Interpretation is the act of providing meaning to something. One of the most important opportunities in visiting National Parks is for guests to be exposed to, and learn about a range of environmental, cultural, and historical matters that can enrich their experience, build their knowledge and understanding, and add to their seeing, hearing, and sensing of the wildlife and landscapes.
Interpretation comes in many forms. It can be verbal, and delivered by guides and staff, or even other guests. It can come from information in books, visitor guides or maps; or electronically through websites, podcasts, or other sound recordings… but there are also fixed locations in the parks that provide interpretation ranging from larger interpretation centres and museums to smaller interpretive display kiosks or boards, to smaller still interpretive plaques.
Some of the must-visit interpretation sites in SANParks are listed below per park:
|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
The Richtersveld Botanic Garden features displays on:
- A Welcome to the Richtersveld Desert Botanical Garden.
- A Glimpse of the Noms Mountain Desert.
- Blistering Heat and Rugged Terrain of Vyf Susters Mountains.
- Creatures Big and Small Abound in This Harsh Environment.
- Endemics – Adapted and Fulfilling a Special Role in their Environment.
- Fog catchers – Thriving in the Mists of 15 Myl se Berg.
- Oasis in the Desert – Plants that Thrive Along the River.
- Orange River, Longest, Largest and LIFELINE to Many.
- Surviving Shifting Sands and Sandblasting Winds: Kortdoring Garden.
- The Desert is Much More than Meets the Eye.
- The Quest for Desert Diamonds.
- Threats Looming in All Shapes and Sizes.
Addo Elephant National Park
At Addo Main Camp visitors have access to the following sites:
- Ulwazi Interpretive Centre – which focuses on the history and biodiversity of the Park, and particularly the lives of the Park’s elephants. There is a sound booth, and an outdoor play area for children which demonstrates sub-sonic hearing of elephants.
- Addo Spekboom Discovery Trail – this short wheelchair friendly nature walk through the Camp’s Albany thicket has a series of display boards on the ecology of the thicket biome.
- There are also interpretive displays within Main Camp at the bird hide, the underground hide, at reception and at the waterhole lookout.
Elsewhere in the Park there are interpretive display boards in many places, such as Jack’s Picnic Site, Domkrag Dam, the Spekboom Reserve, along the Sunday’s River in both the Kabouga and Colchester sections, at Darlington Dam, in the Alexandria Forests, in the Woody Cape Section, and in the Zuurberg Section.
Agulhas National Park
- Southernmost Tip Monument – home to a giant map of Africa and two oceans displays at the official meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
- Agulhas Lighthouse Museum – a maritime museum dedicated to South African lighthouses, and with some additional Park information too.
- The Park reception office has some interesting interpretive displays.
There are also several other displays on various subjects scattered throughout the Park.
It should also be mentioned that for people visiting Agulhas there are other interpretation experiences in the area not provided directly by SANParks that will complement and enhance their experience. These include:
- The Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp
- The Moravian Village of Elim
Augrabies Falls National Park
There are interpretation displays at the reception of Augrabies Rest Camp. There are also various interpretive display boards throughout the Park.
Bontebok National Park
- Interpretation Displays at the Park’s reception offices and ‘Die Stroom’ Visitor Centre.
- Interpretive displays alongside the Breede River enroute to Lang Elsies Kraal Rest Camp.
- Interpretation displays at Lang Elsies Kraal.
- Under development is an environmental centre at the Park’s old reception building.
Camdeboo National Park
- Interpretation Signage along the trail to the Valley of Desolation Lookout Platform, and along the Crag Lizard Trail.
- The Andries Pretorius Monument is by the Park’s Reception Building.
- Camdeboo Environmental Centre has numerous interpretative displays about the geology and ecology of the area.
Garden Route National Park
- Thesen Island – There are several interpretative displays on Thesen Island at the SANParks Offices, and a tank of the endangered Knysna Seahorses in one of the buildings. There are displays on the jetty on:
- Knysna Seahorses;
- Bondi, a former navy dog and mascot;
- Fish of the Estuary;
- Rules of using the water, such as fishing and boating;
- There is a heritage walk with multiple display boards to which the SANParks’ logo is one of the partners on the direction signs. This walk gives insight into the settlement in the town by the Thesen family from Norway, the development of the timber industry on the island, the boat building industry, the oyster farming and the National Sea Rescue Institute.
