Durban — South Africans are in for a treat as they have been granted free access to national parks from September 16 to 24 which is SA National Parks Week.
This was announced recently by the Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Barbara Creecy, with the aim to encourage citizens to enjoy their natural heritage.
In her address, Creecy noted the work of the Tourism Department to support infrastructure projects in national parks, given their importance to the tourism industry.
"National Parks Week is an ideal opportunity for us to introduce the majesty and beauty of the country’s national parks to the people, especially to communities who seldom get to experience and enjoy these areas of conservation, cultural heritage and biological diversity, right on their doorstep," said Creecy at the launch on Friday.
To qualify for free entry, South Africans must present their identity documents. Children younger than 16 will not be required to provide identification.
The free access does not include accommodation and commercial activities within parks, such as safaris and guided walks.
The initiative first started in 2006, allowing access for more than 600 000 South Africans who otherwise would not have been able to visit national parks.
The Namaqua National Park in the Northern Cape, the Boulders Penguin Colony and the Cableway in Table Mountain National Park in the Western Cape do not form part of the National Parks Week free access programme.
“Since the commissioning of the solar system installation in May 2018, Skukuza has reduced its electricity bill with an average of R136 000 per month, which translates to a saving of more than R8 million over the past five years," said Creecy.
Creecy said that partnerships between national parks such as Skukuza and the government departments were important to help finance and manage protected areas.
"Such partnerships can and will ensure the future sustainability of nature-based tourism and its longer-term employment potential."
The Kruger National Park is South Africa's first national park and the largest - spanning 19 458 square kilometres. It is the sixth-largest national park in Africa and includes the Big Five - lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard.
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