After a few days of non-stop curry and downtown craziness, we return our rental car and say goodbye to Durban, hopping on an early flight to Port Elizabeth this morning to begin our road trip along the Eastern/Western Cape’s famous Garden Route. Although there is a pretty major hiccup when we arrive in PE to pick up our rental car and they’ve cancelled our booking because they “didn’t get confirmation from us” (despite the reservation email specifically saying that we didn’t need to contact them to confirm), we do get the last available car from the only one of a dozen car rental companies at the airport that still has anything and make it onto the road. I’m pretty livid about the rental fiasco, since we end up paying more than twice the price when I reserved months ago, but we both agree that it’s crazy lucky we were able to get a car at all at such last minute. The road trip could have so easily been derailed, so there is also a thankful twinge to our frustration.
Once in the rental car, we point ourselves east and drive about 30 minutes to Addo Elephant National Park. Although we spent a few days on safari last week in Kruger, another SANPark (South African National Park), we were with a private guide, so this is our first experience self-driving and excitement levels are quite high. After paying about R270 (~$27AUD) and filling out a quick form, we drive our little car through the gate and into the National Park. Immediately, we are on the look out for animals, scanning the area underneath trees with particular fervour as it’s approaching midday and any cats would likely have taken to the shade for a catnap.
It isn’t a lion or a leopard, but we still squeal with delight to spot our first animal: a particularly rotund warthog nibbling on some low brush (over the next few hours, we manage to see more warthogs than in all our 5 previous days on safari). They are the strangest looking animals, sort of with the body of a staffy and the face of a space alien, but they are still cute, especially when they stick their skinny little tails straight up in the air and trot off across the bush. I’m not saying I’ll be adopting Pumba as a pet, but I do think he’s pretty adorable and more than a little hilarious.
Not long after our warthog encounter, we come to our first pair of elephants, nibbling greenery just off the road and flapping their ears amicably at us. Mary-Anne, our (let’s say.. unique) private safari guide from Kruger told us that when elephants are flapping their ears, they are perfectly happy, it’s when they stick their ears out as far as possible that we need to be concerned, as they are sensing a threat and trying to intimidate us with their size before they charge. These elephants are far from charging, though, so we spend some time photographing them and just basking in the excitement of being this close before we drive on towards to north end of the park.
We stumble across elephants every few minutes throughout the rest of our drive (it is Addo Elephant National Park, after all) and soon we come across a huge herd of elephants bathing in a tiny water hole, blowing the water out their trunks at each other, the little ones even rolling around in the hole. The extra new baby elephants are by far the smallest we’ve seen yet, and they are so cute I can hardly handle it.
It’s difficult to break away, but we do eventually drive off to find another herd of elephants fully submerged in Hapoor Dam, getting up to plenty of summer fun. There are 4 adults horsing around and having the best time (one elephant even tried to hold another under the water at one point, which could have been innocent play or could have been attempted murder, one can never be too sure). We are content to watch the elephants for ages, but finally we do force ourselves to leave, make our way back to the gate, and drive on towards Plettenberg Bay, a little over 2.5 hours away.
En route, we cross the stunning Storms River Bridge before arriving at our sweet little B&B and digging into a delicious seafood dinner, reminiscing over a wonderful day self-driving through Addo and the true end of our South African safari (although I’ve still got more African safari to come after mum leaves!). The excitement over seeing animals every day has far from worn off, and I’ll actually miss all this time in nature, but it’s on to new and exciting adventures. Not before visiting the cats at Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre tomorrow, though!