Safari vehicles boost rural tour guide project

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Skukuza - Eight Limpopo villagers, who have established a cooperative that takes tourists through the Kruger National Park, have been given open safari vehicles to boost their business. 

South African National Parks (SANParks), in conjunction with their subcontractor, Vuswa Fleet, have handed over four vehicles to members of the Ngelekele Project in Skukuza.

"We promise that this donation will serve as a foundation for us. We are hoping to increase the vehicles so that we can stand on our feet and able to create jobs for unemployed people who come from the same communities as ourselves," said Jouberg Ndlobu, a member of the project.

Ndlobu, from Belfast village near the Kruger, was trained as a tour guide through SANParks' broader economic empowerment strategy and social responsibility programmes that focus on communities around the park.

He said his group called themselves Ngelekele, the Xitsonga name for the woodpecker, which is considered to be a wise bird that cautioned the ancients about evil times and emitted a call until something good happened.

He said the group was trained through the Small Economic Development Agency (Seda) after they were selected to become part of the SANParks initiative.

"Although we did not have any entrepreneurial skills, the park arranged with Seda to give us valuable training. We are now prepared to enter the business world with a thorough understanding of what is expected and how to make the business profitable and sustainable," said Ndlobu.

The Kruger's managing director, Abe Sibiya, said the donation of the vehicles would assist previously disadvantaged communities to enter into the safari tour guiding business. 

"After selections, prospective tour guides were trained to become fully fledged guides in order to be able to conduct business in the park like any other private operators," said Sibiya.

He said SANParks would help the project market their services. "In the meantime, Vuswa Fleet has made two more vehicles available to the new Ngelekele operators, should there be a need," said Sibiya.

Sibiya said the project could, over time, extend to other areas around the Kruger if interested community members from other parts of the park are identified. 

He said the new operators were requested to sign a contract with Vuswa, who manage open safari vehicles operating in the Kruger. The contract covers the servicing of their vehicles, the provision of uniforms, renewal of annual licences, permit fees and registration with the South African Revenue Service.

"We are empowering communities. We are making a contribution towards job creation and ultimately putting bread on somebody's table," said Sibiya.

Vuswa Fleet managing director, Francois Viljoen, said the company was honoured to be involved in the initiative.

"We would like to see individuals growing vigorously and owning more vehicles in the park and improving their living conditions. We hope that this community-driven project will also have positive impact on the community they come from," said Viljoen.

Sibiya said the project would help ease traffic congestion in the park during busy periods by offering a park-and-ride service to visitors.

"Interested day visitors, who wish to enter the park after the visitor quota has been reached, will be able to use this park-and-ride community service during gate operating times," Sibiya said. - BuaNews