- Big Tree – Also known as the King Edward VII tree, this famous landmark and visitor attraction near Diepwalle Forest Station is another Outeniqua yellowwood worth seeing up close. The tree is 800+ years old.
- The Forest Legends Museum – If you venture into the mysterious Knysna Forest you will find, at its heart, the Forest Legends Museum which houses stories about Woodcutters, Timber merchants, Botanists, Settlers and the elusive Knysna Elephant. The museum reveals some of the forest’s best kept secrets and showcases the famous elephant skeleton.
- The Garden of Eden forest walk is a short wheelchair friendly boardwalk through the Knysna Forest and has interpretive displays on:
- Animals of the Garden Route
- Afromontane Forests in the Garden Route
- History of Forest Management in the Garden Route
- People and Plants of the Garden Route
- Harkerville’s environmental centre, multiple forest walks and the Kranshoek Lookout and Picnic Site have several interpretive display boards.
- The Information desk, the Enviro Centre and the Reception building at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp all have interpretive displays about various topics relating to the Park.
- There are interpretive signage and displays in the numerous Nature Trails in the Park, particularly along the Mouth Trail leading to Storms River Bridge.
- The Tsitsikamma Big Tree precinct along the N2 has several interpretive displays about forests.
- The Nature’s Valley Rest Camp and nearby wheelchair friendly boardwalk and the Estuary of the Groot River have several interpretation signboards.
- There is an interpretation Kiosk at the Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp.
- There are interpretation displays along the various nature trails and bird hides in the Lakes section of the Park.
- Dalene Matthee Big Tree and Memorial in the Goudveld Forest at Krisjan-se-Nek.
- The Millwood Goldmine Museum, and abandoned mine in the Goudveld Forest near Jubilee Creek tells the history of South Africa’s first gold rush.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
- Kgodumodumo Dinosaur Centre – this massive building is still under construction, but it is hoped will be completed in 2024. It will become South Africa’s biggest centre on dinosaurs.
- Glen Reenen Interpretation Centre – features the Park’s geology, hydrology, vegetation and wildlife and is located in a separate chamber at the reception to Glen Reenen Camp.
- The Vulture Hide on the Bontebok Loop where the Cape and Bearded Vulture feeding restaurant is located has some small interpretive displays.
- There are various other interpretive displays throughout the Park at places like Marais and Langtoon Dams.
- Wilgenhof Environmental Centre has various interpretative displays.
Karoo National Park
- Ou Schuur (Old Barn) Interpretation Centre – documents various histories of the Park and provides interpretive displays on dinosaurs, geology and the animals and vegetation of the Park.
- Fossil Trail – a short universally accessible nature trail at the Karoo Rest Camp that has a series of display cases and interpretive boards providing insight into the fascinating fossil history of the Park.
- There are various interpretive display boards throughout the Park including some at the Klipspringer Pass Viewpoint, Bulkraal Picnic Site, and other random locations.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
- Twee Rivieren Interpretation Centre – in honour of the ǂKhomani San Cultural Landscape.
- Mata Mata Raptor Centre – a tribute and exploration of the Park’s birds of prey – this small centre is going to have additional displays added either in 2023 or 2024.
- Nossob Predator Centre – there has been a predator interpretation centre at Nossob for a couple of decades with a couple of dioramas and many photos of the Park’s mammalian carnivores… this is being revamped and extended through SANParks partnership with the University of Sunshine Coast and will be refurbished during 2023 or 2024.
- Aucterlonie Museum – situated in the original homestead at the Picnic Site of the same name, this provides interpretation on Park history and pioneer farming in this arid environment.
- Interpretive Displays at all the Park’s Picnic Sites and at Union’s End – there are existing interpretive displays at all these visitor destination on fascinating history and geography about the Park, but some of them are very weather beaten by the harsh climate. They are going to receive a major facelift and expansion of information to include some cultural and biological interpretation during 2023 and 2024.
