In the light of the recent Christmas Day celebrations held in Shingwedzi rest camp it is apparent that SANParks is facing a prob lem with regards to the number of people allowed into the Park on public holidays.
People in their masses flocked to the day visitor areas and when those areas were packed to their utmost capacity the people occupied ever y green spot of grass they could find.
Whether on the lawn in front of the guest house or on the green island near the shop, day visitors took out their picnic baskets and had their Christmas lunches.
People who obviously had too much to drink were staggering around by the end of the day and then proceeded to get into their vehicles to drive to the gate without allow ing enough time if they were to drive at the 50km/h speed limit.
Quite few people either arrived late at the gate or drove well above the maximum speed limit to make the gate in time. Many animals and birds had the misfortune of meeting their deaths because of this unruly behavior. Afterwards the camp was a mess. Leftovers, empty cool drink cans, nappies, empty food containers and plastic bags were strewn all over the place. A few smouldering fires on the grass were also silent evidence of some people's shocking behavior.
Day visitors some naked swimming in the pool that is supposed to be for residents only were only one of the many complaints some people had. Apart from the fact that some people plainly just drank too much, too many visitors were allowed into the Park from the start. Did all these hundreds of people over crowding Shingwedzi rest camp book beforehand or did the fact that day visitors had to book if they wanted to visit on public holidays not come to pass?
Although this is a persistent problem that has been going on for quite a few years, this year's Christmas Day festivities in Shingwedzi exceeded all the previous ones. The problem is getting worse and for those who love the KNP and have been going to this beautiful camp for years now it is a saddening fact that it is not going to get any better unless something drastic is done.
Many thanks to the Kruger Park Times for bringing the situation at Shingwedzi on Christmas Day to our attention. We can assure Kruger Park Times that a full investigation has been launched into this issue and we will certainly monitor it over the next few months. As far as the gate quotas are concerned, these were certainly implemented throughout the KNP, especially over the Christmas season, and KNP management vows to include this as part of the investigation.
Regarding the litter, this is also an offence which carries a fine of R400. We would certainly urge all visitors to the KNP to refrain from littering as this action is not only unsightly but can be dangerous to the animals and damaging to the environment. KNP Management would also like to inform visitors that swimming in the Shingwedzi Swimming Pool is strictly reserved for those guests that are staying at the camp.
A possible solution to the problem as experienced at Shingwedzi during the 2004 festive season is a dedicated day visitor's facility and some of the strain on Shingwedzi could be lightened when the new Day Visitor's Complex at Punda Maria is opened later this year. Future plans could include a dedicated day visitor's facility at Shingwedzi along the lines of that found at Skukuza or Lower Sabie and KNP management will look seriously at this option during 2005.
The writer's sentiments about driving fast to get to the gate in time is shared by KNP management and we condemn in the harshest terms those irresponsible people who insist on driving fast and not adhering to gate times. An education campaign to inform KNP users about the reasons why gate times and speed limits are enforced could also go a long way to inform people why they should not speed in the KNP. The problem of littering and the use of the swimming pool at Shingwedzi could also be highlighted during the above-mentioned education campaign.
Although the writer mentions the day quotas, it is clear that there is perhaps a misunderstanding. Booking your day visit is merely a suggestion from KNP management to avoid the disappointment of arriving at a gate only to be told that the quota has been reached and access is denied. If the gate has not reached its daily quota, there is no reason why gate officials cannot let that person in, with or without a booking. If you have any more enquiries regarding this issue, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Kind regards Raymond Travers Media Relations Kruger National Park