Wilderness scoops Best Entrance/reception of the Year Award

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Wilderness scoops Best Entrance/reception of the Year Award

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Wilderness scoops Best Entrance/reception of the Year Award

21 January 2019

The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) scooped the Best Entrance gate/ reception of the Year for 2017/2018 at a glitzy Kudu Awards in Gallagher Estate (Johannesburg).

24, 208 people visited the Wilderness section in December 2018 alone. This is 4, 361 more than in December 2017 where 19, 847 were recorded. The Park has witnessed a steady increase each year which Park Manager, Dr Sandra Taljaard has attributed to better controls in place introduced for better management. So says Taljaard ‘despite the challenges around not having suitable gate control staff, being proactive and creative, security and access control at entrance gates was improved which led to a significant increase in revenue for conservation fee.’

Wilderness is the Western gateway to enter the rest of the GRNP which includes Knysna and Tsitsikamma.

Oom Isaac, one of several workers at the entrance gate of the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp has been with South African National Parks (SANParks) for the past 13 years since being transferred with the indigenous forest estate by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in 2005. ‘I enjoy working at the gate which forms part of the tourism section. Although working in the forest as a ranger was interesting’ he adds ‘nothing beats meeting new people and learning different languages.’

The Park is well-known for its lakes system- (2) saline lake systems (Wilderness and Swartvlei) into which seven (7) rivers flow- the Touw River, Duiwe River and Langvlei Spruit into the Widerness system and Diep, Klein, Wolwe, Hoekraal and Karatara Rivers into the Swartvlei system.’ IA Russel (1999).

It is a bird lover’s paradise and attracts many wildlife photographers who spend days in its hides to catch birds in action. With a count higher than the rest of the Parks in the Region, a total of 262 bird species were recorded in the former Wilderness National Park (Randall et al. 2007) and 257 in the former Tsitsikamma National Park (Skead & Liversidge 1957; Crawford 1983; N Hanekom & G McIlleron pers comm). Boshoff (1991) lists a total of 208 species recorded in the Knysna area, of which 79 species are commonly found in indigenous forests in the region (Von Breitenbach 1974). Grindley (1985) and Martin et al.(2000) together list 74 species that occur predominantly in wetland areas.' State of Knowledge Report compiled by SANParks scientists (2017).

The cocktail of activities for light adventurers attracted to the Park include canoeing, cruising with Wilderness Safaris in the Touw and Serpentine Rivers which run through the Park. Day hikers are on the increase because the diverse landscape of indigenous forest, fynbos areas with wetland and sea views are magical.

The Park recently announced (4) hiking trails accredited with Green Flag status by the Hiking Organisation of Southern Africa (HOSA). This brings the number of accredited hiking trails to 18 in the Garden Route National Park. Twelve (12) are in Tsitsikamma, 2 in Knysna. The four trails include the Half Collard Kingfisher trail (9,65km), Dune Mole Rat Trail (8,2km), Woodville Big Tree (2km) and the Circles in the Forest (3,4km).

Petrus Bewee is a ranger based at the gate of one of the most popular hiking trails close to the rest camp (Half-Collared Kingfisher trail). ‘Visitors arrive every five minutes’ he says about how popular that trail is. Bewee also says his wildlife visitors vary from reptiles to buck to hearing the Knysna Loerie and other birds singing. ‘It really is a blessing and so rewarding’ he adds.

It is the enthusiasm of the team, the love for their work and dedication that has helped the division to win a Kudu Award. Taljaard says the team is ‘driven, dedicated and passionate about serving people, which keeps visitors coming again and again.

Criteria for the best reception of the year for the national Kudu Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscars of the environmental sector’ includes the general impression of the gate, (grounds of gate/reception and ablution blocks), friendliness of staff, efficiency of staff at the gate/reception, administrative work, stock control, human relations, staff appearance (neat and presentable), service to the customers, net profit, human resources management as the percentage of turnover and sales growth including the gross profit percentage for the past year.

Wilderness has ticked all these boxes and more…

Paddy Gordon, Regional Park Manager for the Garden Route National Park has congratulated the Gate/ reception staff adding ‘hard work over the years in the main camp has paid off.’

Forest areas which are part of Wilderness include Goudveld, Farleigh, Beervlei.

To visit the Park: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/

Contact number 044 877 0046/ 044 877 1197

Social media: @SANParksGRNP

Media: Nandi Mgwadlamba, 078 702 9663, [email protected]

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