What's the closest NATURAL encounter you've had with a wild animal? Petting, walking or riding doesn't count. I'm talking about an encounter that happens so unexpectedly; you forget to breathe.
This is what happened to me during my first trip to Addo National Park in Port Elizabeth. The city was a pit stop during my month long backpacking trip down the coast of South Africa, and luckily for me, Anje from Going Somewhere Slowly carved out some time from her busy schedule to show me around her home city.
With my Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Pass in hand, we headed off for a day trip to Addo National Park. Just a short 20-minute drive out of the city, the 180 000 hectare park is now the third largest in South Africa and boasts a wide range of biodiversity, fauna and flora.
One of the things that surprised me most is the fact that Addo is home to Africa's Big 7.
Addo is the only national park in the world where visitors have the opportunity to spot lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino, the Southern right whale and the great white shark!
If that doesn't make you want to get into your car and experience this ultimate safari experience, there are also more than 500 elephants roaming this park! And for visitors with interest in the smallest critters, the flightless dung beetle even has it's own crossing traffic signs. S'CUTE!
- Entrance Fees: Addo Elephant National Park -
- South Africa citizens and residents (with ID): R62 per adult; R31 per child
- SADC Nationals (with passport): R124 per adult; R62 per child
- Other Foreign Visitors: R248 per adult; R124 per child
If you have a wild card permit or a Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Card like I did - you get in for FREE!
- Getting a Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Pass -
If you are looking to save big on sightseeing around Nelson Mandela Bay, the tourism pass is a must. It gives you free admission or discounted access to 53 attractions and activities in the area.
While there are a number of different packages to choose from, I decided to take the 5 in 1 Pass. This option lets me choose five attractions or activities and either get in for free or enjoy some great discounts.
The 53 pass attractions include museums, game reserves, scuba diving, canopy tours, historical sites and more.
If you are interested in ordering one for your next trip to PE, you can order your pass online and either pick it up in person at the tourism offices or receive an electronic version.
- Exploring Addo Elephant National Park -
The first animal we saw as Anje and I entered the park was a warthog. This little mammal would soon become a frequent sighting during our trip, but it didn't stop being adorable.
As we came down a bend, I spotted my first couple of elephants!
Then came a treat that I hadn't expected to see at all. Anje and I saw not one, but two lionesses! Unfortunately, they weren't in the mood for a photo shoot and had their backs turned to the crowd that ensembled to watch them lounge about in the shade.
We then made our way down to one of the biggest watering holes and were rewarded with scores of elephants, zebra and buffalo.
The sheer amount of activity made it hard to focus, but one elephant in particular quickly grabbed my attention.
I never really understood just how big elephants were until this moment. The elephant had broken away from the main herd and was foraging for food in the ground. I couldn't conceal my excitement. I was getting amazing up close photos of this incredible animal, and I didn't even need my zoom lens.
But the elephant kept on getting closer and closer to the car. I started to hold my breath. A few times it felt like I had forgotten to breathe at all. Through the excitement, I began to feel the familiar anxiety and panic settle in.
The elephant was now right in front of the window. Close enough for me to touch if I just reached out and close enough for him to stick this trunk inside the car.
While many people might be overjoyed if that happened, I would have died inside. As a little girl, my parents took me to the Lion Park in Johannesburg, and I had my photo taken with a lion cub. However, it bit me and ever since then I have had a massive aversion to touching or being touched by any animal that isn't a cat or dog.
Luckily, I think the elephant sensed my panic because after staring at me for a few more moments, it carried on with its foraging journey and crossed the road.
- Flying High with Addo Adrenaline -
After that adrenaline pumping moment, we made a few more pit stops. Saw some incredible landscapes, even more elephants and this impressive skeleton that looked like something out of the Lion King when the hyenas start dancing around with the bones.
Before leaving the park, we stopped for lunch and then headed to Adrenaline Addo.
My Nelson Mandela Bay Pass entitled me to a free zip line ride - the longest one in Africa!
You're going to want to turn your sound down for this one.
What is Your Favourite National Park in South Africa?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey, I'm Lauren! I'm passionate about inspiring young South Africans to travel for less and sharing my experiences and how to navigate the endless visa paperwork along the way. When I'm not busy preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, I'm having a travel fail somewhere and geeking out in countries all over the world. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!