The lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo make up the exclusive Big 5 of Africa. The term was originally used for the five most difficult animals to hunt, but now it refers to Africa’s most famous animals, and seeing all five on a safari is a truly remarkable experience. Since 2009, South Africa has introduced two more additions to the list – the southern right whale and the great white shark. And the only place where all seven of these fascinating animals can be seen in their natural habitat is the Addo Elephant National Park.
The Addo Elephant National Park is set in the malaria-free Eastern Cape region of South Africa. The national park is unique as it is home to the densest population of African elephants in the world, with over 600 roaming the reserve. Addo Elephant National Park also stretches down to the Indian Ocean, covering five of the seven biomes found in South Africa. The introduction of the southern right whale and great white shark was not only for conservation purposes, but also for tourism. Where else in the world can you enjoy Big 5 sightings, as well as whale watching and shark cage diving? The Big 5 can be found, in abundance, in Kenya, and you can enjoy stellar shark cage diving in Australia, but it is only here in the Eastern Cape of South Africa where we offer both in the same region. Before you set off on your safari adventure, let us introduce you to the Big 7 of South Africa.
Addo is home to the endangered black rhino, a shy animal native to Southern and Eastern Africa. The black rhino is mostly active at night, but guests can expect to see a few sauntering through the bushland during the day.
Black Rhino Fact: Black rhinos are easily differentiated from their white rhino cousins, and it’s not by their colour! Both rhinos are grey, but a black rhino has a pointed upper lip, whereas a white rhino has a square one. This is because they eat different foods – black rhinos get food from foraging and white rhinos graze.
African elephants are found in abundance at Addo! Addo started off with only 11 elephants in 1931, and these numbers have grown tremendously. With over 600 free-roaming elephants, travellers are sure to experience some amazing views of these gentle giants.
Elephant Fact: The tusks of an elephant grow throughout their lifetime and are vital to them. They are used to dig for water, roots or salt, as well as in fights and to mark their territory.
The King of the Jungle is probably the most well-known African animal. The lion is actually the second biggest cat in the world, with only the tiger surpassing it. Lions are a lot more sociable than tigers though, living in prides with multiple lionesses, all related, and two or three unrelated males. Addo is home to black mane lions that are eager to put on a show for travellers on a game drive.
Lion Fact: Although they’re known as the King of the Jungle, lions actually live on plains, savannah and grassland, not the jungle.
The Cape Buffalo is a sight to behold in Addo. Large herds of buffalo can be seen quenching their thirst at the waterhole, or grazing along the plains, keeping a keen eye out for predators. Herds of buffalo are mostly docile, and will never attack unprovoked.
Buffalo Fact: Lone buffalos are known to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. If provoked or wounded, a buffalo will stalk its attacker, ambush them and then kill. Buffalos can also remember if you have wronged them, even if the incident happened years prior. Hunters call the buffalo “Black Death” or “Widow Maker”.
The elusive leopard is one of the most beautiful big cats in Africa. Leopards are expert tree climbers, often dragging their prey up trees to protect it from scavengers and other predators. You will be very lucky to see a leopard in Addo! These shy cats prefer to hide away rather than put on a show.
Leopard Fact: Although they are rarely spotted, leopards are actually the most widely distributed African big cat – they’re just not keen on the attention!
Southern Right Whale
The magnificent southern right whale can be seen along the South African coast, particularly in False Bay, Hermanus and Algoa Bay. Southern right whales are curious, and often times swim close to vessels and try to interact with humans, by tail and flipper slapping, which is a sign of play. Whale watching is available off the Algoa Bay coast, near Addo.
Southern Right Whale Fact: The whales were named southern right, as they were considered the “right” whales to hunt.
Great White Shark
The great white shark is the largest predatory fish on earth, and is found in cool waters near the coast. The sharks are known to travel along coastlines, from continent to continent, for months at a time, for feeding and mating reasons. They mainly feed off seals, fish and seabirds.
Great White Shark Fact: The sharks are incorrectly labelled as “man-eaters”, which is not the case. Great Whites do not enjoy the taste of humans at all, and most attacks on humans are because the sharks mistake humans for seals or they just take a “curiosity” bite, with no intention to eat.