We were in the Addo Elephant National Park (in the Eastern Cape) today. We had arrived late afternoon yesterday, too late to go into the actual park itself. Not a problem whatsoever, as we were staying in one of the cozy, yet comfortable rondavels, overlooking the waterhole, in the Main Camp. The Main Camp is near the Main Entrance into the park, with a restaurant, souvenir shop and mini supermarket for the folk like ourselves, who had booked self-catering, but then forgot to bring the milk… Or firelighters, or torch. Those basics one needs when going self-catering.
Our rondavel was one of 6 rondavels overlooking the waterhole, which was floodlit at night. We could see where the elephant would come down through the bush, with clearly well-travelled elephants paths disappearing well into the bush. We saw kudu and warthog, and different bird species, yet no elephant.
It did not matter, as we lit the braai fire outside our rondavel. The communal kitchen was well-equipped, with a cupboard for each rondavel, with pots, pans, braai utensils as well as cutlery and crockery. The rondavel itself boasted a kettle, toaster, glasses and – most importantly – a full size fridge. Oh, and air-conditioning. This must be very useful in summer, but probably even more useful now in winter. While the fire in the braai would keep the ‘braaimaster’ warm, the ‘missus’ in the house (yes, that would be meJ), prepared the ‘dinner table’ and had the heater on. I must admit, the idea was to have dinner outside under the stars, but for that it was just a tad too chilly…
We slept like babies (no electric blankets, but nice warm duvet and extra blankets, plus the aircon/heater, should it have become really cold), and it was exciting to wake up to the sounds of snorting kudu’s near the waterhole and twittering birds catching up on their own social lives early in the morning. Pity about the nearby railway line and provincial road…
The elephants had still not found the waterhole but the kudu’s and warthogs were back there again. After breakfast, on the little deck this time, we packed our stuff and went into the park itself. Normally the gatekeeper will be able to give you a general idea of what animals can be found where, but I think we were too early for that. One interesting remnant of earlier days is the fact you can still not bring any citrus fruits into the park, in fear of reminding the elephants of all these delicious fruits they used to find outside the park, when the fence around the park was not strong enough to keep them in (read more about the history of the Addo Elephant National Park here).
It wasn’t long before the first kudu appeared up close. Only a few minutes later this sighting was followed by one of warthogs. And then of zebra. And then finally, of elephants! And more elephants, and then some more. From then on things got only better, with wonderful sightings of red hartebeest, tortoises, different bird species, monkeys and the occasional eland.
But the highlight of the day was the sighting of the black-backed jackal. Not because it was a black-backed jackal, as there are quite a few in the park. But because there was more than one, and they were feasting. Feasting on a dead elephant. Right next to the road. Not sure how the elephant found its end, but by the looks of things the carcass had been there quite a while. Not that the jackals minded. They were there having a party of their own. The one was sleeping, peacefully, obviously with a full tummy. The other was eating, tugging and pulling to devour the last pieces of tender elephant. The third one just looked on from a short distance, while the fourth one clearly thought it was its time again to have a bite. As the two jackals fought over the right to eat the last bit of this dead elephant, I realized the irony of the scene. Here we were in the park which was established to give refuge to a dying population of elephants in the area. Yet the highlight of our day was to see the other game feast on the remains of what may very well have been one of the original remaining elephants of the Addo Elephant National Park.
Mother Nature at her best….