South African Road Trip; Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park

South African Road Trip; Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park

One of our boldest adventures ever is the #selfdrivesafari. The thrill of spontaneity in #AddoNationalPark made the trip truly memorable. And coming up close with the #elephants as well as raising #awareness for their safety are just some of this trip’s highlights.


Johannesburg, South Africa

We can’t help but start this post with this stunning picture taken during our self-drive safari at the Addo National Park whilst on our 4,400 k.m. road trip through South Africa. 

On a trusty little Chevy Spark. Yes, you heard that right. 

In this post, we also talk about a topic after our own heart, responsible tourism and preventing cruelty towards Elephants, for which you can win a fully paid trip to Thailand. Read on to find out more…

responsible tourism and preventing cruelty towards Elephants
Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Big Five at Addo National Park

Having toured a township in Johannesburg and undertaken a guided Safari at The Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park, we found ourselves craving something different, something a tad more adventurous.

 Yep, playing with lions in Johannesburg wasn’t enough.

from  $16

Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park

Active
 Addo Elephant National Park, Western District, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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So, against our better judgement, we decided to go on a self drive safari at Addo National Park in our teeny weeny car. To add fuel to fire, we even googled videos of cars being attacked by elephants at the Park. This was going to be fun.

We booked a cosy guesthouse in Addo village and off we went. 

from  $98

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Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park

Addo National Park Park is the third largest national park in South Africa, spanning over a staggering 4,44, 700 acres. 

Addo National Park Park is the third largest national park in South Africa

It hosts one of the densest populations of African elephants in the world. But it is also home to lions, black rhinos, hyenas, leopards, and zebras, and dung beetles.

On entering the park we were confronted with a carcass and signs telling us to beware of lions. 

With no ranger or protection offered by formidable 4×4s, we weren’t exactly rubbing our hands in glee. 

Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Signpost at Addo National Park
Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Carcass at Addo National Park

But the stunning landscape all around us eased us into braving a self drive safari at Addo National Park. Then, there was the promise of seeing our favorite safari animals walking around the African bush.

Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Stunning landscapes at Addo National Park

We started small. We spied an ant hill, followed by the tiniest li’l tortoise. What a cutie.

Following the track laid out for self-drive safaris, we drove towards a water hole. Before long, the ground started trembling and a congregation of elephants appeared. We could see dozens of tusks, trunks, and heaving animals right in front of our eyes. Vid and I sat transfixed to our seats. The joy of chancing upon animals in the wild, without anyone to guide you, is second to none.

The joy of chancing upon animals in the wild, without anyone to guide you, is second to none
Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Ant Hill at Addo National Park
Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Tortoise at Addo National Park
Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Elephants at Addo National Park

We were so busy staring at the magnificent animals on the right that we didn’t realise what we were missing. A rumble alerted us to a tiff brewing between two friends on our left. Here they are, battling it out.

Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
Elephants at Addo National Park

As we spun our gaze further, we spotted one lone elephant, observing the herd at the watering hole and the two excitable animals on our left – calm as a monk. That was how Vid and I spent the rest of our day – the sight of the solitary elephant put all our fears to rest and we spent almost 10 hours driving around the Addo National Park, entranced by its natural beauty and all it had to offer.

Self Drive vs Guided Safari?

The big question everybody’s been waiting for; is the self-drive Safari really better than a guided Safari? We think it depends on your expectations as a tourist.

Even though we saw only 2 of the big five at Addo National Park (African Elephant and Cape Buffalo), the feeling of having the park to ourselves was incomparable. Moreover, there is something very satisfying about looking around and discovering animals in the bush or chancing on a herd of elephants at a waterhole. If you enjoy independence, then a self-drive Safari is the way to go.

If you enjoy independence, then a self-drive Safari is the way to go

Opt for a Guided Safari if:

- You are not a confident driver; it’s not easy to drive in a national park. You might need to brake suddenly if an animal crosses your path or steer your vehicle if an animal confronts your party. As Ross would’ve said, one needs to be in a state of Unagi (constant state of awareness) at all times.

- You have limited time; it’s always better to have a 4×4 and a ranger who understands the animals’ routines at hand if you want to see the maximum number of animals in the least amount of time.

Big Five at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsSignpost at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsCarcass at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsStunning landscapes at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsAnt Hill at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsTortoise at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsElephants at Addo National Park© Bruised PassportsThe Kudu appeared as if from nowhere© Bruised Passports
The Kudu appeared as if from nowhere

Fact File

The nearest domestic airport is in Port Elizabeth (75km) and International Airport is Cape Town (820 km).

Addo Elephant National Park is situated in a malaria free zone.

Addo Elephant National Park is situated in a malaria free zone

Most tourist roads are accessible to normal sized cars. A 4×4 vehicle is only necessary if you want to opt for the 4×4 route within the Addo National Park. We rented a tiny Chevy spark through Hertz and got a good deal.

The area surrounding the Addo Elephant National Park offers accommodation to suit all budgets; everything from luxury five star lodges to backpacker hostels are available.

The cost for a self-drive safari in Addo National Park is approximately £11 / R200 per adult at the time of writing. However, if visitors choose guided tours, night tours, or overnight camping tours, the costs are considerably higher.

Planning a trip to South Africa? Have a look at our South Africa ideas and suggestions

Practise Responsible Tourism

As you can tell, we had a great time at the Addo Elephant National Park. Watching the majestic Elephants roam around freely in their natural habitat was a treat to the eyes. Unfortunately, the story in countries like Thailand is quite different – Elephants are brutally domesticated using a breaking process called ‘phajaan' in order to tame them. 

All this so tourists can enjoy a ride on the chained Elephants:

Chained Elephants giving rides to touristsPhoto Credit; Travel Freak© Bruised PassportsElephant at Addo National Park© Bruised Passports
Chained Elephants giving rides to tourists

Compare this saddening photograph with those of elephants in the wild earlier in the post. It is a sad sight and we can all put an end to it by being more responsible when travelling. Savi and I have joined force with other bloggers for the Travel Blogging Calendar 2014 to raise awareness for the Save Elephant Foundation (SEF) that is working tirelessly to protect the Asian Elephants from the torture inflicted upon them by the tourism industry.

Lek, the founder of SEF, has been rescuing Elephants since 1995 with the help of volunteers and donations from people. A small contribution from you will go a long way in helping SEF get on with the mammoth task of putting an end to cruelty towards Elephants in Asia. 

Lek, the founder of SEF, has been rescuing Elephants since 1995

What’s more, whoever donates will get access to an exclusive blog where we highlight different holidays, events, and festivals from around the world. You can make a donation, small or big, on the Travel Blogging Calendar website and help an elephant today. 

We leave you with the picture of how it’s supposed to be;

Chained Elephants giving rides to touristsPhoto Credit; Travel Freak© Bruised PassportsElephant at Addo National Park© Bruised Passports
Elephant at Addo National Park

Elephants roaming freely in the wild! 

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