Google has uploaded 360-degree imagery of driving routes in South Africa to its Street View tool as part of a partnership with the country’s tourist board.
South African Tourism says the new images can be used as a sales tool for travel agents.
They feature all 19 of South Africa’s national parks, 17 nature reserves, top tourist attractions and 170 new trails.
The project, co-ordinated by Drive South Africa – follows on from The Mzansi Experience launched in March 2016 showcasing prominent tourist attractions such as Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point.
More than 200 South African volunteers were involved in the 12-month project, mapping out the places they call home. Many were SANParks, CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife rangers and guides. Others were avid hikers, nature-lovers and tech enthusiasts.
“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.
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 taking pictures with the 22kg custom-made Trekker camera, which is fitted into a backpack and has 15 cameras pointing in different directions while tracking the photographer’s exact location.
Andre Van Kets, outdoor enthusiast and founder of Cape Town-based travel company Drive South Africa, said: “It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.
“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,” said Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism.
“Technology is profoundly influencing how travellers interact with the tourism and hospitality ecosystem, from booking online, sharing experiences on social media. In the technology sphere, insights and research-based knowledge will help drive innovation.”
Seven of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites are featured in the project, which can be viewed on a specially-created Drive South Africa microsite.