A team of nature-loving South Africans in partnership with Google Street View and South African Tourism (SAT) have released a large collection of 360-degree imagery of the country’s wildest areas. The announcement of 170 new trails in South Africa’s national parks and reserves follows on from The Mzansi Experience launched in March 2016, which showcased prominent tourist attractions such as Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point amongst others.
The new trails, launched recently, extend the existing Street View imagery of South Africa’s wilderness areas to include all 19 national parks, 17 previously ‘un-trekked’ nature reserves and many sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in all nine provinces of South Africa.
More than 200 South African volunteers from across the country were involved in the 12-month project, mapping out the parts of South Africa that they call home. Many were SANParks, CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife rangers and guides. Others were avid hikers, nature-lovers and tech enthusiasts.
Magdalena Filak, Programme Manager, Google said, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan programme.”
Mate Modisha, a field ranger at Cape Nature’s Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is one of 206 South Africans to carry the Google Trekker camera. The project forms part of Google’s Street View Camera Loan Programme, which encourages anyone to apply to borrow the 360-degree camera technology and help map the planet.
The team of volunteers was coordinated by loan program partner Drive South Africa. Andre Van Kets, outdoor enthusiast and founder of the Cape Town-based travel company, saw the potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe, when applying to the programme.
Van Kets said, “The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.”
Sisa Ntshona, CEO, South African Tourism said, “For the first time, travellers and wildlife lovers from across the globe, can explore the full spectrum of South Africa’s diverse wilderness areas on Google Maps and Street View. Technology is profoundly influencing how travellers interact with the tourism and hospitality ecosystem, from booking online, sharing experiences on social media. In the technology sphere, insights and research-based knowledge will help drive innovation.”
Additionally, seven of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites are now waiting to be experienced. Users can see Mapungubwe Hill, home to an ancient African civilisation, the Richtersveld with its arid moonscapes, the towering Drakensberg Mountains, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site and a critical habitat for a range of species.