New Projects Under Way In Barberton To Boost Tourism

Barberton - Seven projects worth R24 million are underway in the Barberton area in Mpumalanga to promote what is regarded as the world's most valuable geological landscape.

With funding from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Barberton Tourism and Biodiversity Corridor (Batobic) programme is developing the Bulembu Road Geology Trail as one of several projects.

"The Barberton area is world renowned for its unique geology, but in many respects it is inaccessible to tourists," said Batobic programme manager Godfrey Mogoane.

"That's why the R40 road from Barberton to the Josefsdal border post with Swaziland will be developed into an informative route that includes scenic lookouts, visitor facilities, lay-byes, interpretative signage and comprehensive information material."

Mogoane said the aim was to interpret the geology, biodiversity, scenery, cultural and historical attractions along the road.

The Batobic area stretches from Kaapmuiden in the east, through Barberton to Badplaas in the west.

It includes the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountainlands area, which is being considered for World Heritage Site status because the ancient volcanic and sedimentary rock found in the Makhonjwa mountains provide a record of early Earth dating back 3.6 billion years.

Known as the Barberton Greenstone Belt, the rocks have given geologists and palaeobiologists more information about how life began on Earth than any other comparable site in the world.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) placed the area on the World Heritage Site Tentative List in June 2008.

Mogoane said a visitor information centre would be developed as the first phase of an interpretation centre that would be built once World Heritage Site status was granted.
"The geology trail and interpretation centre are just two of seven projects that will be implemented over the next four years," he added.

The other five projects are:

· developing and marketing additional tourism routes in the area
· providing signposts and beautifying the two main entrances to Barberton
· promoting the cultural and historical heritage of the town
· developing the Lomshiyo Community Trust game lodge in the Mountainlands Nature Reserve
· creating a Batobic programme management unit to drive the projects

The Batobic programme is being implemented by the Barberton Chamber of Business in association with the National Tourism Department.

Siphiwe Nyathi & Sharon Hammond
- BuaNews