After picking up the Patrol in the port it took us one afternoon to get organized again. Because we shipped the car on a roll on roll off ship (that means the car is not locked all the time) Espen had removed everything from the front so that we could lock it all up in the back behind the cargo carrier. Everything meant: stereo amplifier, fridge, water filter, water pump, fire extinguisher, inverter, batteries, cables and all the loose stuff that you put into the cab of your car. It took some hours it put it all back in, but then we were ready for the road again.
First stop was Addo Elephant National Park 65 km north from Port Elizabeth. In the early 1900 agriculture in the Addo region was growing. For the farmers elephants caused problems because they damaged crops and were competing with the farmers need for water. Therefore, elephants were hunted down. One man was contracted by the government, and between 1919 - 1920 he killed 114 elephants. In 1931 a reserve that was set aside to protect the 11 remaining elephants in the Addo area was proclaimed National Park. From 1931 when the park comprised about 5 000 hectares it has grown to 164,000 hectares divided into five biomes today. There are more than 500 elephants in the park today, and other spices like the flight less dung beetle, Burchell’s zebra, warthog and hippo was reintroduced over the years. In 2003 spotted hyena and lion was introduced to the park.
When you drive into Addo Elephant National Park and are waiting to see the largest mammal in Africa it is fun to see all the signs that says that the dung beetle have right of way. It is probably because they are not so easy to spot on the road when you are looking for animals that weigh thousands of kilos and not a 5 cm large beetle.
It was pretty cool to see the first elephants outside our own Patrol. We did drive many of the different loops in the main part of the park on our first day, and these were some of the animals we saw.
But we did not see any of the large predators, hyena or lion. Our first night in the roof top tent in Africa was spent in the main camp in the park, and we had a good night sleep.
Next morning was Espen’s birthday so we had a good breakfast before we entered the park for our second day. The first few kilometers were really quiet and we hardly saw any animals. After quite a while we could see more and more branches and bushes on the road, and more and more elephant poop. When we got closer to a water hole we saw the elephants and they were all over the place. We drove a bit closer and stopped the car and it was amazing sitting there watching and listening to the elephants. Some was done drinking and were walking away from the water hole, others were drinking and others were on their way to the water hole.
I had to try and count them and I counted 78 elephants, but it was hard to see them all as they were standing in clusters. Guessing I think it most have between 80 and 100 elephants around the water hole. After watching the elephants for an hour we moved on.
Just a few hundred meters down the road we saw a black backed jackal as it was closing in on carcass. One of the large predators most have hunted their meal earlier that morning and now the little that remained was left to those who got there first, and the jackal was the lucky one. When we had a closer look at the carcass we could see that it was a baby elephant on the remaining skin on one leg. It is sad to see, but all the animals in the park have to live and that is the circle of life.
As the day progressed and we had seen many elephants, zebras, warthogs, deer’s and buffalos we kept on looking for the lions. We would really like to see a lion. In the afternoon we meet a car in a junction that told us that they had seen two young male lions a bit further up the road half an hour earlier. We drove looking, but did not see any lions. So we took another loop. Still no lions. To be able to get to the exit gate before it closed we had to leave the park. Driving towards the gate we saw the two male lions coming towards us.
It was incredible to have this to large cats walking past us only one meter away from the car. A perfect ending to Espens birthday.