HARARE, May 11 (The Source) – Zimbabwe tourism group, Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) says its historical and recreational park Santonga, which it is building in the resort town of Victoria Falls at a cost of $18 million, is on track to open in 2017.
The park, which will be built on 80 acres of land adjacent to the Victoria Falls Safari lodge, is the biggest private investment in the tourism hub for over a decade.
AAT chairman Dave Glynn said the park will “tell the story of Victoria Falls from the very beginning, four billion years ago, through its history, people, plants and wildlife.”
“Our research is showing there are incredible stories to tell about Victoria Falls and its surroundings, an example is the very earliest form of life, called a stromatolite, the earliest findings ever found, are not far from Victoria Falls,” said Glynn in a statement to the media.
“We also have two dinosaur species that are significant in the global dinosaur story. We want to showcase all of that but in a very first world multiple film set type of environment because we know this can’t be a museum, it can’t be a zoo, it needs to bombard the senses and it needs to be highly interactive with very powerful audiovisual content throughout.”
Santonga, is expected to draw 120,000 visitors annually, and boosting the average length of time tourists stay in Victoria Falls. It is also expected to create 150 direct jobs, and many more downstream jobs.
Despite thousands of tourists visiting the resort town every year, there has been little investment in infrastructure.
The government started refurbishing the Victoria Falls International Airport at a cost of $150 million in 2013 to increase its passenger handling capacity.
The expansion work, which is being carried out by China Jiangsu and funded by China Exim Bank, also includes upgrading the domestic terminal building, constructing a new fire station, control tower and installation of state –of–the art aviation equipment.
Glynn said the park would also focus on the people around the region.
“We can’t tell the story of the Falls without talking about the people, and there’s rich history amongst the various tribal groupings around the Falls – their customs, their architecture, their tribal dress and folklore,” said Glynn.