The number of South Africans visiting the country's national parks during National Parks Week increased by 52.6% this year to 113 032.
National Parks Week, held in September, is a campaign run by State-owned South African National Parks (SANParks) that gives citizens a chance to experience the beauty and majesty of the national parks free of charge.
It is aimed at giving the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as the custodian of the country's natural heritage. During the week, each parks hosts activities to "cultivate knowledge of the importance of conservation and an appreciation for the country’s natural heritage".
“This campaign, under the established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’, allows locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend a day at a national park of their choice, free of charge,” says SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni.
He adds that another positive development has been the increase in visitors to the smaller national parks, including the West Coast and Bontebok National Park.
"SANParks aims to create a culture of pride in all South Africans in their relationship with the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage. When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe they will start to understand the importance of conservation”.
“Since its inception in 2006, National Parks Week has seen an influx of 551 393 day visitors in all participating parks. These numbers are encouraging and tell us that more people are taking advantage of this free week at our national parks,” he says.
National Parks Week is supported by First National Bank and Total South Africa.
“Without our sponsors, this week would not have materialised and South Africans would not be able to visit our parks free of charge. SANParks thanks all South Africans who took part in this week, especially educators and school groups.
"The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa,” says Mketeni.