‘You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is not only vital for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself — a point that seems to escape many people.’Gerald Durrell; naturalist and author; 1925-1995
ecotourism, n. Tourism to areas of ecological interest (typically exotic and often threatened natural environments), especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife; access to an endangered environment controlled so as to have the least possible adverse effect.
This Oxford English Dictionary definition of the neologism ‘ecotourism’ pretty much covers (as one would expect from the OED) the basics of ‘ecological tourism’, a late 20th century construct. South Africa has thrived on ecotourism for a lot longer than the word has existed: our country’s biodiversity has been responsible for attracting tourists for the last few centuries. Admittedly the first visitors – the deplorable so-called Great White Hunters and their entourages – were more interested in shooting trophies and gathering pelts and tusks than observing our beasts, but during the last hundred years or so the focus has been on preserving the remaining enclaves of wildlife, and attempting to create sustainability in the face of human development and spread.
South Africa is one of seventeen countries that are considered mega diverse, which in essence means that these countries contain over 70% of the planet’s biodiversity. Our wildlife heritage is rich indeed: our unique and widely varying geography allows our country to support a extensively diverse population of plants and animals: no less than 858 species of birds and 299 species of mammals. Here in the Western Cape, particularly the cape Peninsula itself, we are blessed by living in the smallest self-standing biosphere on the planet – the fynbos habitat – with over 8000 species of plant; 70% of which are indigenous, found nowhere else on earth. Tourism (and for this statistic we ignore the current effects of the universal pandemic) is responsible for the fourth largest generator of foreign exchange in South Africa, and ecotourism is a rapidly growing component in tourism in general, enlarging that economic base.
Given the existence of nature and game reserves worldwide, it seems almost impossible to note that the first real mention of ‘green’ or ‘eco-tourism’ on a world-wide stage was in the Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry, published in 1997 by the World Tourism Organization. South Africa set about regulating tourism as a whole in 1996, attempting to drive it through government intervention and strategy, focussing on the social and economic impact of tourism, with environmental aspects as a side-line. This program, dubbed Tourism in GEAR, emphasized that tourism in the country should be led by the government, powered by the private sector, be centered on community, and be labour conscious. A worthwhile project on paper, but sadly the government has not followed through over the next two decades (no surprises there), and some private ecotourism companies have been following international guidelines for certification and acceptance.
At Waterfront Charters we are on the outskirts of the biggest wildlife preserve on the planet: the World Ocean. Unlike fenced game reserves and wildland areas surrounded by housing (Table Mountain National Park as a prime example), our oceans are all interconnected. Obviously the bulk of the species living in the waters will be limited by various physical aspects: water temperature, available food, nearby predators as examples, but the fact remains that there are no fences, no impassable roads, no dams and no cities to destroy submarine communities. So man has had to come up with other ways to disrupt and destroy: pollution, over-fishing, invasive destruction of coral reefs, oil spills – the list goes on and on. Our oceans are as much under threat as our land based mammals and birds, and it’s way past time that we focus on the illegal activities that are destroying the irreplaceable biodiversity that is beneath the surface of our seas and oceans. A fact recently publicised by The Science Show, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation production says it succinctly: “We have removed 90% of the large fish from the ocean. Just 10% to go.” The ocean’s bandits are long-lining, gill-netting, harpooning and harvesting with impunity: out of reach of law enforcement, our oceans are being stripped.
Waterfront Charters live on and love the ocean. We support the wildlife, we are fully behind every initiative that is in place to limit the destruction of our surrounding waters. To focus on the wonders of the Atlantic Ocean, we are offering current special rates on our own ecotourism cruises: our Ocean Safaris aboard our exhilarating Rigid Hulled Inflatables (with their twin outboard motors, of course.) The 30 minute Bay Experience is at a very affordable rate of only R330 per guest, and the longer Ocean Safari has been discounted to R660 for a full hour’s worth of adventure, seeking out the amazing creatures that populate our ocean. Whales, sunfish, dolphins, penguins – even orcas, of late – plus a host of other beautiful birds, jellyfish and other sea creatures aplenty: join us to see exactly why this stunning environment needs the focus of every person on the planet to reduce the plunder, the pollution and the poisoning.