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Tourism: Exploring the ecological wonders of the world (III)

By Ojugbele Omotunde

Immersion in nature is intrinsically related to a journey to South Africa, a country abundant in species and commanding scenery.

South Africa, one of the top three tourist destinations in Africa, has gotten on the ecotourism bandwagon and stands to benefit greatly. The Cape Floristic Region, also referred to as Fynbos, is the only country in the world that contains a full floral kingdom.

Also, 10% of all plant species worldwide are located in the nation, with 65% of these being exclusive to South Africa. Over 100 species of mammals, 900 species of birds, and 120 species of amphibians are found in the nation overall.

South Africa has also utilized ecotourism to enhance its biodiversity and boost its economy, as tourism is the country’s fourth largest foreign exchange generator.

Ecotourism encourages visitors to support the country’s biodiversity, promoting non-consumptive and legal wildlife benefits, avoiding illegal activities like poaching and trafficking in the international wildlife trade.

Some eco tourism destinations in South Africa includes:

1. Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park, which is situated in southern South Africa, was created in 1931 to preserve the last eleven elephants in the region and barely covered 2000 hectares of land at the time.

Presently, the park encompasses 120,000 hectares of marine reserves in addition to 165,000 hectares of land. At 600, it currently safeguards one of Africa’s densest populations of elephants. The Big Seven live in this park, together with the great white shark and the southern right whale. The breathtaking diversity of its scenery, which range from lush woods to dunes that flow into the ocean.

2. Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala Nature Reserve, established over 20 years ago by merging six local farms, is dedicated to conserving South Africa’s natural heritage. It has introduced small populations of wild animals on land without human activity, requiring increased management capacity and employing local people for animal safety and conservation.

The reserve also uses natural techniques and has a foundation for educational programs, offering hikes and safaris to meet unique plants and animals.

3. uKhahlambra Drakensberg Park

Numerous wildlife, including baboons, zebras, antelopes, and elands, may be seen in uKhahlambra Park, which is located on the border between South Africa and Lesotho.

The Maloti-Drakensberg cross-border project was initiated in the 2000s by the governments of South Africa and Sotho with the aim of enhancing infrastructure and doing research on species conservation.

In 500 caves within the park, there are about 35,000 specimens of rock art.
Eco friendly activities created in the park includes climbing, hiking trails and guided tours of the caves.

4. Kruger National Park

Kruger Park, South Africa’s largest national park, is renowned for its stunning wildlife, including the Big Five (African elephant, African lion, African buffalo, African leopard, black rhino), and offers visitors the chance to witness these magnificent animals in their natural habitats.

The Big Five, once hunted animals, are now protected by a park. The park attracts tourists and studies species, cohabitation, and reproduction to conserve them.

It also offers eco-responsible infrastructure, including natural accommodations, and educates tourists on good habits to preserve the area and local populations, this approach separates the park from big cities and promotes sustainable tourism.

Fun activities around the Kruger park includes:
Mountain biking, bird watching, safaris and different types of hikes.

5. iSimangaliso Wetland Park

A Unesco World Heritage Site, explore a singular patchwork of 21 ecosystems where marine life, elephants, hippos, and many bird species come together.

This extraordinary universe is referenced in its name, which means “merveille et miracle.” There are marshes, lakes, beaches, vegetal dunes, and more in this enormous wetland that spans more than 300,000 hectares while the coastal forest, lakes, and bays are thought to be its ten jewels.

6. Richtersveld National Park

Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a World Heritage Site, Peace Park, and conservation area in South Africa’s north westerly region near Namibia’s border. It spans 5920 km² and features desert mountain scenery, a Ramsar site river mouth, and the Fish River Canyon. It’s one of the last regions where people continue a traditional nomadic lifestyle, herding goats and sheep over vast distances.

7. Agulhas National Park

Cape Agulhas, the southernmost African continent, is a popular summer destination due to its Atlantic and Indian oceans meeting. Its windswept coastline features Lowland fynbos and shellfish middens, a cultural heritage created by pre-colonial inhabitants.

Agulhas National Park is a remarkable ecotourism destination with a 1849 lighthouse heritage building, 300 unique plants, and over 21,000 water birds. It also benefits local communities by employing 450 people and 38 SMMEs, and fostering a co-operative for sustainable agriculture and biodiversity enhancement.

8. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, located in Botswana, is one of Africa’s largest ecosystems, largely devoid of human interference. Over 70% of the park is in Botswana, with the rest in South Africa.

The park is a conservation project and peace park, crossed by the Nossob and Auob rivers. It supports wildlife like leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, black-backed jackals, caracals, and foxes.

The striking red and white sand dunes, divided by dune valleys, and the black-maned lions are the park’s most distinctive features.

The Khomani San and Mier people regained control of 58 000 hectares of the Kgalagadi Park at the end of 2002, split the profits made by this land and keep the rights and benefits associated with it commercially.


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