Addo Elephant Park and a forgettable stopover in King William’s Town

  • Miles travelled: 
  • Highlight: Spotting our first elephant in the bushes
  • Lowlight: Driving through King William’s Town after a long day on the road
  • Animals spotted: Elephants – over 100!; Lions – 2; Tortoises – 10; Buffalo – lots; Bat-eared fox – 1; Warthogs – everywhere; Dung beetle – 1; Aardwolves – 0 😦

We were treated to a stunning sunrise over the beach as we left Jeffrey’s Bay for Addo at the ungodly hour of 5.30am, hoping to catch the animals in their morning waterhole visits.

The road to Addo was one of the least enjoyable drives of the trip so far, taking us straight through a township, down roads strewn with a litter and a junction marked with a sign informing us it was a ‘hijacking hotspot’. Luckily it was coming into rush hour by this point, but it was a good reminder of why we’ve been avoiding the roads in the early morning and after dark.

The park itself was so much fun and well worth the early start. Feeling bright-eyed and bushy tailed, we paid our bargain entrance fee (R250), channelled our inner elephants and set off to track them down.

 

I’ve been to private game reserves before, where you are taken out in a jeep by the guide who tracks down the animals, but I’ve never been on a self-drive through the national parks. It’s so much fun trying to find the animals yourself!

Also quite spooky spotting the evidence of lions in the area but never quite knowing where they are..

 

Neither of us expected to see much and thought we’d be lucky to spot a couple of elephants all day so we were beside ourselves with excitement when we spotted our first big guy slowly wading through the bushes.

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Turns out we needn’t have worried. A few kilometres in, we pulled up to a big watering hole to find more than fifty elephants playing and washing in the muddy water. So many adorable little babies too!

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Four hours in the park breezed by quickly and we spotted buffaloes, tortoises, monkeys, zebra, a bat-eared fox, an apparently highly endangered dung beetle and lots and lots of funny little warthogs. Still no sign of the elusive aardwolves though..

 

Conscious we had a long journey ahead of us, and pretty tired out from all the animal-hunting excitement, we were just about to abandon our search for lions when we spotted a car pulled over ahead of us. We eased up to it to find two lions chilling out and dozing under a tree. So surreal to be feet away from lions in the little Nissan!

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Satisfied with our animal hunt, we left the park and headed to the nearby university town, Grahamstown, for lunch and a little walk around before setting off for King Williams Town, our pit stop just off the N2 on the way to the Wild Coast.

The roads became noticeably more difficult after Grahamstown, with huge stretches of road works and very sketchy overtaking. The N2 also passes through a few very hectic towns and you have to concentrate hard to avoid hitting people, including those using shopping trollies downhill as cars, or animals. All a bit much after the early start and long day in the car, so we were relieved to see the back of the Nissan when we got to King William’s Town.

We had ben hoping to be able to get out into town to stretch our legs and get some dinner, but we didn’t get a great feeling for the place on the way in. We were even more uneasy after seeing the huge electric fences and several stages of metal gates guarding our guesthouse and the deal was sealed when the owner asked us which take away we wanted. The sign said they didn’t accept guests after 9pm for safety reasons and I made the mistake of googling the area’s crime stats…

In any case, we were exhausted after the long drive. A cheeky Nandos delivery and we slept soundly in our gated fortress, ready for stage two of the long slog to the Wild Coast tomorrow.


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