Location: 41 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay towards Port Alfred.
Date Visited: 24 -26 February 2012 (Summer)
Where we Stayed: Main Camp inside the Addo Elephant National Park
What we did: We had scrumptious food at the Tiger’s Eye Restaurant, viewed game, went on a night game drive, swam, walked & enjoyed a horseback safari.
Recommendation: This is a weekend you should do with your family. It is so close to Nelson Mandela Bay, you cannot live or stay there & not make the trip. The accommodation is excellent, the restaurant is wonderful, the staff & rangers are extremely professional & knowledgeable and you are guaranteed to see lots of wildlife in this breathtaking conservation area.
Website: Addo Elephant National Park
Why do we travel?
This tribe of obscure Pienaar-people who try to find meaning in days giving way to months and moments becoming lives?
To be, perhaps.
In each others company.
Alongside one another.
As we see and taste and discover.
Our trip to Addo Elephant National Park was a quality time.
We experienced, became & were.
Alongside each other.
Addo Elephant Park is a short 45 minute drive from Nelson Mandela Bay. If you use the Colchester-entrance as we did on this Friday afternoon.
You could travel the almost 80 kilometers to the town of Addo & enter the Park almost at the main camp.
Using the Colchester-entrance, however, affords you the opportunity to enjoy the southern region of the Park, on your way to the main camp, instead of traveling through industrialized and urbanized areas.
On this particular Friday, ten minutes into the Park we came upon a whole herd of elephant.
Probably thirty of them, big and small, leisurely grazing on a huge open grass plain.
A small distance further on our way a herd of Zebra surprised us, before Red Hartebeest and some Ostrich tried to steal our attention.
By the time we reached the main camp, it felt as if we had been on holiday for a while.
The staff & rangers at this National Park on this weekend was exceptionally well trained, helpful & knowledgeable.
All of them extremely friendly.
Comfortable in their surroundings & confident about their purpose.
The Park offers various accommodation options from camping through tented-camps to rondavels, chalets & 4-star guest houses.
We opted for the comfortable chalet with its self-catering option, but with Zuko 8 1/2 months pregnant, the only thing we self-catered was coffee early in the morning and a cup of tea or milo before bedtime. For the rest we took our meals at the very nice Tiger’s Eye restaurant from their extensive menu offering everything from standard bacon & eggs to Springbok and Kudu.
Their fish of the day on Saturday was Angel fish – if you can have only one meal at the Tiger’s Eye, take the Angel fish.
The kids loved their chicken nuggets & chocolate mouse with ice-cream.
Their medium-rare fillet was grilled to perfection & their calamari prepared with delicate care.
Whether you’re staying at Addo Elephant Park for the weekend or visiting for the day – the Tiger’s Eye Restaurant deserves a visit.
The junior tribe-members rate their milkshake a 5/5 on taste and 4/5 for thickness.
We didn’t just eat at Addo Elephant National Park, although the meals were a great part of our weekend – a time to talk, to think, to discuss, to laugh and learn new things about each other.
Self-driving through this Park is easy.
You’ll see more game than you could imagine.
Especially if you go to the trouble of taking an early morning or late afternoon drive.
The park also offer hop-on guides, allowing you to take a guide with you as you view game in the different sections with your own vehicle.
Saturday morning we had coffee as the sun was rising & did our own drive to Gwarrie Pan, Rooidam and Lendlovu Pan.
Along with more elephant and Zebra we also spotted Eland, Kudu, Warthog and a very shy porcupine, Pippa ticking off the ones we have spotted on the handy informational map we received on entering the park.
By the time we left Addo Elephant Park on Sunday afternoon, it was only the Aardvark, the Aardwolf, the puff Adder and the illusive Honey Badger which we hadn’t seen.
Breakfast brought more conversation & then a visit to the Ulwazi Interpretive Centre, booking a night game drive for that evening & a horse safari for Sunday morning, before immersing ourselves in the history of this Park & this region’s origin.
Theunsie loved the story of Hapoor.
The elephant who refused to live by anything but his own rules.
Pippin loved playing archaeologist & Sophia loved the animal-sounds display.
