Being South Africa’s 3rd largest national park, Addo Elephant National Park is home to one of the densest African elephant populations on earth. Besides elephants, Addo Elephant Park inhabits the whole Big 5! I covered everything you need to know for visiting the park in this blog.
About Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant National Park is a diverse wildlife conservation park on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, next to the small town of Addo. Addo is about 70km north of Port Elizabeth, which is for many the starting point of the Garden Route.
Because it’s located close to the Garden Route, it’s therefore often added to people’s road trip itineraries. This is exactly what we did as well and I highly recommend for you doing the same.
Visit the home of the world’s densest African elephant population!
History of Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant Park has quite an interesting but dark history. In the earlier days, many big herds of elephants roamed around the Addo area.
The wildlife living in the Addo region came into conflict with the farmers for water and crops, who colonized the area in the early 1800s. Therefore taking their toll on the elephant population.
The government involved itself in the conflict in 1919, which made it worse. In only one year, 114 elephants had been killed. However, by 1931, they decided to protect the remaining elephants in the park.
Unfortunately, the conflict between farmers and wildlife kept continuing as there was no fence. As a result, the park was finally fenced by the park manager at that time in 1954.
How to get to Addo
By Private Transport
The closest airport is in Port Elizabeth, which is 75km away from the park. From there, the easiest and cheapest way to get to Addo Elephant National Park is by rental car.
You have multiple car rental agencies at Port Elizabeth Airport to choose from. Make sure to book your rental car on time here. If you only visit the Garden Route and Cape Town you won’t be needing a 4×4.
Keep in mind that many companies increased their prices as a result of high demand and low supply. These companies needed to sell a lot of their cars due to a lack of tourism during the pandemic. Because of that, make sure to book your rental car as early as possible to avoid no availability or very high prices.
Entrance fee & times
The entrance fee of the national park is R360 per person per day (€20) and you’ll also receive a map of the park at the entrance. The main entrance together with the reception is open between 07:00 – 19:00 daily. Matyholweni gate is open from 07:00 – 18:30 (reception till 17:00). If you have accommodation booked inside the national park you’re able to enter until 22:00.
Safari tip: it’s prohibited to get out of the vehicle in the wild life area, except at the designated look out points.
Best time to visit Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant National Park is an all-year-round travel destination. However, the best wildlife viewing is during the dry winter season, which is from May to September.
Water is a scarce resource during the dry months, therefore all the wildlife gather at the waterholes to drink. Temperatures in Addo during the day are pleasant, while on the other hand, the nights could get a bit cold. So make sure to bring some cozy warm clothes.
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How to go on a safari
1. Self Drives in Addo Elephant Park
Most of the roads in the national park are well paved, therefore making it the perfect place to go on a self-drive. Going on a self-drive means that you explore the national park with your rental car by yourself. This gives you the freedom of staying at certain places as long as you want.
Say to yourself, spotting wildlife has never been more exciting than finding them yourself right!?
As I said, you’ll receive a road map at the entrance, where you’ll find all the routes for tourists. Go early in the morning and make sure you have a full tank before starting your safari!
Travel tip: Never drive over elephant poop! The protected dung beetle lives here and uses the poop as a source of nourishment and a breeding den.
2. Guided Game Drives
On the other hand, it could be a luxury to go on a guided game drive with an expert. You can sit back and enjoy the ride, while your guide is looking for incredible creatures and tells you all about the flora and fauna.
You can book these drives at your accommodation or online. Most of the half-day and full-day tours include drinks and snacks. We decided to roam around ourselves as we already did guided game drives in Kruger National Park. However, it might be a great option if you’re only doing the Garden Route and Cape Town.
Guided game drives for 2 hours prices range from R435 (€26) to R595 (€35) per person.
Half-day guided tours start from R1300 (€75) per person.
Full-day guided tours start from R2175 (€130) per person.
Routes in Addo Elephant National Park
Every car entering the park receives a road map with all the different routes you can take. Depending on how long you’re willing to drive around, I recommend starting at the main entrance in the north. Drive your way down south and make as many loops as you like.
For instance, If you start at the main entrance and drive to Matyholweni Gate and back, it takes you approximately about 5 or 6 hours including some stops. You can make this route longer by taking more hoops of course.
Where to spot wildlife
Going early in the morning is the way to go to spot wildlife, as it’s still not too hot. Not only live the Big 5 here but also animals like hyenas. These predators, together with lions and leopards, are mostly seen in the early morning or evening.
The water holes are your best shot for spotting wildlife, which are indicated on the map. Especially when it’s hot and dry, animals come here to drink! Find all maps in Addo Elephant National Park here.
Don’t forget: your camera and binoculars
Travel Tip! For the best game viewing in Addo, check out the water holes in the park.
Where to stay
Town of Addo
I highly recommend staying at Addo African Home during your time in Addo. This beautiful ecolodge is located only 10 minutes from Addo Elephant National Park and used to be a farm.
The property has its own restaurant, where they serve their grown fruits and vegetables. They even have a 100% natural swimming pool and they aim to promote local artists. You can either stay in a traditional African rondavel or a modern room!
Book your stay at Addo African Home here.
Find all accommodations options here!
What else to do in the Addo area
Besides going on game drives, there’s more to do in Addo. For example, you can go hiking in the Zuurberg Mountains in Addo Elephant National Park. Another fun activity is taking a horse riding tour through the national park or go zip-lining.
We haven’t done any of these other options due to lack of time, so I can’t recommend any of these activities from my own experience. 🙂
Find all the best things to do in Addo on GetYourGuide