Pretoria - The Limpopo Department of Economic Development and Tourism has announced plans to open a new gate and a tourism activity hub in the Kruger National Park.
The new entrance, Shangoni, will be situated between Giyani and Malamulele.
It is hoped that the activity hub – with restaurants, fun parks and creativity centres – will attract locals to visit day in, day out.
The hub will stretch from the south to the north. Shangoni is the Venda word for “country”.
The Kruger Park boasts 19 623km² or nearly 2 million hectares of land that stretch for 352km of land that fuses historical and archaeological sights.
The world renowned park, named after former president Paul Kruger which is bigger than Israel, offers a wildlife experience ranked one of the best on the African continent.
Speaking to the Pretoria News at a media tour of the Kruger Park during the week, MEC: Economic Development, Environment and Tourism in Limpopo, Thabo Mokone, said the two projects had long been on the books of the department and were now being implemented.
He said: “The issue of the Shangoni gate is not a new matter. It’s always been an idea of the department.
“We are resuscitating the idea because the provincial executive committee some years back approved the budget for the Shangoni gate and started to build roads to the new entrance.
“What we need to do now is to build a bridge that will link the park to the gate.”
He added that the project had been plagued with squabbles between the two communities of Malamulele and Giyani as to where the gate would be located.
“We have agreed that we are going to start engagement with the Collins Chabane local municipality and Giyani local municipality to resolve this matter as soon as possible so that we can complete this project by the end of next year.
“This gate has the potential to involve locals within the tourism sector
“It will also assist in the transformation of the tourism industry that will open other opportunities for communities around the park.
“So we don’t want to announce any date yet because we want to talk to the communities concerned so that they don’t think we are undermining them.”
The activity hub, that is planned to break new ground, aims to get locals who live close to the Phalaborwa gate to make it their “everyday activity”.
Mokone said the activity hub would bolster the economy in Phalaborwa.
“We have taken a decision as government to claim the Kruger Park. Phalaborwa town has been anchored by the mining industry so we want the tourism sector to be a secondary encore to develop the town into an epic tourism destination.
“I’m particularly keen to kickstart these projects because they will create employment in the provincial economy. We can’t only rely on international tourists to come to visit us. We must also rely on ourselves to visit our own country. Charity begins at home.”