After visiting Johannesburg and spending five days watching animals on safari in Kruger Park, we caught a plane from Joburg down to the coast in Port Elizabeth. From there our road trip adventure began! Here's a map with our stops along the Garden Route...
View South Africa: Garden Route Drive in a larger map
"PE" (as the locals say) had a completely different feel from Joburg. The sun bounced off the bright blue water as we drove along the coast headed towards the Addo Elephant park. Isn't it awesome that the national parks in South Africa are literally filled with wild elephants! After having such a close encounter with elephants in Kruger, we didn't have very high expectations. Surprisingly, we had just as good luck with animals on this leg of the trip.
The Addo Elephant Park is part of the South Africa National Parks System which really impressed us. Most of the parks we visited had educational areas, animal spotting guides and very friendly park rangers. Specifically at Addo there's a great museum about the plight of African elephants, including interactive areas for children of all ages. This park was family friendly and even included cabins and tents to rent for camping. Unfortunately, they were already sold out by the time we planned out trip so we ended up staying at a great spot nestled above a spanning orange groves, just five minutes away from the park.
We arrived to Addo in the early afternoon, stopped at the super market for a few snacks and then headed into the park. Just like on safari, it all boils down to luck and location. Upon entering, we took advice from one of the friendly rangers who directed us towards a water hole. Not even 10 minutes of driving and look what we found...
Incredible, isn't it? There were about 15 elephants splashing in the mud and only a three other cars of people watching and snapping photos. Can you imagine going over to the local park in your neighborhood to watch wild zebras and elephants? Too cool!
See that bush on the right of these photos? It was partially blocking our view but as we watched and waited more elephants kept appearing out from under it! What a spectacular moment!
I had a childhood flashback to a Sesame Street clip where the elephants and splish-splashing in the water (anyone else remember that skit?) ...Except this wasn't a nature program but happening in real life, only about 50 feet away from our car!
Suddenly, bath time was over and the heard headed back into the bush.
We continued driving along and not much longer, a behemoth bull started walking towards our car. I wish this photo better huge he was! Unfortunately, there was a car full of jerks with no respect nature in front of us. I'll never understand how people can be so insensitive to animals, especially ones strong enough to flip over your car. The car of jerks started following Mr. Elephant too closely and when this big guy got upset, he ran away... straight in our direction! Needless to say, Mom and I were frozen while watching him express frustration. We sat in silence, both hoping that we wouldn't become the starts of the next 'Angry elephant flips car' clip on YouTube. Eventually he wandered off the road and back towards the bush at a safe distance but just close enough for me to capture the moment.
As we drove through the Addo park, a few zebras munched on lunch near the road. Luckily or us, they curiously ventured closer and were kind enough to pose for a few pictures.
We only spent one night in this area and of course our rental car broke down so we ended up exchanging it back in PE. To be honest, this happened a total of three times throughout our road trip and they kept giving us cars without enough gusto to actually pass trucks on the highway or escape the trample of an angry elephant.
In Addo, we stayed at the Dung Beetle Guest Farm and fell in love with the lush surroundings immediately. The cottages were nestled on a hilltop overlooking a citrus farm with spectacular views. We spent the evening reading having dinner at the one restaurant on town and subsequently ran into the guest house owners and fellow travelers.
After dinner, we sat around the fire pit and gazing at the stars above our cottage. It would have been a lot of fun to stay here another night. This was one of the stops on the trip where I wish a few friends could have stowed away in my suitcase and joined us for a camp fire under the stars...in South Africa!
We made our way through the thicket to find our cabin...
Guess what that is... our toilet! These little cabins were a modern twist to living like the Swiss Family Robinson, I loved it.
The next morning was spectacular and sunny, we headed from Addo back to Port Elizabeth and then on to Jeffrey's Bay which I'll share tomorrow.
TRAVEL TIP: If you're planning a trip to South Africa check out Rooms For Africa. They had a great listing of guesthouses and we booked most of our accommodations through this informative site. It's an interactive and easy to use website meaning that you may find yourself getting carried away while dreaming about a future vacation, like I did.
If you've been following along with the stories of our trip to South Africa, catch up on the rest right here.