The number of people who visited the five South African National Parks (SANParks) in the Frontier Region (Addo Elephant, Camdeboo, Garden Route, Karoo and Mountain Zebra National Parks) saw good growth compared to the same period last year. The eleventh annual South African National Parks Week was celebrated from 12 – 16 September, with some parks extending free entry to the weekends, and afforded all South African citizens the opportunity to visit national parks at no cost on day visits.
A total of 14 061 people passed through the park,s gates during the open week, compared to 11 746 last year.
The largest park in the region, Addo Elephant National Park, attracted 6 236 people, well up on its 4 558 from last year. At Camdeboo National Park (surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet) visitor figures increased from 940 in 2015 to 1 067. The number of people who visited the three sections of Garden Route National Park also increased from 4 383 to 4 750. Unfortunately cold, rainy weather in and around Beaufort West, with the Karoo National Park nearby, led to a decrease in visitors this year – 776 compared to 1 082 last year. Mountain Zebra National Park, near Cradock, also tallied a good increase from 783 free visits in 2015 to 1 232.
Included in these figures were groups who attended set People and Conservation programmes in the five parks, who were bussed in by the parks to attend the programmes. These facilitated visits were mostly for community groups who would usually not have had the opportunity to visit a national park, such as schools groups, the elderly and less fortunate from the surrounding areas.
Regional General Manager, Dries Engelbrecht, says, “We are pleased about what our figures are telling us. It means were are giving more people opportunities to visit our parks who have never been before, and had it not been for SA National Parks Week, would possibly never have been able to enjoy their natural and cultural heritage, which we as SANParks conserve on their behalf.”
“Every year we strive to introduce who we are and what we do to more and more people who in the past would not have been exposed to national parks, hence our established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’.”
“This week would not have been possible without the assistance of corporate South Africa, who once again came on board. Many thanks must go to our partners, First National Bank and Total South Africa, who supported the campaign once more.”