Click, beloved country
The growing number of travellers using online visual aids to help choose their destinations has prompted a partnership between Google and SA National Parks to create virtual tours of the country's best natural attractions.
The Kruger National Park and Table Mountain National Park are among the country's first nature reserves to be captured from "head to toe" in a new initiative, Mzansi Experience, launched yesterday.
But according to Table Mountain National Park manager Paddy Gordon, "this is just the start and we will be going to other national parks soon, too".
It will allow millions of people to go on virtual tours in South Africa, as it uses cutting-edge technology to "stitch together" imagery collected over a year.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said: "Most who travel to SA say their expectations were exceeded when they got here, which means we need to improve our marketing, and this can play a role."
He also encouraged Google to include lesser known areas like Richtersveld and Mapungubwe.
Google South Africa director Luke McKend said: "Ninety percent of people will explore online before choosing a destination these days, and of those, 75% will use a visual aid like an image or footage to decide exactly where to go."
Google Maps programme director Sven Tresp said the Mzansi Experience was also going to boost education in the form of Google Expedition.
He said a teacher could use a tablet to download images, which could then be used to create a panorama via a smartphone and Google Cardboard, a plastic-coated lens.
Tresp said Google Cardboard would cost $20 (about R300) per set, thereby making it relatively accessible.
South Africa joins 65 other countries that already have 360-degree panoramic imagery of top tourism destinations.