Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth is rated one of the best places in Africa to see elephants up close. It's also South Africa's third largest reserve with an enormous diversity of species and vegetation.

Did you know?

Addo Elephant National Park boasts the largest coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere.

In 1931, Addo was proclaimed to protect the 16 elephants that remained in the area. Today it is a world-famous mega park and elephant numbers have swelled to over 600, one of the densest elephant populations in Africa.

From just 2 500ha in size at proclamation, Addo Elephant National Park is now 180 000ha in size stretching from Darlington dam in the Karoo section in the north, across the Zuurberg mountains south to the coast where it includes the St Croix and Bird Island groups.

This makes it the third largest park in South Africa and it offers incredible diversity encompassing five of South Africa's nine biomes.

The park is also home to buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino and in the marine section you will find great white sharks and southern right whales, which means that South Africa’s Addo is one of the few reserves in the world that can boast having the Big Seven!

All this is within relatively easy striking distance of Port Elizabeth, the largest city in the Eastern Cape and visitors can pick from a range of accommodation and adventure activities including 4x4, horse and hiking trails.

In Addo, you will find 1 000 year-old cycads, hillsides covered in pastel-coloured proteas, primeval impenetrable thicket, bizarre-looking spiny noorsveld, and wide-open plains where antelope graze.

Lion and spotted hyena were reintroduced into the park in 2003 to help control antelope numbers which include kudu, red hartebeest and eland.

The rare flightless dung beetles of Addo are a more unusual attraction. Always busy rolling perfect balls from elephant dung, the park is full of signs warning visitors to avoid harming these unique creatures.

The marine section of the park has the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape gannets on Bird Island and the second largest colony of African penguins. Rare roseate terns come to Bird Island to breed in winter, Siberian falcons breed in the coastal dunes nearby and Caspian and Arctic terns stop off on the island on long-haul flights.

Travel tips & Planning info

Related articles