South African National Parks (SANParks) in partnership with First National Bank (FNB) and Total South Africa has opened the 13th official South African National Parks Week.
The week, opened by the Limpopo MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Seaparo Sekoati, on behalf of Environmental Affairs Minister, Dr Edna Molewa, begins today and will end on Friday, September 14.
Under the established theme “Know Your National Parks,” the week-long campaign encourages citizens through the #LiveYourWild campaign to visit a national park and be part of a world-wide campaign. The official opening was held at the Phalaborwa Gate in the northern part of the Kruger National Park (KNP).
This year is a significant milestone for KNP given it marks its 120th year of conservation management. KNP was first proclaimed in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve. The almost 2 million hectares is home to 254 known cultural heritage sites including nearly 130 recorded rock art sites. The Park’s history is rich and exciting and cultural artefacts of Stone Age man have been found dating from 100 000 to 30 000 years ago.
There are more than 300 archaeological sites of Stone Age man and evidence of Bushman Folk (San) and Iron Age people from about 1 500 years ago. The park also has many historical tales of the presence of Nguni people and European explorers and settlers in the Kruger area.
There are significant archaeological ruins at Thulamela, Albisini Ruins and Masorini cultural heritage sites. Conservation of these sites is imperative due to their cultural and spiritual value and the historical importance. “As national stewards of the conservation of the area, we are legally bound to protect these sites and with September being both Tourism and Heritage month we want to inspire South Africans to learn about the country’s heritage especially during this free access week,” says SANParks Head of Corporate Communications, Janine Raftopoulos.
National Parks Week was born after it was found that the majority of South Africa’s citizens were not visiting national parks.
Free access will be granted to South African day visitors. This is also an effort to reach out and allow all citizens a chance to freely access something they might not have been exposed to.