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Published: March 2nd 2015
Sunrise drive 530am with our guide Sisi.
We left without two of the party probably still asleep? I got a front row seat this time yaaayJust one Ellie a giant bull seen as we left the gate.... He had just unloaded in the road a truck load of poop and a flood of pee so the air was rank. It seems that ellies don't show their faces til late morning.
Many zebras, and there are different kinds.... One type (the Burchell zebra) has bands which run entirely around its middle, another species has bands which stop at the stomach. It is critical for a mother to bond with her babies at birth before rejoining the group. They must learn her stripe pattern and not make the mistake of going to suckle at the wrong zebra mother or they would be kicked away and killed. The commonly seen type at Addo is the Burchell or Plains Zebra which has a cream/brownish color stripe within the white strip, plus the black stripes. Every zebra's markings are as individual as fingerprints on humans. The varieties possible are incredible... variations around the bum, legs, face, stomach, ears, eyes.
Numerous warthogs commune happily
We own the damn place
so we can poop and pee anywhere we want, and we do
with the zebras, making sudden trotting outbursts. They are forever hustling! .... Their funny-whiskered ugly faces with long tusks (actually canine teeth!) remind me of carnival mas faces. They enter their sleeping holes at night by backing in so that predators like lions can't attack when they emerge in the morning. We often encountered the adults standing quite still under a shrub by the roadside. The babies, quite hairless and playful, are seen running around in every direction with their long thin hairless tails sticking up behind them. They run wild ahead of the adult. Then stop.
The Greater Kudu "a large elegant antelope with white striped flank" is frequently seen on the slopes of Addo. They are the most abundant wildlife in SAfrica and therefore were the symbol chosen for SanParks, the male head with its impressive 3-twist horns. The horns can measure 1.8meters long. When Adult males fight, sometimes the horns get interlocked, one's neck twists to breaking but the victor's horns cannot unlock and it also dies. The kudu are shy animals who retreat behind the bushes when cars approach, but they are quite stately and a pleasure to see. As one of our guides said,
he can guarantee visitors that they WILL see three animal species any day on any Addo drive... Kudus, Zebras and Warthogs. Notice, not elephants!
Alison Judy and Estelle were driving around in their car and chanced upon our sunrise drive group - it was quite funny to see people I knew driving by in another car.
We searched hopefully but in vain for lions... 80% of visitors to the Elephant park say what they want most to see.... are lions lol! Notice, not elephants! But there are only 6 adults which were introduced in 2003 and have had 3 juveniles since then. So the lions could be anywhere in the vast 6,000ha reserve and are not always seen. On returning to Main Camp at the end of the Sunrise drive the gate keeper said a lion HAD JUST passed by half an hour earlier so our guide took an excited extra 15 minute spin in the surrounding scrub in the direction the lion had headed, but we came up empty. It's somewhere out there in the nearby bush, just not visible! Gulp! The park had rains In recent weeks so the brush is very green and quite thick.
it was easily possible for a large animal to be mere feet away behind a clump of brush and not be seen.
But, No worries over safety once within the camp compound. The reserve has a tall electrified fence which protects the accommodation and administration areas, restaurants, shops, toilets, camp grounds and cabins etc. Across the road entrance there is a rolling steel gateway that is manned by a gatekeeper ( both female and male) which is kept open during daylight hours 6am to 530 pm
only. If you haven't got back inside the camp area by gate-closing time.... I have no idea what's your fate! But the signs with times are very clearly posted and always pointed out to visitors on driving out into the wilderness area. So, No excuses. Unless that is, your roadway happens to be blocked by a herd of ellies or zebra etc. when you are driving back. In which case tough, sit it out and say your prayers! I don't know what the instructions are if the keeper on duty sees a lion or leopard approaching the area, as she did just before we returned .... I guess he or she quickly closes the gate! Hopefully
They were there anyway
Flying the German flag
the gatekeeper hasn't dozed off at that moment! These ARE genuinely wild animals which are neither domesticated nor artificially fed.
