Lonely Planet Writer

Cape Town's Shark Spotters initiative wins major African tourism award

The Shark Spotters initiative of seeking to protect sea swimmers from shark attacks has struck gold at the African responsible tourism awards.

The Shark Spotters initiative has been commended both for its approach to making swimming safer for people while also being mindful of the need to protect rare shark species
The Shark Spotters initiative has been commended both for its approach to making swimming safer for people while also being mindful of the need to protect rare shark species Image by Dimi / CC BY 2.0

Eye Witness News reported that their trailblazing programme had received the Gold Innovation Award in its Best for Beach tourism category.

Shark exclusion nets helps ward off attacks from great white sharks
Shark exclusion nets helps ward off attacks from great white sharks Image by Lwp Kommunikáció / CC BY 2.0

Sharks Spotters’ Sarah Waries said the adjudicators were looking for initiatives which led the field in responsible tourism.

Shark Spotters are partnered and funded by the city of Cape Town. Johan van der Merwe, its Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning hailed the “valuable and innovative” project in beach tourism. He emphasised in particular the introduction of the shark exclusion net.

The City of Cape Town also praised the group for enhancing the safety of visitors to the city’s and country’s beaches.

The judges said they were impressed by the combination of education and safety which the Shark Spotters brought to beaches. This was done in tandem with an empathy towards shark protection, especially the globally threatened species such as the Great White.

Furthermore, the judges noted that the programme provide communities with skill development opportunities and with employment.

Ms Waries said the team was delighted to accept the award. Their work was designed to be holistic, nurturing social and environmental responsibility. The aim was to protects beach tourism and the local economy from the inevitable negativity which invariably accompanies “shark bite incidents.”

There is now an information centre detailing how the Shark Spotters work at Muizenberg Surfer’s Corner. It is opened seven days a week.