For the first time ever, all of South Africa’s 19 national parks are available to explore from anywhere in the world on Google Street View, thanks to a volunteer effort involving more than 200 people.
Rangers, nature enthusiasts, guides and tech fans trekked for 12 months, covering more than 900km on foot with a Google Street View camera, to map out 232 points of interest across all nine provinces in the country, including 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
As a result, prominent tourist attractions including Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point – as well as 17 previously un-trekked nature reserves – are now available to explore via Google Street View.
On their journeys, the volunteers stumbled across some of the country’s most famous wildlife, including cheetah and elephant.
The project forms part of Google’s Street View Camera Loan Program, which encourages anyone to apply to borrow the 360-degree camera technology and help map the planet.
The team of volunteers was coordinated by loan program partner Drive South Africa.
Andre Van Kets, outdoor enthusiast and founder of the Cape Town-based travel company, approached Google about loaning the Street View Camera in order to, showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe.
Van Kets comments: “We’re delighted to be able to showcase some of South Africa’s best sites to people all over the world, including incredible untrekked nature reserves. Travellers and nature enthusiasts can explore some of the most beautiful areas in South Africa as though they are there themselves, all from the comfort of their armchair.
“The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.
Street View users can now walk in the footsteps of struggle icon Nelson Mandela, climb seven new trails to the top of Table Mountain, hike the famous five-day Otter Trail, track cheetah on foot and walk with elephant and other incredible wildlife.
Additionally, six of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites are now waiting to be experienced. Users can see Mapungubwe Hill, home to an ancient African civilisation, the Richtersveld with its arid moonscapes, the towering Drakensberg Mountains, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site and a critical habitat for a range of species.
The new trails extend the existing Street View imagery of South Africa’s wilderness areas to include all 19 national parks, 17 previously ‘un-trekked’ nature reserves and many sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in all nine provinces of South Africa.
To showcase the launch of South Africa’s new Street View imagery, Drive South Africa has launched a microsite that gives would-be travellers a virtual experience of South Africa, South Africa 360.
The microsite South Africa in 360 – inspired by a similar project showcasing the US National Parks – is an immersive VR-adventure through South Africa’s four top tourist destinations and a collection of its lesser-known gems. The site is a culmination of Street View imagery with video, photos and stories from the trail, offering viewers unique perspectives.
More than 200 South African volunteers from across the country were involved in the 12-month project, mapping out the parts of South Africa that they call home. Many were SANParks, CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife rangers and guides. Others were avid hikers, nature-lovers and tech enthusiasts.
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