Anyway the sunrise drive was over and it's time for breakfast at the Cattle Baron restaurant at main camp. Later we would drive our selves around and with my appetite whetted, I would sign up for the Sunset Drive. Who knows....maybe.... And YES, I DO feel lucky!
Self driving was surprisingly easy, and as Alison had a better-than-good knowledge of spotting both animals and birds, we saw lots. There's an advantage to self driving in that the car makes little noise compared with the tour "bus" so we saw small creatures before they heard us. Armed with our trusty Guide to Mammals of SAfrica plus the Addo checklist and map, we were successfully able to see and identify several species of animal life.
Must mention the Forest Cabin and the Cattle Baron restaurant. Both Exceeded my expectations....
Our Forest Cabin was comfortable..... Lovely, solid, well built, clean and well kept log cabin with smoothe varnished walls, sound wooden flooring also varnished. En suite Bathroom with a clean white shower enclosure plus face basin with
hot and cold water, and a flush wc. That gave us some problems but it also worked. In fact the cabin was air conditioned! and from the air-tightness of its walls I believe that in winter months it would be snug and warm. Crockery and cutlery and glassware for four provided. Plus a table with two benches ... We used the electric kettle to make coffee and I put my stuff on the bench. We each had a single bed which was soft and comfortable, supplied with clean white bedding including duvet. Towels were supplied. We lacked for nothing, as you can see. The cabin is serviced daily, cleaned, beds made and towels changed if needed.There was even a fridge placed on the small wooden deck outside the entrance door. No security problems here within the camp. I think the rate for this 4bed cabin was about 1200Rand per night, or roughly 600TT which is a very good price.
We were a mere 2 or 3 minute drive from the main building, reception, interpretive centre, restaurant, gift shop and general toilet facilities. And about 3 or 4 minutes drive in the opposite direction to the main gate leading to
Because people need to understand
.... And you can't argue with this
the wilderness area. They say that you can hear the lions roar at night, but thankfully I did not lol.
There is a communal kitchen with several electric hot plates which we did not use, in fact I never saw anyone in there or smell any food being cooked. Perhaps because the Cattle Baron restaurant served such a wide variety of good food, ample servings, at affordable prices, we ate all our meals there and were happy with everything. The menu items, a la carte, ranged from salads to venison to smoked salmon, a range of international items plus South African dishes. Tasty food. The staff were attentive and well trained even if it did not pretend to be a five star anything, it was all good.
We shopped at the well filled gift shop and then retreated for a bit of a rest before taking another twirl in the car.
Every time we drove out we saw many animals, and always the ellies and zebras held us fascinated. Sometimes there were loners but most often they were in groups. The buffalo we saw were just two old geysers, alone or hanging out together, munching along in
Waiting area outside the Main camp buildings
well laid out and thoughtfully provided facilities for resident and visiting guests
the grass or getting muddy at the waterhole. They look so much like domestic water buffalo until you see those horns, resting across their heads like a coat of armor with menacingly sharp hooks at the ends. Then you instinctively understand that these guys are serious, even deadly. They can kill a lion! They hardly lift their heads or take notice of cars and people, so it's just as well.
One thing that concerned me in general was the policy to let drivers take their cars and self drive along specified park roads, tarred and dirt roads. There are notices on arrival telling persons the Do Not's especially for their safety. At some places on the drives there are signs saying you can come out of your car with caution. There are Beware of Lions signs at one such lookout point. And visitors sign an indemnity form on registering at reception and again on signing up to go on a tour.
Yet..... I wondered if people really followed the rules like we did, and What if..... suppose some idiot endangered themselves or others, worse yet ..... There were photos of miscreants doing that, posted on the camp notice
board, and an appeal to let the Head Ranger know, his name and number given. Two days after our visit their Facebook page carried photos of two separate cases of silly young drivers doing just that. In one case two girls were posing for photos beside a herd of elephants. In the other two men were just leaning up on their cars watching something. What can the camp do!?
The day was drawing to a close, it would be a beautiful sunset. I decided to go for the guided tour hoping to see a lion, at last.
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