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.

Yawn!

It’s a lazy and hot Friday morning at Kuzuko Lodge. The sun’s already baking down without a cloud in the sky. The pride spots a kudu and the two female take the lead in the hunt. It’s a patient wait watching it through the spekboom as it stands browsing unaware. Then the chase is on. Adrenalin pumping. Excitement. Hunger. Fear. Everything happens so fast yet everything else stands still. The kudu stood no chance as she gets taken down in a cloud of dust. The boys move in first to eat their fill but the ladies doesn’t wait very long. Tummies full. Eyes heavy. Time for a nap. Yawn.

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”.

Addo Buffs

My quick trip through Addo last week didn’t produce a big amount of elephants as usual.  I did get three separate Cape Buffalo sightings.  When I started working as a tourist guide 18 years ago the Cape Buffalo sightings were very few and far apart.  The Addo buffalo was basically nocturnal due to the hunting of big game that took place a hundred years earlier which lead to the buffalo starting to hide during the day and only coming out at night.  This all changed when Addo introduced lions into the park and the buffalo’s’ behavior literally took a 180 degree turnabout.  What makes the Cape Buffalo in Addo so unique is the fact that they are disease free.  The majority of buffalo throughout South Africa suffer from bovine tuberculosis (BTB) so buffalo from a place like Addo is regarded as Black Gold and is very sought after at game auctions.

Addo landscape

I was invited to the launch of the SPAR Kirkwood Wildsfees at the Addo Elephant National Park main camp yesterday and decided to take the scenic route through the park from Colchester.  Back when I was a tourist guide I used to visit the park as often as 5 or 6 times a week at one stage.  These days I don’t get to visit nearly enough and is probably lucky if I get the time to visit once or twice a year.  An absolute crying shame if you ask me.  Even though I only had about 2 hours in the park it was enough to wet my whistle for another longer visit soon.  Just got to find the time though.

I miss my ellie friends

Way back when I started working in the tourism industry I worked as a freelance tourist guide and one of the companies that used me had tours going to Addo Elephant National Park just about every day.  That means that I got to go to the park 5 or 6 times a week and I never got tired of it.  These days I don’t get to visit Addo nearly as much as I would like to and when I had the opportunity to drive through it on my way to a meeting I didn’t say no.  It was nice to spend some time with my old ellie friends, even if it was only for an hour or two.

Addo roadblock

 
Nobody likes a road block, sitting bumper to bumper behind a slow moving object or having to waste time in a stop go situation.  That is unless you get all of these because of elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park.  I had a meeting in Addo and decided to leave two hours early and swing through the park to visit my favorite trunked pachyderms.  Entering the South Gate at Colchester, I decided to do one of the loops in the south section and encountered a whole herd ambling along in the road in front of me.  Best of all, the guy in the car in front of me wasn’t one of those sighting hoggers that one often get and we took turns to be in front and take pictures, pulling over every few minutes to let the other one go in front again.  An elephant road block is the best road block.