Our first time back in Africa after seventeen years and what a way to start! Before we even got out of the Land Rover that picked us up from the bush air strip, we got to meet the three elephants - Duma, Thaba and Mukwa - who clearly could not wait to be "put to bed" with buckets full of fruit, pellets and branches of favorite trees, as they rushed right past our vehicle within arms reach - what a FANTASTIC sight and overwhelming feeling!!
At the Lodge we were greeted by Moz and Jeff the managers, who welcomed us into the very cozy dining area like long lost family members. Drink in hand we sat by the large open indoor fire place snacking on biltong, nuts and talking about our flight in from Port Elizabeth. Incidentally, the flight in option is the one to take - the pilot really knows what he's doing, super friendly and the whole thing is inexpensive and will get you there quickly and comfortably. The roads to the reserve are dirt roads and weather conditions may make them rather bumpy. I am a nervous flier myself and I couldn't have felt more confident and comfortable during the flight in and out of Addo and that's saying something.
We stayed two nights - the accommodations are phenomenal, somehow combining the rustic atmosphere of being out in the bush with the pure luxury of heated mattress pads, completely private indoor and outdoor showers as well as an outdoor jacuzzi - imagine yourself under the African sky...
In the morning Luke, a working student together with Jeff took us on a lovely game drive - you will not see the "Big 5" here, but apparently those kind of trips can easily be arranged with Addo as your home base. We saw Giraffe, Kudu, Impala, Springbock, Waterbuck, Zebras, Heartebeast, Wildebeast and even got a glimpse of the elusive Eland antelope. Bird life abounds and our guide was very knowledgeable - even had our teenage sons appreciate the birds.
The afternoon was what we were all looking forward to though - ride and walk with the elephants. That experience alone was worth the trip to Africa! There is just nothing like having these incredible animals carry you through the bush, while "your" elephant's handler tells you about the characteristics of the particular animal as well as educates you about specific elephant behavior. After the ride you get to walk with the elephants and observe them in their natural interactions with each other. What we loved to hear was that when the elephants are not being ridden, they are roaming the reserve along with their handlers, completely free to go and do as they please. Our elephant experience ended when we were given the opportunity to feed them treats - another definite highlight.
We absolutely loved everything about our two days at Addo and highly recommend this truly African experience to anybody who wants to do something a little different. RIDE and INTERACT with an African elephant - the experience of a life time!!
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