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Written by Savi, 29 Comments

We can’t help but start this post with this stunning picture taken during our self-drive safari at the Addo National Park whilst on our 4,400 k.m. road trip through South Africa. On a trusty little Chevy Spark. Yes, you heard that right :-). In this post, we also talk about a topic after our own heart – responsible tourism and preventing cruelty towards Elephants, for which you can win a fully paid trip to Thailand. Read on to find out more…


Addo National Park - Elephant
Big Five at Addo National Park


Having toured a township in Johannesburg and undertaken a guided Safari at The Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park, we found ourselves craving something different, something a tad more adventurous. Yep, playing with lions in Johannesburg wasn’t enough 😉


So, against our better judgement, we decided to go on a self drive safari at Addo National Park in our teeny weeny car.To add fuel to fire, we even googled videos of cars being attacked by elephants at the Park. This was going to be fun.


We booked a cosy guesthouse in Addo village and off we went. Addo National Park Park is the third largest national park in South Africa, spanning over a staggering 4,44, 700 acres. It hosts one of the densest populations of African elephants in the world. But it is also home to lions, black rhinos, hyenas, leopards, and zebras, and dung beetles.


On entering the park we were confronted with a carcass and signs telling us to beware of lions. With no ranger or protection offered by formidable 4×4’s, we weren’t exactly rubbing our hands in glee. 


Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park 1
Signpost at Addo National Park


Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park Roadtrip
Carcass at Addo National Park


But the stunning landscape all around us eased us into braving a self drive safari at Addo National Park. Then, there was the promise of seeing our favorite safari animals walking around the African bush 🙂


Addo National Park - Stunning Landscapes
Stunning landscapes at Addo National Park


We started small. We spied an ant hill, followed by the tiniest li’l tortoise. What a cutie.


Following the track laid out for self-drive safaris, we drove towards a water hole. Before long, the ground started trembling and a congregation of elephants appeared. We could see dozens of tusks, trunks, and heaving animals right in front of our eyes.  Vid and I sat transfixed to our seats. The joy of chancing upon animals in the wild, without anyone to guide you, is second to none 🙂


Guided vs Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park
Ant Hill at Addo National Park


Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park animals
Tortoise at Addo National Park


Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park
Elephants at Addo National Park


We were so busy staring at the magnificent animals on the right that we didn’t realise what we were missing. A rumble alerted us to a tiff brewing between two friends on our left. Here they are, battling it out 😉


Elephants at Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park
Elephants at Addo National Park


As we spun our gaze further, we spotted one lone elephant, observing the herd at the watering hole and the two excitable animals on our left – calm as a monk. That was how Vid and I spent the rest of our day – the sight of the solitary elephant put all our fears to rest and we spent almost 10 hours driving around the Addo National Park, entranced by its natural beauty and all it had to offer.


Self Drive vs Guided Safari?


The big question everybody’s been waiting for – is the self-drive Safari really better than a guided Safari? We think it depends on your expectations as a tourist.


Even though we saw only 2 of the big five at Addo National Park (African Elephant and Cape Buffalo), the feeling of having the park to ourselves was incomparable. Moreover, there is something very satisfying about looking around and discovering animals in the bush or chancing on a herd of elephants at a waterhole.  If you enjoy independence, then a self-drive Safari is the way to go.


Opt for a guided safari if –

  • You are not a confident driver – it’s not easy to drive in a national park. You might need to brake suddenly if an animal crosses your path or steer your vehicle if an animal confronts your party. As Ross would’ve said, one needs to be in a state of Unagi (constant state of awareness) at all times 😉
  • You have limited time – it’s always better to have a 4×4 and a ranger who understands the animals’ routines at hand if you want to see the maximum number of animals in the least amount of time



Addo National Park - Kudu on the road
The Kudu appeared as if from nowhere




Fact File

  • The nearest domestic airport is in Port Elizabeth (75km) and International Airport is Cape Town (820 km).
  • Addo Elephant National Park is situated in a malaria free zone.
  • Most tourist roads are accessible to normal sized cars. A 4×4 vehicle is only necessary if you want to opt for the 4×4 route within the Addo National Park. We rented a tiny Chevy spark through Hertz and got a good deal.
  • The area surrounding the Addo Elephant National Park offers accommodation to suit all budgets – everything from luxury five star lodges to backpacker hostels are available.
  • The cost for a self-drive safari in Addo National Park is approximately £11 / R200 per adult at the time of writing. However, if visitors choose guided tours, night tours, or overnight camping tours, the costs are considerably higher.


