Skip to Content

Marine & Coastal

The coastal area of Addo Elephant National Park stretches between Sundays River Mouth and Bushman’s River Mouth.

It incorporates the Alexandria Dunefield – the largest (covering approximately 15 800 hectares) and least degraded coastal dunefield in the southern hemisphere. SANParks assumed management of this coastal area in 2002, with its transfer from the provincial conservation department.

Bird Island and St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay were proclaimed as part of Addo Elephant National Park in 2005. Bird Island is part of a group of four islands and is an important breeding place for marine bird species. Bird Island supports the largest breeding colony of Cape gannets in the world (over 160 000 birds) as well as other birds such as African penguins and rare roseate terns. Seal Island (near Bird Island) supports a breeding colony of Cape fur seals. St. Croix Island, nearer to the town of Port Elizabeth, is home to a large breeding colony of African penguins.

A Marine Protected Area (MPA) was proclaimed around Bird Island to protect important marine resources such as abalone (perlemoen).

A larger MPA of an envisaged 120 000 hectares is proposed for Algoa Bay. However, an extensive public participation process will take place to gather issues and concerns of interested and affected parties before an application is made for proclamation of this MPA.

South Africa has five major coastal types that need protection, namely rocky shores, sandy shores, offshore, soft sediments and estuaries. All of these are represented in the AENP marine protected area.

The South African coastline covers a distance of over 3 000 km, more than 80% of which consists of sandy beaches and sand dunes. Other ecosystems include rocky shores, coral reefs, kelp beds and the open sea. Two hundred and seventy of the world's 325 fish families occur in South African waters. The east coast waters are characterised by the warm waters of the southward flowing Agulhas Current, while those of the west coast are characterised by the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Benguela Current.

Along the southwest and south coast, there is an extensive mixing of water masses. The currents influence the composition of the animal and plant communities along this coastline. Sandy beaches consist of an unstable sandy bottom layer that is continually modified by waves and currents, resulting in an absence of plants between the tide marks. Yet, a few animal species have adapted to live in this harsh environment. For example, the plough snail (Bullia sp.) and white mussel (Donax sp.) have adapted by burrowing in the sand. These animals emerge to feed when conditions are relatively mild, or they sit tight in the sand and filter food particles from the seawater with siphons or strainers.

The rocky shores that are scattered along the coastline provide a firm foundation for the attachment of plants and animals, but are exposed twice a day by the tides and are often lashed by a strong wave action. These shores support a great diversity of marine organisms, some of which are commercially significant, for example, mussels, oysters and seaweed.

The intertidal and the subtidal zones provide feeding grounds for many species of fish, some of which are important angling species. In the open sea, there is no firm base, and organisms must either drift or be able to swim. Examples include the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), phytoplankton and zooplankton. The main focus of commercial fisheries is centered in the more productive waters of the southwest and south coasts as these waters have fewer species in greater numbers compared to the east coast waters which are characterised by a greater biotic diversity.

Have a question? Why not ask on the forums?

Help us improve! Did you find what you were looking for?



Available Languages

View large | View layout maps


Subscribe to our newsletter


Sunny< br>Min: 13°C / Max: 20°C

View 7 day forecast

Official Guide on Sale

Addo Elephant National Park Official Guide book on sale

This 52-page full-colour brochure gives the visitor a complete overview of the Park, its fauna and flora, history, new developments, accommodation and activities. Highly recommended! Available from the park directly.

Did You Know?

  • The park boasts the Big Seven: (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark)