The Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed in 1931, the park was formed to protect the remaining elephants in the Addo area, there were less than 15.
At one time the Addo herd was one of the largest in the Eastern Cape with some 140 elephants, but hunting decimated these numbers over the space of around 200 years. Not only were the elephants hunted but also black rhino and lions where made extinct in the area. The remaining elephants were 'rescued' by a land owner at Barkly Bridge - Mr J T Harvey, who allowed the elephants onto his land, preventing them from being hunted.
Elephants had to be chased to the area which had been set aside for the Addo Elephant National Park, but the fence was not strong enough to contain elephants, and they escaped and continued to be killed by farmers and by trains which travelled along the nearby line. In 1933 the manager of the park started to feed the elephants in an attempt to contain them. In 1954 an elephant proof fence was developed by Graham Armstrong, tram rails and lift cable were used and an area of 2270 hectares was fenced off. The fence proved successful and can still be seen in the park today. Flood light were erected around the feeding areas and visitors would come to see the elephants, however the feeding caused more problems as the elephants came to expect the food and would stay in the feeding area. The plant life in the area was destroyed and the elephants became aggressive to the feeding truck and to each other, many elephants were injured, so this feeding was stopped in 1979.
The park was first opened to tourists in 1981, when they entered the park they could view the elephants easily as the numbers had grown significantly. Disease free Cape Buffalos were also protected bt the Addo Elephant National Park as were the flightless Dung Beetle. Eland, zebras, warthogs, black rhino and hippos were all introduced to the park over the following years. Lions were reintroduced to the area in 2003 as well as spotted hyenas in 2003/2004. These are only some of the animals which can be seen jackals, kudu, red hartebeest and duikers are also found in the Addo Elephant National Park .
The Addo Elephant National Park itself has no natural waterholes; the water is supplied from boreholes. These manmade waterholes have the advantage that they are by the roads and can produce some excellent photo opportunities, with many different animals going to the waterholes at any one time. The Spekboom waterhole and hide is fantastic for photographers. Hapoor waterhole is named after a bull elephant that was the dominant bull of the Addo herd for some 24 years, after being ousted from his herd by Lanky - an upcoming bull - Hapoor escaped through the fence developed by Graham Armstrong, he was the only elephant ever to do so. He was found grazing by Coerney Station and had to be shot as he was an aggressive animal - a cast of this giant elephants head can be seen in the restaurant at the main rest camp in Addo Elephant Park.
The main camp offers good quality accommodation from chalets to camp sites, there are also safari tents which look out directly over the park and it is not unusual to have an elephant or a herd of buffalo pass you by! Horse riding safaris are available, these tours go through the game area and can be quite nerve raking, a bit of experience is required. Mornings, sunset and night drives are also offered from the main camp and are good value for money as well as very informative. Prior booking is essential, especially during the holidays. The park is relatively small and can be driven around comfortably in a day.