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Protected areas are national assets that serve as nodes in South Africa’s ecological infrastructure network, protecting ecosystems that deliver important services to people, such as the production of clean water, flood moderation, prevention of erosion, and the aesthetic value of the landscape.

They provide a home for the country’s most iconic species as well as recreational spaces for South Africans and global visitors. Protected areas can also play an important role in the development of rural economies.

Protected Areas fall under the following categories:

  • National Parks
  • Nature Reserves
  • Special Nature Reserves
  • Mountain Catchment Areas
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected Environments
  • Forest Nature Reserves
  • Forest Wilderness Areas

South Africa has 11,280,684 hectares or 9.2% of its total land area is catagorised as Protected Areas which include nineteen National Parks, forty-two Marine Parks, five UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, twenty-seven Ramsar sites and a number of Transfrontier Parks.

Protected areas in South Africa are managed by the national government, public nature reserves are managed by provincial and local governments, and private nature reserves are managed by private landowners. National parks are maintained by South African National Parks (SANParks).

This biodiversity wealth gives our people tangible benefits like food, clean water, medicine and materials; it supports agricultural and fisheries production and helps protect us from natural hazards like floods and droughts; and it provides the basis of a vibrant tourism industry while offering natural spaces for recreational and cultural activities.

Historically, local communities have often been only minor recipients of benefits generated by protected areas, as in most cases they have not been owners of either the protected area land or the tourist facilities on that land. The opportunity now exists for local communities, as potentially major landholders through the land reform process, to have full access to the economic opportunities associated with ecotourism.

Protected Areas Case Studies


Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Wildlife Economy


Biodiversity Stewardship

Protected Areas

Nambiti Private Game Reserve has been proclaimed as a nature reserve, through the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.