Each year approximately 950 000 people travel to visit the Kruger National Park located in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa; which is today recognised as the world’s largest safari sanctuary.
Comprising local tourism and international inbound travelers; safari guests come to witness nature at her pristine and recurring ‘seasonal best’ within one of Africa’s most wildlife legacy.
With each Kruger National Park entrance fee, visitors entering the park, contribute a nominal park conservation fee which goes towards protecting and conserving the park’s natural and cultural heritage, together with its surrounding local communities.
In March 2020, safari travel and tourism was put on hold as global governments scrambled to understand and manage the rapid and widespread COVID-19 virus pandemic. National parks across South Africa, including the Kruger National Park, were forced to lock their gates and stop the flow of visitors to its wild and natural landscapes.
A Managed Legacy
The Kruger National Park today is managed by SANparks, South Africa’s national conservation parastatal responsible for maintaining the country’s network of 22 protected areas which make up a total of 37 000 km2 or 4% of the country’s land area. With an annual budget of close to R1 billion ($65 million), 80% of this conservation income is self-generated through its thriving tourism activities within these wild, natural, and protected spaces.
Today, the famous Big Five, comprising buffalo, lion, leopard, rhino and elephant (an old hunting term describing the hardest animals to hunt on foot) can be found in the Kruger National Park along with a vast biodiversity of other wonderful wildlife, flora, fauna and bird life.
While the Kruger’s wildlife continue to enjoy free-roaming the park’s expansive 20 000 sqkm habitat under current lockdown protocols, albeit with less traffic and awe-struck camera-clicking audience, the shutdown of South Africa’s travel and tourism industry has also stopped tourism income for the park’s resources, infrastructure and most importantly its vital support towards conservation and anti-poaching efforts.
Where Kruger Conservation All Began
Seeing a need to curtail rampant hunting of the period, Paul Kruger, President of the then Transvaal Province, established the Kruger as a National Park in 1898 with the aim of wildlife conservation.
James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as the first Warden of the park in 1902, which he described in his journals as ‘an earthly paradise’. He championed a return to wildlife which could roam free without fear of hunting and; as denuded areas returned, the future of South African conservation expanded under his watch.
Today the Kruger National Park protects more than 753 species of animal and 1982 species of plants and 254 known cultural heritage sites, including 130 rock art sites.
A Community and Cultural Heritage
All of South Africa’s national parks are surrounded by local communities which play a role in the conservation of these natural and protected oasis, through on-going education at schools, economic development through training and job placements, together with a greater understanding of the relationship between man and animal.
Further sustainable solutions in nature conservation include eco- and cultural tourism as well as heritage tourism where communities become custodians of the land and have opportunity to engage with South Africa’s thriving tourism industry. This has been achieved over the years through both grassroots conservation initiatives, as well as travel experiences for local and international visitors which are founded on initiatives towards preserving these environments.
For poor rural communities, SANParks remains engaged in socio-economic development and improved living conditions for local communities adjacent to national parks and provides a number of programmes in environmental education, sustainable resource programmes and green school initiatives.
It is SANParks position that South Africa’s national parks have a bright future in South Africa if they manage to bring local benefits to the people living around the parks, and if they can inspire the youth of today to be the ambitious conservationists of tomorrow.
By promoting conservation, improving park access, assisting with environmental initiatives and inviting local people to discuss and cooperate in future policies – the parks are taking up a responsible role in society and play a major role in reviving indigenous knowledge and oral history.
Luxury Wildlife Experiences for VIP Safari Travelers
With over 25 years of safari travel conservation, Hayward’s Grand Safari Company prides itself on supporting the vital role SANParks plays in the conservation future of South Africa’s national parks.
Not only can local and international leisure and business groups enjoy the exclusivity of a 5-star mobile tented safari camp deep in the heart of the Kruger’s most untouched wildlife regions; they also have access to other conservation areas such as KwaZulu-Natal’s World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, and the Transfrontier Conservation Areas (a confluence between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (at the confluence of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe).
As part of the #GrandSafari experience, Hayward’s guests enjoy access to pristine natural wildlife environments and the opportunity to engage with local communities and conservation outreach programmes such as rhino tagging and elephant counting.
As an ongoing conservation success story, the Kruger National Park, along with all South Africa’s natural park areas, require tourists and a thriving tourism industry where money is supplied to survive and uphold its conservation trajectory.
In the famous words of Hollywood actor Will Smith: “It feels like God visits everywhere else but lives in Africa”. Hopefully, South African tourism and governmental foresight can continue to preserve this piece of heaven on the tip of the awe-inspiring and breath-taking African continent.
To book an exclusive and private 5-star safari into the heart of the Kruger National Park visit www.haywardsafaris.com