Gi­ant tourism booster for Dur­ban

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS&VIEWS -

WITH THE 4th World Whale Con­gress be­ing hosted in Dur­ban in June, whale-based tourism in Kwazulu-na­tal is likely to get a gi­ant boost.

At the top of the agenda is the cre­ation of Whale Her­itage Sites (WHS) – an ini­tia­tive launched by World Ce­tacean Al­liance (WCA) in April last year.

The ini­tia­tive aims to con­nect and pro­mote sus­tain­able, re­spon­si­ble whale watch­ing en­ter­prises glob­ally.

So far, six world renowned whale watch­ing des­ti­na­tions have ap­plied for WHS sta­tus. They are North Van­cou­ver Is­land (Canada), Her­vey Bay and Port Stephens (Aus­tralia), Penin­sula Valdes (Ar­gentina), Nan­tucket (US) and Azores (Por­tu­gal).

The up­com­ing World Whale Con­gress could in­spire Dur­ban to fol­low suit.

Be­sides serv­ing as a gate­way to whale and dol­phin watch­ing in KZN, lo­cal tourism op­er­a­tors and con­ser­va­tion agen­cies be­lieve the city’s whal­ing past could be de­vel­oped into a sig­na­ture eco-tourism en­ter­prise.

Dur­ban once had the big­gest land-based whal­ing sta­tion in the world. By the late 1980s, sev­eral species of whales had been hunted to the brink of lo­cal ex­tinc­tion.

At Port Na­tal Mar­itime Mu­seum a grow­ing ar­chive of arte­facts, pho­tos, and as­so­ci­ated doc­u­men­ta­tion from the old whal­ing sta­tion on the Bluff have al­ready be­come the main­stay of Whale­time tours, op­er­ated by five young tourism guides from Um­lazi.

They hope to ex­tend Whale­time tours to the old whal­ing sta­tion on the Bluff, but the his­toric site is cur­rently used by the mil­i­tary.

“Our chal­lenge is to turn this into a con­ser­va­tion suc­cess story.

“Dur­ban is ideally po­si­tioned to pro­mote eth­i­cal whale-based tourism en­ter­prises, and to use the pres­ence of this iconic species to cre­ate aware­ness about ocean con­ser­va­tion is­sues,” said Nikki Chap­man of the ocean ex­pe­di­tion agency, Sea Quests, which helped train Whale­time guides.

Dr Jean Har­ris, head of Ezemvelo’s sci­en­tific ser­vices di­vi­sion, agreed.

“The re­cov­ery of hump­back whale pop­u­la­tions that mi­grate close in­shore along our coast is a story that brings eco-tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties that could cre­ate more jobs than whal­ing did,” said Har­ris.

WCA chief ex­ec­u­tive Dy­lan Walker said the host­ing of the World Whale Con­gress in Dur­ban would help gal­vanise ef­forts and unite na­tional, re­gional and global stake­hold­ers from whale con­ser­va­tion and wel­fare back­grounds, the whale watch­ing in­dus­try, as well as travel and tourism com­pa­nies.

“It’s for every­body in­ter­ested in ma­rine con­ser­va­tion and eco tourism, par­tic­u­larly our African col­leagues,” said Walker. “We have been hugely im­pressed with Kwazu­lunatal, its friendly peo­ple and its fo­cus on con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity.”

The con­fer­ence is sched­uled to take place at Dur­ban’s Protea Ed­ward Ho­tel from June 24-29 and is ex­pected to at­tract 200 in­ter­na­tional del­e­gates. The con­fer­ence shall cul­mi­nate with Whale Her­itage Site can­di­dates show­cas­ing their des­ti­na­tions and ex­plor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of new sites in Africa.


These his­toric pho­tographs form part of the Port Na­tal Mar­itime Mu­seum’s grow­ing ar­chive of arte­facts and as­so­ci­ated doc­u­men­ta­tion from the old whal­ing sta­tion on the Bluff.


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