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This national park was originally proclaimed to protect the thicket vegetation in the Addo area that supported the last surviving elephants and cape buffalo in the southern part of south Africa. It is now being rapidly expanded into the greater Addo National Park that includes five of the seven biomes represented in south Africa (fynbos, karoo, forest, thicket and grassland), as well as the Algoa Bay islands. Already the park is approximately 190 000 ha in extent and includes land that stretches from Alexandria forest and Algoa Bay, to Darlington Dam 100 km inland in the karoo. However, this article will concentrate on the present tourist road access that is largely restricted to the original 16000 ha Elephant Park near Addo and the new Colchester Section (that as yet has no big game in it) that provides a link to Matyholweni Camp at Colchester on the N2. A feature of the birding is the presence of species from both the eastern and western parts of the country, and coastal belt species mix with grassland and karoo species from inland. Most areas of the Elephant Park can be covered in a day, when you can expect to see 60-70 of the 180 species occurring.

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Specials

Specials are mostly widespread species and include Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Denham's Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird and Martial Eagle.

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Habitats

Addo valley bushveld (thicket) dominates the Elephant Park, where there are also old farmlands (grassland). There is forest at Alexandria and in the Zuurburg Mountains, where fynbos occurs on the mountain tops. Karoo is found in the Darlington Dam area and at the back of the Zuurberg.

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Facilities

The main rest camp north of Addo has an information centre (free comprehensive visitors map and pamphlets available), restaurant, shop, picnic site, camping site, accommodation, bird hide and underground hide at the waterhole. Between the rest camp and game area is an interpretative trail suitable for the physically challenged. There is a network of tourist roads in the main Elephant Park (gravel roads are closed after heavy rain) and a road through the southern section to the Matyholweni Camp and N2 at Colchester on the Sundays River. There are Bush Camps in the Zuurberg Section, private lodges within and outside the park and in the Zuurberg mountains and there are a variety of Bed & Breakfasts in the area. Game drives in open vehicles are offered and there are 4x4, walking and horse trails and Elephant Back Safaris in the Zuurberg Mountain section of the park.

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Birding

1. The main rest camp is one of the best places for birds and attracts several sunbird species and forest species difficult to see elsewhere in the park. Check bulbuls carefully as both Dark-capped Bulbul and Cape Bulbul occur and Knysna Woodpecker is sometimes present. A hide overlooks a small pond, good for Black Crake, Southern Red Bishop and roosting weavers (four species, including Village Weaver and Spectacled Weaver). The buildings provide nesting sites for swallows and swifts.

2. The open scrub on the Nzipondo Loop provides better opportunities for birding than the dense thicket vegetation to the south. Predominantly western species such as Acacia Pied Barbet, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Cape Penduline-Tit, Southern Tchagra and White-throated Canary mix with eastern species such as Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Black-collared Barbet, Southern Black Tit, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Red-collared Widowbird, Golden-breasted Bunting, Streaky-headed Seedeater and Yellow-fronted Canary. Look for Southern Black Korhaan, Blue Crane, Secretarybird and Pearl-breasted Swallow. Watch the sky for raptors and search game for re-introduced Red-billed Oxpecker.

3. For those with more time, explore the grasslands of the Gorah Loop (Denham's Bustard) and the dense thicket (difficult to bird) towards Hapoor waterhole, via Zuurkop. The Colchester Section provides a mosaic of thicket and grassland habitats and is often good for birding. Night drives (excellent for game) will produce Fiery-necked Nightjar and Spotted Eagle-Owl.

4. The indigenous forest on the 8 km Doringnek Trail in the Zuurberg Mountains is good for forest species such as Knysna Turaco, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Crowned Hornbill and Knysna Woodpecker. A variety of raptors can be expected.

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General

The main gate to the Elephant Park is 70 km north of Port Elizabeth and 15 km north of Addo village. The Colchester entrance is situated close to the N2 east of the Sundays River. Gates open 07h00–19h00 and standard National Park conservation fees apply. Zuurberg is 17 km north of the main rest camp. The Elephant Park is signposted from all the main routes. As the park expands, so will facilities. Open vehicle game and night drives can be booked at Reception at the main rest camp, where details of the facilities available within the greater Addo National Park are obtainable. Telephone +27 42 233 0556.

Bird & Eco-Tours tel. +27 41 466 5698 offers a tour/guiding/ free information service in the Port Elizabeth area.

Ado Elephant Park Website

Paul Martin 2007.
Bird & Eco-Tours, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Bird and Eco-Tours Website

Tel: +27 41 466 5698



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