iSimangaliso’s environmental education – changing lives

23 Oct 2019

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Now in its twentieth year as South Africa’s first and most diverse UNESCO World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso is extremely proud of its legacy as a provider of quality environmental education for the youth surrounding the Park. Many learners who first visited the Park in the early years have gone on to explore careers in fields relating to or supporting our conservation efforts – some of them with the assistance of iSimangaliso bursaries, and several of whom now work in the organisation. One of these ‘iSimangaliso graduates’ is Sifiso Vumase, our Environmental Education Officer, whose passion and depth of knowledge of the natural environment is evident in the way he addresses every visiting group.

Sifiso Vumase
Passion in action! iSimangaliso’s Environmental Education Officer, Sifiso Vumase, thoroughly enjoys educating young learners about the wonders of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site.

“This financial year (since April 2019) has been an exceptionally busy one,” says Sifiso, palpably delighted at the opportunity to introduce even more young people to the wonders of his beautiful place of employment. As of the end of September, 4181 learners from 96 schools had already crossed the Park entrance grid on a voyage of discovery, only halfway through the year. “For many, it is their very first experience of the protected area and ocean that lies so close to their own homes,” he adds.

Most of the visits take place on the Eastern Shores section, enabling a sample of terrestrial as well as marine life in close proximity. Occasional trips are also offered at the Sodwana Bay and uMkhuze sections of the Park.

Nkombose High School

Nkombose High Schoo
Nkombose High School is less than 50 kilometres from the Western and Eastern Shores of iSimangaliso, yet none of the high school learners in this group had visited the Park before, nor did they have much knowledge of what they could see or do here. In a two hour session, Vumase provided an overview not only of the Park’s outstanding universal values, types of flora and fauna and reason for existence, but also showed the lasting benefits of tourism, associated business opportunities and career paths resulting from the Park.

Mission Rocks

Mission Rocks
There were gasps of delight and wonder at some of the sea creatures that can be found in the intertidal zone at Mission Rocks on the Eastern Shores. The learners also spotted animals such as kudu, warthog, wildebeest and zebra.
Vumase, often partnering with other educators from organisations such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlands Trust and Isolemvelo Conservation Trust, actively visits as many of the close neighbouring schools as time and budget allow. This financial year the annual target of 30 school visits has already been exceeded. Neighbouring schools are also invited to participate in free visits to the Park as part of the structured environmental education programme, with iSimangaliso sponsoring transport for small groups on its branded bus. Beyond the immediate vicinity, all schools are also welcome to apply to visit on a discounted basis outside of weekends and holiday periods. As far as possible, these groups are provided with external education guides trained by and paid for by iSimangaliso.
Sibusiso Bukhosini
For iSimangaliso’s Chief Executive Officer, Sibusiso Bukhosini, the visit by over 70 learners from his former primary school – Phasula Primary in Manguzi – in early October was particularly special. Today he stands as an example of what is possible for children even from the smallest schools in deep rural areas, if they persevere with studies and maximise their potential.

“I am delighted to see such progressive achievements with regards to exposing our local school children to the Park”, says iSimangaliso CEO Sibusiso Bukhosini. “Through this, we believe that our young people living adjacent to the park will grow up with a better understanding of conservation, thereby continuing to ensure meaningful contribution towards biodiversity conservation!”

Media enquiries should be directed to Debbie Cooper at

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