Cape Town - Scuba divers from the UCT Underwater Club and the Two Oceans Aquarium Dive School spent their weekend splashing about among the fascinating marine life in the Two Oceans Aquarium’s I&J Ocean Exhibit for their 24-hour dive-a-thon, also known as their Diver24 fundraising event.
Diver24 was a special event by the UCT Underwater Club where divers were in the water at all times for 24 hours starting from midday on Saturday until midday on Sunday to raise funds for the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob).
The event has been hosted by the aquarium since 2017, but it was unable to take place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic for the past two years.
However, the divers and the aquarium were more than ready to dive back into their fundraising efforts for the conservation and education of marine life.
Nicholas Miehe, UCT Underwater Club marketing and outreach: “Diver24 is an innovative and celebratory event that is highly anticipated within the UCT Underwater Club.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to explore the vistas of the Two Oceans Aquarium, while having the knowledge that our enjoyment is contributing to the important beneficiary charities that we have chosen to support.”
Two Oceans Aquarium digital manager Devon Bowen said: “It’s always a pleasure to welcome the enthusiastic young people of the UCT Underwater Club to the Two Oceans Aquarium for Diver24.
“Connecting people to the natural world, be it through an Aquarium visit, learning to dive at our Dive School, or simply being a scuba diving student, to inspire love and appreciation for our environment is a cause we can always get behind.
“We wish these young divers another year of underwater success,” said Bowen.
With 72 divers from the UCT Underwater Club, scuba diver Matt Torr was excited to share a bit about his dive at midnight on Saturday.
“We dived in the predator tank with the sharks and yellow tail and then we dived in the I&J tank, a kind of free for all tank where we could just swim around and take photographs.
“We had a great time interacting with some of the marine life, especially Bob the turtle- he was very friendly and he would come and nibble on us sometimes,” said Torr.
Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson Renée Leeuwner said the education foundation was 100% dependent on donations so initiatives such as this from UCT’s Underwater Club, were a key element to the work they were able to do.
She said the foundation specifically focused on conservation, education and research and one of the big programmes they ran was their turtle rehabilitation programme where they rehabilitated stranded sea turtles found along the coastline.
“Earlier this year we released 44 sea turtle back into the ocean and we are actually currently entering stranding season where hatchlings that hatch in KZN get stranded on Western Cape beaches because they caught in the cold currents, eat plastic and get ill which then leaves them stranded and in need of rehabilitation,” said Leeuwner.
Leeuwner said turtle rehabilitation was just one of the programmes these funds would be assisting as well as various educational and research programmes that were vital for the future of marine life.
Committee member Michaela Myers, who was one of two that helped to organise the event, said: “Ocean conservation is incredibly important, especially in the 21st Century where there are things like oil spills, overfishing, and plastic pollution destroying our oceans – so we wanted to raise some money around educating people about the ocean and instilling a passion for the ocean ”
Myers added that Sanccob did amazing work bids, particularly seabirds, and they were passionate about supporting their efforts as well.
Committee member Nina D’Andrea said: “Last night (Saturday night) I dived in the I&J tank at the aquarium and it was one of the most incredible dives. I got to see a whole lot of fish and wildlife that I would not usually see in Cape Town - I had not seen a ray or turtle in real life before so that was really exciting.
“The ocean holds so much of the world’s life and being able to see that and be amongst that was incredible,” said D’Andrea.