As golden-hour rays of sunshine cast shadows upon South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, we remained cautiously optimistic that we’d spot wildlife. Our open-air safari vehicle rolled through the stunning landscape, characterized by sage-colored foliage and terracotta-hued soil. Water droplets sparkled on the vegetation, the result of an earlier rainfall that had quenched Addo’s parched terrain.
Embarking on the late-afternoon game drive moments earlier, the guide cautioned our group that no ‘Big Five’ animal sightings could be guaranteed. The Big Five, a term originally coined by hunters, describes creatures considered the most challenging to hunt: elephants, lions, buffalo, rhinoceroses and leopards.
Despite the ranger’s disclaimer, the animals did emerge. First, we spotted a quartet of kudu. The animals’ antlers resembled curling ribbon twisted around a gift.
A few moments later, the most observant in the group called out, “Look on the right – elephants!”
Like spectators at a tennis match, we craned our necks at breakneck speed. Sure enough, a pair of young bulls were play-fighting, just a few meters from us. Spotting our vehicle, the elephant youth rapidly darted into the bushes, seemingly worried they might be scolded for being mischievous.
Moments later, we encountered a sweet baby elephant cautiously shadowing its mother. While the mama elephant nibbled on foliage, the little one watched as a paparazzi of tourists feverishly snapped away.
Standing only as tall as its mother’s breast, the baby elephant was tiny. The end of its trunk looked like a piece of homemade pasta. Given the Italian penchant for giving regional pastas descriptive names, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tube-shaped pasta had already been dubbed ‘little elephant trunk’.
Other sightings included warthogs, elands, a zebra, a spotted hyena, as well as a pride of lions lounging confidently in the distance. There were signs of smaller life too – everything from the protected flightless dung beetle, to massive termite mounds.
Not surprisingly, as life’s best moments often do, the safari passed quickly, and we found ourselves back at the park’s welcome center. Wandering down a flight of stairs leading to a wooden observation deck, I spotted several adult elephants drinking at a watering hole. The lighting was warm, and the elephants appeared relaxed, despite a handful of visitors watching them from afar.
With that special scene forever etched in my memory, my Addo safari was complete. It’s no wonder why the word ‘safari’ originally meant ‘journey’.
Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
- Addo Elephant National Park is one of South Africa’s largest national parks, and it’s also a sanctuary success story. In the 1930s it was established to protect just 11 elephants, and today it’s home to more than 600! It’s located in the Eastern Cape province, roughly a 40-minute drive from the city of Port Elizabeth. This Addo map gives an overview of the site, and even includes an animal-sighting game.
- It’s possible to do a self drive through Addo, but we joined an official guide for this sunset tour. Here are Addo entry fees and game drive costs.
- In the past decade, it’s estimated that the global elephant population has decreased by about 60%. From avoiding organizations that exploit elephants, to refraining from buying ivory, here are things you can do to help elephants.
- Visit the Great Elephant Census, or this list of elephant advocates for more information.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All rights reserved. My husband, Shawn, created the video.
26 thoughts on “A Sunset Safari in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park”
Wow Trish! Sounds like an awesome experience. Hope all is well.
Amy, great to hear from you! Indeed, it is pretty special seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. Here’s hoping our paths will cross soon – on which side of the Atlantic is the unknown. :)
This is a wonderful post with lots of info on most of the pics! Totally loved it!! 📷🕶
Thank you, Karmughil, and happy travels!
Sounds like it was a great experience! It’s my dream to one day accomplish this!
Maria, here’s hoping you may someday soon be on a path seeking these majestic giants! Would you like to go on a game drive in South Africa, or somewhere else?
Thanks! And South Africa is where i’d love to go on a Safari! And also to check out the famous table mountain! Bet it would be a once in a lifetime experience!
It is a special corner of the world, Maria. We based ourselves in the Stellenbosch area, just outside of Cape Town. When you go, see if you can purchase Table Mountain tickets in advance. Despite two tries, we weren’t able to get up there via the cable car. The cable car can only run when the weather is favorable, and that means you might need to wait in line for a few hours on the days it is running. The next time we visit, we’d love to hike to the top. :)
Thanks for the tips! Hopefully I will manage to see it first time!
What a wonderful experience you had – your photos and descriptions gave us an excellent glimpse into this area! I love it that they protect the dung beetles, which I’ve always found kind of endearing. The Nat. Geo. article on termites was quite fascinating, thanks for that link (and all the others). Great post!
Thank you for your thoughtful words, Marilyn – and I’m glad you enjoyed that piece on the termites. I didn’t mention it above, but during our game drive, the ranger scolded some irresponsible visitors for getting out of their vehicle. He caught them playing with dung beetles out in the middle of the road, but their behavior was dangerous because of the presence of lions, too. Have you seen some dung beetles out in the wild, or did you take a liking to them through documentaries? :)
Wow. That park. Those beautiful creatures. Your pictures!
Thank you, Henry. After childhood field trips to zoos, it is extraordinary seeing these creatures in their home. Responsible safari tourism represents such an opportunity for African countries, too. I read something about Africa missing out on as much as $25 million annually due to poaching: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/01/elephant-poaching-costing-african-nations-millions-in-lost-tourism-revenue
Wauw, what a beautiful story! You have such a pleasing way of writing, very nice!
That’s kind of you to say. Many thanks, Lysbeth!
Tricia, what an exciting adventure. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat is a great privilege and your photos are beautiful.
“Seeing these animals in their natural habitat is a great privilege.” I couldn’t agree with you more, Carol!
Living on a continent with its own abundance of wildlife, have you had a similar experience? I haven’t been to Australia yet, but hope I’ll get the chance someday soon.
We do often see native animals, and it’s always a thrill. Some, like wombats, koalas and echidnas are quite elusive.
Lucky you that you see them often! Wombats look like quite the characters. :)
We’ve only seen wombats once, Tricia and it was such a thrill. They are funny creatures and much larger than you would think. Justin Beaver met a wombat – you might like to read about it. https://theadventuresofjustinbeaver.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/on-the-boardwalk/
An “out of Africa” experience dear Tricia. How thrilling to go on safari with you. Your adventures are wonderful beyond belief. Cheers Virginia
Virginia, I remember Out of Africa from my childhood, as my mother was a fan of it. I even played the movie’s theme song on the piano. :) As a child, I used to pretend that I was the park ranger for the ravine behind my parents’ home. Those memories of caring for imaginary animals (with the hope of someday seeing them in person) made me treasure this safari experience even more.
I wish you a wonderful weekend ahead!
Dear Tricia. Is it any surprise you and your husband have embarked on a life time of adventures. I am so impressed. XXOO Virginia
An incredible trip ~ great to see you and Shawn continuing your exploration of the world :-)
Hi Dalo – so nice to hear from you! Yes, the exploration bug hasn’t left us alone. :) What continent are you on these days?
Hi Tricia, spending most of my time in the Czech Republic, but I think in the near future it will be split with China and Seattle as well. Hope you guys continue to have wonderful and safe travels!