The Addo Elephant National Park is home to a large population of elephants in South Africa.
Addo Elephant National Park is a national park and falls part of the South African National parks (SANParks) and is therefore managed by them. There are lots of things to do and see at the park and the park covers over 1640 square kilometres in total. You will find everything you need to know in order to visit the Addo Elephant National park below.
Addo Elephant National Park can be found in the Addo area just outside of Port Elizabeth (Ggeberha). And is about 72 kilometres or one hour away from that city. The park makes up an area of over 1640 square kilometres. And it consists of various camps. The main camp is the most frequented area and where visitors usually visit.
The Park is home to the big five roaming free. So you will have the opportunity to see the South African big five in their natural environment.
Addo Elephant Park also has two marine animals in their marine section which are the Great White shark and the Southern Right whale. As a result, the park considers itself home to the big seven. All of the marine life is located within the protected marine area. However, visitors cannot visit this area in order to protect the area.
How to get there
You will find two entrance gates at the park which grant you access and entrance into the park. Firstly, there is the Matyholweni gate, also known as the South Gate. And the second gate is the Main entrance gate which is found to the north of the park.
Depending on where you are staying, you can choose the gate which is closest to you, however, my advice would be to start at one end of the Park and in this way you are able to check out the entire park. The distance between the main camp gate and the Matyholweni gate is approximately 39 kilometres.
Things to do at Addo Elephant National Park
One of the best ways to enjoy the park is to do a self-guided drive through the park. In this way, you are able to enjoy the park at your own pace. You can decide where you want to begin and end, whether you want to check out the different loops, and stop at the various lookout points.
Animals which you will see:
There are some animals which you are bound to see on your self-drive, so be prepared. As it is an elephant park, there are lots of elephants around. So be on the lookout because you will definitely see them.
Please be aware that you will find them mostly in large herds and often with their babies, which they are very protective over. As much as they are calm animals, they can be temperamental and therefore do not go too close to them or try to agitate them in any way. They are massive in size in comparison to humans so please be safe.
Some other regulars which you will most probably see include the zebras, springboks, and eland. When we visited, we were lucky to spot the rhino as well. The only animals we didn’t get to see were lions and leopards. And we were advised that the best time to see those are either early morning or late afternoon/evening.
There are designated lookout points located around Addo Elephant Park. In total there are five look out points, being Domkrag, Zuurkop, Kadouw, Spekboom and Algoa Bay. These lookout points give you scenic landscape views. If you stop at the Zuurkop lookout point, it overlooks a watering hole. We stopped there during the afternoon and there was a herd of elephants who gathered at the watering hole. It was a remarkable sight watching the babies play in the water.
Map of Addo Elephant National Park
This is a map of the routes at the Addo Elephant National Park. Some of the routes at the park are on the tar road and some are on the gravel road. However, the gravel roads are well maintained and you can use any vehicle to travel on them. So a 4×4 is not necessary unless you choose to do the 4×4 trails but these are in the other camp area and not located in the main camp area.
Addo Elephant National Park has a picnic site called Jack’s picnic site and it has lots of picnic spots. Each of these spots is relatively secluded to give you some privacy and they each are equipped with a braai area. The picnic site itself is found in a botanical reserve area.
Make sure you purchase all your food and drink items prior to getting to Jack’s picnic site as there are no shops nearby except for the shop at the main entrance area.
You can park your vehicle at the parking area just outside your chosen picnic spot. It’s best to get there early as, during the lunchtime rush, it gets busy.
In order to enter the picnic area, you have to press a button to open a gate as the entire picnic area is fenced off so that the animals cannot access it. Thereby ensuring that it is a safe place to exit your vehicle and sit outside and enjoy your meal.
The picnic area also has toilet facilities and these were extremely well maintained and clean. In all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised and it reminded me of a restroom at a restaurant.
At the main entrance area, there is a restaurant called Cattle Baron. So if you decide not to plan a picnic then you can grab a meal there. We didn’t get the chance to try it out.
Curio / Gift Shop
The gift/curio shop can also be found at the main entrance area. The shop has lots of memorabilia to mark your visit to Addo Elephant Park like keyrings and branded merchandise. In addition, they also stock food items, water, and other basic commodities. So if you are staying over or planning on having a braai, you can purchase your essentials at the shop.
Ulwazi Interpretative Center
Another place you can check out in the main area is the Ulwazi Interpretative Centre. It’s an interpretative centre with information and history on different species of animals. The centre is informative with lots of history being displayed.
There are also statues outside the centre as well as the skull structures of the different animals ranging from elephants to common game.
You can also find bird hides at the main entrance area of the Addo Elephant Park. At the main camp, there is also an underground bird hide that overlooks a lake. If you are a bird enthusiast you can spend some time at the hide looking out for the various species of birds that are around.
Addo Elephant Park Accommodation (Where to Stay)
Addo Elephant National Park has numerous accommodation options which enable you to stay at the park. These all depend on your preferences and budget. And these range from camping sites to self-catering chalets.
It’s best to check their site for more information regarding this and keep an eye out for when they have specials so that you can stay over at a lower rate. They usually have specials during their low season as it’s the quietest time of year. But you should follow them on social media as that is where you will get the latest updates.
Addo Elephant Park prices (How much does it cost)
Entrance conservation fees to the park are:
South African citizens
R 90.00 per adult
R 45.00 per child
R 180.00 per adult
R 90.00 per child
R 360.00 per adult
R 180.00 per child
There are no additional vehicle entrance fees.
If you are able to, you may want to consider purchasing the Wild Card which is offered by SANParks. The wild card enables you to have unlimited access to the national parks (depending on the option you choose) for an entire year. I’ve written a post detailing the process for purchase and registration here.
Addo Elephant National Park Contact Details:
Matyholweni Rest Camp, Addo Elephant National Park
042 233 8600
Main gate – 7:00 am – 19:00 pm
Main gate reception – 7:00 am – 19:00 pm
Matyholweni gate – 7:00 am – 18:30 pm
Matyholweni gate reception – 7:00 am – 17:00 pm
Important to note
- Abide by the speed limits. The speed limit in the park is 40km/hour.
- Don’t step out of your vehicle except at the designated lookout points.
- Do not litter or throw anything out of your vehicle
Addo Elephant National Park should definitely be visited as it will give you an up-close experience with herds of elephants. The self-guided drive is the best option as it allows you to traverse the park at your own pace. And you are bound to see more than just elephants and if you’re lucky maybe a lion or leopard.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, I would love to hear from you.
And if you enjoyed this post, why not check out the previous post on Things to do in Bathurst, with fun things to do in this quaint South African town.
* Please note that all prices and contact information are correct at time of publication. Please check the venues websites as prices may change without notice. *
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