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Zebra, Addo Elephant National Park
March 15 , 2007

DIY Safari - Addo Style

We left Buffalo Bay with the sun on our backs, the owner of the hostel, Johan, was kind enough to drive us back into Knysna where we caught a bus (this time only 2 hours late) across to Port Elizabeth. Arriving at 10pm in a strange town was a little nerve racking, especially when the driver of the bus asked us if we knew where we where going and double checked to see if we were alright. In the past we've always tried to arrive in the middle of the day when its safe to walk the streets, this was our first night time arrival and we were a little nervous. Thankfully the hostess on the bus, seeing our predicament, called our hostel and got directions, and we only had a 15 minute walk through the town to the PE Backpackers.

Port Elizabeth was lucky enough this year to be home to Matt's 29th Birthday, a very very quiet affair with a few beers and lunch overlooking the ocean (dolphin spotting with no success), then an afternoon spent shopping for a tent in the local malls. Dinner was a magical affair of pizza and beer. Unfortunately Port Elizabeth is a shity little port town, and we were staying in the Central Area, which is pretty run down. The only two good things we managed to find were Angelo's cafe with $2 meals, and Queen Latifa's Hair Salon, where Matt got a Shaved Head and Beard Trim (Albeit in the funky styling of Craig david) for only $5.

Instead of a week of surfing lessons in Jeffrey's Bay, we opted instead to do a two day self drive safari in the Addo Elephant National Park, 1 hour north of Port Elizabeth (hence the need for a tent, as we planned to camp inside the park).

Unfortunately for us the car hire place messed up our booking for our 'Safari Vehicle' and we had to stay another night, at least they upgraded our vehicle to one with air conditioning. With a day to kill we went through our gear and managed to pull out about 3kgs worth of stuff we haven't really used over the last months travel and posted it home.

Beware of Lions, Alight from vehicle at own risk

The self drive concept is simple, keep a good distance from the animals, they are wild and will charge if angered, and stay in your car while in the park, except for three designated hop off points where you can get out of your car - at your own risk, as there are no fences to stop a lion or leopard from attacking you. On our first day in the park we drove around for nearly 7 hours, and were a little disappointed to say the least, seeing elephants from a hundred meters off, some zebra, and plenty of deer and warthog.

Then on the second day our luck changed, we hit the park at 8am in the morning, grabbed Lloyd, a local hop on ranger to guide us around the park for two hours, then we hit the park in earnest. Our first sighting was a Water Buffalo, one of the Big Five, and we managed to get with a few meters of the beast before he charged off into the bush, Buffalo, LLoyd was kind enough to inform us, are very dangerous animals and this Bull was massive. Just before dropping the ranger off, he took us very very close to a huge heard of Elephant, another member of the Big Five.

Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park

Caution! Objects may be closer than they appear

After a quick bite to eat, we went back into the park to where we had previously sighted the Elephant herd, this time, as we were parked in the middle of the road, the whole herd walked slowly past our car within arms reach. Maybe 30-40 elephants including babies slowly passed us over about 30 minutes, absolutely amazing.

To back this up, we headed to where the lone Buffalo Bull had been in the morning, and as we crawled round a bend in a single dirt track, another Bull appeared, fully blocking the road. As we stopped the car, maybe 5 meters away (with Donna freaking out a little), around 10-15 other Buffalo appeared from the bush around us, slowly walking up the road. By the time they cleared away, we had a bank up of cars behind us, and an amazing buzz.

A Buffalo Experience - Addo Elephant National Park

Some of the best animals in the park were not as popular with the other visitors, the Zebra are amazing animals to look at, and the funniest critter we saw was definitely the Flightless Dung Beetle, those guys will repeatedly push their balls of dung up the hill, roll all the way to the bottom, only to do the whole process again.

The icing on our safari cake came us the sun was setting, with our goal to have one last look in the far corner of the park in the hope of spotting some Elephant or Rhino, we spotted our third Big 5 animal, 4 Lions eating a Warthog on the plain. As the sun set on a successful couple of days in the bush, we took our highly camouflaged safari vehicle, in it extremely dirty state, back to the lodge where we swapped animal stories and viewed our 3-4 Gig of photographs. An Addo Gallery will follow shortly.

The next day we dropped the car of in Port Elizabeth before catching a few well deserved hours of sleep, and a 6am bus the next morning to East London, followed by a minibus 35kms north east to the coastal town of Cintsa West...

The New Age Safari Vehicle - Highly Campflaged and All

The new age safari vehicle - note the camouflage paint and raised viewing position!

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Some 4-wheel drive. It seems to me even a baby elephant trunk could have popped it over. Glad you were able to be photographed at the end of it all. I didn't realise you could just take yourselves around so freely in the game parks. Did you sleep in your tent? Or listen to the night sounds?

Theresa - March 20, 2007

The best part of the parks in South Africa is that you can self drive. A 4x4 would have given a better viewing angle though the little Polo did a pretty good job.

We slept 10 minutes outside of the park at the Orange Elephant guest house (We are still debating whether to purchase a tent or not).

Matt & Donna - June 25, 2007

Glad you didn't imagine your self a toreador and challenge that buffalo.

Anonymous - March 18, 2007


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