A Big Five reserve, Addo Elephant National Park is just 73km north of Port Elizabeth, and should be your first choice for an excursion – for just one day or for several. You can also stay at one of the nearby private reserves – especially if you just want to be pampered. On the N2 highway between PE and Grahamstown alone, there are three: Shamwari, Amakhala and Lalibela, while Schotia, 1km off the N10/N2 interchange, has exciting night drives and is the least upmarket. One big attraction of Addo and these private reserves is that, unlike the country’s other major game parks, they benefit from the fact that the Eastern Cape is malaria-free.
Addo is currently undergoing an expansion programme that will see it become one of South Africa’s three largest game reserves, and the only one including coastline. Elephants remain the park’s most obvious drawcard, but with the reintroduction in 2003 of a small number of lions, in two prides (big cats last roamed here over a century ago), as well as the presence of the rest of the Big Five – buffalo, hippos and leopards – it has become a game reserve to be reckoned with. Spotted hyenas were also introduced in 2003 as part of a programme to re-establish predators in the local ecosystem. Other species to look out for include cheetah, black rhino, eland, kudu, warthog, ostrich and red hartebeest.