gates on the planned day.
Where to stay in Addo?
Addo Elephant Park accommodation
We have 3 recommendations if you want to visit Addo and need a place to sleep in the surroundings:
- Stay In Port Elizabeth: if you take a day trip and continue the Garden Route or fly out from Port Elizabeth airport again, it might be easiest to stay in Port Elizabeth itself.
- Stay in Addo village: Stay close to the park and explore more. Places we recommend are AfriCamps Addo, Elephant House, Addo African Home or Africanos Country Estate. All have great reviews, however, above all, we had fantastic service and food in Africanos Country Estate.
- Stay in Addo Elephant Park: Sunparks has several lodges and camps where you can stay. These are available to book through their website.
Addo Elephant Park safari game drives
Can you self-drive in Addo Elephant Park?
We have some exciting news for all you self-proclaimed daredevils out there. Get ready to put your driving skills to the ultimate test because indeed, in Addo Elephant Park you can have a self-drive game safari! Are you brave enough? To put it in another way, do you think you can handle driving amidst unpredictable elephants and mischievous zebras without causing any major traffic jams? Don’t worry and enjoy the ride; it’s not every day that you get to play hide-and-seek with these giants while manoeuvring your vehicle.
Good to know is, that you do not need a 4×4 for Addo Elephant Park. However, if you go for a normal car we do recommend the usual types of “economy” of rental cars to have a little bit more comfort. Not all roads are tarred, many are gravelled. But still accessible to tourists’ cars.
Now, let’s talk about the golden rules of self-driving in Addo Elephant Park:
- Enter the park with a full tank
- Bring food and drinks for the day. You can also have a picnic & toilet break at “Jack’s Picnic site”.
- Do not honk and turn off your engine if you get close to the elephants
- Drive slowly: The speed limit on the roads is 40 km/h but a speed of 20-30 km/h is better
- Ever wondered how fast your heart can race when a curious elephant starts inspecting your car? Well, buckle up and do not make weird movements or start your car
- Give space to the animals. If you see them already in the distance, keep that distance.
- Do not leave trash in the park
- Remain in your vehicle (including your arms with windows open) when you’re in the game area except at designated lookout points
- Always check for other rules given by the park reception/information.
For a self-drive, you do not need to buy special safari clothing. If you do consider a private jeep safari, it might be worth checking out our: checklist on what to wear for a safari in South Africa.
Addo Elephant Park game drives
If you do prefer to enjoy an arranged game drive, do so! It can take some stress away, have everything structured for you or just in general give you optimal relaxation. Just sit, and enjoy the ride. Sounds perfect right? See below several options for Addo elephant park safari game drives:
Addo Elephant Park safari driving route
You do not need to heavily plan your day in advance. However, it is good to start the day early from the Northern side of Addo to the south. Indeed, on the map below you see two main entrances. Firstly, Addo Main Camp in the north and secondly, Matyholweni Gate in the south. Throughout the day you can follow the numbers on the map and you will see all the beauty during your Addo Elephant Park Safari. You can see the type of roads, where to find waterholes and the distances between points.
In a day we were able to drive all loops and spot the elephants on multiple occasions. Altogether, it took us around 6 hours. Really, you shouldn’t forget to stop in some places and just admire the groups of elephants interacting with each other. In summary, we saw the most elephants in the northern part and the lions between point 28 and the Arizona Dam. On the negative side, we did not see anything spectacular on the 15.9 KM Harvey’s loop. But of course, this all can differ every day! The animals are free to move around, and they surely do.
We hope that you will visit Addo Elephant Park for a great safari experience! Please do leave a comment to share your experience!