We knew we’d spend a good portion of our time in South Africa game viewing at the national and provincial parks , after all it’s not exactly common to see a lion hunt in downtown D.C. (well depending on your profession maybe it is!). First through Kruger, than the parks in Swaziland, Huhuilwe-iMfolozi and finally we hit what many consider to be South Africa’s hidden gem- Addo Elephant Park.
Ever since the “elephant incident” at Kruger I’ve been dreading Addo Elephant Park. A park dedicated to elephant sent visions of being crushed by these gentle giants through my head, and well I was hoping that having two other people in the car might persuade my darling husband to re-evaluate the actual distance of 30 meters. That was until we sat near a waterhole, watching water buffalo, ostrich, zebra and finally two elephants come for a drink. Not only did the elephants approach the watering hole passing less than 10 meters from our car, but they as well as everyone else in the car seemed completely unfazed by our proximity…Except of course, me. “Now I see why you’re not allowed to drive in the game parks,” pipped up our friend in the back. “I’m calm,” I replied, willing myself to relax a little.
In the heat of summer most of the waterholes have gone dry so its easy to find the animals at Addo- just go to the water. Advised by other travelers to just go to a watering hole and let the animals come to us, we spent the morning watching small family groups of zebra, ostrich, jackal, buffalo, warthog and elephant come and go. Addo might be known for its huge elephant population, said to be the densest in Africa, but we spent the morning watching a menagerie of African animal parade before us, even spotting four lions lounging in the shade.
After a decade in Washington, D.C. there was one watering hole we had to go to, no matter what may or may not be there– Marion Baree water hole. I’m sure the watering hole is named for a very respectable, very worthy person, but the irony of the pronunciation- the same as the infamous Washington, D.C. Mayor was too much.
Almost everything hides in the heat of the African sun, but as we came around the corner to visit our beloved former mayor, my jaw dropped. A breeding herd of about thirty elephants including several very young calves crowded around the hole drinking, splashing and playing about in the water. Speechless the four of us stared out the window for what seemed like forever, watching the elephants trumpet and splash each other. We’ve had some pretty incredible wildlife experiences over the last six weeks, but this is a memory even I do not want to forget.
Addo Elephant Park is so named for the herd of over 450 elephant in the park, but most of the elephants were hanging out in the inaccessible portions of the park. Still, it was an incredible day, and as we sipped wine watching sundown over a watering hole filled with both lions and kudu, I finally began to calm down. Maybe next time I should just drink a glass before we meet the elephants?