Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, track cheetahs on foot, or stroll with elephants — and other exotic creatures — in South Africa? Well, here’s your chance. Thanks to the efforts of over 200 volunteers, now you can use Google Maps to explore 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves, and many other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in South Africa.
More than 200 nature-loving South Africans volunteered to map out parts of the country they call home. Many of the helpers were rangers and guides with SANParks, CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife. Others were just good Samaritans, tech enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to make a difference. Over the span of twelve months, the volunteers trekked over 50,000km to establish 232 points of interest.
Said Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan program.” The Google Street View Camera Loan program encourages anyone to borrow the 360-degree camera technology to help the planet. Reportedly, this is the first time Google has partnered with a third-party for the program.
Drive South Africa played a big role in coordinating the volunteers. Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast and the founder of the Cape Town-based company, explained the technology: “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.” Kets added that he saw “potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe” when he applied.
In addition to mapping over two hundred points of interest, volunteers mapped eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can also see Mapungubwe Hill, which is home to an ancient African civilization, the Richtersveld that is known for its incredible moonscapes, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site which serves as a critical habitat for many species.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dennis Wood of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said, “As the proud conservation authority for KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are excited to be partnered with Google’ new initiative in exposing our trails on this global platform that we believe will engage our prospective guests to “Take time to Discover” our province’s rich natural beauty and conservation wildlife heritage.”
Images via Google Maps