Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa kicks off construction at the new Skukuza Safari Lodge. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town - Kruger facilities have come under fire during the last month, with many questioning why such an iconic attraction in South Africa isn't putting its best foot forward when it comes to accommodation and services. Turns out there are a number plans in play to ensure its offering meets international standards.
In February of this year the KNP announced the latest project - the new R269.5m Skukuza Safari Lodge - set to open in 2018.
Officiating the ceremony was SA Minister of Environmental Affairs' Edna Molewa, who said that the construction of the lodge "heralded the beginnings of the development of a new brand of SANParks owned Wild Hotels, Lodges and Resorts".
READ THE FULL STORY HERE: New R269.5m Skukuza Safari Lodge to open in Kruger in 2018
Apart from the new Skukuza Safari Lodge, there have also been other upgrades and developments within the park. Here are 4 other developments avid Kruger visitors need to keep their eye on:
Radisson Blu Safari Resort at the Malelane Gate Precinct
Although development on the resort has been postponed due to "logistical challenges", the Radisson Blu Safari Resort in the park is still on the cards.
SEE: Kruger's Safari Resort postponed due to 'logistical challenges'
The Safari Resort was approved in 2016, following a lengthy Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Then, following the approval, booking sites were advertising its opening for 2017.
But, according to William Mabasa, acting head of communications for SANParks, the opening date has been pushed out due to "discussions which must take place between the parties involved, in order to make sure that all is well before the development starts".
Mabasa says they are unable to say when exactly development will start, as the project is run by external parties and private contractors.
When it does, it will see a 240-bed establishment claiming "the lowest development footprint in the world at less than 4%".
The full-service facility that will be constructed on the periphery of the park at the Malelane Gate Precinct.
Selati Station Grill House to come under new management
According to Mabasa, the iconic Selati Station Grill House restaurant at Skukuza - which still houses the actual train that ran through the park as a game viewing cart to the public - will soon be under new management when an external, private company takes over the reigns, following a successful tender process to procure a preferred bidder.
According to Mabasa, the "tender has been evaluated, and SANParks is currently negotiating with the preferred bidder."
The option to engage in business with the private sector in currently on SANParks' agenda, ahead of the inaugural Tourism Investment Summit that will look beyond the parks' borders to increase offering and value within SA's National Parks.
SEE: SANParks' inaugural Tourism Investment Summit looks beyond parks' borders
According to SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni, the inaugural Tourism Investment Summit organised by SANParks will strive to present new investment opportunities, attract developers and financiers and profile national parks in South Africa as viable investment hubs.
“National parks offer potential investors with an unparalleled diversity of opportunities in various disciplines which includes, adventure activities, eco-tourism properties, retail and many more,” Mketeni says.
Lower Sabie Rest Camp refurbishment
Although brought about in a very controversial manner, the refurbishment of the Lower Sabie tented camps have been welcomed by guests, who feared that Kruger's accommodation standards have been lagging behind.
The controversy raised in-depth questions about Kruger's overall service standards, as long-time Kruger visitor Lisel Krige pointed out in an article published on Traveller24, asking why would a park with the magnitude of Kruger allowed itself to fall into such disrepair or drop its standards in this manner.
"A flagship rest camp like Lower Sabie cannot have ANY excuse for lacking or sub-standard visitors’ facilities," Krige writes.
"However the safari tent we stayed in overnight and paid an adequate amount for, was literally in tatters."
SEE: Between a rock and a hard place: Kruger upgrades are long overdue
Following a week-long back-and-forth discussion between SANParks and affected Kruger visitors, the Lower Sabie refurb is scheduled to start in May this year.
The new Mafunyane 4x4 Eco-Trail
A complete alternative accommodation addition to the Kruger is the new Mafunyane 4x4 Eco-trail in the north-western region of the park. Meandering on back roads only used by rangers, the trail aims to share with visitors a deeper insight into the Kruger's most-secluded parts.
The Mafunyane 4x4 Eco-Trail is a four day, three night, self-catering guided adventure activity in the north-western section of Kruger National Park between the Olifants and Luvuvhu Rivers.
The trail route covers a distance of approximately 270km and all participants are required to drive their own 4x4 vehicles, with provisions for the four-day trip, including tents and camping gear, sufficient supply of water, firewood and food.
The camping sites are like something out of a fairy tale. Although simple (there are only a few eco-friendly toilet stalls erected where you can camp), the sites are perched underneath sprawling old Tamboti trees or next to stunning lakes where wild animals come to quench their thirst at dawn and dusk...
Although the trail is self-drive, it requires an official, professional trail guide to lead the trail and also provide the necessary interpretation en route.
READ MORE HERE: Ultimate SA Camping: Into the heart of Kruger's Mafunyane 4x4 eco-trail
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Kruger's Safari Resort postponed due to 'logistical challenges'
- Ultimate SA Camping: Into the heart of Kruger's Mafunyane 4x4 eco-trail
- New R269.5m Skukuza Safari Lodge to open in Kruger in 2018