1. I'm mostly interested in elephants, lions and land animals (more than birds). Is late May a good time to spot them?
2. I read on Lonely Planet guide that the park gets closed with heavy rain. This is OK (I might do other things in such unfortunate case), but if I have a booked accommodation at Addo Rest Camp will I still be able to get in and have a place where to sleep?
3. I see the gate closes at 18.30 or so, but it seems to be possible to checkin after with a booking. Since I land in Port Elizabeth at 17.30 I'll surely check somewhere around 19.30-20.00. Is this doable?
1. Lions are not easy to see -- there are less than a dozen in the park. Ask at reception and check the Sightings Board outside reception -- you can get an idea where they were last seen.
Elephants are EASY to see ANY time of the year... but NOT when it is raining, very windy or cold! If you are lucky enough to have a warm day, then you will easily see 200 elephants in a day, especially at waterholes like Hapoor. They start drinking from as early as 8:00 am. I always drive to the top of Zuurkop -- there is a viewpoint where you can get out and sit on a bench -- you overlook the area towards Carols Rest waterhole, and from the top you can easily see where the big herds of elephants are, especially if they are out in those big open fields. Just drive down and see in which direction they are moving!
2. The entrance to Main Camp is TAR, and unless there is a major flood (99.99% Unlikely!), you will have NO problems to get to bed! Even inside the park, there are enough TAR roads to keep you going if it rains. I doubt that you will see much rain in May!
3. Addo Rest camp is about 72 km from Port Elizabeth, and you still have to get out of town in rush hour traffic. There is a freeway called the N2 that is faster.
NB 1. -- If you go to the 2nd entrance gate at Colchester -- you will NOT be allowed to go through the camp after hours to get to your accommodation.
NB 2. The ONLY way you could get into camp would be via the entrance gate right by the Main camp, not far from Addo town. They have a security guard 24/7 and you can come and go as you like. I DO think you would do well to contact them in advance and let them know you will be late, so they can arrange for you to have the key for accommodation left at the gate???? have never tried that...
NB 3. There are 2 ways to get to this gate at Main Camp -- the SAFEST but LONGEST route would be to go along the N2 in and easterly direction till it splits about 50 km from PE, turn left (N10) towards Paterson for 22 km, turn left at Paterson town intersection (R342) towards Addo for 22 km -- I guess this will be about 100 km in total...
The shorter alternative is to turn off the N2 at Markman/Motherwell township onto the R335 about 20 km from PE, then just keep going STRAIGHT for 50 km till you pass throught Addo village and get to your gate. I would NOT advise anybody to travel this route at NIGHT, especially if you have never done it before... there is always the slight chance of a breakdown in an Unsafe area, or of getting lost and ending up in dangerous places. The road is narrow, very bumpy, but OK.
Hope you have a wonderful time at Addo!
Friedrich von Hörsten, Somerset West.