Durban to have whale of a time

The Soul of South Durban (Sodurba) Community Tourism Association representatives. From L-R: Event co-ordinator Donna Prinsloo, Sodurba chairperson Helga du Preez. | Supplied

The Soul of South Durban (Sodurba) Community Tourism Association representatives. From L-R: Event co-ordinator Donna Prinsloo, Sodurba chairperson Helga du Preez. | Supplied

Published Jun 19, 2024


Durban — More than 6 000 people are expected to converge on Durban’s shores during the Whales Festival next week.

The festival, spearheaded by the Soul of South Durban Community Tourism Association (Sodurba), aims to create eco-awareness and educate the public about marine conservation.

The festival started in 2017 and this year marks its seventh edition. The aim was to develop and promote responsible, exciting, creative, and sustainable tourism “for the benefit of all stakeholders and community collectively and boldly.”

The association’s chairperson, Helga du Preez, said: “Last year, we had 6 000 people, and this year we expect more. We have a busy programme.”

She said that the festival was important as Durban shares a history with whales, from hunting them and nearly causing the demise of many baleen whale species, including the humpback and southern right whales.

Whale hunting was banned in 1975 in South Africa and the Bluff Whaling Station was closed.

“Due to the government’s decision to draft and implement legislation to limit and govern boats approaching whales as well as the efforts of various conservation organisations, that are being made globally, these two species have partially recovered in some areas, and continue to increase their numbers every year,” said Du Preez.

She added that surveys showed that the humpback population that migrates past Durban had increased from a mere 340 to about 7 000 – an incredible recovery of about 90% of the original pre-exploitation stock.

The Soul of South Durban Community Tourism Association is set to host the Whales Festival. The event will be hosted on June 23, 29 and 30 in Bluff, south of Durban. The festival aims to inform about marine conservation - in particular, whales. | Supplied

Sodurba said that it was celebrating not only the recovery but also the humpback whale’s migration – the longest of any mammal on earth.

Du Preez said the story of recovery from levels that were arguably close to extinction showed that conservation worked and, considering the trend of declining global biodiversity should be celebrated as a symbol of hope for human survival, for the health of our oceans, and for the conservation of nature.

Lloyd Edwards from Raggy Charters in Algoa Bay initiated the Southern Humpback Whale Migration route in 2018, which has grown to 26 events in Southern Africa including Kenya on the east coast and Gabon on the west coast.

Raggy Charters, together with the World Cetacean Alliance and various partners, will be presenting a series of talks on sub-Saharan Africa.

The festival will consist of an educational centre, arts and crafts market, food stalls, and various beach activities.

“There will be a free park & ride facility from the Bluff Eco Park. Shuttles will be transporting guests down to Foreshore Drive.

“On Saturday morning at 4Shore Guesthouse, Sodurba will be hosting a VIP champagne breakfast for invited guests only, consisting of delegates, sponsors and heads of departments. The event will end with a once-in-a-lifetime private tour to the Bluff Whaling Station with a few special guests.”

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