South African National Parks (SANParks) has established itself as a reputable nature based tourism destination within the global tourism market.
Limitations of past apartheid and conservation laws have, in the past, inhibited SANParks’ ability to explore and promote a variety of community linked tourism opportunities as well as an exploration of associated park based cultural assets. In order “to deliver a people-centred conservation and tourism mandate for SANParks, all National Parks have effectively embarked on a mission to develop and promote culture-based tourism products. The strategy aims to tap into and support the development of those cultural dimensions that enable more depth of interaction with, and understanding of, local people in and around National Parks, the regions and their unique cultural identities.
Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site
Mapungubwe and its recent declaration as a World Heritage Site has helped to highlight the significance of cultural heritage within SANParks.The inextricable links between people, biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage have become more evident through Mapungubwe. A number of initiatives have now come up within SANParks to enable a more dedicated focus on cultural heritage and community participation.
The Mapungubwe National Park provides unparalleled opportunities for the development of cultural resources as a sustainable component in the overall park development and management.
As contemporary South Africa increasingly takes interest in, and its inspiration from, the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, there are opportunities for building a national constituency across the country amongst particularly the youth. Significantly, the story of Mapungubwe and its importance in the overall history of the sub-continent has been incorporated into the national schools’ curricula. This means that the site itself is increasingly becoming a focus for educational tours, with many primary and secondary schools as well as students from tertiary institutions visiting the park.
The formation of the park at a time when issues of landownership and restitution has come to the fore throughout southern Africa also provides an opportune moment for the park authorities to implement models of outreach to local communities. The park now regularly hosts communities from Botswana and Zimbabwe who, for almost more than 100 years were cut off from ancestral land of which their ancestors once were an integral part. In this way the park is reaching out to a broader Southern-African community – an initiative that, it is hoped, will eventually culminate in the formation of a Transfrontier Conservation Area. Transfrontier Conservation Areas signifciantly promote regional integration, greater biodiversity, environmental tourism and economic growth.
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