Addo Elephant Park, South Africa
Trip Start Apr 10, 2008
16Trip End Ongoing
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At dawn (7:00 AM) we jumped in our rental car and presented ourselves at the park gates to begin the driving part of our animal-watching quest. While we were clearing our documents with the guard at the gate, we saw a number of elephants feeding along the road less than 100 metres within the Park boundary. They were very large and looked magnificent in the early morning light (#2)
It amazed us that we were allowed to drive ourselves through this magnificent 1500 sq km park. We were very careful to stay in our vehicle, and we were rewarded by being able to get very close to these wild animals (that, however, have become accustomed to cars and mostly ignored us).
Shortly after seeing the elephants, we came across a herd of zebras grazing along the roadside (#3), but very few after that (we were there for a week). We also saw many Kudu (very large antelope, #4), including this youngster (#5) and this magnificent male (#6). We had many experiences with wild elephants, including being warned off by this large bull (#7; Sherry backed the car away just after this picture and he stopped his advance), watching some bulls noisily sparring in the distance (#8), and having another bull eye us warily as he strolled past (#9). Most elephant scenes, though, were safely interesting or were on the positive side - like this family at one of the Park's many watering holes (#10).
The rolling hills of the Park created many lovely and interesting scenes, like #11.
We saw many other animals, Wart Hogs (#12), African Lynx (#13), Black-Backed Jackal (#14), the elusive hyena at night (#15), Hartebeest (#16), and one Wildebeest at about 400 metres (#17)
One day we were shown some lion prints (#20) by the keeper of the back gate (he looked to be about age 16). They were fresh and only a few inches from the flimsy-looking wooden enclosure that protected him. He said that he sees lions often, and he helped us locate their likely location. Later on we came upon a magnificent lioness (#21) - we stopped our car about 30 metres away from her. She lazed around for a while then roared intermittently for several minutes before running off. The sound was a little bit exciting and a little bit scary - the experience was tremendous overall. Interestingly, she did not once acknowledge our presence. All this didn't stop us from playing with some lion cubs when given the chance. Here is Sherry with littermates that are four months of age (#22). I played with them as well, the result being an attack on my hat (#23; same hat that was stolen by monkeys in Bali), a slight scratch on my arm, and a lot of fun!
Apparently no-one has been hurt by the animals in the Park, but a few cars have suffered. We were a little cautious after the warning from the bull elephant
Toward the end of our stay, we decided to go up to the mountains to ride some elephants at Addo Elephantback Safaris. Well, it turned out that the drive up there was more challenging that the elephant ride - the last 16 km were travelled at 20-30 kph over rocky roads cut through the very steep sides of the mountains. Sometimes to get from one mountain to the next the road followed a ridge between the two - so we had a sheer drop on both sides of the car - very comforting. Well the ride on the elephants was very enjoyable, but we were a bit trepidatious at first. For one thing, African Elephants are huge! - we had enjoyed a very short ride on an Asian Elephant before. Not only that, the Asian Elephant had a saddle - this one had nothing except the rather slight handler to hold onto, and he weighed a lot less than me and had no saddle. To make my worries worse, there are no reins. The driver controlled this six ton animal with voice commands and a small stick. In spite of this, the ride went very well (#25). Nonetheless, I was glad when the ride was over as my butt was very sore (no saddle, you may recall). Following this, we were allowed to walk with our respective elephants and practice feeding them. Sherry did not really catch on to the feeding technique, and we very nearly lost her (#26). In the end, all was well, and Sherry posed with the very gentle and patient young bull that she rode (#27).
Finally, there is something about those African skies (28).
Next, we visit cousin Richard for a day in England, then on to Cairo.