All South African national parks now on Google Street View

Cathedral Peak, Royal Natal National Park Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

A team of nature-loving South Africans in partnership with Google Street View have released a large collection of 360-degree imagery of the country’s wildest areas. The announcement of 170 new trails in South Africa’s national parks and reserves follows on from The Mzansi Experience launched in March 2016, which showcased prominent tourist attractions such as Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point amongst others.

Trekking Truitjieskraal one early morning, whilst the sun catches the rocky landscapes glowing in the distance
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

The new trails, launched 2 November 2017, extend the existing Street View imagery of South Africa’s wilderness areas to include all 19 national parks, 17 previously ‘un-trekked’ nature reserves and many sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in all nine provinces of South Africa.

More than 200 South African volunteers from across the country were involved in the 12-month project, mapping out the parts of South Africa that they call home. Many were SANParks, CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife rangers and guides. Others were avid hikers, nature-lovers and tech enthusiasts.

Shandro Jordaan walking in the Garden of Eden, in Knysna National Park.
A magical garden, offering to its wanderers profuse species of plants, ferns, flowers and birds. Easily accessible, just off the N2, and boasting a disability-friendly boardwalk, this in one of the National Park’s most popular short hikes.
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

“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 program,” says Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google.

On the 30th of December, the TrekSouthAfrica team and some co-trekkers left to hike the Grysbok Circle, a 7.5km trail climbing the flanks of the surrounding mountains and offering, to the keen eye, sublime views of the surrounding mountainous chains. Petunia, Dominic and Jude, local field rangers avid to involve themselves in the ecological education of the new generation, generously showed us the way, and carried the hefty Google Trekker. One of the most scenic hike of Grootvadersbosch National Park.
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

The project forms part of Google’s Street View Camera Loan Program, which encourages anyone to apply to borrow the 360-degree camera technology and help map the planet.

The team of volunteers was coordinated by loan program partner Drive South Africa. Andre Van Kets, outdoor enthusiast and founder of the Cape Town-based travel company, saw the potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe, when applying to the program.

Steph Heywood trekking the Cradle of Humankind.
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

“The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board 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,” says Van Kets.

“For the first time, travellers and wildlife lovers from across the globe, can explore the full spectrum of South Africa’s diverse wilderness areas on Google Maps and Street View,” he added.

Street View users can now view Marco Cianfanelli’s extraordinary sculpture of Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. The site marks the spot where Mandela was arrested before his 27-years’ imprisonment. Lyanda Nyandeni, KwaZulu-Natal tour guide, proudly ‘trekked’ the location. Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

Street View users can now walk in the footsteps of struggle icon Nelson Mandela, climb seven new trails to the top of Table Mountain, hike the famous five-day Otter Trail, track cheetah on foot and walk with elephant and other incredible wildlife (the trekkers were guided by qualified rangers in all wilderness areas).

A special walk: the heritage trail of Mapungubwe National Park, where the cultural mysteries of the lands were revealed to us by our passionate guide, explaining how our ancestors survived, played games and interacted within their primitive communities. A walk that took us through a baobab-filled, hilly landscape, to the top of a viewpoint where we could admire the stunning landscapes below, as well as the fossil reminiscence of human presence. The Google Trekker followed on this cultural hike, and with him, we discovered this part of the world, step by step.
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

Additionally, seven of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites are now waiting to be experienced. Users can 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.

The trekker on Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg.
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

To showcase the launch of South Africa’s new Street View imagery, Drive South Africa has launched a microsite that gives would-be travellers a virtual experience of South Africa.


The microsite South Africa in 360 – inspired by a similar project showcasing the US National Parks – is an immersive VR-adventure through South Africa’s four top tourist destinations and a collection of its lesser-known gems.  The site is a culmination of Street View imagery with video, photos and stories from the trail, offering viewers unique perspectives.

The first day of a four-day hike on the Wild Coast.
Photo: Rudolph de Girardier

Fast facts: 

  • 170 new trails
  • 900km trekked on foot
  • 50,000km travelled over the 12-month project duration
  • 232 points of interest recorded
  • 206 South African volunteers
  • 9 Provinces of South Africa
  • All 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves and many other tourist attractions
  • Lion, cheetah, elephant and other wildlife encountered on foot (guided by rangers)
  • 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

First time Google has partnered with a third-party in South Africa via the Street View Camera Loan Program

About Hiking South Africa 107 Articles
Hiking South Africa aims to serve and grow the South African hiking community as a central, national community resource.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.