Seventh Heaven at Addo Elephant National Park

30 March 2012
Seventh Heaven at Addo Elephant National Park
NELSON Mandela Bay is the only city in the world that is home to the colossal Big Seven of the animal kingdom, which roam free just 55km away from the city centre at the Addo Elephant National Park. This is the reason the park has claimed a space as one of the city’s top 10 icons after a recent poll showed that locals believe it to be one of the city’s best offerings. 

The Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros) rule the five-biome land and the Southern Right whale and Great White shark are denizens of the deep in the Bay waters – the additional two make up the Big Seven.

“It is a pleasure to be home to such an astonishing game reserve. Being the only place in the world that is home to a Big Seven reserve makes our city exceptional. The exclusivity that comes with the Big Seven creates is a great commodity and an asset to the city’s tourism offering,” said Titus Chuene, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism marketing manager.

Addo Elephant National Park stretches from the semi-arid Karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s river mouth – covering about 180 000 hectares (444 700 acres) which includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups.

Game is always on the agenda with the finely tuned ecosystem playing sanctuary to over 550 elephants, lions, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species. Also in found here is the unique Addo flightless dung beetle, which almost exclusively lives in Addo.

“Addo Elephant National Park is a conservation and tourism success story,” Megan Taplin, Addo Elephant National Park marketing manager. “In terms of Conservation, it links terrestrial conservation to marine and coastal conservation. It conserves a number of rare and endangered species like the African penguin (the largest breeding colony in the world) black rhino, cheetah, oribi, cycads and others.

“In tourism it attracts about 130 000 visitors per year of whom 60% are locals, and is a tourism icon in the Eastern Cape and especially in the Sundays River Valley area, supporting many private tourism-related businesses on its borders and creating employment,” said Taplin.

Addo Elephant National Park incorporates one of the most well-researched elephant herds in the world, the largest coastal dune field south of the equator, the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world and the largest gannet breeding colony in the world.

Elephant viewing is a real treat said Taplin: “It is not uncommon to see 100s of elephants at a waterhole at times. Elephants are generally very used to vehicles and may walk quite close to vehicles when passing, giving visitors some special sightings.”

The list of activities for guests is endless with everything from game viewing, horse-riding, picnics and hiking one of many trails. Experienced guides escort visitors on trails through the beautiful scenic footpaths of the hills and plains, bushes and barks. One of the parks many choices, the Zuurberg trail is home to the leopard, bush pig and a variety of birdlife.

 “As the third largest National Park in the country Addo Elephant National Park is a magical combination of both land and aquatic wildlife, breathtaking natural scenery and the fresh outdoor experience. It is a big deal with a big offering – and its not surprising that people find their seventh heave here,” said Chuene.