Across South Africa, 66 Blue Flags will be proudly flown at 46 beaches, 8 marinas and by 12 sustainable tourism boats around South Africa over the forthcoming 2018/19 South African Blue Flag season, which opens officially on the 1st of November 2018. This was announced at the National WESSA Blue Flag launch hosted by the Mossel Bay Municipality at Santos Beach, Mossel Bay, in the Western Cape on the 12th October 2018.
We are super stoked to share the good news that we were once again awarded a Blue Flag status as a sustainable boat operator, an accolade which we have managed to uphold for five years. Every year we are subject to compulsory annual inspections in order to ensure that we, as a boated-based tourism operator, continually maintain the high standards set by the Blue Flag Organisation.
Founded back in 1987, Blue Flag is an international annual award which focuses on the environmental management of coastlines and coastal waters and which aims to boost sustainable tourism and development. More than 40 countries around the world participate in this programme and the popular Eco-label has become an international symbol of quality for beaches, boats and marinas that meet a standard of excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness and environmental education and management. When tourists learn that a certain beach, marina or boating operator has upheld the stringent standards associated with the programme, they are more likely to visit them.
South Africa was the first country outside Europe to be granted Blue Flag accreditation for its beaches and the programme has been locally managed by WESSA since 2001 in partnership with participating coastal municipalities. The strict criteria of the programme are set by the international coordinators of the Blue Flag campaign in Europe, FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education). The Blue Flag programme offers many benefits: improved tourism facilities, enhanced management of coastal ecosystems, increased awareness of the coast and capacity building of coastal municipalities.
All of us at Ocean Odyssey feel extremely proud to be flying the Blue Flag high because we put a lot of effort into maintaining the status. Why do we do it, you may ask? We do it because every day when we skim across the vast Knysna Estuary and head out through the iconic Knysna Heads in search of marine wildlife, we are inspired. We are inspired to share these natural wonders that are all around us, and we are equally inspired to help protect it.
We strongly believe that If you want to build a global community of people who love the natural world, you have to get them out into it. You can’t protect a place unless you understand it and you can’t cherish it until you know it. There needs to be clarion call to protect our precious environment for future generations and we hope to affect change by implementing small measures in our daily business practices. With each passing year, we try do more to highlight the importance of a healthy marine environment because we are passionate about showcasing the extraordinary biodiversity that can be found above and beneath Knysna’s liquid realms.
There are several ways in which we strive towards achieving our goals of education and conservation. Our offices on Thesen Island have large educational boards with information pertaining the marine and estuarine species that are often encountered on our tours and during these tours we offer a fascinating narrative about the many facets of Knysna. We write regular blogs about exciting wildlife encounters and important conservation issues. We organise and take part in regular beach and lagoon clean ups. We strongly advocate the reduction of single use plastics and have implemented recycling in all our daily business affairs. We take part in educational outings for local school children.
There is much to be done, and we will continue to put our efforts into education and conservation during the next Blue Flag season.