Sometimes, a day out of the office – and preferably in the bush – is all you need to appreciate what’s closest to home
Living in South Africa, it’s easy to take the wildlife, the natural scenery and the untamed beauty for granted. When you spend your days in an air-conditioned office or a picket-fenced home, far removed from the rugged bushlands, you tend to forget it’s even there. But it’s there, all right. And it’s a lot closer to home than you may think.
The laid-back city of Port Elizabeth is the perfect example. Just a 45-minute drive away from its suburban streets and golden shores lies one of the most renowned wilderness and wildlife sanctuaries in the country: Addo Elephant National Park. Spanning over 160,000 hectares, home to the Big 7 and a sanctuary to more than 600 elephants, it’s no surprise why Addo National Park is such a popular retreat from the whirlwind of city life. This past Friday, we were lucky enough to trade our ordinary office surroundings for the open air and wild, game-rich plains on a self-drive safari through the park.
A trip to Addo never disappoints, and this time was no different. In the company of three colleagues and two travel partners, we set off with high expectations that were met almost instantly. After a half hour of driving through the park we had already spotted a mother elephant and her calf, a dazzle of zebras, a number of grazing warthogs and one lonesome hartebeest. By the end of the day, we had seen more elephants than we could count. In large herds and family pairs, drinking at the waterhole and playing in the mud, grazing and sleeping, we saw them all.
As if the numerous elephant sightings weren’t enough, the scenery itself was worth the trip. Rolling grassy plains, lush forests, overhanging trees, impressive mountains, and ocean views – Addo National Park is picture-perfect in every sense of the word.
Driving through the bushveld with the sounds of wildlife echoing in the distance, it was easy to feel so far removed from ordinary life. There was nothing but us, the bush and the animals that called the place their home. So we had to ask ourselves, how can we possibly take South Africa – and even our small hometown – for granted when we have the boundless plains of a national park as our backyard. They say the world is your oyster, but South Africa is definitely our pearl. And we need to make the most of it.