More than 200 South African 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 now available to experience online.
Pan- African development website Elicit Africa reports the 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.
Elicit Africa quotes South African National Parks (SANParks) who 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.
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.