Drakensberg Experience is here

2008-09-03 00:00

A two-year journey to establish a tourism route through the Estcourt/Umtshezi region has finally come to fruition with the launch of the Drakensberg Experience route.

The 140-km route starts at Hidcote and runs through to the Sterkfontein Dam area in the northern Drakensberg.

It takes in Estcourt, Winterton, Bergville, Weenen, Geluksburg and Spionkop Dam.

Although it passes through Colenso and Ladysmith, these towns are not officially included.

It is hoped that this area, blessed with natural beauty, wildlife and cultural attractions, will attract much-needed tourism and investment.

Laurence Fenner, Bushmans River Tourism Association chairman, told The Witness that they expect people of this area to benefit from accelerated economic development brought about as a result of the route.

The driving forces behind the initiative include the Bushmans River Tourism Association, the Umtshezi Municipality, Open Africa (a non-governmental Section 21 company that facilitates community-driven tourism routes) and the N3 Toll Concession (N3TC).

Fenner said the concept was inspired by the success of Clarence, a small town in the Free State, as a tourist destination.

Fenner and local economic development manager at the Umtshezi Municipality, Hans Chotoo, decided to develop the route in conjunction with Open Africa, which has developed 68 routes across Southern Africa.

Drawcards include hiking, adventure sports, horse trails, fishing, historic, prehistoric and fossil sites, 4x4 trails, game viewing, hunting and a cultural village.

“It is a route designed with clusters of experiences in different locations,” explained Fenner, who is also chairperson of the route forum.

Sponsorship for the establishment of the route has come from the National Lottery Fund and the N3TC.

Fenner said signage for the route is being developed.

It is understood that the new route forms part of Open Africa’s vision to link Africa’s drawcards in a network of community-based tourism routes from Cape Town to Cairo.

kavith@witness.co.za

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