A herd of elephants push their way through a spekboom thicket to drink at the waterhole. The adults unwind and the calves play in the mud. Yes, you could spend all day watching them, but the rest of the park awaits… There are five sections to Addo. The Colchester section is the most popular among day visitors and you can explore it on your own in any vehicle. Enter at the Matyholweni gate in the south, off the N2 between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, and drive north along the main game-viewing route. Get your kids to tick off all the species they see on the free map you get from the reception office. With a bit of luck you’ll see black-backed jackal, buffalo and Cape grysbok.
Next, turn onto the Ngulube Loop and look for lions – the park has 15 lions and they like to hang out in this area. After the loop, head north and turn off at Jack’s picnic site for coffee and rusks. Closer to the main camp, also pull over at the Hapoor waterhole. It’s like the local hipster coffee shop, where all the elephants want to be seen. Have lunch at the Cattle Baron in the main camp. The springbok leg is delicious.
Afterwards, visit the Interpretive Centre, learn some new facts to share around the campfire and check out the mounted head of Hapoor, the park’s most famous elephant. Hapoor was the dominant bull from 1944 to 1968. The story goes that a hunter’s bullet nicked his ear and he took a dislike to all humans after that. If you have time, there are routes to explore around the main camp. Drive up the hill to the Zuurkop viewpoint, where you can get out of your vehicle. Take a pic of the view of the plains below, with the Zuurberg range in the distance. It’s also worth pausing at the Domkragdam and Gwarriepan waterholes. End your day at the underground viewing hide in the main camp. You sit very close to the waterhole, which gives you an almost voyeuristic glimpse of animal life.
How to get there? The Matyholweni gate is about 40 km east of Port Elizabeth via the N2; the main gate is about 50 km north-east via the R335.
Gate times: 7.am to 6.30 pm.