Addo Elephant National Park – Main Section

About the Birding

Birders should begin their explorations of core section of Addo Elephant National Park in the areas surrounding the main camp in the north. Here it is permissible to walk around and there are several facilities that cater specifically for birdwatchers, including both a network of trails and footpaths as well as a small bird hide. Check the bulbuls carefully as both Dark-capped and Cape Bulbuls occur, though beware of hybrids which have intermediate eye-rings.

Both species regularly attend fruiting fig trees near the education centre, where you should also watch out for the attractive Black-collared Barbet. Knysna Woodpecker is sometimes present in areas of denser vegetation and is best detected by its high-pitched shrill call, while the sought-after Southern Tchagra prefers scrubby vegetation. The small bird hide, situated immediately behind the restaurant and shopping area, is fantastic for both Black Crake and Southern Red Bishop. Open areas besides the underground wildlife-viewing hide are great for Crowned and Blacksmith Lapwings and occasionally the Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers. The shy Southern Boubou is habituated in the campsite and can be viewed at close quarters, alongside the delightful Cape Robin-chat.

The discovery trail near the park entrance is best visited in the early morning and one could expect to see Karoo Prinia, the abundant Cape Weaver, Karoo Scrub-robin and White-throated Canary among others. Southern Tchagra calls regularly from the dense vegetation here but patience and perseverance are required to see this species. Knowledge of its calls are also essential to success. Check the small rockery at the public swimming pool near the chalets for drinking seedeaters in the heat of the day, and the roadside aloes in the winter months for Amethyst and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds.

Inside the park itself, it is important to remain in your vehicle at all times except at designated viewpoints and picnic sites. The park is blanketed in a mosaic of Albany Thicket, dominated by Spekboom, and extensive open grasslands. The open areas on the Nzipondo and Gorah Loops regularly host a few pairs of Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard and Secretarybird while the Southern Black Korhaan can be delightfully common. Look out for large flocks of Wattled Starling, which sometimes nest in isolated trees here en mass, and Pearl-breasted Swallow flying speedily and close to the ground. The latter is frequently seen resting besides waterholes on the Gorah Loop. The reedbeds in the Hapoor Waterhole and at Domkrag Dam hold healthy populations of Cape Weaver, while the muddy edges support Three-banded Plover and Common Sandpiper.

Thickets further to the south, particularly in the Zuurkop section of the park, support Acacia Pied Barbet, Karoo Scrub-robin, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler (Warbler), Cape Penduline-tit, Golden-breasted Bunting, Black-collared Barbet, Southern Black Tit, Southern Tchagra and White-throated Canary. Listen for the shrill calls of Knysna Woodpecker, which is common in the denser areas in the very South of the park, and watch out for White-cheeked Bee-eaters on the western edge of Harvey’s Loop nearer the Sunday’s River. Drainage lines along the Vukani and Ngulube Loops support the diminutive African Firefinch; to see this species, it is best to park quietly and listen for the high-pitched trill calls. Red-billed Oxpecker has been reintroduced and is frequently seen attending to large herbivores, particularly Cape Buffalo and Common Eland, while the attractive Red-necked Spurfowl emerges at the road-edges in the early mornings. Jack’s Picnic Site provides the opportunity to walk through pristine thicket, where all of the forementioned species may be seen, and time spent here serves as a welcomed break from the confines of the vehicle. The nearby Spekboom Hide is also worth a visit during the heat of the day, when many birds arrive to drink.

Birds-of-prey abound in the park including Pale Chanting Goshawk, Martial Eagle, Common Buzzard (summer only), African Marsh Harrier, and Black-winged Kite. The Kadouw Lookout point – where one may leave the vehicle at own risk – is a superb location from where to scan the tops of trees. Crowned Eagle is sometimes also seen, particularly nearer the Zuurberg Lookout point. Night drives can be arranged are regularly produce both Fiery-necked Nightjar and Spotted Eagle-owl.

Addo Elephant National Park is a ‘Big 5’ reserve supporting African Elephant, African Lion, Cape Buffalo, Leopard and Black Rhinoceros. Other notable mammals to watch out for include Spotted Hyena, Common Eland, Bushbuck, Red Hartebeest, Greater Kudu, Plain’s Zebra, Cape Grysbok, Common Duiker, Common Warthog, Caracal, Black-backed Jackal, Meerkat and Yellow Mongoose. Look out for the endemic Flightless Dung Beetle.

Key species:

Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird, Martial Eagle

About the Birding Site

Situated in the shallow, densely vegetated, Sundays River Valley lays the core section of the Addo Elephant National Park – the largest national park in the Eastern Cape. Originally proclaimed in 1931 to protect the remaining African Elephants in the area – just 11 individuals at the time – the area has now become a haven for well over 450 elephants and several other key game species including African Lion, Cape Buffalo, Black Rhinoceros, and a variety of antelope species. The region also supports an endemic flightless dung beetle, now almost exclusively found in the park.

The park is fully fenced and covers an area of 179 918 hectares, including a 7 022 hectare marine reserve that encompasses both St Croix and Bird Islands; an important sanctuary for seabirds and other marine fauna. The core area of Addo Elephant National Park includes a detailed network of paved and unpaved roads, all of which are easily traversable in sedan-type vehicle, covering a variety of habitats. However, as a ‘Big 5’ reserve, it is important to remain within your vehicle at all times except at designated picnic spots and viewpoints where it is permissible to walk about at own risk. Several private concessions are included within the core area of the reserve, in areas that are out-of-bounds to the general public.

Much of the core section of Addo Elephant National Park is covered by succulent thickets and reclaimed agricultural pastures, though it includes isolated patches of evergreen and coastal forest. From a birding perspective, Addo Elephant National Park has an incredibly rich avifauna with as many as 450 bird species recorded from the park! Over 150 of these are possible on a standard visit to the core section, where several accommodation options are available to visiting birders. The private concessions are accessible to overnight guests at one of the more luxurious lodges situated there, but these concessions support a similar species diversity to the main section of the park. Other facilities include a network of trails leading from the main rest camp and three bird and wildlife viewing hides. Most areas in the core section of Addo Elephant National Park can be covered within just a single day, though 2-3 days are recommended to do the route proper justice.

Key species:

Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird, Martial Eagle

Other Related Information

The easiest access to Addo Elephant National Park is from Port Elizabeth. To reach the Matyholweni Gate, take the N2 east from Port Elizabeth for 40km. The gate itself is located a few kilometres to the north of the small village of Colchester along a well sign-posted road. Alternatively, take the Motherwell off-ramp from the N2 and follow the R335 to the left for about 50Km to enter the main gate. The main gate is 70Km north of Port Elizabeth and 15km from Addo village.

Key species:

Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird, Martial Eagle

Contact details:

Addo Elephant National Park
PO Box 52, Addo, 6105
Tel: +27 (0)42 233 8600
Fax: +27 (0)42 233 8643

For more information, visit:

For bookings, visit: