Visitor wildlife viewing preferences and experiences in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.
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Wildlife viewing is a form of recreation that is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world, particularly in African protected areas. In order for protected area managers to cater for this demand effectively, managers need to incorporate wildlife viewing recreation into the planning and development of protected areas. Protected area management has traditionally focused on the management of wildlife populations and habitats to the exclusion of visitor recreational needs. Where visitor needs have been incorporated into the planning and development of protected areas, this has been through the provision of inputs such as facilities and wildlife. The experience-based management (EBM) approach to recreation however proposes that people engage in particular recreation opportunities in order to attain certain desired benefits or outcomes. Madikwe Game reserve provides visitors with the opportunity to view a wide variety of game. The aims of this study were to (1) provide an understanding of what visitors sought from their experience~ regarding wildlife viewing in Madikwe Game Reserve (2) classify the types of experiences desired by visitors to the reserve using the EBM model as a framework and (3) examine management implications of results. A survey of visitors was conducted in the reserve using a Pre-visit and a Postvisit questionnaire. Results from 178 respondents indicated that well-known species as well as rare/endangered specie: were the most popular among visitors. Respondents were generally very satisfied with their wildlife viewing experiences in terms of species abundance and variety, and information received about animals. The results also suggest that additional information about items other than wildlife could enhance the experiences of visitors to Madikwe. Three distinct wildlife viewing experiences desired by visitors were identified, namely a High Involvement Experience, which had the highest interest in almost all recreational opportunities, a Generalist Experience characterised by a moderate interest in recreational opportunities and an Occasionalist Experience that displayed the least interest. While the Occasionalist Experience is presently adequately catered for in Madikwe, lodge and park manager can provide for the High Involvement and Generalist Experiences more efficiently by expanding the wildlife viewing experience that is currently offered in the reserve. This would be done primarily through the expansion of informational items provided, and the development of activities associated with wildlife viewing. The success of such measures would be dependent on the adoption of a cooperative strategy between lodge managers, park managers and other relevant stakeholders.
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