Elephant family in Addo Elephant Park

A day visit to Addo Elephant National Park

The Addo Elephant National Park is one of the largest South African National Parks (SANParks). Addo covers five different biomes and includes a Marine Protected Area. The park hosts the Big 7 – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant, southern right whale and the great white shark (we saw your Big 5 Kruger, and raised you by two 😉 ). It is also one of the most visited SANParks parks, welcoming hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. 

Living in the friendly windy city of Port Elizabeth, we are only 30 minutes from the bottom gate of Addo. It’s the perfect micro-adventure to fill a day and see some of the most majestic animals on our continent. We often self-drive around the park but we have joined the park game drives and had brilliant experiences.

Addo Elephant National Park day entry information

South Africans: R69 per adult per day (R35 per child per day)

SADC national: R138 per adult per day (R69 per child per day)

Foreigners: R275 per adult per day (R138 per child per day)

Proof of identification is needed. Locals can present their ID, drivers license or passport. Foreigners should have their passports with them (or at least know your passport number).

These are the 2018 costs (see the link to the tariff webpage for updated prices here)

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Our favourite route

Enter through Matyholweni Entrance Gate

Our favourite route through the park starts at the Matyholweni Entrance Gate (south gate) in Colchester. Entering the park early and starting from the bottom gives you the whole morning to explore upwards and by lunchtime you at the restaurant. 

When you enter from the south gate, the beginning section of the road is gravelled (so buses and cars towing caravans and trailers should avoid this gate) and soon becomes tarred, through to the main gate. There are dirt road loops off this main road that takes you to more ‘remote’ parts of the park and more secluded watering holes. The roads are well maintained and ‘normal’ vehicles can drive on them. 

We have yet to see lions in Addo but most people who have seen them, have seen them in the southern regions of the park. The best chance for sighting lions is in the mornings and evening, before the heat of the day.

Remember: Always watch your speed – for your safety and for the animals in the park, even the small ones. There are flightless dung beetles crawling across the roads, as well as tortoises.

Especially remember: Sometimes congestion happens when wildlife is seen and many cars will pull over into the grass – there are animals in the grass and bushes so be extremely careful because you could be crushing beetles, tortoises and snakes.

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Lookout points and picnic spots

The lookout points and picnic spots are demarcated on the map all visitors receive upon payment at the entrances. There are various lookout points where you can leave your vehicle at your own risk. We have gotten out of the car at all of the lookout points and have never had any scary encounters. Obviously, don’t leave the car if there are animals nearby. 

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We stop at Jacks Picnic Site for leg stretches, bathroom breaks and some snacks. The picnic site is a fenced off area within the Park so you can exit the vehicle without worry. There is also a map of the Park where you can place magnetics of the different animals at the locations you saw them, and look for the sighting locations of animals you want to see.

Staying true to its name, elephants are seen throughout the Park. The watering holes are always the best places for animal sightings, especially Harpoor Dam.

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Addo main gate and camp

Like we said before, travelling from the south gate northwards means you reach the main camp around lunch time. The Cattle Baron is the restaurant on site where you can enjoy a meal if you haven’t brought food along with you. There is also a shop where you can buy snacks and souvenirs.

The Interpretive Centre provides information on the area and animals of the Park. Game drives are booked in the reception area of this centre. We joined a game drive and had some lovely sightings. There was a snake that had been captured and it was released in the beginning of the game drive. This experience was very cool as we had a mini information session on snakes in the area.

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Wildlife

Addo hosts a great variety of animal species so no matter what kind of animal you love, it is bound to be there. The park has over 400 bird species, almost 100 mammal species, and different reptiles and fish. Some animals, like the zebra, are very comfortable with cars in close proximity to them. They even seem to pose for you and, in our opinion, are incredibly photogenic 😉

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Many visitors will drive through the park and be ‘done’ quickly. We suggest you stop and watch the animals for a bit because there are some cute and funny moments that you can be a part of. In our most recent visit, there was a little elephant who was very amused with a branch, playfully running around with it. Seeing this little thing having the best time with his toy was adorable and everyone in the car chuckled while watching it. There was an ostrich who was a little too close to an elephant and was promptly chased away. The ostrich checking behind himself by looking through his legs was like something out of a cartoon. 

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Another member of the Big 5 and Big 7 you can see are the large buffalo herds. Something we learned while in Kruger is that where there are buffalo, the lions aren’t far behind. There are also multiple antelope species to look out for.

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What else is there to do in the Addo area?

A lot! Make a weekend or extended getaway to the area so that you can travel around and explore more than the park. Zuurberg Mountain Lodge is just under 30 minutes from the Addo main gate. Up in the mountains, you can have a full three-course Sunday Lunch. We really enjoyed our Sunday at Zuurberg (read more about our micro-adventure there here). 

Addrelin Addo: you can go down the highest and fastest double zip line in South Africa, get your adrenalin rush on the giant swing, or canoe on the Sundays River.

Addo Wildlife: enjoy a meal here after a walk through the wildlife centre, learning about the various animals.

Kragga Kamma Game Park: visit another wonderful game park in Port Elizabeth (read more about our micro-adventure there here).

Gute Reise!

A day visit to Addo Elephant National Park is always a phenomenal way to spend a day. Being out of the city and surrounded by our beautiful African animals will lift your spirits and bring you happiness.

We would love to hear about some of your experiences in the Addo Elephant National Park, so feel free to share with us in the comments below or on our social media platforms.

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