The number of people who visited the five South African National Parks (SANParks) at no cost in the Frontier Region (Addo Elephant, Camdeboo, Garden Route, Karoo and Mountain Zebra National Parks) last week increased by 56% compared to the same period last year. The 14th annual SA National Parks Week was celebrated from 8 to 15 September – having been extended by three days over two weekends.
This campaign under the established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’ allows locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend a day at a national park of their choice free of charge. SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, says the objective of the week is to give all South Africans a chance to enjoy and experience the beauty and majesty of the national parks. Nationally, 113 032 visitors enjoyed free access to various parks. “We had an increase of just over 52% this year from last year’s 74 086 visitors. SA National Parks Week aims to create a culture of pride in all South Africans in their relationship with the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage. When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe that they will start to understand the importance of conservation,” he says.
Regionally, 30 657 people made use of the opportunity compared to 19 610 last year. Just about half of these visited Addo Elephant National Park outside Port Elizabeth – 15 091, an increase of just over 52% on last year’s 9 626. Garden Route National Park saw the biggest increase in visitors – a 96% growth from 5 926 to 11 589 this year.
The feature element of this campaign is the free access granted to all South African day visitors carrying their official Identity Documents. Since its inception in 2006, National Parks Week has seen an influx of 551 393 day visitors in all participating parks. “These numbers are encouraging and tell us that more people are taking advantage of this free week at our national Parks,” said Mketeni.
The annual SA National Parks Week has been made possible with support from First National Bank (FNB) and Total South Africa. “Without our sponsors this week would not have materialised and South Africans would not be able to visit our parks free of charge”.
SANParks thanks all South Africans who took part in this week, especially educators and school groups. “The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa,” concluded Mketeni.
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