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Destinations Nature South Africa


Addo Elephant National Park

The sound began at night when the early morning rays had yet to hit the Addo Elephant National Park. It was too dark for our eyes but clear enough for the elephants to wake up and start looking for breakfast.

The lion’s roar (or could it be more than one?) began to enter our dreams. Maybe it was just that, maybe we were just dreaming.

“Did you heard them during the night?” asked us the guide when we reached the Jeep that would take us on safari. “There were lions walking around. Let’s see if we can find them this morning.”

It was 6:00 a.m., and contrary to what one would expect, the temperature didn’t rise much, and the air was quite cold. When we entered the car, the other visitors who were taking the drive with us were wrapped in warm clothing, and there were even those who had taken a blanket.

I found it a great exaggeration, but when we started to go into the third largest national park in South Africa, I realized that the other participants weren’t new in this kind of situation and that the joke was on me by taking only a very thin sweatshirt.

Ready for the drive
Ready for the drive

More than 600 animals in the Addo Elephant National Park

The Addo Park occupies about 180 hectares of land near Port Elizabeth. First by hunters between 1700 and 1800, and then by the first farmers who occupied the region, the elephant population was decimated here for years. The killing was such that when the area was regarded as protected, in 1931, there were only 11 elephants remaining.

Today the Addo Elephant National Park is a sanctuary for more than 600 animals, including elephants, lions, buffaloes, rhinos, hyenas, leopards, antelopes and zebras. Not to mention the various species of birds that fly there.


The space is huge, but it didn’t take us long until we could start seeing some animals. First a baby hyena, still with milk color fur, as the guide explained, followed by antelopes and zebras. But, no lions.

The guide explained: “They hunt early in the day, and by this time, as the morning progresses, they are more hidden.”

It was ruled out the chances to see the lions that woke me up that night. Nevertheless, I was looking at the landscape always in anticipation of seeing any lion’s mane shaking.

Put aside the idea, what about the large mammals? After all, we’re in an elephant park.

But… no elephants. Far away, in the valley, we could see a herd of them, but they were really too far, no bigger than the fingernail of a little finger — a very tiny finger.

Happy Encounter

Visiting a wildlife park has these things. It’s a bit like surfing. We can’t make the waves appear when we want to. Here is the same. The animals are in the wild, so you have to be lucky for one of them to cross your path.

And when we thought that all was lost, behold, in a narrow road with bushes on both sides, an elephant right in front of us. We’re talking about a smaller-sized elephant, but still an elephant!


We were immediately told not to make noise or make sudden movements, so he remained there as long as possible. My heart was beating faster with a mixture of excitement and fear.

He started walking down the road in our direction, but not caring much for our presence.

And then, others appeared from behind the bushes! Three, and probably there were other members of the herd around.

Sitting in a completely open Jeep with the elephants next to it, if I stretched my arm, I could almost touch them. I didn’t. As much as the animals can already be accustomed to human presence, we should never forget that they are wild and that to maintain the natural balance, we shouldn’t change their routine or invade their space.

We drove through the park for about 2 hours, which seemed very little given the extent of the reserve. But today, in addition to vivid images of the animals that I was able to see, the sound of that lion still echoes in my mind. We almost saw each other. Maybe one day. 😉


Room with a view.
Room with a view.

We opted to stay in the main camp of the Addo Elephant National Park. For a two beds chalet we paid about 60€ per person. The room was large, with direct access to a kitchenette, and a simply magnificent view over the park.

We didn’t use the kitchen because we were only staying one night, so we opted for having dinner at the Addo restaurant. The meal was quite nice, but nothing extraordinary. Anyway, that wasn’t what we were there for.

In the Park center. Not a real elephant head, of course!
In the Park center. Not a real elephant head, of course!

We paid about 20€ per person to do the tour and it was worth it. We were told that the best time for sighting animals is early in the morning and at the end of the day, so I suggest you choose the 6:00 am, 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm drive. The park organizes trips at other hours of the day, but I don’t think that they’re the ones indicated to spot some animals … particularly lions. 😉

In the Addo you also have 4×4 trails, you can do some hiking or horseback riding. You can also choose to drive your own car, but honestly, it’s much better to go with someone who knows the corners of the house.

If you spend the night in the park take the opportunity to peek at the lookout posts near some lakes in the property. The idea is to get there quietly as possible and be on the lookout for animals. If you’re lucky like me, some hippo will appear to drink some water. 😉


The main facilities of the Addo Elephant National Park are 70 km from Port Elizabeth. You’ll start to see some signs in the road. The park gates open according to the season, so check their website for more information.

Experience the incredible wildlife of Addo Elephant National Park. Discover the majestic African animals that roam the park during morning safaris.
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EDITING NOTE: As you can see, the images in this post aren’t the best. Unfortunately, more than 100 images collected from Addo Elephant National Park were lost in a computer change, leaving only a few taken by a lower-quality machine. Lesson learned about doing backups… Anyway, I hope the words in this post speak louder and that you can see all the beauty of the park and its animals.


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Marlene On The Move

Marlene Marques

Marlene is the creator of Marlene On The Move. A journalist by profession, she created the blog to share her adventures around the world. It is not unusual for her to set off to discover new countries and cultures with a surfboard as luggage.




  • Lois Alter Mark

    I love elephants and this sounds like an amazing experience. The safaris we went on in Botswana left me in awe – and, yes, we got to see lions!

    • Marlene Marques

      Botswana must have been incredible. It’s so wonderful to see the animals in their wild habitat.

  • Loredana Pascal

    This park looks amazing. My husband only went to the Nature Reserve in Gauteng – so I’d definitely add this park to our list of places to see in South Africa. It is a lovely country with many wonderful things to discover. It looks like you had a lot of fun – and the chance to see the elephants – even if you had a very short stay there!

    • Marlene Marques

      South Africa is amazing! I would love to spend a little more time there and explore other zones of the park. But it still was a great drive and just left me wanting to go back. 😉

  • Fiona Maclean

    An amazing experience. I think I’d have been back looking for that voice of the lion in person.

  • Rob

    We would love to do a animal tour in Africa. They look awesome and this one is no exception. It is too bad you get to see those lions that you heard.
    We will have to wait a few more years as my son is still too young to go on a tour of this nature, being quite and sitting still are still foreign concepts to him.

    • Marlene Marques

      🙂 you’re right, Rob. Probably is better to wait a little more until he understand the drive and enjoy it. But when the time comes I totally would bring him in a wildlife tour. It’s a fantastic experience for the young ones.

  • Elaine J Masters

    Wonderful experience. Sorry to hear about losing the pictures! Still the ones you shared were inspiring.

  • Anne

    I did a safari in the Masai Mara once and the only aNimal I wanted to see was the elephant. In reality, we saw every animal but the elephants other than from the tiny little plane that landed us on the plains by our camp.

    • Marlene Marques

      Hi Anne. I always thought that they would be an animal easy to spot, but I guess it’s not that easy. I’m sure your paths are gonna cross one day. 🙂

  • Travelwith2ofus

    I have seen elephants up close in a zoo, but not in the wild. It is something I am really interested in experiencing. Going on a small safari, maybe. I applaud the efforts of the Addo Elephant National Park. It seems you had fun.

  • Mar Pages

    I absolutely agree with you on respecting the space of the animals! Africa never ceases to amaze me, I could go again and again.

  • Joe Ankenbauer

    The Addo looks amazing! I would love to go on a safari adventure like this!

  • Sophie

    Wow what an incredible experience! And such an amazing thing to say that you’ve seen them in their natural habitat. I’m so jealous!

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