SANTONGA conservation, culture and history park in Victoria Falls will be “a force for good” in the region, incorporating a conservation, education and research focus, Africa Albida Tourism group chairman Dave Glynn says.
Mr Glynn described a World Wildlife Fund report, published last year, which found humanity had wiped out 52 per cent of the world’s wildlife in the last 40 years, as “terrifying”.
“So if we, as humans, have wiped out 52 per cent in the last 40 years, how much are we going to wipe out now in the next 40 years? And what can we do to try and reverse at least some of that,” Mr Glynn said.
“We will be involved in fundraising initiatives and we wish to become a specialist conservation, education and research unit. In other words, to add a focal point for conservation in the area,” Mr Glynn said.
“We want to tap into research, both regionally and globally, and put together a consolidated view of what is threatened and how it is threatened in our area, and then create a force for good in terms of conservation messaging, conservation education and preserving wildlife.”
Victoria Falls was “the eye of the needle of southern African tourism of the future”, being one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, on one of the great rivers of Africa, and surrounded by perhaps the finest and most diverse wildlife estate on the planet, he said.
Santonga, the $18 million, 80-acre park, scheduled to open in 2017, will tell the story of Victoria Falls from the very beginning, 4 billion years ago, through its history, people, plants and wildlife.
“Our research is showing there are incredible stories to tell about Victoria Falls and its surroundings, an example is the very earliest form of life, called a stromatolite, the earliest findings ever found, are not far from Victoria Falls,” Mr Glynn said.
“We also have two dinosaur species that are significant in the global dinosaur story,” he said.
“We want to showcase all of that but in a very first world multiple film set type of environment because we know this can’t be a museum, it can’t be a zoo, it needs to bombard the senses and it needs to be highly interactive with very powerful audiovisual content throughout.
“And then we can’t tell the story of the Falls without talking about the people, and there’s rich history amongst the various tribal groupings around the Falls – their customs, their architecture, their tribal dress and folklore.”
Santonga, is expected to be at least a six-hour experience, drawing 120,000 visitors annually, and boosting the average length of time tourists stay in Victoria Falls, thereby benefitting the entire economy. It is also expected to create 150 direct jobs, and many more downstream jobs.
In addition to Santonga, Africa Albida Tourism, a Zimbabwe-owned company, has a portfolio of hotels and restaurants in Victoria Falls, including its flagship property, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.
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