Kruger National Park
There are several interpretation centres throughout Kruger (mostly within the main rest camps), plus several interpretation sites and interpretive heritage plaques over the length of the Park. From South to North the most prominent ones include:
Between the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers
- Berg-en-Dal Camp’s Rhino Centre
- Pretoriuskop Camp’s Sable Trail – a loose nature-trail around the camp linking several points of interest with displays and an information leaflet.
- Pretoriuskop Camp’s Wolhuter Interpretation Hut – part of the above trail, but undergoing refurbishment in partnership with the SANParks’ Honorary Rangers.
- Phabeni Interpretation Site (with Albasini Ruins) – this site documents the history of the local people residing in the area before the Park was proclaimed including the former trade store.
- Chief Ngonyama’s Grave Site – tells the history of this Chief and his people.
- Skukuza Camp’s Stevenson-Hamilton Knowledge Resource Centre consists of a library and museum/interpretation centre with books and documents and displays on the history of the Park.
- Skukuza Camp’s Little Heroes’ Acre – a tribute to some of the dogs who lived in the Park and provided much treasured support and companionship for staff over the years.
- Skukuza Camp’s Papenfuss Clock Tower.
- Skukuza Wetland Boardwalk – several display boards detailing the importance of wetlands, and wetland ecology.
- Skukuza Indigenous Nursery – there are interpretation displays at the Nursery’s reception and smaller ones through the gardens.
- Campbell Interpretation Hut – under renovation during 2023, this hut will showcase the history of transport in the Park.
- An exciting new River-life Interpretation Centre is planned for Lower Sabie Rest Camp.
Between the Sabie and Olifants Rivers
- Rabelais Interpretation Hut in the Kingfisherspruit Section near Orpen Gate and Camp – features displays on the roles of tourism and the ranger, lists the section rangers stationed in this Section, contains the memoirs of some of the black rangers who served in the area, documents the contribution to the Park of the Orpen family, has a display on some of the large tuskers who roamed in the Section, and has interpretation on the 9 Kingfisher species found in the Park after which the section was named.
- Satara Camp’s Eco-Centre.
- Satara Camp’s Day Visitor Area.
- Satara Carnivore Centre is an interpretation centre under development that should be developed in 2024.
Between the Olifants and Limpopo Rivers
- Letaba Camp’s Elephant Hall – in partnership with USC, this hall provides interpretation on all thing’s elephant, their ecology, history, relationships with humankind.
- Masorini Picnic Site and Cultural Village – interpretation and restoration of the stone age African village that was located on the Hill .
- Thulamela Ruins and Heritage Site – interpretation about the Bakgalaka tribe and the Legacy of Five, who had a complex society here and in the surrounds prior to the Park’s establishment, and whose ancestors still come to the Hill for ceremonial blessings.
- Mount Tshikumbu Interpretation Site – interpretation about the Bakgalaka tribe and the Legacy of Five, who had a complex society here and in the surrounds prior to the Park’s establishment, and whose ancestors still come to the Hill for ceremonial blessings.
- Interpretation Displays at Red Rocks, Gomondwane Hill, Dzundwini Hill, Crook’s Corner, Pafuri Picnic Site etc.
- Punda Maria Gate’s Day Visitor Area – provides information on the cultural history, ecology, and biology of the Park.
- Pafuri Border Camp’s Interpretive Display – a history to the border post, to the migrant labour that used to pass through it and the people who have resided at the Camp.
- Letaba Archaeological Dig – a site on the Letaba River that predates all the known human settlements is earmarked for development in 2024.
There are additional interpretation Displays at most rest camps, at many of the Park’s hides and picnic sites, and at other random historical or geographical places throughout the Park
Mapungubwe National Park
- Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre that celebrates and provides interpretation about the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site and the Park in general.
- Several smaller displays at the Limpopo Shashe Confluence Centre and Viewpoint.
- Other smaller displays at various other points in the Park such as Poacher’s Corner, the tree-top boardwalk, Maloutswa Hide, Shcroda Dam etc.
Marakele National Park
- Interpretation displays at the Park’s reception building.
- Interpretation displays at Thutong Environmental Centre.
