In my experience, welcoming visitors to our parks is seldom stellar. They arrive on our doorstep with great anticipation about what they are going to see and do and they are usually hit with rules and cautionary notes. Here are things you are not allowed to do and by the way the fire risk is this, the animal danger is that and such and such a trail is closed. Have a nice day ! Yes we need to provide this side but should it predominate?
So we were given the bad and the ugly, now where is the good ! How well are we balancing with the positive side of the visitor experience equation- the beautiful and enthralling aspects of what to look forward to when exploring this place ? What kind of anticipation are we providing?
On a recent trip to central Africa I was pleasantly surprised to see this welcome gate at Mikumi National Park in southern Tanzania. This park is not on the popular route in northern Tanzania where most foreign tourists go. The infrastructure is basic and the interpretive material is relatively non-existent. However, they outdid themselves with this entrance showing you some representative mammals on the left and typical birds on the right of the gateway, opening onto a landscape of discovery. There is even a small shaded water basin that could attract birds for a drink - they are not artificially feeding so they are not disrupting natural behaviour, yet simply providing a visitor watching amenity.
This sculptural mural art form was a refreshing surprise. Providing anticipation for what might i see and what is being protected here in an attractive way is approaching stellar. Showing an Impala and Kudu mother and young along with a leopard not only introduces 3 species but also allows for a subtle entry into predator and prey relationships as well as animal life cycles. The word Karibu on the fence means welcome. How colourful, interpretive and welcoming is your front gate?
This is a photo of a poster mounted on a bulletin board close to the entry of Ruaha National Park also in Tanzania. What is striking is the fact that the park is sharing new scientific information upfront for the visitor-a sort of “be on the lookout for” - the interpretive execution is not exemplary but the intent is. New species being discovered is significant from a park protection rationale perspective and increased exposure of this kind is important for the visitor to realize. Especially as visitors start their journey into their park, they need to know reasons why this place is special.
Please share your novel approach to your gateway or tell us how this post was useful to kickstart a change in your outlook .