iSimangaliso opens its gates again on World Oceans Day

8 Jun 2020

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After 74 days of lockdown, iSimangaliso Wetland Park has opened its gates to visitors for self-drive excursions and all fishing, including recreational fishing but with the exception of charter fishing, as announced by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy. Since the beginning of its existence, this was the first time that the Park has had to shut its doors to visitors. This was due to the outbreak of COVID-19, when St Lucia recorded its first confirmed case on 21 March 2020, from a tourist coming from France. The town took the precautionary measure of shutting down most of its tourism operations to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then the outbreak has been brought under control, and there have been no new reported new cases in St Lucia. After 74 days of lockdown, iSimangaliso Wetland Park has opened its gates to visitors for self-drive excursions and all fishing, including recreational fishing but with the exception of charter fishing, as announced by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy. Since the beginning of its existence, this was the first time that the Park has had to shut its doors to visitors. This was due to the outbreak of COVID-19, when St Lucia recorded its first confirmed case on 21 March 2020, from a tourist coming from France. The town took the precautionary measure of shutting down most of its tourism operations to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then the outbreak has been brought under control, and there have been no new reported new cases in St Lucia.

iSimangaliso boasts being the first UNESCO-proclaimed World Heritage site in South Africa. In the 20 years of its existence, this was the first time that the Park registered no revenue from gate takings. “We welcome Government’s decision to gradually allow guests to start visiting the Park. Ensuring safety of our staff, visitors, contractors and everybody who visits the Park is of outmost importance,” said the CEO of iSimangaliso, Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, after taking a tour of the Park this morning to check iSimangaliso’s state of readiness as it opens its doors to the public. Mr Bukhosini also pleaded with the public to ensure compliance with the regulations set out by government, to ensure that the coronavirus is contained, and new infections are reduced.

The opening of the Park today coincided with the annual celebration of World Oceans Day, celebrated worldwide since 2009, after it was declared at a United Nations General Assembly in 2008. The theme for 2020 is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean”. iSimangaliso, which includes the country’s most north-eastern 220km of coastline, is currently South Africa’s only UNESCO marine World Heritage Site, and shares a Marine Protected Area (MPA) with Mozambique, forming Africa’s largest trans-frontier MPA. With an additional 970 366.57 ha of ocean now falling under the iSimangaliso MPA, iSimangaliso’s combined terrestrial and marine area is some 1 328 900 ha (or 13 289 square kilometres), also making it the second largest protected area in the country after the Kruger National Park. Oceans and seas cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface.

Several beach lovers were seen this morning taking a walk along iSimangaliso’s beaches, celebrating World Oceans Day by enjoying a first beach walk since the announcement of lockdown in South Africa. Recreational fishermen with valid fishing licences were also seen rolling out their fishing rods, clearly longing to register their first catch of the day.

Looking at the lockdown from a different perspective, there have been some benefits emanating from the lockdown, through the eyes of a conservationist. The Park has been able to rehabilitate itself. Game is much more relaxed and grazing freely much closer to the roads. Viewing game is much more exciting, and chances of spotting wildlife post-lockdown are more likely than before.

Media enquiries should be directed to Bheki Manzini at bhekimanzini@isimangaliso.com, or Mobile/WhatsApp 060 533 2028..

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