Planning a trip to South Africa? Have a look at our South Africa ideas and suggestions 


Practise Responsible Tourism and Win A Trip Worth $3,300


As you can tell, we had a great time at the Addo Elephant National Park. Watching the majestic Elephants roam around freely in their natural habitat was a treat to the eyes. Unfortunately, the story in countries like Thailand is quite different – Elephants are brutally domesticated using a breaking process called ‘phajaan‘ in order to tame them.  All this so tourists can enjoy a ride on the chained Elephants:

Save Elephant Foundation
Chained Elephants giving rides to tourists

 (Photo Credit: Travel Freak)


Compare this saddening photograph with those of elephants in the wild earlier in the post. It is a sad sight and we can all put an end to it by being more responsible when travelling. Savi and I have joined force with other bloggers for the Travel Blogging Calendar 2014 to raise awareness for the Save Elephant Foundation (SEF) that is working tirelessly to protect the Asian Elephants from the torture inflicted upon them by the tourism industry.

Lek, the founder of SEF, has been rescuing Elephants since 1995 with the help of volunteers and donations from people. A small contribution from you will go a long way in helping SEF get on with the mammoth task of putting an end to cruelty towards Elephants in Asia.  For your concern, support, and generosity, you will stand an excellent chance to win a $3,300 trip to Thailand, sponsored by Flight Network and Where Sidewalks End.

What’s more, whoever donates will get access to an exclusive blog where we highlight different holidays, events, and festivals from around the world. You can make a donation, small or big, on the Travel Blogging Calendar website and help an elephant today. For all you know, you might be on the next flight to Thailand for free to meet these beautiful animals 🙂

We leave you with the picture of how it’s supposed to be – Elephants roaming freely in the wild ! Please spread the word and share this post with your friends 🙂


Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park 4
Elephant at Addo National Park


29 thoughts on “South African Road Trip: Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park

  1. Great article! Being South African, I haven’t been to Addo myself, only to Kruger, but I think I’m going to give Addo a go after reading this. One small error in your article… you spotted a tortoise not a turtle 🙂

  2. The pictures are stunning so I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have looked in person. WOW!
    Anthill mud is used in ayurvedic packs here back home. They apply it to firm and tone skin. And that ant hill is huge! The picture of the lone elephant has to be my absolute fav. Looks like something you would see in a calendar. oooh! and cute little tortoise!!

  3. I love Addo and your pictures do it so much justice – they are beautiful! I went on a night drive there as well as a daytime drive (with a guide, although I would love to do it without one) and was lucky enough to come across some lions that had bedded down for the night. It was my first safari experience so it’s one I’ll definitely remember!

  4. Great article – and what a fantastic experience. I would prefer to be driven myself, as I don’t think I could drive and take note of all the stunning scenery. I’m also fairly sure they won’t have adapted vehicles out there lol. Your photos are stunning. Thank you for the vicharious thrill of seeing these beautiful animals up close x

    1. Hey Vicky – you can always stop to absorb the scenery. Do take the plunge and opt for a self-drive safari if you’re ever at Addo – I’m pretty sure you would love it 🙂

  5. Great blog as usual! Choice of photos also good and very nice. Excellent news about Addo National Park.

    Please keep sharing these photos like it. Thanks a …………… LOT

    1. Hi Farooq,

      Sorry for the late reply. On a road trip through South Africa, a self-drive is fine. Just be careful when you are in big cities – take the usual precautions (keep car doors locked, don’t flash any valuables etc.) and you’ll be fine. The roads connecting the cities are very well maintained. Drop us an email if you have any specific questions and we’ll be happy to answer 🙂

  6. I am karthik. I am 22 and i am MBA 1ST year student. I love traveling can you help me how to save money to travel the world just like you

    1. Hey Karthik – you read the article titled ‘Who Are Savi and Vid’ to know a bit more about our lifestyle and how we manage to travel the world 🙂

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