The Wildlife of Addo Elephant National Park

View of elephants in Addo National Park.

The landscape and wildlife of Addo Elephant National Park is an abundant and flourishing environment where over 417 species of birds, 95 different mammal species including the Big Five and a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians and fish all coexist.

The landscape of Addo Elephant National Park

Centred on the Zuurberg mountain range, which can be seen throughout the game reserve, the landscape of the park consists of Cape Folded Belt, made up of quartzite and sandstone in the eastern regions which was formed at least 400 million years ago. The south base of the Zuurberg mountain range is a mixture of conglomerates, glacial tillites, mudstone and sandstones.

Near the coast, in the south east of the reserve one will find extensive areas of whitish limestone that was laid down when the area was once covered by the ocean. The largest coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere, the Alexandria coastal dune forest stretches across15 800 hectares of the coast.

Habitats and vegetation

The Addo Elephant National Park has 5 of South Africa's biomes in it, more than any other conservation area in the country. These include the Nama-Karoo, Cape heathland, grassland, forest and subtropical thicket - which is widest spread and most abundant in the reserve. The subtropical thicket includes species of plants such as porkbush and spekboom, which are all known favourites of grazing animals like Kudu and Elephant.

The prickly pear cactus is considered a noxious weed in certain areas where Elephants are not found as the Elephants eat both the leaves and the fruit. The Zuurberg Mountains are mostly covered in Cape Fynbos and the south-facing slopes are covered in grazing grasses.

What wildlife can I expect to see?

Addo is mostly associated with Elephants with over 300 of the animals now living within the reserve borders. These Elephants are descendants of the herds that once roamed the eastern and southern cape freely. The safari park is also home to the Big Five animals, namely; Black Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo and of course Elephant. Aside from the Big Five there are 13 species of antelope including Eland, Kudu, Red Hartebeest and 22 species of carnivore; including Cheetah, Hyaena and Wild Dog.

Addo offers great birding opportunities

Bird watching is a popular activity while visiting Addo Elephant National Park and there are over 417 species of birds found within the area. As the reserve stretches all the way to the coast at Algoa Bay, these species include coastal birds such as African Penguins and Cape Gannets. Bird-watchers might enjoy a drive through the Alexandria Forest area where one stands a good chance of hearing and seeing Crowned Hornbills, Dark-backed Weavers and KnysnaTuracos among others.

As a large portion of the reserve is thicket, bird-watching in these areas can sometimes be frustrating as it is difficult to spot the birds amongst the branches and leaves, but with a little bit of patience the birds will reveal themselves to you.

Read the Addo Elephant National Park Travel Guide for more useful info and accommodation options.

South Africa Nature Reserves : Game Reserves and National Parks
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