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'The old saying is that elephants have good memories,' says Jonathan, 'but this is really true, and is the reason citrus fruits are forbidden in Addo.' To try to revive a population decimated by landowners protecting their property, the first rangers supplied oranges to encourage the elephants to stay within park boundaries. The elephants fought violently over the easy food source, and a fruit ban has been in place since the late 1970s, but even the smell is enough to excite the appetites of seniors in the herd.

It's late afternoon when the full menagerie comes to life. Male warthogs, distinguishable from females by the extra pair of warts protruding from their cheeks, sit awkwardly on their knees to feed on the grass. Meerkats, popping in and out of burrows, stand on hind legs to detect signs of danger, swivelling their small heads like a periscope. White-striped kudu bulls pause, and slowly turn their imposing curved horns. All of Addo's animals seem joined in a subtle ballet, a performance the park and its visitors hope will never end.

Further information

  • To discover more, visit addoelephantpark.com

Side trip
When in flood, the Sundays River is the fastest flowing in South Africa, but at other times is perfect for a guided canoe trip. Tunnels of river grass open onto widened vistas, and kingfishers and spotted eagle owls nest in the riverbanks. Tour operator Christopher Pickens grew up on the river and knows it well (£40 per person; crisscrossadventures.co.za).

Where to stay: Chrislin African Lodge
Within easy driving distance of Addo Park, this family-run lodge has a handful of traditionally designed and very comfortable huts, set out on a wide lawn adjacent to a farm. A dip in the pool and night-time braaie (barbeque) offer a welcome change of pace after a long day of game drives (£70; chrislin.co.za).

 

Michael Grosberg grew up in the United States and has lived and worked in South Africa. He has written for 16 Lonely Planet guides.

 

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The article ‘The perfect trip: South Africa’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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