A Google Street View screenshot of the Bloukrans River crossing, on day four of the five-day Otter Trail hiking trail.
JOHANNESBURG - Walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela. Climb seven new trails to the top of Table Mountain. Track cheetahs on foot. Or, visit seven of South Africa&39;s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now you can, from your computer, anywhere in the world.
Google&39;s Street View on Thursday made available a host of new experiences after the company teamed up with a group of South Africans to capture 360-degree imagery of the country’s wildest areas and most iconic historical sites.
For a year, more than 200 volunteers mapped out these sites. Among them were SANParks, CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife rangers and guides, as well as avid hikers, nature-lovers and tech enthusiasts.
This project followed on from "The Mzansi Experience" launched in March 2016, which showcased prominent tourist attractions like the Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point.
All of the country&39;s 19 national parks, 17 previously ‘un-trekked’ nature reserves and many sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in all nine provinces of the country, including 17 new trails, are now included in Street View.
This could help showcase the country&39;s natural beauty to potential tourists or to those who are not physically able to travel.
“The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan programme,” said Magdalena Filak, programme manager for Google.
Google Street View loans out cameras with the 360-degree technology to people across the world to help map the planet.
“The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions," explained Andre van Kets, founder of the Cape Town-based travel company Drive South Africa, which co-ordinated the loan programme.
"The onboard technology plots the camera’s exact 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.
“Harnessing technology allows SANParks to showcase the 19 South African National Parks like never before. Google Trekker allows South Africans and foreigners to explore and discover what the different parks have to offer. We’re really excited that this introduces a new dimension to planning a trip and what better way to do it than through a virtual itinerary which you can then make reality," SANParks head of communications Janine Raftopoulos said.
To showcase the launch of South Africa’s new Street View imagery, Drive South Africa launched a microsite "South Africa in 360" - inspired by a similar project showcasing the US National Parks.
It is an immersive virtual reality adventure through South Africa’s four top tourist destinations and a collection of its lesser-known gems.