Giant tourism booster for Durban
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.
FRED KOCKOTT AND ZAMO PHUNGULA
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.