Waterhole gatherings

The best places to watch elephants in the Addo Elephant National Parks are at the waterholes, most notably Hapoor, Domkrag, Gwarrie Pan, the Woodlands loop dam and Marion Bree. This is often where you see the biggest groups together as well as the most activity and interaction. So that it is possible to sit at a waterhole for literally hours observing and photographing them. Not that most people do. They enjoy the sighting and move on to see what else there is to spot.

As Addo doesn’t have rivers with natural flowing water, man made dams have been created that are fed by bore hole water. They are all close to the road to allow unobstructed viewing of the animals while they spend time by the water.

Elephants drink up to 200 liters of water a day and also need to cool down bathing and throwing the water over their backs. Because of this they spend a lot of time at the waterholes, especially in summer and you’re probably most likely to have a sighting there during the hotter part of the day.

As elephants are very destructive feeders, along with the fact that they spend so much time by the water, the vegetation around the waterholes are often very much thinned out. The park has a policy where the water supply to the waterholes are often rotated so that the elephants have to move around to other waterholes and give the vegetation a bit of a break.

Relaxing after a mud bath

Ellies love to cover themselves in water and mud. You will often see that they arrive at the waterholes in Addo, have a drink and and then start to spray water over their backs or roll around in the water and mud. I have to correct myself though. They don’t literally spray themselves, but rather throw the water from their trunks with a swinging motion.

Why do they do it though? The elephant’s skin may look think and rough, but it is quite sensitive in fact. They have very few hair and sweat glands and find it hard to cool off in the harsh African temperatures. The mud not only cools them down, but it also provides a protective layer on their body to shield them from insect bites and sunburn.

Something else you often see is that an elephant would stand around lifting one leg slightly while putting their weight on the other three legs. I read somewhere that it is to relax their legs one at a time as they always stand and don’t really lie down.

I have also read that they don’t just hear airborne sounds over distances by holding their ears out, but that they listen to the ground. They pick up low-frequency rumbles caused by other animals up to 20 miles away via their feet. They put their weight on the front feet and sometimes lift one foot off the ground “to hear better”.

Domkrag Dam lookout

One of the spots you can get out of your car in Addo Elephant National Park is Domkrag Dam. It was named after a mountain tortoise called Domkrag that used to walk under cars and looked like he was trying to lift them up. Domkrag is the Afrikaans word for jack, as in a jack to lift a car. Other places you are allowed to get out of your car includes Zuurkop, the Spekboom enclosure, Jack’s picnic spot, Algoa Bay lookout and the Ndlovu lookout. At each of these you get out of you car at your own risk and need to stay alert at all times.

Addo warning signs

It is totally against the rules to get out of your vehicle anywhere in the Addo Elephant National Park except for one or two spots. One of those is Domkrag Dam where a new sign has been erected to warn visitors that it is a Big 5 reserve and wild animals do roam freely. Miggie wasn’t really too shocked although she tried her best to look it.

The sign on top of Zuurkop has been there for probably 20 years and I used to stop here often back when I used to be a tourist guide. I’ve even seen a lion sitting right next to the sign, but this time round… Ha! I laughed in the face of danger.

So many activities to do around Addo

When you mention Addo, most people think elephants.  They wouldn’t be wrong though BUT, these days Addo is so much more than just elephants.  Crisscross Adventures is a tour and adventure activity company based in the Sundays River Valley and they offer a wide range of activities from tours to the Addo Elephant National Park to quad biking, canoe safaris on the Sundays River and sand boarding.  Check out their new promotional video and tell me you don’t want to go and explore and experience the valley after seeing it. 

Discover the Sundays River Valley and Greater Addo route

The brand new destination promotion video for the Sundays River Valley and Greater Addo area have recently been released by Addo Tourism and ECTOUR showing how stunning this area right on Port Elizabeth’s doorstep is.  It also illustrates what I’vebeen saying for a while now, that Addo is a fully fledged destination now and so much more than just elephants.  Please share it around on social media if you enjoy it.