#WinterEscape: The definitive adventure guide to Addo

2017-06-13 21:00 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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When you live and work in a city that's not your home, a long weekend off is the perfect opportunity to head back to your roots.  

And while many think living and working in one of SA's major cities, Cape Town is the ultimate, nothing beats getting out of the CBD like a trip to my hometown, Port Elizabeth.

With each trip back to the Eastern Cape, I get so excited it transports me back to the good old days when my family had just moved and we'd only come and visit, not more than three times a year.

In the Friendly - and also a windy - City, from the 'get-go', I feel at home as everything just becomes familiar again. Stunning beach spots and interesting museums but also award-winning wildlife destinations.

It all makes me rather attached to my hometown. 

SEE: 17 Budget-friendly activities to get up to in Port Elizabeth

And speaking of the wildlife, the Eastern Cape is especially famous for its Addo Elephant National Park.

I recently visited to check out its latest accommodation offering, Nyathi Rest Camp and it was exactly that for me - an award winning, 'out-of-the-CBD' getaway and I am still screaming "TAKE ME BACK!"

WATCH:A Nyathi getaway + adventures in Addo Elephant National Park

Officially opened by the Minister of Environment Affairs, Dr Edna Molelwa in September 2016, this exclusive, self-catering rest camp consists of eleven units: eight two-sleeper units, one four-sleeper unit and two family units which accommodate six people each. 

Each unit comes with its own private pool, kitchen, braai area and bathrooms with the most incredible view.

My recent visit to the exclusive, self-catering rest camp was where I met a group of new faces with familiar names. Let's just say what also made this trip great and exciting from the word go was the diversity of people I got to meet. 

There was your travel blogger, your 'wordsmith', the political guy, SANPark's ambassador as well as three other SANPark's representatives. 

Some interesting conversations took place and let's just say we agreed to disagree on some topics discussed around the fire over some drinks, but our common denominator being "first-timers" to Addo meant it was a fun experience all together. 

We were "the Addo virgins" - Popping our cherries on everything from Big Five spotting, sand boarding, zip-lining and horse riding.

Day one - Getting to know SANPark's third largest park

Arriving at Addo, we were greeted by the smell of delicious braai meat at the lapa - something we all needed after our journey there.

Never mind the fact that we had not freshened up after some of us ate sand at Sunday River Adventures while sand boarding and aching bodies from running up the sand dunes of Woody Cape.

While sharing a good meal, we were then introduced to Mzandile Mjadu who holds more than 10 years experience as part of Addo Park's Management.

In a one-on-one interview, he points out that the park is working on a new marketing strategy. A strategy that will see more youth, especially from townships, visiting the park more often and not just on school outings, says Mjadu.

"It's time the park started seeing a rise in numbers of local visitors as at the moment it is out-weighted by tourist," says Mjadu.

And as a local, I tend to agree, we South Africans should certainly take more shot lefts when we can. 

Talking about his experiences, Mjadu literally glows when describing the exceptional "big five" viewing in the malaria-free environment of SA's third-largest national park.

SEE: Addo assesses natural water provision plan to avoid 'catastrophic effects' on both park and elephants

Day two -  A day filled with nothing less than adrenaline

Tired or just maybe low-key hungover from the previous night's wine, I was pretty much the late one - thanks to my roomie, Happy who sang in his long, long shower time. 

But even more real was the next morning's starvation, which made our first stop to Addo Wildlife Tangelo Restaurant for breakfast just the right start to the day. 

But nonetheless, we arrived at this beautiful place, a place that takes after it's name - even wildlife heaven, maybe.

Never mind that our bodies were sore from the previous day's activities and the fact that hunger has passed the stage of kicking in for many of us, we decided to do the viewing of wildlife with coffee and bubble-gum milkshakes first.

Here's a thing, I don't mind participating and doing the whole "wildlife experience" but take me near a room full of snakes or anywhere they might be, we might have a problem.

They give me the creeps for days and even just thinking about how close I was to them still freaks me out, a LOT!

And just when we were at our most relaxed moments, popping a button or two after a filling breakfast, we are reminded to hold on for our next stop -  Adrenaline Addo.

Yes, we were the "Addo's virgins", this was the stop where fears were forced to be overlooked.

Think about it. Hanging on the highest, longest and fastest double zip line in South Africa or swinging from high was enough to freak us out and if that doesn't scare you, then you are more of a man than we were at the time.

But after all was said and done, we wished we could do it again.

I guess that's why they say adrenaline is addictive.

Although still feeling the pumping high of adrenaline, we now headed off to for a spot of horse riding.

And there was Moonlight, my horse for the trip.

My head began to be filled with all the many scenarios of "what could happen if this horse decided not to co-operate. If it decided to fling me off for not letting it eat grass every time we stopped".

Scared to some degree, I imagined how I would get this horse under my control. 

At some point, I was even convinced that this horse didn't like me and after 45 minutes of scare tactics, I was more than happy to get off and set Moonlight free. 

Regardless of being scared to try out new things, I strongly suggest that losing yourself in this beautiful part of SA is a must!

Where to Stay: Nyathi Rest Camp

This luxurious camp - 20kms  along a sedan-friendly gravel road -  is set atop a hill with magnificent views pf the valley below from each, spacious accommodation unit - with a real possibility of seeing any of the “Big Five” from the comfort of your private veranda.

The architecture is inspired by authentic African cultures, while the decor inside the units takes its cue from the round leaves of the spekboom- which is abundant throughout the park.

Added to this is a seasonal river flowing just beneath the camp, which has been built on stilts, with the majestic Zuurberg mountain range offering an amazing backdrop.

The Nyathi Rest camp is ideal for guests who want to enjoy all that Addo has to offer, from a more secluded section of the park.

(Video courtesy: @AnjeRautenbach)

*Disclaimer: Traveller24 Unathi Nkanjeni was hosted by Addo Elephant National Park for the duration of his stay, including flights and accommodation.

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