By the time we’d done the tracking game outside the sun was high & warm and the swimming pool was calling our names.
The rest of the day was spent in and out of the water.
Our children easily made friends with other children as we struck up conversations with tourists from France, Germany and the United States who also sought respite from the heat in the cool blue of the pool.
‘We love South Africa,’ they say.
‘We’ve been here for a month & we dread going home.’
‘We will be back.’
‘This is an amazing country.’
‘Not only the Parks & conservation areas.’
‘The people as well.’
‘You have no idea how fortunate you are.’
Supper brought us to game drive time as the sun was setting on this magnificent Saturday.
Someone was smiling upon us.
The weather was perfect.
‘Hi, I’m Siya and I will be your guide this evening. This is not a zoo, it is a conservation area. I cannot guarantee that we will see animals. I can guarantee that we will experience something wonderful.’
And so we did.
We saw a buffalo.
And a spotted Hyena.
A spotted leopard owl.
Lots of Kudu.
Lots of Elephant.
Siya answered all the tribe’s questions & with Pippa as tribe-member they are many.
He answered patiently.
He knew what he was talking about.
I could see he loves what he does.
Not only the animals and conservation.
The people & the sharing as well.
As we found our resting place at the end of this Saturday our children were excitedly talking about the day’s experiences.
And little lump was making his presence known as if he could hear the elephant’s trumpet and fish eagle’s call right there in the womb where he was being prepared for life on this earth.
It can be harsh.
I closed my eyes, listened for the call of the Black-backed Jackal & expressed gratitude for these moments of wonder and togetherness.
They make it bearable.
Amidst the rush & try of every day.
Sunday morning brought new excitement.
Theunsie woke us with the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
He was already dressed.
His chaps tightly tied around his legs.
He was ready to go riding.
We’ve been seriously riding horses for the past twelve years.
Each child has his own – grooming the horses, feeding them & taking care of them is part of the daily routine in our little bit of world.
We ride often, but since the children joined us we’ve not had the opportunity to ride in a place like this.
Once, a decade ago, Zuko and I spent a day in the Kalahari, on horse-back, following a massive herd of Blue Wildebeest.
It was magical.
I did not think we’ll have the opportunity to share something like this so soon again.
We spotted Kudu.
Scrubhare and Elephant.
As we walked from the stables to our chalet the children were bubbling.
‘This, Pappa! This is the highlight of our weekend. Thank you! Wow!’
We refreshed in the swimming pool, before loading the Landy & taking a late breakfast.
Omelettes were in order and Tiger’s Eye Restaurant did not disappoint.
‘We should come here more often’, Zuko was saying as we took our last drive for this weekend through the southern region of the Park, making our way home.
The Black-Headed Heron and Secretary Bird greeted us as we entered the game viewing area.
A yellow mongoose crossed the road as red billed oxpeckers made a fly by, as if saluting us on our final departure.
We turned off on every possible loop we could.
We had time.
It was still early.
We took the Gorah Loop to Carol’s Rest.
We took Mpunzi Loop and Harvey’s Loop.
On Vukani Loop we encountered our last herd of Elephant.
They were playing at a watering hole covering themselves in mud, blowing water on each other.
A few meters away, in the shade of a small tree, two male lions were watching.
They weren’t disinterested as lion can so often be.
They’re ears pricked, they’re eyes focused on elephant babies.
‘This is better than Discovery Channel’, Sophia chirps. ‘We just need a deep voice giving us commentary.’
And I oblige with a smile in my mock documentary voice.
And we laugh.
It is late afternoon as the Landy comes to rest at our little wooden house on the not so little hill.
I am astounded at the quality of our National Parks.
I am delighted that we have such conservation areas.
Such showcase to the world of not only our love for Africa, but our love for each other.
I come home, filled with new hope.
Perhaps because we rested.
Perhaps because we spent time together & there is nothing like togetherness to help us become.
But, this time, definitely because we discovered.
Our country is a fantastical world.
With awesome people.
This we hang on too.
As we face another day & week.
This we use as weapon to slay the negativity which so often threatens to overwhelm us.
And we smile.
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