||Popular images of protected areas are among the best known images in the world. They are composed in equal part of myth, hype and rare glimpses into incredible places. These images, of peaceful unchanging areas, disguise the bitter debate over the real purpose of protected areas, and our continually changing relationship with nature and wild places. The use of participatory approaches to plan and manage land, water, and conservation-based interventions is now well established. Today, few projects in natural resource management are funded unless they contain substantial components of community involvement. This is especially true in protected area development where participatory approaches form the entry point for working with local communities and user groups. Despite the increasing numbers of participatory initiatives, few initiatives remain uncontested or non-controversial. This paper offers seeks to suggest why the popular image, a reflection of social values and influences, is important to visitor management in protected areas as a unifying factor.