Earlier this year I was invited by Discover Africa to hike on the slopes of Table Mountain and learn more about the project that had occupied a team of passionate South Africans, in partnership with Google Maps, for months. They had just trekked the length and breadth of South Africa to map 170 new trails, six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and all 19 National Parks, in a large 360-imagery collect of the country’s wildest and most remote regions.
Having taken over 250,000 photographs over 59,000km of trekked terrain, the Google Trekker 360-degree camera (fondly named Gary) hit Johannesburg just before they made their way to the Pilanesberg, Sun City and Madikwe. The aim being to showcase not only the city but its cultural and scenic surrounds for the world to see. With sites included the Sterkfontein Caves, Cradle of Humankind, Tyrwhitt Avenue, Diagonal Street and many more.
The incredible imagery has now been made available in a highly interactive microsite called South Africa in 360 and uses VR-technology to showcase the imagery in what can be described as a virtual tour of South Africa.
The entire project was envisioned by the remarkable Andre van Kets, co-founder of local travel company Drive South Africa who saw the potential in the VR-technology to highlight the country’s beauty in a new way. Andre is a visionary who has for years invited locals and tourists to experience the wonders of our country through his ever evolving company. This forms part of Google’s Trekker Loan Program which encourages anyone to apply to borrow the 360-degree camera technology and help map the planet. The core team were assisted by more than 200 South African volunteers from all walks of life over a 12-month exploration period.
“The 360-images that were captured by the 22kg Google Trekker camera, was supported by amazing drone footage, photographs and videos painstakingly taken by our team. South Africa in 360 aims to create a new window into our country and our interactive microsite not only uses Google’s technology to promote tourism, but also highlights the pride that South Africans have in their land,” remarked van Kets.
As one of the volunteers who was lucky enough to walk with Gary – who is a heavy guy – and the crew, I was offered the opportunity to share a glimpse of the results. If you’re curious to explore more head here to find all 170 new trails on Google Street View. There is also a great video which captures the project included below.
The Essential Details
- Learn more about Drive South Africa and the work that they do and read their story at https://www.discoverafrica.com/southafrica360/.
- For a VR-experience through South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations and it’s hidden gems see: https://www.discoverafrica.com/southafrica360
- Here is a searchable index of all 170 trails with links to Google Maps https://www.discoverafrica.com/trailfinder.
- For more follow the #DiscoverSouthAfrica hashtag on social media.