What happens when you offer South African citizens free entry to national parks for a week? Well, they make use of it! During the week of 8 -12 September, SANParks offered free entry to its parks which was a roaring success, as they saw an 85.9% increase in visitor numbers with a total of 53 251 people visiting various parks during this focus week.
According to SANParks Acting Head of Communications, Reynold Thakhuli, the National Parks attracted 28 640 visitors during the same initiative in 2013, which means that a brand new record has been set.
“SANParks started this campaign to encourage all South Africans, especially those from the local communities around the parks, to share in what SANParks envisions to be ‘the pride and joy of all South Africans and the world,’” Thakhuli said and added that since its inception in 2006, National Parks Week has seen an influx of 172 076 day visitors in all participating parks. “The increase this year can be attributed to the SANParks programmes designed to connect with the broader South African society and living its vision of connecting to society.”
All of the parks managed by SANParks excluding Namaqua and Boulders at Table Mountain National Park participated in the initiative to give the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as custodian of the country’s natural heritage.
Since 2006 each of the regions has seen an influx of day visitors during SANParks Week. The Cape region including Agulhas, Bontebok, Table Mountain, Tankwa and West Coast National Parks rose to 42 973 day visitors this year from 18 418 visiting last year. Table Mountain National Park enjoyed an flood of day visitors, rising from 4 380 in 2013 to 8 696 for 2014.
“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,” concluded Thakhuli.