Addo Elephant National Park

With so many spectacular places to visit in South Africa, it’s rare to have just one which stands out as thoroughly brilliant. The Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa is the stand-out feature of this country’s safaris by a mile, enveloping the brooding Zuurberg Mountains and the Sundays River Valley. The park itself has a special and touching history having started in 1931 with just eleven elephants compared to over 600 today roaming the grounds alongside lions, zebras, black rhinos and many more. Everyone who visits South Africa should take a trip here, for it is unlike anywhere else in the world.

  • Best Time To Go


  • Average Safari Cost

    From $150 to $700 pp/day (Park fee: $25 for adults; $15 for children)

  • Highlights

    Over 600 elephants, Excellent wildlife viewing, ‘Big Seven’ (Big Five plus great white sharks and southern right whales) present, hundreds of bird species, a fantastic setting being in the dunes and the mountains

Why Visit Addo Elephant National Park?

As South Africa’s third-largest national park, there is plenty to discover at Addo Elephant NP, especially as it’s full to the brim with a great selection of incredible wildlife. From the glorious predators like lions and leopards to remarkable buffalos and black rhinos, one of the hardest-to-spot animals on safari with many parks having none at all, Addo is simply special.

Oh, and did we mention meerkats? Those cute little guys are known to pop up on safari and warm even the coldest of hearts. In the evenings you can indulge in the true African safari experience by having your own campfire after heading out on an evening drive to catch the final glimpses of the majestic elephants as the sun sets.

Pros And Cons

  • Superb elephant viewing and the opportunity to see a range of other animals
  • Big Seven: Lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, great white sharks, southern right whales
  • Very accessible for travellers as it is on the scenic Garden Route
  • Brilliant birdwatching
  • Gets busy in the high season
  • Not as much of a bush atmosphere as other parks due to the tar roads

Best Time To Go

We recommend visiting the Addo Elephant National Park in the months of June through to September when there is little rain and the temperatures are warm during the daytime. At this time of year, the wildlife at the park usually gathers around waterholes as there is little hydration found further into the park. While the school holidays mean there are usually a lot of children, the park is much less busy at this time than usual and roads are generally easier to get along.

The only real setback of heading to Addo at this time of year is the quite chilly temperatures found in the mornings and evenings. It is wise to pack a warm jacket and pyjamas as the temperatures do drop and you don’t want to be uncomfortable.

If you want to head to the park in November through to May, there are many newborn animals which are always adorable to see and spring has truly sprung in the park at this time. The shrubbery is green and there is a replenished feel to the landscape as a whole. As well as this, birdwatching is at its prime at this time of year, though wildlife viewing is good but not great. Due to this, you may want to look at other things to do while in Addo at this time, such as heading to the River Front Estate Restaurant. Set in a barn overlooking the Sundays River, the restaurant offers the interesting meat options of ostrich, kudu and impala. But don’t worry – there are vegetarian options if that puts you off!

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Wildlife And Birds

Wildlife at Addo is very special and extremely varied in terms of which characters you’ll see. Most likely, lions will be found on morning drives taking a stroll along the roads while the black rhinos enjoy retreating further into the bush to make it harder for you to spot them. One of the most special parts of a visit to Addo is the sightings of meerkats and great white sharks – two animals not everyone gets to come home and brag about spending time with in South Africa.
List Of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Black Rhino

Rare Animals

  • Leopard
  • Wild dog
  • Hippo
  • Black rhino

Frequently Seen Animals

  • Elephant
  • Buffalo
  • Zebra
  • Wildebeest
  • Lion
  • Hyena
  • Meerkat

Over 400 species of bird have been recorded at Addo and the bird-watching is world-renowned here, especially in November to April when migratory birds drop in. You can also arrange to visit Bird Island upon request which is home to the largest colony of gannets in the world and a rather large colony of African penguins.

Endangered Birds

  • Pacific golden plover
  • Ruppell’s vulture
  • Wilson’s phalarope
  • Western marsh-hamier
  • Green sandpiper

Endemic Birds

  • Black-headed heron
  • Cape startling
  • Capped wheatear
  • Chinspot batis
  • Jackal buzzard

Getting There And Safety

Getting to Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa is best done by flying into either O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport (CPT). From there you can start your tour by taking a car along the Garden Route for a week or two, or begin with a tour operator.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to South Africa

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to South Africa

For more details see our South African Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

For details about visas see our South African Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Please note that malaria risk is high around the year in all areas below 1,800m. To protect yourself you should avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve tops and long trousers especially in the evenings, using insect repellents and, when required, sleeping under a mosquito net.

For more details about vaccinations, see South African Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Drinking Water

According to AfricaCheck, "South Africa is relatively poorly endowed with water resources and is considered a 'water-stressed' country.

"However, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa’s drinking water supplies are of international standard and in compliance with World Health Organisation requirements".

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in South Africa. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of the safari trip cover.

What To Pack

You should pack clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather as days can be very hot followed by very cold nights. Your clothes should be in neutral tones, not bright colours. Other items to pack include: insect repellent, camera, torch, binoculars, sunglasses and sun block.

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.