14 September 2015
South Africa National Parks offer free entry to local visitors during Heritage Week
Game Parks and Wildlife Preserves in Africa are too often viewed by local communities as being a playground for wealthy tourists.
Every year, South Africa celebrates their National Tourism Month and Heritage Day, but for the majority of South Africans actually enjoying their wildlife heritage is a luxury they cannot afford.
To address this issue and in line with their policy of environmental protection through education South African National parks (SANParks) initiated an SA National Parks Week in 2006. .The initiative grants free access to South African Citizens under the theme Know Your National Parks.
Since 2006 there have been over 170 000 day visitors to the participating parks. This year 19 Parks will take part in the initiative. The programme will run from 14th September through to the 19th September with some Parks extending the free entry through Sunday 20th September.
The only exceptions to the free entry this year are the Agulhas National Park, Namaqua National Park, Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Table Mountain National Park. Dates and visitor limits can be found on the SanParks website and the full calendar of events is available as a download.
Despite the exceptions, the parks that are participating in the free entrance are superb destinations and include the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Kruger National Park, and the Namaqua National Park.
Marakele National Park, home of the big five and the largest Cape Vulture colony will host the launch of the 2015 SA National Parks Week on 13 September. The event will be officiated by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs. Edna Molewa.
General Manager of the Northern Region, Mr Property Mokoena is enthusiastic about the forthcoming week. "Last year," he said, " we saw an increased number of visitors at all our parks in the Northern Region, and we are hoping that this year will be better. This year we have a full program again, ranging from traditional dances and walking trails to keep our visitors entertained throughout the week."
South Africans wishing to participate in the free entry scheme will need to produce their South African Identity books. Free entry does not extend to accommodation and any other paid activities that people may wish to participate in whilst in the parks.
For those people who cannot afford the paid activities there are still many wonderful experiences to be had. A stop over at any one of the Kruger National Park picnic sites for example, is one of the best ways to see the birds and animals in their natural environment.