South African National Parks (SANParks) has closed all tourism facilities to the public, with immediate effect, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from midnight on March 26.

SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, said the country was facing an unprecedented and unpredictable situation.

“We would like to assure our staff and visitors that their health and wellbeing are of critical importance,” said Mketeni. Overnight guests had to leave the parks yesterday (March 25) to ensure they had adequate time to return to their homes before the lockdown.

Day visitors will not be permitted to enter the parks during the lockdown and guests from identified high-risk countries currently resident in the parks and who arrived in South Africa before March 9 are instructed NOT to leave the parks.

“All such guests have been identified and staff on the ground will provide them with support and further information regarding their travel arrangements as well as facilitate contact with their embassies,” said Mketeni.

SANParks has reviewed its reservations policy to accommodate its guests and said all amendments and postponements would not be penalised or charged extra fees.

“It is for this reason that we request guests whose trips have been cut short or those who cannot make their SANParks bookings due to the lockdown, to rather consider postponement to a later stage instead of cancelling,” said Mketeni.

If travellers do not have a fixed date for a postponed booking, they should contact the call centre. Cancellations will be subject to the standard terms and conditions.

Mketeni confirmed that essential services such as food delivery, fuel provision, security and emergency services as well as wildlife crime operations would continue during this time.