Condé Nast Traveler recently released a list celebrating leading women from all walks of life for International Women’s Day. One such woman featured in the luxury magazine is none other than Zandile Ndhlovu, South Africa’s first black free-diving instructor.
Nothing short of a mermaid herself, Zandile’s work involves educating young children from townships, many of whom have never been up close and personal with the ocean, by taking them out on snorkelling excursions and teaching them about plastic pollution, overfishing, marine habitats and climate conservation.
In her interview with Condé Nast Traveler, she says:
“When you think of ocean spaces, Black communities often feel like that’s a white space. I knew I wanted to change the narrative.”
Zandile first took up free-diving on a trip to Bali in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since.
“When I found the ocean, it felt like finding home,”
“Being someone who’s never really fit in, to be able to find a place where you didn’t have to pretend to be anything else but yourself was just so incredibly empowering.”
Zandile is also at the helm of another inspiring project, where she creates safe gathering spaces, or “hubs of hope”, for the country’s underprivileged children, mostly living in townships, with her first hub open in Cape Town’s Langa district.
She says, “Many of the kids living under many hard conditions – gender-based violence, drugs, poverty…”
“What would it mean to have a hub of hope that is rooted in the ocean but lives in the community?”
Zandile’s aim is to introduce the ocean and conservation into these kids’ lives, exposing all the “wonders that lie beneath the waves” and encouraging them to explore and connect with the nature around them.
“As you enable communities to believe that the oceans belong to them too, they become new custodians and stakeholders and voices that protect these oceans.”
In her interview with Condé Nast Traveler, she explains the importance she places on exposing South Africa’s youth to the great big blue and beyond:
“Sometimes we can’t dream things we don’t see.”
Picture: Zandile Ndhlovu / Facebook