You’ll find Addo Elephant Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, alongside the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River. It is a spectacular park: a peaceful Eden that abounds with wildlife and unique scenery.

As the title suggests, the protected area thrives with elephants and is perhaps South Africa’s best safari destination to encounter these stunning creatures. It actually has one of the densest African elephant populations on Earth, with over 600 of them roaming throughout the park.

This guide breaks down everything you need to know about the park, including where to stay, what to see and do, and why it’s such an amazing place.

The Uniqueness of Addo Elephant National Park

Typical Addo park scenery, home to the Big 7

Addo National Park lies in a region of immense beauty. It contains no fewer than 5 of South Africa’s 7 biomes, and has an incredible landscape that boasts both terrestrial and marine diversity.

Did you know?

This is one of the only places in the world where you can encounter the Big 7. Yes, you heard that right. Not the Big 5. THE BIG SEVEN! On top of the famous elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo, Addo is also home to the southern right whale and great white shark.

This is because the park contains and manages a marine protected area off of the mainland, where these celebrated aquatic animals swim. Making up the full Big 7.

Wildlife of Interest

Magnificent kudu bull with spiral horns, Addo Elephant National Park

Addo offers a lot more than just elephants. The park is home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, big and small. From the classic safari favorites like lions and (plenty of) zebras, to lesser-famed animals like the rare flightless dung beetle and the Cape gannet.

Here are some of the interesting animals you may encounter in the park.

The African elephant (naturally)

African elephants marching on the main road, Addo

African elephants are all over the park, so you will see them. Unless you need a new pair of glasses (or a better pair of binoculars). 😉

Keep an eye out for watering holes during your visit. When it’s hot, the elephants frequent these watering holes throughout the park to drink, splash, and play. So they’re a good bet for seeing elephants in large numbers, at their happiest and most playful.

The flightless dung beetle

The flightless dung beetle is endemic to South Africa, and almost entirely confined to Addo. Since the reserve is elephant country, and the beetles use the large animals’ dung to lay their eggs, these little fellows thrive.

You’ll likely encounter dung beetles busying themselves on the Addo park’s dirt road

You’ll likely encounter these creatures busying themselves on the park’s dirt road. And you’ll see signs reminding visitors that the dung beetles have right of way.

Cape gannets

Addo is a refuge to the world’s largest Cape gannet breeding population

The park is a refuge to the world’s largest Cape gannet breeding population. They reside mostly on Bird Island, which is part of the park, just off of the mainland.

African penguins

Four African penguins swimming in the ocean

Addo Elephant National Park is also the second-largest breeding ground for African penguins. It’s not often that you get to see penguins at a safari park.

Other noteworthy animals at Addo

The complete list of fauna found at Addo Elephant Park is too long to cover in detail. But there are some creatures that stand out and are worth mentioning. These include:

And many, many more.

Addo Elephant Park Safari Options

Lots of cars queuing at the Addo Elephant Park entrance gate

Addo offers a range of game drive options to those who visit, catering to a variety of preferences and budgets.

All visitors pay the standard conservation entry fees, with certain game drive options and activities costing a bit extra. The daily entry fees are R328 ($17 USD) for international travelers and R82 ($4.50 USD) for South African citizens. Concessions apply for children.

Now let’s get into the game drive and activity options.

Self-drive

A self-drive game viewing experience is the most affordable and most popular way to explore the park. Just show up in your own vehicle, pay the entrance fee, and get started. Drive your car along the dirt roads that wind throughout the park’s stunning landscapes, and follow any route that feels right.

With this option, you’ll see plenty of wildlife. But the guided options below will likely allow you to enjoy closer encounters and more sightings.

Guided game drives

Guided game drive in Addo, with elephants going past the vehicle

Guided game drives in Addo offer a rich animal viewing experience. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and know where to find the various animals at different times of the day. Meaning you’re more likely to enjoy spectacular sightings.

The experience is further enhanced by commentary from your guide. You’ll get to hear interesting facts and stories about the animals and their stunning habitat.

You can choose to take these Addo Elephant Park game drives at various times of day, including morning, afternoon, sunrise, sunset, and night. Each offering a different and unique experience.

Prices range from around R415 ($22 USD) to R565 ($30 USD) per person, depending on the time slot and the inclusions (like drinks and snacks, for example).

All guided game drives are approximately 2 hours long.

Hop-on guides

Hop-on guides offer an experience somewhere in between self-drive and guided game drives. These hop-on guides are members of the local community who offer commentary and guidance from the comfort of your own vehicle.

It’s a more intimate and personalized experience, and you’ll be supporting entrepreneurs in the local community. The guides are self-employed and work alongside Addo to offer their service.

The price for a hop-on guide starts at R210 ($11 USD) for a car, but gets more expensive for larger vehicles.

Other activities

Magnificent sand dunes near Addo in South Africa

The fun doesn’t stop at game drives. Addo also offers a series of other activities for visitors to enjoy. Some of the best ones include:

  • Hiking trails
  • Horse trails
  • Marine ecotours
  • 4×4 trails
  • And massages at Indlovu Spa

Addo Elephant Park Accommodation

Addo Elephant Main Rest Camp

There are several accommodation options in and around the park, catering to a range of travelers. Here’s a breakdown of the best places to stay in Addo Elephant Park.

  • Addo Rest Camp – The main rest camp and most popular choice. It offers a range of accommodation options, from affordable tent sites and forest cabins to cozy cottages and pricier guest houses. It also boasts a range of activities, as well as a lookout point and underground hide, which provides visitors with a great place to spot wildlife.

Tourists observing elephants and buffalo at the Addo rest camp waterhole

  • Spekboom Tented Rest Camp – A truly wild experience. This rest camp is in a fenced-off section within the game viewing area of the park. Surround yourself with nature, and witness the goings-on of the nocturnal wildlife.

Luxury Addo National Park Accommodation

Kuzuko Lodge reception area, known as the "place of glory"

There are a few great, high-end Addo accommodation options for those who are planning a luxury stay.

  • RiverBend Lodge – Five-star rooms or Private Safari Villa in the Nyathi area of Addo.
  • Gorah Elephant Camp – Offers five-star, luxurious tented camps in the main game-viewing area of the park.
  • Kuzuko Lodge – A bit far away from the main area of the park, but offers great amenities and luxury chalets.

Addo Elephant Park Camping

If you want to camp during your stay at Addo, the main Addo Rest Camp and the Spekboom Tented Rest Camp are your best bets.

A Final Trumpet for Addo Elephant National Park

Herd of red hartebeest having a little rest, with some hills in the background, Addo

Addo Elephant Park really is an amazing place, filled with a breathtaking range of scenery and wildlife. And it boasts some of the world’s best opportunities for close encounters with the incredible African elephant.

Addo offers so much to see and do, and some wonderful places to rest your head after a day of exploring. So get out there, and enjoy the beauty.

If you’re planning a safari vacation in Africa, booking a tailor-made safari is a fantastic way to get a fulfilling experience.