The Garden Route National Park (GRNP) was proclaimed in March 2009, including the then Tsistikamma NP; Wilderness NP; Knysna Lakes and indigenous forest, covering an area of 160 000 km. The Management plan for the GRNP was approved by Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in 2010. This Management Plan (here) followed an intensive Public Participation Process , publishing widely locally and nationally , as well as conducting stakeholder meetings. During this process all interested and affected parties were provided with details of geographical area, boundaries of park, policies and Tourism activities, more specifically on business opportunities via the National Treasury PPP processes. Subsequent to that, SANParks advertised broadly as to upcoming business opportunities, processes to follow as well as several calls for private tour operators to apply for and register for operating licenses within the Knysna Forest across the GRNP, stretching from Saasveld in the West to Diepwalle in the centre and also the Tsitsikamma Forest in the East.
Business Development Manager, Andile Namntuof the GRNP says that “ the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No 57 of 2003) authorizes SANParks to allow commercial activities in a National Park’”. Namtu has also conducted various workshops within the municipal areas of Eden District, George, Knysna, Bitou and Koukamma.
Jill Bunding-Venter, General Manager of GRNP, would like to reiterate that anyone operating within a national park must obtain an operating lisence/ permit and or submit an unsolicited bid and/ or respond to a solicited bid as advertised. These may include activities such as guided tours within the forest on clearly demarcated walking routes/ trails, via access through an Official SANParks entrance gate. The GRNP is however aware that due to its fragmented nature and “open access” areas, that some operators abuses the system by illegally taking visitors off the approved entrances and trails, offering additional activities.
“We therefore renew our appeal to all commercial operators in the forest to contact us on 044 302 5600 to speak to our Business Development Division. Section 16.1 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) prescribes a private party wanting to make use of state property for commercial purposes needs to enter into a Private Public Partnership Agreement with the relevant state institution” implores Bunding-Venter.
Activities currently on offer in the Garden Route National Park include hiking and nature walks, forest excursions, birding, mountain biking and water activities. For more information, kindly visit: http://www.sanparks.org.za/parks/garden_route/
The recent unfortunate accident where a visitor slipped and fell in the Homtini River has prompted SANParks to revisit its stance on commercial tour operators in the Knysna forest (part of the Garden Route National Park). The area is considered one of Knysna’s gems where hiking and swimming are allowed and visitors flock for its sense of place. Only a few visitors are allowed at a time (up to 12).