Cape Town- A beautiful sunny day has blessed the Mother City of Cape Town with warm weather & a good time for families to enjoy the likes of Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point. Many were out for fun, either cooling down in the waters, relaxing in the sun, taking walks or playing games with friends. Reporter: Anne, Photo: Ross Jansen

Cape Town - The Western Cape is home to the largest number of pristine beaches in the country with 27 of them receiving the international Blue Flag stamp of approval this year.

Nationally, 45 beaches received the status at the launch of this year’s Blue Flag season - hich starts on November 1 - at the Thesen Island Marina in Knysna on Tuesday.

The province also received accreditation for five marinas and six whale-watching and leisure boats. Another five beaches have “pilot status”, which means they have to show they can comply with the more than 30 criteria required for a year before receiving full accreditation.

The Hessequa Municipality is also the first in South Africa to have all of its beaches feature on the Blue Flag programme.

Blue Flag is an international award given to beaches that meet strict criteria for cleanliness, water and sand quality, as well environmental education and management. The criteria are set by the Foundation for Environmental Education, the international co-ordinators of the Blue Flag campaign in Europe. In South Africa it is headed by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa.

More than 40 countries are part of the programme with more than 4 000 Blue Flag beaches wordwide.

Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, who attended the event, said achieving Blue Flag status not only showed a positive contribution to conserving the country’s natural resources, it was of “great value” to the tourism sector.

“Tourists visit the country for its beauty and natural resources. This in turn brings opportunities which create jobs and boosts the economy,” Hanekom said.

The tourism sector alone had created 1.4 million jobs in South Africa.

He said it was encouraging to see that the Blue Flag initiative was growing.

Last year 41 beaches were given the honour of raising the blue flag and this year 82 sites, including 45 beaches, six marinas and six whale-watching, commercial or private boats, have been awarded full status.

The Blue Flag programme has been running internationally for 28 years and was implemented in South Africa in 2001. It is focused on the conservation of marine and coastal habitats, and is designed to raise environmental education and awareness, as well as increase sound environmental practices among tourists, local residents and beach management.

Western Cape beaches that received Blue Flag status this year are:

* Matizikama’s Strandfontein Beach in Vredendal.

* The City of Cape Town’s Silwerstroomstrand, Clifton Fourth, Camps Bay, Llandudno, Muizenberg, Strandfontein, Mnandi, Bikini and Melbosstrand (pilot) beaches.

* Overstrand’s Kleinmond, Hawston and Grotto beaches.

* Hessequa’s Witsand, Preekstoel, Lappiesbaai, Gouritzmond, Jongensfontein (pilot) and Stilbaai West beaches

* Mossel Bay’s Santos, De Bakke, Hartenbos and Klein Brak beaches.

* Eden District’s Wilderness Beach.

* Knysna’s Buffalo Bay, Brenton-on-Sea and Swartvlei (pilot) beaches.

* Bitou’s Robberg Five, Keurbooms, Nature’s Valley and Lookout beaches.

* Cape Agulhas’ Struisbaai Beach (pilot).

Western Cape marinas awarded Blue Flag status are:

* False Bay Yacht Club, Granger Bay Water Bay, Yachtport, Saldana and Harbour Island.

Whale-watching and leisure boats awarded Blue Flag status are:

* Gaia, Samara, Robberg, Fling, Whale Whisperer and Ocean Odyssey.

For a full list visit www.blueflag.org.za

Cape Argus