#FindYourEscape: Free SANParks week dates announced for Heritage month

2017-07-18 15:28 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Cape Town - In celebration of heritage month, South African National Parks (SANParks) kicks off its 12th annual National Parks Week campaign that will afford South Africans free access to the national parks from 18 to 22 September, depending on selected parks. 

Proven to be a successful campaign in terms of education and awareness of conservation issues, this year's official opening - in partnership with Total SA and First National Bank (FNB) - will kick off at Golden Gate Highlands National Park, in line with SANParks' vision statement of ‘A sustainable National Park System Connecting Society'.

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The free access will be valid for most of the 21 national parks and some of the parks will even be extending the week to include the weekend, up until 24 September.

According to SANParks, since the inception of the initiative in 2006, National Parks Week, under the theme ‘Know Your National Parks’, has seen an influx of over 286 935 day visitors in all participating parks. 

SANParks Chief Executive Officer, Fundisile Mketeni says that the idea of a national parks focus week is a worldwide campaign. 

“The week was established in a bid to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage, protected by the national parks system,” says Mketeni.

“The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa. Environmental education and protection is the responsibility of everyone, not just a privileged few.” 

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All of the parks managed by SANParks, excluding Namaqua National Park and Boulders Penguin Colony in Table Mountain National Park, will be participating in the initiative "to give the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as custodian of SA's natural heritage," SANParks says. 

The excluded Parks will apply normal entry tariffs, as they have been declared non-participants in the free access scheme, due to the seasonality of their product offering.

“If we are to create a sense of ownership of the natural heritage of South Africa in all South Africans," Mketeni says, "then all South Africans must be able to have access to such. We especially want our young people to take advantage of this opportunity because this heritage will be under their protection in the near future."

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In celebration of this special week, KNP will have activities lined-up in order to engage with various stakeholders to bring in representation from around the Park as follows:

Day 1 - 5 

Visitors will be exposed to an exhibition of services and products rendered by the various tourism private entities, government departments as well as community based organizations from around the Park – the venue will be Phalaborwa Gate from 18 -22 September.
Running concurrently will be the fireside stories which will comprise traditional dance, drumming and choral music. This will take place in Skukuza from 18 – 22 September in the evenings.

Day 4

There will be a launch of the “Skukuza Science Leadership Centre” which is going to be a hub for research and science education on 21 September. The centre is aimed at enhancing exchange programmes between local and international science students, scientists and researchers as well as experiential learning opportunities involving local communities bordering the National Parks.

Day 5

Management will visit children who are ill at Mapulaneng Hospital in the Bushbuckridge area on 22 September. The idea is to ensure that we reach out to these groups of children because they cannot make use of the opportunity as offered due to their condition; whilst also getting lessons from them about life’s challenges.

NOTE: Conditions applicable to the free entry are that access will only be granted to day visitors upon presentation of an identity document; only children below the age of 16 years gain entry without proof of identity.

Groups regarded as commercial ventures: private open safari vehicles operators, tourists who come to the park on tour buses and overnight visitors are not included in this free access arrangement.

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