Morning, afternoon & night game drives in Addo
What’s a safari without a game drive? Even though you can drive yourself in Addo with tarred roads near the main rest camp and well maintained dirt roads throughout the rest of the park, there is something about going on a guided game drive. There’s the belief that the guide knows where the animals are and will be better at spotting them, the benefit of an elevated viewing position above the height of the shrubs and of course not having to focus on driving so that you can have both hands on your camera and be ready to get ‘that shot’.
But the best part of the game drives we did was the knowledge of the national parks guides. Even though I have grown up in Africa, and spent a fair amount of time in the bush, I learnt so much about the characteristics and behaviour of the various animals we saw as well as the history and management of the park. Different animals are active at different times of the day and so to cover all our bases we went on a variety of game drives during our five-day stay. The sunrise game drive meant a very early and cold start but we were rewarded with a glimpse of a lone spotted hyena probably a scout, sent out to look for food, on his way back to the den. Next we came across some Burchell’s Zebra that our guide explained are distinguishable from other species of zebra by the brown shadow stripe between their black stripes. Their stripes also extend all the way around their bellies while other zebra’s stripes do not.
Another advantage of game drives is that you get to go on roads that are only for parks vehicles so you get to see areas of the park that the general public don’t and it was on one of these roads that we came across this old lone buffalo bull. What makes the buffalo in Addo Elephant National Park special is that they are the only natural disease-free buffalo. This makes them very sought after for breeding programs and occasionally the park will auction off several of the buffalo which fetch prices upwards of US$ 30,000 each which is then used by the park to continue their conservation work.
Finally the sun came up making things slightly warmer but on our way back we came across a herd of about 30 elephant who were making their way slowly down the road which meant we had no option but to sit and wait for them. It made for great game viewing; we sat with elephants all around us just enjoying nature at it’s best.
The next day we did an afternoon drive from 3 to 5pm and although the weather wasn’t the best with lots of cloud around and only patches of sun we still saw quite a lot of game including a large herd of several hundred buffalo.
There was also a mother elephant with a new-born calf that was only a few weeks old and still covered in hair. Most of the elephant in Addo don’t have tusks and this is a result of the hunting in the area before the park was proclaimed. In the wild one in eighty elephants is born without tusks, but the hunting decimated the number of elephants with tusks leaving a population of elephants with the recessive gene of no tusks. To rectify this and strengthen the gene pool, Addo brought in two bulls from Kruger National Park and now there are several young female elephants with tusks again.
Another animal that you see a lot of in Addo is the warthog. So much so that after day 1 we didn’t even stop to look at them but our guide told us how to tell the male from the female of the species. The male has four warts/growths on the face, two below the eyes and two half way down the snout, while the female only has the two on the snout. So after that we would look at them with renewed interest as we tried to identify the gender of each one we passed.
On our last night we went on a night game drive, which I have never done before and was really looking forward to. One guide drove the vehicle whilst another sat up on a raised chair with a spot light panning left and right as we drove slowly through the park. It reminded me of a tennis match as everyone in the back of the truck looked left and then right and left again following the beam of the spotlight.
Photography was difficult with such low light which is where the high ISO and great low light performance of my Canon 5D Mk III really paid off and I managed to get a few shots. We saw five porcupines but they moved far too quickly at the first sign of light that thy were near impossible to capture. At one of the watering holes were three elephant so they turned off the engine and we just sat listening to them sucking up the water.
We were also lucky enough to see a couple of scrub hare that stayed still just long enough for me to get a shot unlike the very rare spring hare which we only saw a fleeting glimpse of.
The highlight of the night though was seeing six spotted eagle owls in total but especially this male on a bush right next to the road.
As you can see game drives are well worth it and I can highly recommend the night game drive if you’ve never done one before.
– For a complete list of game drives available in Addo and current pricing click here.