Google Trekker: Capturing SA’s and the world’s diverse landscapes

Google South Africa has launched new South African destinations on Street View that will allow locals, visitors and the globe a chance to explore South Africa’s natural beauty through Google Maps.

The new gallery, called Discover South Africa on Street View, visually captures four local destinations through the 360° lens of Google Trekkers, strapped-on volunteers keen to document the beauty of South Africa for all to see.

The launch was held with Mich Atagana from Google SA Communications and Public Affairs, Andre van Kets, co-founder and Marketing Director of Discover Africa Group, and Sven Tresp, Google Street View Special Collections Programme Manager.

“We are excited about the many possibilities we have yet to explore, and to bring more useful and beautiful imagery to Google Maps users around the globe,” says Atagana.

Tresp explains that the Trekker technology – a wearable backpack with a camera system on top – was initially introduced in 2012, with the Trekker Roam Project then being launched, allowing people and organisations like Discover Africa the opportunity to get involved in collecting imagery of the most desirable destinations around the world.

Van Kets says he appreciates the importance of the initiative and the people who were passionate enough about our natural heritage to volunteer to carry the 25kg camera, making their way through pedestrian walkways or trails on foot, as it automatically gathered images that would be later stitched together to create panoramic views.

In addition to the technology opening people up to destinations, he adds that it could also be used to see the effects of global warming on the world’s landscapes over time.

Discover Africa Group also worked with South African Tourism, which wanted to revamp its dated image library of the country.

There are also plans to expand Street Views into indoor spaces, while smaller cameras are said to be available on the market to allow for more user-generated content for the over one billion monthly active users of Google Maps services and the more than 82 countries around the world utilising Street Views.

Among the captured landscapes are Table Mountain National Park’s Chapmans Peak Lookout, with its popular hiking trails and panoramic views of the Western Cape, including the endless Atlantic Ocean to the west, beautiful Hout Bay in the north and the 7km-long stretch of the pristine Noordhoek Beach to the south.

Royal National Park’s Tugela Gorge Hike is the definition of a hiker’s dream trail. From canyons to the Drakensberg region, the visuals offer a candid look at this picturesque region.

If it’s a glimpse of the natural habitat of South Africa’s Big Five you’re after, then exploring Kruger National Park’s Lanner Gorge through Google Maps may be the answer.

From the edge of your seat, one can explore Mpumalanga’s Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the natural scenic gems around them at the foot of the Blyde River Canyon, formed over centuries by the Blyde and Truer rivers.

In addition to these four new destinations, it also features the Mzansi Experience sites, launched in 2016. Other destinations around the world that have been documented include the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the Galapagos islands and Venice.

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