Every year South African National Parks (SANParks) hosts its SANParks Week in September, Tourism Month, offering South African citizens the chance to visit and get to know their national parks for free.
This year, due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and the lockdown Level 2 regulations which restrict the number of people allowed in public places at one time, SANParks has postponed SANParks Week to November.
SANParks, Total South Africa and FNB will host the 15th annual SANParks Week from 16 to 20 November 2020.
SANParks Chief Executive Officer Fundisile Mketeni says SANParks has also implemented extra visitor management procedures in the parks, to manage visitor volumes in line with the regulations and help curb the spread of COVID-19.
SANParks Week gives all South African citizens the opportunity to enter most of the parks managed by SANParks, for free, excluding the Namaqua National Park and Boulders section at Table Mountain National Park.
Free access to parks does not include free access to accommodation facilities or other tourist activities.
Every year SANParks aims to increase the number of citizens who are granted free access to its national parks.
“Since we started the programme in 2006, 551 393 South Africans have been afforded the opportunity to enter national parks for free. We want to see these numbers grow,” says Mketeni.
“SANParks Week is meant to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage and a deeper appreciation of biodiversity. It is important for South Africans to visit and know the importance of their national parks,” he adds.
Mketeni highlighted the growing need for national parks to be relevant, particularly to young people and communities living adjacent to the parks.
“Through our socio-economic transformation programmes and our Expanded Public Works Programme, we work closely with communities living adjacent to national parks to be more inclusive so that we can tackle issues of wildlife crime with their help, afford them more access to parks for cultural use, inform young people about different career options that parks have to offer and create job opportunities,” says Mketeni.
“SANParks hopes to strengthen and enable these communities to reap the benefits of the national parks,” he adds.