A team of nature-lovers, in partnership with Google Street View and South African Tourism (SAT), have released a massive collection of 360-degree imagery of South Africa’s wildlife areas.
Technology giant Google, working with a South African team, used 360-degree cameras to capture thousands of images to compile a wide range of virtual tours, making it possible to “climb” a mountain range on computer, tablet or mobile phone.
South African National Parks (SANParks) reports the announcement of the 170 new Google trails in South Africa’s national parks and reserves follows the work done by The Mzansi Experience which was launched in March 2016. The project showcases prominent tourist attractions in Southern Africa on Google Street View, such as the Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point reserves.
The 170 new trails now incorporate all of South Africa’s 19 national parks, 17 nature reserves as well as other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance. The combined length of the 170 trails is over 900km.
More than 200 South African volunteers from across the country were involved in the 12-month project, like Mate Modisha (pictured, courtesy Rick Harrington/Lonely Planet), a field ranger at Cape Nature’s Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, who was one of 206 South Africans who carried the Google Trekker camera.
Google’s project manager, Magdalena Filak, says the volunteers were “truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan programme”.
Google’s Street View Camera Loan Programme creates an opportunity for anyone around the world to apply to borrow one of Google’s large 360-degree cameras to help map the planet.
The South African team of volunteers was coordinated by loan programme partner Drive South Africa, headed by Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast. He says the the “Trekker camera” weighs 22kg fitted in a backpack with 15 lenses pointing in all directions. On-board technology plots the camera’s 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.”
Among the online experience of South Africa’s wildlife areas are seven of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can, among others, 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.
Lonely Planet, on its website advises of some of the best routes to follow online, which are walking 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 elephants. Kamera trekkers were guided by qualified rangers in all wilderness areas.
- 170 new trails
- 900km trekked on foot
- 50,000km travelled over the 12-month project duration
- 232 points of interest recorded
- 206 South African volunteers
- 9 Provinces of South Africa
- All 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves and many other tourist attractions
- Lion, cheetah, elephant and other wildlife encountered on foot (guided by rangers)
- 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- First time Google has partnered with a third-party in South Africa via the Street View Camera Loan Program
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