Port Elizabeth, South Africa: Surfing, Penguins and Elephants.
Port Elizabeth is the San Diego of South Africa. It offers long stretches of Indian Ocean beaches with beach condos and beach arcades, a fun surf culture in the nearby town of Jeffery’s Bay and a world class a national park on the beach that boasts populations of seven big wild animals: Elephants, Buffalos, Lions, Leopards, Rhinos, Great White Sharks and Southern Blue whales (Addo Elephant Park).
Save the Penguins South African Style
Don’t miss Port Elizabeth’s Penguin Hospital (Cape St Francis Penguin Rescue) where they treat and save injured penguins before releasing them back into the wild. The penguins are too cute and you can watch the volunteers feed them sardines, which they gobble up quite happily.
Much “Addo” About Something
One of the main reason for visiting Port Elizabeth (apart from the surfing and cute penguins) is Addo Elephant National Park. Unlike the more famous Kruger National Park, Addo is malaria free. Its reception area and guest huts have the landscaped look and feel of an African theme park, but don’t let the “Jurassic Park” decor and Jungle Jim uniforms of the friendly staff fool you. Beyond the gates are acres and acres of wild South African savannah, where herds of wild elephants roam (hence the name).
The park offers one hour safaris on large Range Rovers, or you can drive your own car or pick a guide at the gates to ride with you. All three options are fun. On a recent visit, we signed up for a Range Rover Safari. The driver was a local Boer dressed in the obligatory khaki shorts and shirt and safari hat. We soon found out that the park has a lot more large game than just wild elephants. Our driver did a circuit of the parks several waterholes so we could see all the different animals come out of the bush to drink.
First out were the Zebras. Their black and white coats glistened in the midday sun, while warthogs caroused between their powerful legs in the hope of a drink. Once the Elephants showed up, they took over the waterhole and all the other animals had to wait their turn.
The park offers accommodation in huts with all the mod cons. Our hut was located near a waterhole which is lit at night. Close to midnight we heard some growling and turned off the lights in our hut in order to not spook whatever was making all that noise. Minutes later, a large pack of hyenas scurried out of the bushes to horde the waterhole. I was petrified at how large they were; they looked bears with huge teeth. The lead hyena growled and salivated as we watch in silence from our darkened hut, just a few feet away. The next day as we prepared to leave, I knew that I had to come back to Africa. I was hooked, and you will be too.