The 12th official South African National Parks Week has officially been launched at Golden Gate Highlands National Park (GGHNP) today.
The launch was held under the theme 'Know Your National Parks'. The week, launched by the SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, will end on Friday, 22 September.
"The National Parks Week initiative was born out of the realisation that the majority of South Africa's citizens were not visiting parks, and with a plethora of activities and wide variety of accommodation to choose from, the week is an effort to cultivate a culture of awareness of and pride in National Parks, especially for those communities situated around the parks," said Mketeni.
The week is an opportunity to showcase all national parks as affordable local holiday destinations that offer unique experiences that families and individuals from all backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles and communities can enjoy.
During the week, SANParks will once again opening its doors for free from today until Friday. Some of the parks will be extending the week to include the weekend. For individual park dates, please visit: https://www.sanparks.org/about/events/parks_week/.
Preserving natural heritage
Along with the Basotho Cultural Village and museum located on the eastern side of the amalgamated GGHNP, the parks boasts a rich history with San rock art and primitive stone tools found at various places throughout Golden Gate.
It hosts the oldest dinosaur embryo, which was discovered in the area in the early century.
The extensive Early Jurassic continental strata of Southern Africa yielded exceptional records of dinosaurs ranging from embryos to large adults, but it was only at GGHNP where the first and oldest known example in fossil record of an incomplete egg clutch including in-ova-embryos was discovered.
Plans are underway to build a world-class Dinosaur Interpretative Centre.
The park is named after the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park's ever present sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, and is nestled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the north eastern Free State about 20km of the artistic town of Clarens.
There are a wide variety of birds in the park, with more than 220 species recorded. The most important birds of prey are the Black Eagle and Jackal Buzzard, as well as the critically endangered Bearded and endangered Cape Vulture.
The conservation of vultures in the Eastern Free State has been given a boost by the completion of the Golden Gate Vulture Hide and Restaurant in the park.
Free access to SA National Parks will be granted to South African day visitors 16 years and older upon presentation of a valid identification document and Mketeni, said: "The week allows all citizens a chance to freely access something they might not have been exposed to.
"We especially want our young people to take advantage of this opportunity because this heritage will be under their protection in the near future."