SANParks free week kicks off

SANParks free week kicks off
ACCESS: To selected national park is free this week in celebration of Heritage month. PICTURE BY Wildcard.

SANParks 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 this week (18 -22 Sep), 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”.

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.

The Parks 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.

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“Environmental education and protection is the responsibility of everyone, not just a privileged few.”

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,” the 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”.