Visiting South Sudan: An Incredible Park Inside the World's Newest Country

Posted Jul 9th 2011 09:00 AMUpdated Jul 9th 2011 09:02 AM

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South Sudan Independence

Paul Banks/AFP/Getty Images

As of midnight on Friday, South Sudan officially split from The Republic of Sudan, becoming a new country and a fresh destination.

A civil war between Arabic-speaking Muslims in the north and Christians in the south - not to mention a plethora of smaller but no less deadly conflicts - made southern Sudan a destination for UN peacekeepers and kept it well off the tourist map for the last decade.

The new country is hardly peaceful, but the erasure of borders drawn arbitrarily by colonial powers fuels hope that the racial and religious tensions that drove the conflict could be eased.

If peace comes - however tentatively - tourists likely will as well. South Sudan has a major tourist destination waiting to happen in Boma National Park.

In 2007, the explorer and naturalist Michael Fay surveyed Boma's migratory herds - water buffalo, antelope, zebras - and was shocked to find that civil war had not devastated the animal population in South Sudan, as it had elsewhere in Africa and particularly in northern Uganda just to the south. To the contrary, Fay told the New York Times that the migration in Boma was larger than the migration in the Serengeti, potentially making it the largest land migration on Earth.

And the South Sudanese government knows what it has. The first item on the Tourism Ministry's agenda is to "Develop and execute legislation, regulations, policies and strategies for the protection and management of Southern Sudan's wildlife resources and protected areas."

While many are happy about South Sudan's independence, some northern Sudanese are lamenting the loss of around one-third of its territory and the possibility of a diverse nation containing a vast patchwork of the continent's cultures. It is likely that visitors to northern Sudan's landmark's - the pyramids at the Island of Meroe and the wastes of Wadi Halfa - will face a difficult border crossing if they intend to make it to Boma.

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