I have a friend who is seriously afraid of sharks. Her fear is so intense that she refuses to go anywhere near the water when we go to the beach. Whenever I try to convince her that a little splash in the sea is perfectly safe, she goes on a Googling spree, finding shark attack stories to show me just how dangerous the beach is. Her fears have a lot of validity as many of those stories happen here in the Cape.
Many people share her concern, and would probably never enjoy the pleasures of the beach if it were not for the excellent Shark Spotters programme we have. They have won the Gold – Innovation Award in the Best Beach Tourism Category at the African Responsible Tourism Awards 2016, and we couldn’t be prouder.
We have all seen the colourful flags notifying us of the ‘shark conditions’. Perhaps you have even seen one of the spotters sitting on the mountain, binoculars in hand searching the waters below for the majestic predators. The programme is the first of its kind in the world and does so much more than just warn people about sharks.
Shark Spotters not only strive to reduce the risk of shark attacks (which is tiny for those of you who are still nervous), they also contribute to the conservation of great white sharks and educate us about these incredible animals. According to the City of Cape Town, these are the traits that saw Shark Spotters win.
They showed great leadership in responsible tourism policies and practices, positive integration and relationships with local communities, and proven achievements in maintaining and conserving beach environments. I know one thing for sure; I feel a whole lot safer on the beach, knowing that Shark Spotters are out there looking out for my safety and the safety of the sharks. They are like superheroes and deserve to be treated as such!