Addo Elephant National Park

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity.  After about a couple of days in Cape Town, we ventured east out of the city along the country's "Garden Route."  This scenic byway along the southern coast is pretty magical - a dramatic and varying landscape of mountains, canyons, vineyards, and ocean.

Everyone in Cape Town said we were crazy to try and travel this far, but the main objective was to reach Addo Elephant National Park, an elephant preserve just north of Port Elizabeth.  In addition to a myriad of lions, zebra other game (oh my!), this nationally-protected land is home to over 450 elephants... a staggering number when you consider that there were merely 40 at the time of the park's inception.  Despite the park's success in allowing elephants to successfully mate and grow here, one of the main issues in this particular elephant community is that tusks are being genetically bred out of the female elephants.  Thus - they recently brought in 10 non-native males with tusks to try and reintroduce this trait in to the community.  So far, it's supposedly working.

The other interesting development with Addo Elephant National Park is the recent addition of nearly 300,000 acres of marine reserve, just south of the main park and encompassing a good section of the Indian Ocean marine coastal environment.  While we didn't have enough time to go to this particular section, I guess that means I've gained yet another proverbial dangling carrot to some day go back and check out the development.

Here are some shots from the day (low-res to accommodate the internet connection here), to give you a taste of where we were.  Enjoy!

This reads "Dung Beetles have right of way.  Do not drive over dung beetles or elephant dung!"  (It tickled my funny bone for some reason.  We had this dude sing to us in middle school a song about dung beetles to the tune of "Free Fallin'", and this is the first time I've ever seen a legit one!)

Zebras & Kudu silhouetted in the African sun.

Zebras at a drinking hole.  The trail behind them is the one established animal trail coming to this spot... as a former Leave No Trace employee, I got a kick out of this!

Takin' a walk.

Favorite photo from the day.

Da dum, da dum... da dum, da dum...

This is a Kudu.  They're fantastic to look at, and incredibly interesting animals.  The horns on their head actually start to curve like a corkscrew as they age... one turn for each year.  Full-grown kudu have a white tip at the top of the antler.  The white strips are actually a built-in mechanism for regulating heat and body temperature.

Kudus... Workin' it out.

This was actually just yesterday and not at the park... but a random set of circumstances involving a 23-hr layover in Windhoek, Namibia and a brightly-painted taxidermy farm in the middle of the bush led us to this rather outlandish venue landed us the opportunity to check out elephant skin.  Held above my Ms. Leslie Moyer (colleague & member of the 5 Gyres crew), you can see how thick it is!  Full-grown elephants have skin about 3-4 centimeters thick... also the size of a dung beetle!

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