Sad to be leaving Shamwari, but glad not to be leaving lion land.
Feet still demonstrating vestiges of mud from our taxi adventures back to Port Elizabeth, we take possession of a humungous 4×4 for our five days at Addo elephant Park, one of the South African National parks – SANPark for short.
One doesn’t really need a 4×4, since the gravel roads are well tended, but the car is big enough for 4 people with all our luggage, so it was a good choice. W drives, and I’m the back up. C and I decide that we will sit on the same side, so we both have the opportunity to snap away when we see something of interest – elephant, rhino, lion, antelope, dung beetle, spider, pretty much anything really. If it moves, we’ll snap it.
Our first stop is the Motylwaheni cottages, at the south side of the park. The Sanparks accommodation is astounding and not what I would expect from a National Park – beautiful studio bedrooms, en suite and full kitchen and dining facilities with balconies and barbecues. Housed in a traditionally thatched cottage. It feels like a 4* lodge, clean, nicely decorated with A/C. And the price is soooo cheap, I can’t believe it. We’d stocked up on food at a PicknPay supermarket in PE, so spag bol is the go for dinner, which IW cooks for us. Yummy.
It’s also fenced off at night from the rest of the park with a draw-bridge-like electric fence that’s pulled up each evening. It is possible that predators could wander in during the day, so we don’t take a chance with strolling about, just in case a hyena has found its way in. Wouldn’t that be cool?
We settled in for the night, ready and raring to go the next morning. Funny, normally at home I’m awake till 11 pm, here, I’m tucked up by 9.00 at the latest, and if I’m reading my eyes close very soon..
Our lovely 4×4 is comfortable on the dirt roads, which are passable with only a sedan. In fact it looks like a lot of people come in their own cars to tour around for the day. One can always tell where there is an interesting sighting – look for the cars. Max speed is 40 anyway, but I encourage ( 🙂 ) W to slow down regularly, because even at that speed it feels to me like I’m missing out.
The south part of the park is dense bush, so game is hard to spot, but we do see a few local warthogs galloping off with their follow-me tails stuck in the air.
We meander along some of the winding trails that wander through the park, W often acting as spotter for things that C and I might be interested in shooting – cameras, not guns. C can’t even bring herself to step on an ant, so no animals were harmed during our shoots.
At one of the largest watering holes, we come across nearly 200 elephants in separate groups, all seemingly biding their time while the ones drinking or spraying themselves take their turn. We are treated again to the spectacle of mums and bubs, and rowdy adolescents playing tusk-of-war with each other. Some of the elephants need to demonstrate a delicate balancing act to get to the water – the levels are quite low, and the sides quite steep, so occasionally they lift a hind leg and point it balletically backwards to act as a counter-balance to their questing trunk. Biggest ballerina I ever saw, and kind of puts me in mind of Disney’s cartoon film.
Once the group has sated their appetite for water and mud baths, they wander off so the next lot takes their turn. Each group seems to move off in different directions, long lines of bums swaying away from the water hole.
At one point, when most of the elephants have gone, a group of warthogs nervously approaches the bank,kneel on their front legs and dip their tusked snouts to the water. The slightest sign of threat and they get skittish, but since they don’t need nearly as much as the ellies, so it’s not long before they move off as well.
None of the zebras look interested in the water, and by this time the gents have seen enough of the ellies, so we reluctantly take our leave, thinking we should come back tomorrow for a repeat.