South African Wilderness Added to Google Map's Street View

Andre Van Kets, the founder of the Discover Africa Group, a Cape Town-based ground operator/destination management company, took it upon himself to map out the wilderness areas of South Africa for the Google Street View mapping project.

Van Kets, a self-described hiker and computer geek, joined with South African Tourism in what became the “South Africa in 360” project. He led a team of 200-plus volunteers through major trails in all of South Africa’s 19 national parks and other wilderness areas, to put them on Google Maps “for the express purpose of giving people who can’t get there or haven’t got there yet the chance to virtually explore the place," he said, “as you do in the city with Google.

“This lets people get on the trail, into national parks into places they otherwise wouldn’t. With this technology, someone who is wheelchair-bound can see what it’s like on top of a mountain, or if you’re a travel agent planning a holiday, you can actually go to that spot and see what it’s like. You have the ability to transport yourself there.”

Lucky accidents
The idea began to germinate two years ago when Van Kets was researching 360 cameras for his own purposes. He discovered that Google has an equivalent to its street-view car in a backpack form that can carry Google’s 360 Trekker camera out on trails where cars can’t go.

“They’ve had this a few years,” he said. “They’ve done the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, and highlights around the world.”

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Source: Travel Market Report