Parks ripe for wildlife jobs

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Jobs are waiting to be created if the Eastern Cape’s nature reserves can be better managed.This is the view of Port Elizabeth tour guide Alan Fogarty, 65, whose Alan Tours is the only Eastern Cape representative on the list of the 30 best tours in SA just compiled by international airline portal Travelstart.Fogarty said his recent visit to the province’s Mkambati reserve in Pondoland had highlighted the problem for him.“It’s a beautiful reserve with unique attractions, but the place is falling apart.“Some buildings have been burnt down and have not been repaired, family and friends of staff appear to be staying in others.“Poaching seems to have depleted the game and birdlife.”The first step for the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) should be to sit down with SANParks and find out how that body managed the national parks, he said.“At the moment they do not have the capability to withstand the pressure of illegal sand mining operations on their reserve boundaries, poaching, use of the reserves by cattle that belong to surrounding communities and infrastructure maintenance.“They need to find out how to make their reserves commercially viable and that will in turn give them the funds to withstand these pressures.”Fogarty said that for any operator in the tourism industry marketing was key.While that strategy was being put in place, however, simple inexpensive initiatives could be implemented on the reserves to improve things and generate sorely needed income.“Tourists want signs in place so they can find the reserves, and decent road surfaces to travel there.“They want some structure and certainty, and they want to feel safe.“For game drives at Mkambati, all that is needed is a tractor and trailer with a roof that could be rigged up.“They could do stop-offs at the beach, stunning waterfalls, vulture colonies and other scenic spots.“Wildlife, bird-watching, fishing and hiking guides from the community could be trained to dovetail with the game drives.“Jobs are waiting to be created at these reserves, but they have to be better managed and pay for themselves.”Fogarty grew up rambling around the bush on the family property in Sardinia Bay and has been working in the wildlife sector for 40 years.He established Alan Tours in 2008 and runs it with partner Angelika Sommer. Besides the latest accolade, the company has been awarded four certificates of excellence by travel portal Trip Advisor.Alan Tours does trips up to the Kruger National Park and into Mozambique but its mainstay is the Addo Elephant National Park.Fogarty originated the Big 7 Safari incorporating an excursion into Algoa Bay to view whales, dolphins and, if you are lucky, white sharks and then ferrying his guests – 95% of them foreigners – across to the park’s main camp to see elephants, lions, buffalo and to try for leopard and enjoy the multitude of smaller wonders.He said he believed his passion for his subject and his commitment to offering a quality service had helped Alan Tours win the attention of Travelstart.“I also try to educate my visitors about ecosystems and how important it is for us to protect all the layers of life so that we can see the flagship animals which are actually peripheral to the protection of the soil and vegetation.“I figure the more people who are educated in this way, the better chance we have of preserving what’s left.”Asked for his comment on concerns about the parks, Eastern Cape Parks CEO Vuyani Dayimani said the agency had focused on attracting private investors to instal infrastructure at Mkambati, to run and operate facilities at Morgan Bay and Nduli Luchaba and on other reserves to run trails.“All these initiatives are intended to facilitate additional resources to improve infrastructure investment on the reserves,” he said.A study of the challenges facing the provincial reserves had indicated the problem was not management but rather infrastructure investment.Access to remote locations was also a challenge, but great improvements were anticipated with the undertaking by the department of roads and transport to prioritise roads leading to farms and tourism facilities.

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