Following the World Whale Conference, which took place in Durban in June 2017, a team led by Sodurba, South Durban Tourism and WILDOCEANS WhaleTime project have set their sights on developing The Bluff as Africa’s first Whale Heritage Site.
“Whale Heritage Sites are becoming the gold standard for responsible whale watching destinations worldwide,” said Jean-Michel Cousteau, the honorary president of the World Cetacean Alliance, which runs the initiative.
“By interweaving natural and cultural elements and placing communities at their very heart, these sites will become places where people respect, celebrate, and protect cetaceans and their habitats long into the future.”
The Bluff, Durban, joins four world renowned whale watching destinations and sites in need of special protection that have applied for Whale Heritage Site status. They are North Vancouver Island (Canada), Hervey Bay (Australia), Marlborough Sounds (New Zealand), and Jurubatiba (Brazil).
“We have been hugely impressed with the community of people living and working on The Bluff, and their desire to retain their heritage and links with whales and dolphins through festivals, trails, guided walks, and whale watching opportunities,” said Dylan Walker, World Cetacean Alliance Chief Executive.
Last year, Sodurba hosted its first ever whale festival, which was held at Anstey’s Beach, and had over 1000 people attend. Members of the community enjoyed many activities from rocky shore walks to educational talks to giveaways, not to mention the sight of local humpback whales breaching right in front of the event!
The chairman of Sodurba, Helga du Preez, said the drive for The Bluff to become a Whale Heritage Site was being supported by WILDOCEANS WhaleTime project – a citizen science initiative which engages the public in monitoring the annual migration of whales along the KZN coast.
WhaleTime is an innovative project that aims to bring science, conservation, tourism and community together around an iconic species, the Humpback Whale. It provides a platform for a coastal community-based “citizen science” movement, capturing and uploading photos of whales spotted out at sea, which are then identified by experts. This will ultimately contribute to a bigger census that will help us better understand the potential growth of the whale population, their distribution, and behaviour patterns.
With The Bluff hosting what was once the largest land-based whaling station in the world, WhaleTime project manager Rachel Kramer believes that the city’s whaling past could be developed into a signature eco-tourism enterprise. Sodurba have been working on making the Old Whaling Station a Heritage Site and Eco Tourism Hub point, where we can share with the world our great history by taking tourists and guests down to this point and offering them tours to and from our ocean.
We have recently launched our Whale Watching Route – to develop and uphold responsible tourism. We already have educational projects in place to inform and educate our local children to protect our planet and our cetaceans. We have a plan in place to promote conservation and responsible tourism, and tourism projects are in place with the local community to promote business and employment opportunities.
“Our Local Municipal Tourism Department is supporting us in this venture,” said Whale Time’s Rachel Kramer. “The biggest Whaling Station in the days gone by is situated in our area. Our vision is to turn this site into a Museum and showcase how we have evolved and become protectors and admirers of our whales.”