Day 5 – Addo to Mountain Zebra National Park

The beds at Addo are really comfortable and they have jazzed up the facilities since our last visit.  That could explain the R100 increase in price to R840 per cabin.

We woke up bright and early, 6:30am wake-up call courtesy of Erica our beloved little munchkin. A nice warm bottle of milk and our hungry little spud was appeased.  We had a quick cereal then packed our gear back into the bakkie – checkout from Addo is at 10am, so we decided we’d rather pack up early then take our time cruising through the game area. While packing, we got our first sighting of Buffalo right in front of our chalet! Last time we searched everywhere for them with no luck!

Erica had her first real fall when she went down a low step in her walker. Poor kid now has a big blue lump on her forehead – mom and dad felt really bad that we could not prevent it, but I guess you learn these lessons as you go.

Besides Erica’s fall, the day was off to a good start. Shortly after re-entering the game area we happened upon a mother elephant with two younger calfs. They were eating the brush right next to the road so we stopped about 20 metres away.  The thing about elephants, is that they have legs. So those legs carried them forwards and right up next to our vehicle. We could have reached out the passenger side of the vehicle and touched one! We could hear the heavy breathing and then a deep rumbling sound as the mother called her calves nearer.  We were worried for a few anxious seconds when the mother elephant was behind us and the one calf was in front of us . . . not a good idea to get between an elephant and her calf!  The baby caught up to mommy and we relaxed, reaching for the wet wipes to clear the stains off the seats of our pants.  This experience was at once awesome and terrifying.  The bakkie was dwarfed by mommy elephant.  I have no doubt she could crush the cabin with a few well-placed strikes using her front legs.

Onward we went and the experience just got better.  We got close up to another mother and two calves, this time on the other side of the vehicle.  They slowly moved off in a group, apparently unperturbed by our approach.

Further down this track, called the Gorah Loop, we saw a group of elephants to the right of us, moving in a direction which we assumed was towards the water hole.  We continued driving, hoping that the road would curve enough to get us closer to them.  Rounding the next bend, we passed some Burchell’s Zebra, bush pigs and a few Kudu with hardly a second thought; we were foucussed on getting to the water hole.

Rounding the next bend we saw a vista of elephants. They were dotted in groups all over the grassy areas to either side of the road, happily munching away.  This must be the main group towards which the smaller group of elephants were making their way. We identified a spot where the track approached close by to a group of females with calves, and switched the vehicle off.  Again the elephants used those mastadonian legs and within a few minutes were very close to us, too close for me to start the engine in case they became startled. So we chose to sit tight and see whether they would continue towards us or divert in another direction.  One assumes wild animals prefer to stay clear of humans, after all.  Again, this assumption proved incorrect; the greater part of the herd began walking directly towards us, and in a few seconds they were all around the vehicle, with heavy breathing and elephantine rumbling. They are incredibly well-coordinated creatures – they flowed past our vehicle close enough to brush it but not one of them so much as whacked their tail against us. I have a priceless photograph of the expression of wonderment on Erica’s face – this experience is by far the best we could expect with any wild animal, and I’m so glad Erica got to see it.

After that there was nothing else that could beat it.  We enjoyed a peaceful lunch at the well-planned picnic area near the main water hole, then it was time to hit the road again.  Next stop was Cradock for lunch at the Wimpy and then about 15km onwards to the Mountain Zebra National Park.  This park is set in the Karoo, and similarly to the Karoo National Park it is situated in an arid area amongst mesa formations and interesting geographical formations in every direction as far as the eye can see.  It is truly breathtaking and leaves you feeling awed and humbled by the sheer size and beauty of this desert landscape.

After check-in there was just enough time to do a quick self-drive before sunset, during which we spotted numerous Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Kudu, Blesbok, Springbok and of course, Zebra.  As we were heading back, we got the closest sighting yet of Zebra crossing the road in front of us.  Instead of bolting, they casually settled at the side of the road and started grazing.  This was a great photo opportunity – I hope my pics look OK after not using the flash. I didn’t want to startle them especially because the flash would have been far more noticeable in the late afternoon shadow.  We could not get close to the Wildebeest, which other than the Black Rhino and Cheetah is the main attraction here, so we’re going to tackle some of the rougher trails tomorrow where 4×4 is a requirement.  Who knows, maybe we’ll see the Black Rhino too!

We just realised that we’ve done game drives in two national parks in one day!  Might be an interesting challenge to try to better this!