The R335 from Port Elizabeth leads across the Sunday River to the small old railway town and modern citrus farming town of Addo, originally called Kradouw (river passage). Travelling just north on the same road will bring you to the entrance to the renowned Addo Elephant National Park.
Addo Elephant National Park is of great interest to botanists, zoologists and big game lovers. Situated 73km from Port Elizabeth, in a malaria free zone, it was proclaimed in 1931. The drought-resistant plants, shrubs and small trees are tough and form the infamous Addo Bush, covering the slopes of the Zuurberg mountain range.
The Addo Park has continued to expand and is now the third largest National Park in South Africa. Covering 180 000ha, it includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups, and the Woody Cape Nature Reserve. The Park stretches from the coast between Sunday’s River and Bushman’s River, north over the Zuurberg mountains to the north of Darlington Dam.
Reasons to visit
Addo National Park is definintely the highlight of the area as it prides itself as only park worldwide to have the “Big 7”; elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard, buffalo, whale and great white shark. In 1931, there were only 16 elephants left in the area. There are now 550 elephants, in addition to lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, antelope and zebra species, and the unique Addo flightless dung beetle (which have right-of-way on the roads). There are plans to expand the park to 264 000ha and to proclaim a 120 000 ha marine protected area including the islands mentioned above that are home to the world’s largest breeding populations of Cape Gannets and endangered African penguins.
As the park is so diverse, so are the activities on offer, such as hiking trails, 4×4 trails, fishing, horse riding and a range of accommodation. Hiking on the Alexandria dunefields gives one the opportunity to discover Khoisan artefacts in shell middens left behind by our forefathers. There is canoeing on the rivers and the Sundays River Ferry for longer trips.
The Sundays River begins in the Sneeuberg Range in the Great Karoo, where the upper stream’s erratic flow is dependent on the Karoo thunderstorms. Kirkwood is also the largest town on the Greater Addo Route and hunkers down in the shadows of the Rietberg. A starting point for 4×4 trails and adventure routes, it possesses a range of diverse fauna and flora. The small carnivorous dinosaur named Kirky, one of the best preserved specimens ever found, was discovered here in Kirkwood.