SA National Parks Week is welcoming spring and celebrating South African heritage again this year. From 12-17 September South Africans can visit most of South Africa’s 21 national parks free of charge.

Established in 2006 under the theme “Know Your National Parks”, National Parks Week is aimed at promoting pride in the parks as well as raising awareness for conservation concerns. The week is a chance for locals to visit the parks as it was found that a majority of South Africans were not visiting the parks. South African National Parks (SanParks) acting head of communications William Mabasa said that creating a national culture of pride in the parks encourages South Africans to be more aware of conservation issues and to gain more knowledge about the country’s rich natural and cultural heritage. “When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe that they will start to understand the importance of conservation,” said Mabasa.

This year exhibitions will also take place at some of the parks, such as a weekend of African spirituality at Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State. Cultural festivals, including exhibitions and traditional performances, will be held in Limpopo at Mapungubwe National Park and Work Heritage Site. Mabasa said in a media release, “This year’s SA National Parks Week will include exhibitions around the country at various key national parks which will represent the different geographical regions of SanParks. The expo will include cultural, conservation, nursery and tourism aspects from the community, rangers and various conservation entities in order to highlight the broader South African biodiversity landscape.”

SanParks have already participated in multiple events this year to raise awareness for conservation issues. On 12 August they celebrated World Elephant Day in an attempt to bring attention to the urgent plight of the African elephant and to discuss solutions for better ways to conserve and manage both wild and captive elephants. In order to raise funds for anti-poaching campaigns, SANParks also entered into Pick ‘n’ Pay’s Super Animals initiative. The parks are also preparing for World Rhino Day on 22 September.

SanParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said, “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. That is why we set this week aside every year to afford all citizens from all walks of life access to the parks.”

All that is required to visit the parks during National Parks week is presentation of an official ID. It should also be noted that it is only free to enter the parks, and that all accommodation and commercial activities (such as guided safaris and walks) are still charged at the same rate.

Photo: Shen Scott

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