iSimangaliso: Celebrate our heritage at the Sodwana Bay Festival

9 Apr 2018

26 April – 1 May 2018

A strong focus on conservation awareness, family involvement and entertainment is the core of the newly rebranded iSimangaliso Sodwana Bay Festival powered by SUBMERGE Magazine and NAUTICAM, taking place on the long weekend from 26 April. Celebrating the marine and terrestrial miracles of this section of the World Heritage Site is the thread that runs throughout the action-packed programme.

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Hosted within the Sodwana Bay camp site area, this event is for divers and non-divers alike, with the renowned photographic competition remaining the core activity. Also included in the line-up are a music festival, Kids’ Club, micro seminars, and a community drive. Delicious food is on sale by local caterers.

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iSimangaliso Marketing and Brand Manager Lindy Duffield is particularly excited by one of the new ventures in the programme: “The Small Steps Surfing program is a brilliant initiative by Sodwana business operator Peter Jacobs of Ufudu Tours and his son Jurgen (pictured above with some of his learners) which brings youngsters from the surrounding community to the beach to learn to surf and to show them fun ways to enjoy their beautiful environment. Together with a few facilitators, they teach about 30 to 40 children from seven years old upwards the basics of surfing. The project is going exceptionally well and we are thrilled to be able to integrate this into the Kids’ Club programme, with junior festival visitors joining the local children in the waves”.

As Jurgen puts it, “Surfing has become a widely used medium for ocean conservation and a platform for change. Through education and an exciting exposure to the enjoyment of the ocean, Small Steps Surfing aims to help preserve the beauty that the area has to offer. The local children have very little or no exposure to leisure and fun activities on the beach. Their only exposure to beach activities is when they are “used” by visitors (anglers and divers) to do beach work, like the washing of boats, fishing gear and diving gear. We aim to show them how enjoyable and confidence-building sport in the water can be.”

Jurgen has managed to get donations from a wide range of people from all over South Africa and has to date collected over 20 surfboards, wetsuits, swimming shorts and t-shirts during a roadtrip from Cape Town to Sodwana Bay.

Take your shot

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Sodwana Bay offers one of the top ten coral reef scuba diving sites in the world. (Photos: Dennis King)

“The photographic competition is an industry favourite for divers and landlubbers of all skill levels, with incredible prizes on offer once again,” says Duffield. “Any type of underwater or ‘dry land’ camera setup has a chance of winning in different categories. With the stunning reefs and dramatic landscapes of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park serving as the backdrop for these images, we encourage both divers and non-divers to participate in this idyllically set competition.” The prize-giving ceremony takes place on Sunday, 30th April 2018.

A vibe and a big heart

This event will not only have a big vibe but also a big heart. With a major incentive to give back to the local community, the aim is to provide basic skills training in swimming, first aid and ‘Discover scuba’ courses teaching the value of our underwater world and why it is essential to conserve our oceans.

According to Hindley, “Micro-seminars hosted by topic professionals like veteran diver and author Dennis King will enable festival-goers to be entertained and learn photo editing skills, business tips or even the five best ways to tie your sarong. There is a micro-seminar for everyone at the Sodwana Bay Festival!”

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The Kids’ Club has a full-day programme including a morning session on the beach, with sand castle competitions and ‘Discover Rock Pools’ walking tours. Late morning sessions at the marquee will include face painting, environmental art and educational games. ‘Shark Life Sodwana’ will continue its regular conservation awareness drive to address the alarming exploitation of both shark populations and ocean fisheries in South African waters. Children will interact with the exhibits and enjoy movies at the Shark Life auditorium. This club will ensure that the children will have a holiday that they will never forget, having fun while learning important conservation lessons.

Duffield says: “The iSimangaliso Sodwana Bay Festival has evolved into a fully-rounded family event with a strong focus on bringing the next generation into the fold – to experience, appreciate and celebrate the beauty and immense value of our World Heritage Site, whether ocean or land, and why we must continue to protect it. While the photographs produced during the competition capture and convey the wonder of iSimangaliso to the world at large, the work being done on the ground every day, by so many passionate individuals, is every bit as vital to ensure continuity of our conservation efforts.”

This is echoed by Judy Mann-Lang, Conservation Strategist at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR). Commenting on the achievements of Dennis King who was awarded “Living Legend” status for his citizen science achievements in underwater fish identification and photography, she noted that: “Interest, passion and hard work can really make things happen. Marine biology does not have to be your career to make a big contribution to science and awareness.”

For more information and entry into the photographic competition visit the festival Facebook page (@SodwanaBayFestival). Follow us on Instagram (@SodwanaBay Festival) or keep an eye out on the Sodwana Bay Festival website.

Media enquiries should be directed to Slindile Msweli at sli@isimangaliso.com.