The Kruger National Park is now accessible via direct scheduled air services operating to and from Skukuza Airport. Located in close proximity to the Skukuza main camp (also the administrative headquarters of the Kruger National Park) and the adjoining Sabi Sand conservancy, the airport is unique in providing direct access into one of the world’s largest protected wildlife areas.
The scheduled air services to Skukuza Airport is significant in the context of South African tourism as this allows all tourism stakeholders the ability to provide a far more integrated and effective product to the global market. Furthermore, seamless integration of the Skukuza wildlife product with other SA National Parks’ (SANParks) products, as well as with other neighbouring regional wildlife areas and natural attractions allows Skukuza to serve as hub and gateway to a unique tourism portfolio. Arguably this then positions the Kruger National Park as one of the world’s most easily accessible and seamless travel options, an objective which is closely aligned with SANParks’ – Responsible Tourism Objectives.
The operational plan for the airport and its associated air services, has been carefully constructed so as to be sensitive to the environmental concerns associated with flight operations in protected wildlife surrounds.
This reflects in a comprehensive environmental management plan, together with strategies and plans to both manage and route air traffic in such a way as to limit the noise impact of operations in the area. The physical design of the new airport’s building structures, as a part of the overall airport rehabilitation and refurbishment activity have also followed an overarching minimized environmental impact philosophy.
Accordingly the operating hours of the airport are strictly controlled between 09:00 and 15:00 with the total number of flights permitted on a daily basis being kept to a maximum of 20 (10 arriving and 10 departing). A new aircraft flight path, approach and departure procedure has been developed in order to route aircraft away from noise sensitive areas. This operates in conjunction with a strict structure of aircraft arrival and departure slot times, so as better manage simultaneous aircraft arrivals and departures, the objective being to better manage safety, peak noise events and visual intrusion. The SANParks air operations will continue to be based at the airport, this will however fall outside of the airport’s remit.
The airport operates under the control of the Skukuza Airport Management Company, in conjunction with SANParks, under a 10 year Public Private Partnership agreement. The partners in the management company are Airlink and Lion Sands.
Skukuza Airport has also been able to partner with a number of local community development trusts with a view to working in close cooperation with the local communities and SANParks employees, to the benefit of all.