South Africa’s conservation and tourism departments are progressively planning the country’s fourth largest game park. Looking at the plans, it is exciting to see that this new game park will rank among the country’s best – the Kruger National Park, the Greater Addo Elephant National Park, and the Ais-Ais / Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. There is one question on every safari and game enthusiast’s mind: when will this park be a reality?
A new 120,000 hectare (295,000 acre) game reserve is planned for South Africa’s central escarpment in the province of Mpumalanga. Currently, there are three smaller established reserves in the area proposed for the new mega park. These are the Buffelskloof game reserve, Makobulaan game reserve and the charming Wonderkloof nature reserve. A region with high diversity and a pronounced cultural history, the park will stretch from the Schoemanskloof Road to the popular Long Tom Pass. And between these two roads lie a beautiful mountain region and a lowveld where game will be most at home.
According to the conservationists and authorities in charge of the planning, the ultimate goal is to establish the park with big five game. Not only is the big five a major local and international tourist attraction, but there is also ecological planning being done here. The region designated for the major park is currently dominated by smaller herbivores, and as a result, a good portion of the region has become less accessible due to plant overgrowth. But with the introduction of the big five, this will change. A more balanced ecological picture can be expected: the big five will not only control the smaller herbivore numbers while sustaining themselves, but will play a crucial role in managing of dense overgrown regions.
Current land use
With such a large piece of land, it goes without saying that there are current and different land uses. The planning of the park is taking this into consideration – and is finding ways how the current and existing land uses can continue, in harmony with the game park. It is here where we can expect to see smaller, privately owned accommodation being developed to augment the planned national park’s accommodation. Privately owned farms could possibly transform into guest farms, offering tourists additional activities, points of interest and accommodation. The individuals and state departments at the steer of the park planning acknowledged that they will manage the park in such a way as to accommodate all current land uses and communities.
Getting such a major conservation and tourism initiative off the ground is no small task. Added to this are the province’s urgent environmental protection priorities – which do not coincide with the planned park or its designated region. For this reason, the park is actively being planned, but is not receiving top priority right away. However, there is a mutual agreement among landowners, residents, conservationists and authorities that the planned park will be an enormous benefit, environmentally, economically and socially speaking. Hence why the first steps are being taken. The immediate goals are to fence the entire proposed park region, and to start introducing game such as zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, impala and others.
Nestled between major attractions such as the Kruger National Park and neighboring country Mozambique, these plans for a new major game park in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province is coming at the right time: a time where conservation is receiving priority, along with the ways in which tourism and safaris can contribute to economically viable conservation. All the more reason why South Africa is excitingly waiting to welcome another major game park!