Addo Elephant Park ready to welcome visitors during free SANParks week

It's the 16th annual SANParks Week, and South Africans will have free access to the Addo, Table Mountain, Kruger and the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.

Elephants at a water hole in the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - South African National Parks Week begins on Monday and citizens are able to visit many parks for free.

The week was opened at the Addo National Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape.

It's the 16th annual SANParks Week, and South Africans will have free access to the Addo, Table Mountain, Kruger and the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.

Under the established theme 'Know Your National Parks', the week-long campaign encourages citizens through the #LiveYourWild campaign to visit a national park for free.

It's just after 5pm in the evening and elephants of all sizes are roaming through the Addo National Park.

It’s home to over 600 gentle giants and other animals, including lions and buffalo, with thousands of visitors in the park every year.

SANParks is encouraging people young and old to explore our country's natural heritage, not forgetting that the tourism industry is one sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and needs the support.

SANParks board chairperson Pamela Yako: "It is our heritage, both in terms of natural and cultural. For SANParks, it means we want to be as welcoming as possible. Our staff are waiting and ready to welcome people onto our parks."

The Addo National Elephant Park also celebrated 90 years of existence on Sunday and boasts with the title of having the Big 7.

Park manager Nick de Goede said that this was the most diverse park in the country because you could go from the Karoo to the mountains, to the coastal vegetation to the sea.

He said that this park, which was home to over 600 elephants, relied heavily on tourism.

"Parks in South Africa boast of the Big 5. Addo is privileged to boast of the Big 7. We have the Big 5 that people know but obviously, we do also have the Southern Right Whale and the great white shark. So from Addo'spoint of view, it's a massive, diverse park."

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on the park.

De Goede said that people were welcome to visit this week.