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101 Elephants - Christmas at Addo

elephantsAfter a long journey - an overnight flight and transit wait in Johannesberg - we finally reached Port Elizabeth and sunshine, heat and friendly faces. It had been worth it! I loved South Africa from the first step I put on its soil.

We were due to drive the Garden Route over a 2 week period. After collecting our hire car we battled the Christmas supermarket crowds and hit the road all stocked up for our adventure. In just over an hour we arrived at our tipi at Tipi Bush Camp, alongside Addo Elephant Park, and settled into what would be our home over the festive days. This Christmas would be different to any other.

 

We were met by Rob and his family and shown our glamping base with views across to the grazing animals in Addo. Here we would recover from our journey, cool off in the paddling pool and take small drives within our own reserve to see emus, warthog, various creatures with antlers, monkeys and even giraffe - my favourite.

 

tipi

There was no electricity but our campfire, gas fridge and cooker, and the hot and cold water provided meant there was no hardship. Well...the children may have missed the internet a little... After a sound sleep and breakfast we settled on the shady bench and watched the wildlife through binoculars across the way. Sometimes deer drank from the bath-cum-watering hole close to us. All the dangerous stuff was safely the other side of the fence thankfully. We snoozed in the 30 degree heat and leisurely read books that hadn't been opened in recent busy months and felt a million miles from home. We ate out at Hazel's Organic Restaurant that evening - tasty ostrich with lots of interesting veg.

Early next morning - before Santa had done his job - we took off in the car to neighbouring Addo Elephant Park, paid about £10 each to enter in our own vehicle, grabbed a map, and began our safari drive. The exchange rate was very much in our favour (at 23/24 rand to the £) making everything seem extremely reasonably priced.

Heading on the Gorah Loop soon we spotted bulky buffalo, many serene zebras, various deer/antlered beauties - including one just born and taking its first steps - and families of warthogs trotting along together. We observed the animal hierarchy at the water holes, then stopped alongside 2 snoozing male lions. Apparently lions do a lot of lounging about, for around 18 hours a day, so we were priviledged to see one raise his majestic mane and look our way briefly for a photo. 

lion

zebraelephants2deerWe were a little concerned however we were on the wrong track as someone had said that it was almost impossible not to see elephants here and so far we hadn't spotted one. So we changed direction and headed for the water holes on the other side of the park. On the approach to Marlon Baree Waterhole we were passed by a family of these lumbering giants, including a baby, right beside our car. At the waterhole itself we had front row seats for a wonderful mud bath with maybe campfire80-100 elephants of all sizes frolicking together having a great time. That was the best Christmas present for me. (We'll overlook the fact the children were bickering in the back over who would take the photos!)

As we were booked into the park's restaurant for a buffet Christmas lunch (3 courses for £9) we had to move on. But on the way we passed another waterhole at Hapoor Dam, again full of elephants in large groups drinking there seemingly oblivious to the collection of cars observing them. There was well over 100 elephants there. 

Back at our tipi we siesta-ed to recover from lunch and the kids opened their stockings. Good old Santa found them even here! We couldn't resist popping back to the park for another little game drive before dinner. Evening round the campfire under the full moon, with Christmas cracker jokes, brought an end to a very different and magical Christmas.