Addo Elephant Park
No amount of negotiating would convinced the South African National Park system to let me ride my motorcycle through the Addo Elephant Park. Formed in the 1930’s with only 11 the elephants that once roamed freely through the Eastern Cape, Addo National Park currently is home to more than 400 elephants and the parks efforts have resulted in land acquisitions that have increased the space for these land giants to roam.
There are several options from which to choose an Addo experience. If you don’t have your own “approved” vehicle they consist of 2-hour excursions in an open-air vehicle with elevated seats for about 10-20 passengers. There are are four or five departures daily with the last, an evening excursion beginning at about 7:30pm. However, if you have your own vehicle you can freely wander through most of the park’s 164,000 hectares over a mix of tarred, gravel and 4×4 roads. The chances of seeing elephants are quite high, but the park also has lions, black rhinos, zebras, leopards, buffalo, jackals, hyenas and a generous mix of antelope including elands, kudu, grysbok, duiker and red hartebeest among a host of other amphibians, rodents, birds and monkeys.
Confronted and confused with the decision of how to take in the park, our amiable host John offered his Toyota SUV for use for free. We then decided to additionally take the night excursion through the park after its gates are closed to the public which would give us an opportunity, no guarantees, to see many of the parks nocturnal animals. Elated by this South African’s generosity Grant, Jules and I spent nearly 12 hours in the park and were able to see a host of wildlife including elephants that paraded within 5 feet in front of our car, a hyena and her cubs and a bat-eared fox who was protecting a nest of newborn cubs from a hungry jackal during our night ride. While we never saw a lion, I’m confident that elsewhere during my journey I will have the opportunity to see the King of the Jungle.
This hyena we spotted during our night excursion still wears a tracking collar that the rangers placed after catching him a few years ago. They said that you can catch a hyena once, but never again. They do hope to get their collar back some day in the future.