The greater Addo region encompasses the Addo Elephant National Park, serviced by the charming gateway villages of Addo, Kirkwood, Paterson and Colchester. Addo is the only national park in the world to boast the African Big Seven (lion, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard, great white shark and southern right whale) and is the third-largest national park in South Africa.
The area stretches from the coastal waters and island homes of penguins and gannets, past towering sand dunes, through forest and bush to the majestic Zuurberg Mountains. Traversing the region is the Sundays River, forming a fertile, grassy path through the Sundays River Valley. The sheer biodiversity of flora and fauna is astounding.
With entrances to the park just 40 minutes from Port Elizabeth Airport in Nelson Mandela Bay, Addo is closer than you think, offering more than you could imagine: Big Five safaris, open-air adventures, natural attractions, warm Eastern Cape hospitality and much more. Explore on land or water, vehicle, quad bike, bicycle, horseback or on foot – Addo is a family-friendly destination, with a wild side!
The Addo Elephant National Park is the heart of the Addo region and one of the Eastern Cape’s most popular attractions. It is South Africa’s third-largest national park and the only Big Seven national park in the world. Encompassing five of South Africa’s eight biomes, the park is divided into seven sections: the Main Camp, Camp Matyholweni (Colchester), Zuurberg, Kabouga, Darlington, Nyati and Woody Cape – covering an area of 180 000 hectares – a vast, diverse area that is all yours to explore.
In 1931, 2000 hectares were proclaimed a protected area to preserve the remaining 11 elephants of Addo. Today, the park is a home to the Big Five (the Big Seven). In addition to an elephant population that has grown to more than 600, the park has expanded to include the Alexandria Forest, Woody Cape Nature Reserve, the coastal breeding islands of Algoa Bay, and Darlington Dam. It is a slice of South African paradise,with a variety of habitats accommodating species that once roamed freely through these parts. Malaria-free Addo is a game-rich, Big-Five destination; the marine protected area is home to 60% of the world’s African penguins and more than 200 000 gannets to name just two of the 23 pelagic bird species on the park’s 400+ birding list.
There is nowhere else on the planet where visitors could conceivably view the largest land mammal (African elephant) and the largest marine mammal (whale) on the same day, in the wild. Addo is home to seven of the most iconic animals on the planet: lion, Cape buffalo, elephant, southern right whale, great white shark, leopard, and rhino. Famed for being elusive, intelligent, enormous, dangerous, and beautiful. Game drives in the National Park and the surrounding private game reserves offer golden opportunities to see, smell, and hear the South African wild. And ocean safaris, launching from the Port Elizabeth harbour in nearby Nelson Mandela Bay, provide marine wildlife viewing of unexpected beauty and diversity.
Walk in the footsteps of the ancient Khoisan tribes, who traversed this region for centuries, hunting from vast herds of wildlife and gathering from an abundant environment. In time, these wandering tribes were joined by Xhosa farmers, moving south while following the rains to plant crops and graze cattle, and European settlers moving north-east from the Cape in the mid-1700s.
These farmers clashed with the enormous herds of big game, particularly the destructive elephants. As a result, huge numbers were culled in order to create more space for the farmers. It wasn’t until there were a mere 11 elephants left in the valley, that the area, and its wildlife inhabitants, were designated protected.
Farming, particularly citrus farming, is still a large part of the culture of the Sundays River Valley region of Addo. Over the past 90 years, South African National Parks and the surrounding private game reserves have worked tirelessly to restore this magnificent region in all its biodiversity. The mountains surrounding the valley still hold the tales of stone-age people painted on rock surfaces and the wild animals which were almost hunted to extinction have once again flourished – it is a region reborn through conservation.
The towns of Kirkwood and Addo are home to a charming and hospitable citrus farming community producing 12 varieties of citrus, harvested seasonally between March and October. Visitors are invited to enjoy the citrus-scented air and the fruits of the farm. The region is the largest lemon exporter in South Africa and employs over 3000 local workers from within the Eastern Cape community.
There is a strong sense of social responsibility among many farmers in the Addo region. They are passionate about uplifting local communities, enabling emerging farmers and sustainable citrus farming. Fortunately, some farms have opened their doors to guests and visitors can book an idyllic farm stay to enjoy guided tours, sumptuous farm-style cuisine and warm hospitality mere minutes from the Addo Elephant National Park.