The issue of the construction of a luxury hotel development in the Kruger National Park was discussed at length on 2oceansVibe last year when the weighty issue of hotel development in the Kruger National Park became public knowledge. The first of these developments, to be built near the Malelane Gate, the most convenient entrance from Johannesburg and the airport in nearby Nelspruit, is finally about to get underway.
Logically, not everyone agrees with the decision aimed at attracting the growing black middle class to the Kruger National Park in the manner it is being done, and the move by SANParks has been met with disapproval from conservationists and nature lovers alike.
They argue that the hotel will degrade the Park’s ecology and ambiance.
Authorities insist however, that the development is part of the evolution of safari tourism – geared to shed the Park’s image as an elitist destination for white South Africans and foreigners looking to escape to nature.
Change to the Park has always caused controversy, from the building of the first rest camp in 1939, to the tarring of roads, addition of luxury camps, and opening of petrol stations. But one must remember that thus far, only 0,3 per cent of the Park is actually developed.
Retired Kruger Park manager, Salomon Joubert, described the hotel plans as:
A dramatic deviation from national park philosophy. National parks are there for their scientific, for their spiritual and educational values. They are not here as resorts.
But the Park receives very little funding from government in order to maintain itself, and relies heavily on all kinds of donations, from the Honorary Rangers to the general public. Some of which you can read about here and here.
Another ex-Kruger manager, Harold Braack, supported the hotel. He agreed that the Park, along with other parks managed by SANParks, must evolve with the times:
I believe that the hotel development will be a benefit to Kruger and to local communities – this is important if we wish to have a Kruger National Park in the future. Conservation has to grow with people and benefit people.
The new development will comprise of a single-storey complex, with 119 rooms, overlooking the Crocodile River.
Currently more than one million people visit the Park annually. White South Africans make up the largest group of visitors, with more and more blacks visiting every year. Currently this group represents 26 per cent of the total number of visitors, with only six per cent opting to stay overnight.
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