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New tourism route launched

21 September 2007

LADYBRAND. - A new Maloti-Drakensberg tourism route was launched at Giant's Castle in the drakensberg on Tuesday. The route links the Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho and the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site in South Africa.

It stems from a 10-year commitment between the two countries to secure the region's natural and cultural heritage. "The route has all it takes to make for a worthwhile experience," said Ms Rejoice Mabadafhasi, Deputy Minister of Tourism for South Africa. "It offers a significant biodiversity, unparalleled cultural splendour, renowned hospitality and the breathtaking landscape of the mountains."

Some of the best attractions on the route include: the largest water factory in Southern Africa, a dense collection of prehistoric rock art, important paleontological sites, such as the oldest fossilised dinosaur eggs in the world, and key sites of late Iron Age settlements which define Basotho origins.

The route was launched at the 10 year anniversary celebration of South Africa and Lesotho's collaboration. The two countries signed the Giant's Castle Declaration in 1997, which led to the establishment of a maloti-drakensberg `peace park`.

"It was critical for both countries to forge a partnership," said Ms. Lebogang Ntsinyi, Minister Of Tourism, Environment and Culture for Lesotho. "We had to work together towards the conservation and sustainable management of our natural and cultural resources."

The Maloti-Drakensberg Peace park became one of six similar parks in Southern Africa. The other parks are: the Kgalagadi, Ai-Ais-Richtersveld, Greater Limpopo, Lubombo and Limpopo Shashe parks.

"Our vision is to position these parks as a single tourism route and international destination," said Mabadafhasi. "It will be our contribution to the SADC's broader vision of regional integration."

"We believe that our people will benefit economically, culturally and spiritually from such collaboration," said Mr. Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs for the KZN-province.

South Africa and Lesotho are now working on a 20-year strategy to guide their partnership.

Vrystaat - 13 September 2007Lizelle Henegan

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