Thupeyo Muleya in Beitbridge
A TOTAL of 70 international tourists arrived in the country yesterday from South Africa via a temporary crossing point along the Limpopo River to take part in the inaugural “Defender Challenge” in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA).
The Mega-Park is made up of national parks from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe and during the tour the visitors from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Mexico, Ireland and South Africa will leave for Botswana through Mlambaphele Border Post.
During the tour they will experience wildlife and human settlement relations among other attractions in the tri-nations park.
“We are happy with the reception and facilitation by Zimbabwean authorities. Generally we are a group of Land Rover enthusiasts from different countries and each year we have tours appreciating nature in the parks across South Africa,” said the event director, Mr John Kriek.
“During our last tour, which ended in Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa, we were approached by authorities from the three countries to explore a 4 by 4 route. We are happy with what we have seen so far. Among the tourists we have business executives from overseas and media teams from the leading Land Rover magazines.
“This area has a lot of rich history and wildlife, which need to be fully exploited to realise its potential for the growth of the three nation’s economies.”
The crew has 31 vehicles and it is the biggest group since the expedition started. Each person (mostly family) drives their own vehicle and the morale is very high considering that they will be passing through tourism borders linking the three countries.
“As you are aware accessing this place through the other formal border posts is cumbersome,” said Mr Kriek.
He said next year they will hold another event at the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation area, which links South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe around the Gonarezhou National Park. Mr Kriek said they will continue working on a number of products to market Zimbabwe’s Southern Transfrontier conservation areas.
“We are looking at introducing more camping tours and photographic safaris mostly around the Tuli Circle,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Parks spokesperson, Mr Tinashe Farawo, said the event will strengthen the country’s community participation in sustainable development initiatives. He said the Defender tour among other initiatives would go a long way in marketing the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA as a tourism destination of choice.
“Besides promoting human and wildlife management issues, such tours create employment for communities within the TFCA in terms of providing ancillary services,” said Mr Farawo.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s (ZTA) regional manager for Beitbridge, Ms Bertha Mutowembwa, said they would continue exploring new products within the TFCA besides waiting for annual events.
“This area is becoming popular with tourists from the region and overseas markets. Together with other line stakeholders we will continue marketing and introducing new products to boost both domestic and international arrivals,” she said.
The Mega Park also plays host to the annual Wildrun, which attracts nearly 100 tourists annually and the Tour De Tuli, which attracts about 500 visitors annually.