My Octopus Teacher. Picture: Netflix
My Octopus Teacher. Picture: Netflix

Cape Town’s Kelp Forest one of Bloomberg’s New Seven Wonders of the World - in part thanks to ’My Octopus Teacher’

By Dominic Naidoo Time of article published Jun 2, 2021

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As the world slowly emerges from nearly a year and a half of lockdowns and travel bans, millions of both seasoned and novice explorers are eager to see the world again. Bloomberg has given them something to add to their post-covid bucket lists with its recently announced list of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The new list aims to highlight previously overlooked destinations from all over the world and promote exploration that steers away from pre-covid, mass tourism, a time when social distancing was a laughable concept.

The list boasts spectacular attractions such as the Spanish Stonehenge, Roman Ruins of Lebanon and 60 000-year-old Aboriginal Rock Art in Australia but, as South Africans, we are most excited about seeing our very own Cape Town Kelp Forests featured on the world-famous listicle.

Situated around 16km from the city of Cape Town, the Kelp Forests were brought to fame by the Academy-Award winning documentary, ’My Octopus Teacher’, which was filmed on location. The documentary followed local filmmaker, Craig Foster, on a year-long journey of friendship and discovery with a common octopus called the watery forest home.

Kelp is a form of large, brown seaweed, also known as algae, which grows from the ocean floor toward the surface reaching heights of up to 45 meters. They can grow rapidly with some species sprouting 45cm a day. They thrive in relatively shallow, clear water close to cold coastal areas very much like the Capes Atlantic coast.

As kelp grow, they form an important three-dimensional forest-like habitat that can be home to thousands of species of invertebrates, fish, and other algae. Craig Foster, author of the book Sea Change refers to it as “a three-dimensional liquid forest or ‘golden forest’ where one can float amongst the high canopy, jump off the top and fly down to the forest floor.”

Cape Nature’s Nicole Horn said: “Unlike many other kelp forests in the world currently, South African kelp forests are doing extremely well due to the south-easterly winds we experience on the west coast which causes an upwelling of cool nutrient-rich waters that kelp forests thrive off.”

Cape Town’s kelp forests cover an area so vast that the Grand Canyon will fit inside it, twice. It extends around a thousand kilometres parallel to the shoreline from the west coast to the southern coast toward De Hoop Nature Reserve. Kelp is extremely efficient at sucking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere making them one of the best hopes in our fight against climate change. They also provide food and haven for the very fish that give the Cape its unique cuisine.

Cape Nature noted that Kelp forests are a vital host to many fish species endemic to South African waters including seven-gill cow sharks, broad-nosed seven-gill cow sharks, pyjama catsharks and puffadder shy sharks.

With this world-wonder being so close to home, who knows, you may find your very own Octopus Teacher, or at the very least, a crab student.

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