- An interpretive display on the Kransberg Widow Butterfly at Lenong.
- An interpretive display on the Cape Vulture at Lenong.
Mokala National Park
- Mokala Interpretation Centre – a little north of Mosu Lodge, it features Park history and how the park has changed over the years. Home to some interesting artefacts and rock engravings are on display, that offer insight into communities that have called this region home for many years. It also explores Mokala’s rich biodiversity, with information on fauna and flora.
- Some other interpretive displays at the Park’s camps and along its drives.
Mountain Zebra National Park
- Interpretation Centre at the Park Reception.
- Interpretive display boards throughout the Park.
Namaqua National Park
- Interpretation Displays at Skilpad Reception.
- Interpretive Signage at the Koeroebees Fountain and the ruins of a human settlement there known as Doornkloof and home to the Aggenbach family.
- In partnership with the Open Africa Foundation the Namaqua Coastal Route focuses on the Park, the Nama culture, the flowers, a 4×4 shipwreck trail, and the area’s geology.
Interpretation displays inside the Park along the coastal section include:
- the Park’s Cape Fur Seal colony.
- the Spoeg River Caves and the hunter gatherers who used to live there.
- the Park’s cold, but nutrient rich Benguela current, and kelp forests and Rock lobsters that thrive there.
Table Mountain National Park
- Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre has interpretation displays featuring local history, plant and animal life, and often hosts temporary exhibitions on related topics from academic or other research institutions.
- Boulders Penguin Colony and Visitor Centre – have interpretation displays on all things African Penguin and other coastal wildlife.
- Cape Point – there are some small interpretive displays at the Lighthouse and around the location.
- Hoerikwaggo Trail has small interpretation nodes at its overnight camps:
- The Platteklip Washhouses
- Orange Kloof Tented Camp
- Smitswinkel Tented Camp
- Slangkop Tented Camp
- There are small interpretative signage at locations in the Park like Newlands Forest, Oudekraal, Rhodes Memorial (including one on the extinct Quagga), Signal Hill (and Lion’s Head) and Tokai Arboretum.
- Silvermine – there are interpretive displays along the wheelchair friendly boardwalk that loops around the Silvermine Reservoir.
- Upper Cable Station and the walkways around the Table Mountain mountain-top.
- Waterworks Museum – This museum is managed by the Cape Town City department of Waterworks but is within the Park… it houses a display of memorabilia from the construction of the five dams on Table Mountain, including the steam engine used during construction.
Tankwa Karoo National Park
There are interpretation displays at the Park’s Reception offices.
West Coast National Park
- Geelbek Environmental Centre has various historical and ecological displays.
- Abrahamskraal Bird Hide has interpretation displays, mostly on birds, but also one on Great Ocean Explorers.
- The Geelbek Bird Hides and the Seeberg Hide have bird related interpretive displays.
- Seeberg Lookout Building Interpretation features displays on:
- The People of Langebaan and Whaling (an oral history),
- The Pelicans of Jutten and Malgas Islands,
- The history of the Panoramic Hotel to Langebaan Lodge,
- A history of some of the farms in the area,
- Detail on the Seeberg Farm,
- The Early Cultural Heritage of the Western Cape,
- The First People – the Koina and Sonqua, during the VOC period,
- Seafights, Shipwrecks and Pirates,
- The first colonist, the Dutch East India Company (VOC),
- First Settlement: Saldanha Bay, and outstation of the VOC,
- Other VOC Outstations and Services supporting Outstation Saldanha Bay,
- Saldanha Bay,
- Malgas Island,
- Jutten Island,
- The West Coast Flowers,
- A cross section display by the Geological Association of South Africa on the Langebaan Lagoon.
- The Postberg Section (only open during flower season) has a few interpretive displays at various points along its routes.
- Preekstoel has a substantial interpretation display kiosk detailing information about the Park and its ecology with individual displays on the following:
- The West Coast Community Trust,
- The SANParks Honorary Rangers (with emphasis on the West Coast Region),
- other reptiles,
- marine mammals,
- terrestrial mammals,
- a separate panel on butterflies,
- common indigenous plants,
- alien plants,
- the flowering plants noticeable in spring,