Ecotourism Opportunities Abound in South Africa
The new World Heritage designation helps spark interest in the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains region.
Northeast South Africa’s Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains is one of the oldest geological structures on earth, comprising volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 billion to 3.25 billion years, to the time when the continents were just beginning to form, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As a result, ecotourism in this region is unlike anywhere else in the world.
For their unique geological and historical significance, the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains were recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site. This designation “contributes to the reputation of an area as worth visiting,” Nico Oosthuizen, president of the Barberton Chamber of Business, says. “It confirms the outstanding universal value of the area for all humanity, and this contributes meaningfully to the marketability of tourism and conservation-based products in the area.”
With existing nature reserves, which are home to diverse geology that supports game, birds, and plant life, the area is prime for timeshare-based ecotourism, according to Oosthuizen. “The development of such resorts and game lodges has in most cases already been included in the planning of these parks, making the development process and attendant development approvals relatively easy, since they will carry the support of the provincial conservation agency.”
“Although in its infancy, ecotourism is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many travelers who want to get back to nature and leave the environment for future generations to enjoy,” says Robin Mills, RCI’s vice president of business development, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “More and more of our affiliated resorts are focusing on their carbon footprint and being more environmentally friendly.”
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