A new day visitor site at Shingwedzi, a conference venue at Mopani and upgrades to the tented accommodation at Lower Sabie are some of the upgrades and developments planned for South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
Last year, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism awarded R396 million (€24 million) in funding to SANParks for infrastructure development over the next three years. SANParks allocated R195 million (€11 million) to the Kruger National Park, for tourist facilities student, contractors' and staff accommodation; conference and day visitors' facilities; entrance gates; roads; and smaller upgrades.
According to Blake Schraader, Head of the Department of Technical Services, the designs for the upgrades to the tourism facilities at Punda Maria, Shingwedzi, Letaba, Satara, Orpen, Roodewal, Lower-Sabie, Berg-en-Dal and Pretoriuskop are 99% finalised. The plans to upgrade the tents at Lower Sabie and the camping sites at Berg-en-Dal and Skukuza have been finalised.
The Kruger Park plans to turn the shop at Mopani into a conference venue. This project is under way, and at Skukuza, the park is planning to upgrade the existing conferencing facilities.
New day visitor facilities, similar to those at Letaba, Satara and Orpen, will be built at Shingwedzi and Olifants. Several new bird hides and viewing points will be constructed throughout the park.
All commercial activities at the gates will be concentrated in one area. A swipe card system will also be introduced at all gates to facilitate fast lanes for Wild Card holders. All the southern gates, as well as Phalaborwa and Orpen, will be upgraded. A new bridge and road will be built at Crocodile Bridge camp to ensure that the camp becomes an end destination. The road will no longer pass through the camp as it does now.
KNP will continue with the demolition of artificial dams in Shingwedzi and Sirheni, from June 18-28. The park has over 40 fish species and the artificial dams interfere with their migration. KNP is the first park in Africa to demolish dams for ecological purposes and itl will improve river connectivity and natural hydrology in the park, as well as remove barriers within the river system.
The process will affect some tourist routes in the Shingwedzi and Sirheni area as they will be closed off completely for the next two weeks. The dams to be demolished are Louis se Gat and Kanniedod Dams.