Free Access to National Parks
South African National Park (SANParks) is again opening its doors for free from Monday, 8 September until Friday, 12 September as part of the annual South African National Parks Week. This campaign under the established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’ will allow locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend a day at a national park of their choice free of charge.
The week-long campaign will be applicable to all the national parks managed by SANParks. In Limpopo these are: Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site about 70 kilometres outside of Musina, Marakele National Park outside Thabazimbi and the Kruger National Park and in the Free State we have Golden Gate Highlands National Park which is just 20 kilometres outside the town of Clarens
According to SANParks Acting Head of Communications, Mr Reynold Thakhuli the objective of the week is to cultivate a culture of pride in all South Africans in their relationship with the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage. “When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe that they will start to understand the importance of conservation”.
The idea of a national parks focus week is a world-wide campaign and was conceived in South Africa in 2006, after realising that a vast majority of South Africans were not accessing the national parks.
The feature element of this campaign is the free access granted to all South African day visitors carrying their official Identity Documents. Young persons under the age of 16 will be allowed free access without proof of identity. It should be noted that the free access to the parks will not include accommodation and any commercial activities in the park such as guided safaris in vehicles or guided walks, etc.
“The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa and we are focused on involving young people and communities, to cultivate knowledge of the importance of conservation and an appreciation for the country’s natural heritage,” said Thakhuli.
“We especially want our young people to take advantage of this opportunity because this heritage will be under their protection in the near future,” added Thakhuli.
The annual SA National Parks Week has been made possible with support from First National Bank (FNB) since inception 8 years ago. “First National Bank’s position is that the green agenda cannot be separated from the social upliftment agenda in South Africa. Through our partnership with SANParks we are able to raise awareness on the importance of environmental education. We believe in responsible actions by individuals and communities, as an imperative factor in protecting and managing the environment and we are proud to be enablers of this initiative. The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in its people. As we celebrate 20 years of democracy in our country, we must applaud programmes like the National Parks Week for creating a sense of ownership of the natural heritage of South Africa in all its people,” says Hans Hillebrand, FNB CEO National Government & Institutional Business.
The newest sponsor Total South Africa has stepped up to the plate to help South Africans access these beautiful acres of land across the country. “Total South Africa’s partnership with SANParks provides TOTAL with a vehicle through which we can carry out our commitment to preserving the natural environment for future generations. We are also able to engage in extensive environmental education that seeks to share the wonders of the natural world with communities and children. We hope that the National Parks Week will help instill a culture of pride in our natural heritage and a sense of responsibility for its ongoing preservation in communities”, says Pansy Mekwa, Total South Africa General Manager: Strategy.
SANParks encourages all South Africans and especially educators and school groups to diarise these dates and plan a visit to a national park nearby. “The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa,” concludes Thakhuli.