Marine Explorer Programme Reflection

By Wade Naude, 4th December 2023

A Reflection by Wade Naude

The Marine Explorer group at their first snorkelling session at Windmill Beach. Image by Danel Wentzel | Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre

I had the privilege of working with two Marine Explorer (ME) groups during 2023. The Marine Explorer programme is a 12-week programme aimed at High School learners and introduces participants to the wonders of the ocean through snorkelling on the Cape Peninsula. The end goal of the ME programme is to encourage love, respect, and stewardship towards the ocean.

The first group of 2023 was from EcoActive, an NPO that focuses on teaching youth from at-risk communities in Lavender Hill and Capricorn to swim. The learners were initially hesitant about exploring the ocean through snorkelling when they arrived at the centre. However, their excitement was palpable after their first open-water session as they shared all the incredible marine life they had seen. In a short space of time, they went from being afraid of sharks to wanting to see bigger ones!

The second group of learners, from Sibelius High School, was enthusiastic about the programme and asked many questions. Although some were anxious about the deeper dives, others were merely curious. Even the quieter members of the group showed off their diving skills and were surprised by the size of the sharks they encountered. Both groups were always eager to get to the dive spot and enjoyed sharing their experiences during a reflective journal exercise facilitated by one of our team members. They looked forward to the three-day camp at Soetwater Environmental Education Centre, where we planned to close off the end of the 12-week programme and say our goodbyes to the 2023 cohort.

A member of the EcoActive group snorkelling at Miller's Point Tidal Pool. Image by Danelm Wentzel | Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre

As a team, we designed a customised programme for the three-day camp. The programme aimed to incorporate teamwork and push the learners out of their comfort zones. This was the first time the two groups met, and while some students displayed impressive teamwork, others still had room for growth. The camp was a fantastic learning experience for the learners and everyone involved.

During the camp, one of the things I enjoyed the most was our Friday night film session. We watched three movies centred around the ocean and our relationship with it. Older than Trees, a film by the Save Our Seas Foundation, emphasised the importance of preserving marine life and how government legislation can facilitate this effort. Hluleka, by Jamilla Janna, highlighted the significance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) while being conscious of the impact on communities that rely on the ocean for food and income. Rise from the Cape Flats highlights how Shamier Magmoet uses his experience with the sea to inspire his community to advocate for change. Many of the learners resonated with Shamier’s story and saw themselves in him; most of them voiced how they looked forward to sharing their new skills to help members of their communities.

Working with both groups was a joy, and the students struck me with their interest in pursuing marine science careers. Equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed is crucial. The ME programme provides valuable exposure to marine life and snorkelling skills, fostering a healthy attitude towards these animals and stressing the importance of protecting them.

Although the ME programme is a long-term commitment, with the students attending for 12 weeks, it felt like time flew by. The students were sad to leave and eager to return, a testament to the programme’s success. We hope that they can continue to develop their passion for marine science. Programmes like these can not succeed without the support of our partners, including the Pisces Divers team, as well as the teachers and leaders of the learners. We appreciate you all and look forward to more partnerships in future. The educators and facilitators from both groups played a pivotal role in making this project successful. They were present weekly during the snorkelling sessions, staying behind after hours to ensure they could support the learners on their journey. Special thanks to my team for working alongside Pisces and the educators and making invaluable contributions to this venture.

Learners from EcoActive and Sibelius High School at the Marine Explorer’s Camp during a team-building exercise. Image by Antonique Dick| Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre