Saturday, November 6, 2010

Addo National Parks: Land of the Elephants

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While my first experience at Addo wasn’t great with Schotia Safari, my second trip with the Addo rangers was wonderful. If you want a very remote and private safari experience you have to go to Botswana or East Africa. The SA National Parks are always crowded. Every time you find a great sighting there will most likely be 30 other cars there watching with you jockeying for a front row seat. This is why I chose Kenya and Tanzania over Kruger for my initial safari back in August. All the other problems I had with Schotia aside, there was still the basic issue that when we reached the watering hole to see the elephants we could not get a good viewing space because so many other cars were crowded around the same area because private cars are allowed to drive through the SA National Parks, but they must be covered vehicles. The only open-back cars that are allowed to travel through the park are driven by the SA National Parks rangers so for my second trip to Addo I went with them and had a magnificent time.

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Addo is famous for their elephants, but also has a wide selection of other wildlife including lions, buffalo, birds, antelope and more. The best time to view the elephants is late morning/early afternoon when they come in large herds to drink and play in the watering holes.

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The ranger who took us around was very intelligent and passionate about the animals. I had a really good time debating Varty's work with him (the man who's doing the work in SA with tigers). He also said that the SA National Parks, meaning the government owned parks, don't take animals from breeding centers (which is weird because I was told at my first project that some of the lions from there are now in Kruger, obviously a lie), only the private parks take animals from breeding centers, which I thought really interesting as it played more into my first idea of how these private parks here are really just glorified zoos.

I signed up for the Addo Sundowners drive, in the hopes of getting the classic shot of the elephant against the red African sunset, but unfortunately neither the sun nor the elephants were cooperating. The elephants had already left the watering holes and were in the thick brush and the sunset, while a nice pink color, was far from the classic deep African red. However, we did have some wonderful lion sightings. Going with the Addo rangers allows certain advantages like going into areas closed to the rest of the public. There is a very large fenced off area where they keep certain animals separate for various reasons like wounded animals who were in fights and need to be separated. They also have a small group of lions in the area because their lion population was killing too many buffalo so they had to put some onto the side of the fence with no buffalo, but still plenty of Kudu for them to hunt. The pack of lions on the other side is two mothers each with two babies who are four months and five months old. There are also two males in the pride, but I did not get tosee them. After seeing the baby lion cubs at Boskoppie and working hands on with them at that age I wanted to reach out and cuddle the adorable babies, but of course these aren't hand reared and their angry and protective mothers was standing next to them. Also of course I'd never touch a wild animal, but they sure were darn cute! We got to see them really interact as they jumped on each other, nuzzled, and chewed on each others ears. We watched for about 30 minutes till they left to go to the reservoir for a drink and the sun set. We then had a drink as well, which is included in the sundowner drive. I highly suggest the Savannah Dry Cider- very tasty!

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It was South African National Parks week, which is a week every year that the parks are free to encourage locals to come to them. Surprisingly many locals live here their whole lives and never see the wild animals. I visited Addo twice within my first week and really wish I could have gone back a few more times. If you are in PE or driving the Garden Route it should be a must-see on your list.

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