Early risers wishing to enter the Addo Elephant Park as soon as the gates opened at 7am were disappointed over the recent festive season. If they arrived at 6.50am they were confronted by a long line of people who had similar plans.
Usually during the year, seven o’ clock arrivals have to contend with two or three groups of regulars who swiftly make it through the paperwork.
Before November 2018, it used to be possible to fill in the forms online, print them out and then hand them in at reception together with your Wild Card. Now, for some strange reason, online forms are not acceptable and visitors have to fill out a form (pen not supplied) inside a book.
Over the holidays, visitors had to fill out the book, get it checked and stamped by the lone person at reception, and then physically take the book to a group standing further down the line.
People stood in line for about an hour to get through reception to then wait for their turn at the gate. On both days I visited the Park over the festive season there were no additional staff members at the gate so that one person had to take down licence plates on clipboards and inspect the boots of cars going into and out of the park.
The only time I have ever tried to fill up my car in the Park at the Main Camp filling station, a single, photo-copied sheet of paper stuck to one of the pumps read ‘No Fuel’. Inquiries about when the station’s tanks were due to be replenished were met with a big smile and a shrug of the shoulders.
The parking lot at the Main Camp was utter chaos without any form of traffic control. It was jam-packed with passenger cars, buses, trailers and dozens of game-drive vehicles trying to move in both directions of the single lane between rows of parked cars.
Vehicles also filled the parking areas around Hapoor and Rooidam, two of the biggest watering holes in the park, but by and large, drivers were respectful and allowed each other to find a good viewing spot. However, there is always one driver, usually in a large SUV, who leaves the engine running to keep his air-conditioning humming and so disturbing an otherwise peaceful scene.
In spite of the large number of visitors, game viewing was superb especially at the water holes. The drought and careful management of the water supplies has ensured that you can park at almost any water hole and watch a stream of animals come by.
There is no place on planet Earth better than Hapoor Dam to watch elephants.
The Addo Elephant Park Communication Officer has promised to release statistics about visitors as soon as they are received from head office.