It would appear that the Orpen Gate to the Kruger National Park (KNP) is moving and multiplying. If the plans currently being discussed come to fruition, two structures will be built on the Orpen Road leading into the KNP. A new security gate will be constructed about 7km away from the existing Orpen Gate and a second park entrance gate will be built closer to the new day visitor's facility.
Having two gates will address two problems facing the Orpen region - congestion at Orpen Gate, and protection of the wildlife outside of the gate. Regional manager Natalia Ndaba-Mafumo says that by diverting traffic from the rest camp Orpen will become "quieter and safer" and that the Orpen reception staff "will only handle people staying in Orpen rest camp".
She added that if the new gate were built, the park would lower the speed limit on the 7km stretch of road down to 50km/hr, making it safer for both people and animals. Much of the land neighbouring the Orpen Gate is devoted to nature conservation, including a contractual national park managed for the World Wide Fund for Nature - South Africa (WWF-SA), the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and the Manyeleti provincial nature reserve.
Animals roam widely in the area, helped by elephant-induced fence breaks, and are sometimes involved in traffic accidents. However, there are still members of the public who need access to this land and would not enter the park itself if they went through the gate. These include visitors to Ngala Tented Safari Camp, the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity, Research and Information (Hans Hoheisen research facility), private landowners and others.
By building two gates, security can be stepped up between the gates but people not entering the park itself would not have to pay entrance fees. People going into Kruger could then use their Wild Card or pay entrance fees at the second gate, located close to the rest camp and day visitor's facilities, but not enter the rest camp itself unnecessarily.
As the environmental impact process is still underway, the precise location of the gates has yet to be nailed down. At this stage, the gate furthest from the park will include toilets, staff accommodation and a curio shop. There is the possibility of a petrol station also being built at the gate.
The local community will run the curio shop with help from the KNP social ecologists. Both Total and Sasol have been approached about the filling station. The KNP has discussed moving the current Orpen filling station with Total, and the community contacted Sasol. The community are also creating a cultural village that Kruger visitors could easily access.
The gate infrastructure would be built on a five hectare piece of land that was cut off from the farm Kempiana when the Orpen Road was built. This land is owned by the WWF, and the KNP has asked for permission to use it.
According to Fanie Greyling, executive director of the Southern African Wildlife College and WWF spokesperson in this regard, all the information on the proposed gate has been forwarded to WWF chief executive Tony Frost.
When Frost returns from business overseas, the matter will be put before the WWF board for ratification. The proposed Orpen gate move has been on the cards for over a decade. One of the major hurdles faced by the KNP in this matter was the deproclamation of the Orpen Road from a provincial road to one under the KNP's jurisdiction. The intention to change the road's status was first put forward in 2001, but only in March this year did the final permission come through from the Limpopo provincial roads agency.