The SA National Parks Week will allow South Africans to visit national parks for free. Picture: Landsberg/ANA

South African National Parks (SANParks) says it has heeded the request from South Africans who were not able to visit national parks during the week, to include weekends for this year's SA National Parks Week where guests are granted free access to the parks.

This year’s 14th annual SA National Parks Week takes place from September 8-15.

SANParks regional spokeswoman Fayroush Ludick said the annual event gives all South African citizens the opportunity to visit one of the country's 21 national parks for free.

This applies to Addo Elephant National Park (outside Port Elizabeth), Camdeboo National Park (on the borders of Graaff-Reinet), Garden Route National Park (with its Tsitsikamma, Knysna and Wilderness sections), Karoo National Park (outside Beaufort West) and Mountain Zebra National Park (near Cradock). 

Ludick said due to the popularity of Addo Elephant National Park and its proximity to Port Elizabeth, gate quotas of 700 people per day per gate over weekends will apply. 

It's advisable visitors arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Since the programme started in 2006, 438 361 South Africans had been afforded the opportunity to enter national parks.

"It’s important for South Africans to visit and know the importance of national parks. They act as spaces to practise sustainable conservation, as spaces that preserve and celebrate our culture and heritage, and we now see national parks playing the critical role of empowering communities living adjacent to parks through job creation and we continue to explore ways of creating business opportunities particularly for small business owners,” said SANParks chief executive officer Fundisile Mketeni.

Mketeni highlighted the growing need for national parks to be relevant, particularly to young people and communities living adjacent to parks.

African News Agency (ANA)