Free entry at national parks

George – South Africans, young and old, are encouraged to take advantage of a once in a life time opportunity to visit the country’s national parks free of charge for this week only.

This week is National Parks Week and during this period, people will get a chance to enter into the parks free of charge during the day. The free access does not apply to overnight visitors in any of South Africa’s national parks.

Launching National Parks Weeks in George, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said it was imperative that people should discover the beauty of their country.

“We are saying to people of South Africa, go out and discover the beauty of your country, rediscover the fauna and flora of country’s most spectacular scenery.”

The main reason to celebrate National Parks Week is to acknowledge the successes of the country’s parks.

“We are committed to the promotion of a society that lives in harmony with its environment,” the minister said.

This year’s SANParks Week, under the theme ‘Know Your National Parks’, will highlight the importance of South Africa’s national parks by looking at both human and wildlife factors.

During the week, focus will also be on creating awareness, instilling a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage, educating the public on the importance of nature and biodiversity and also giving the public a broader understanding of the custodianship role played by SANParks in conservation issues.

SanParks Head of Communications Wanda Mkhutshulwa explained that there was a need to afford people an opportunity to explore the country’s national parks.

“We felt that we should make people feel that parks belong to them.”

According to Mkhutshulwa, more than 20 000 people are expected to visit the parks this week.

All National Parks will be celebrating SANParks Week, but free access will not apply to Boulders in Table Mountain National Park, Mokala National Park and Namaqua National Park.

One of South Africa’s leading banks, First National Bank (FNB), has sponsored the week’s activities and each of the 19 national parks have developed unique plans for celebrating the week. These include career guidance exhibitions, hiking trails, photography competitions, exhibitions on various activities around the parks, game drives, evening boma braais, storytelling sessions, sports activities and giveaways, pensioners’ day and wild walks for school children.

FNB representative Kgosi Ledimo told delegates at the launch that FNB was currently looking at better ways of addressing environmental concerns.

“We have to make every effort to expose young South Africans to the wonders our country has to offer and what better way than to grant free access to our parks,” he said.

The inaugural SANParks week took place in 2006. – BuaNews