Enhancing the ecotourist experience at Shongweni Reserve through the use of appropriate interpretive strategies
The current biodiversity and extinction crisis has ignited global concern for human and planetary well-being, culminating in the declaration by the United Nations of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Concomitant with these developments has been the steady ascent of the ecotourism industry, a subset of the travel and tourism industry that holds some promise for the conservation and enhancement of natural areas. A third strand that may be added that weaves them all together for mutual benefit, is the use of interpretation as a communication strategy that enhances the travel experience for the visitor, stimulating interest and enriching their knowledge of local natural resources. This study examines the role of interpretation within one of the largest protected areas in the Durban area, Shongweni Reserve. Rich in faunal and floral diversity, the reserve hosts a range of active and passive recreational pursuits for local and international visitors. This study examines the range of natural, historic and cultural resources within the Shongweni Reserve and then develops appropriate themes for interpretive print material to effectively provoke and stimulate visitor interest in local biodiversity. Print samples were attractively designed to showcase interesting facets of plant and animal wildlife in the reserve. The samples integrated aspects of floral and faunal conservation status together with Zulu cultural use in the narrative and text. Findings from the survey revealed that most visitors were interested in learning more about local biodiversity and found the interpretation material to have a high degree of personal relevance. This has significance in terms of encouraging reserve management to communicate effectively with their visitors using interpretive media as a vehicle and stimulus for biodiversity conservation.