Penguin Promises – I never read the small print.
If I had I would have learnt two things prior to joining the Penguin Promises #Waddle2015 last week.
Firstly, that I would be in the company of incredibly inspiring, hands on animal and environmental activists with endless experience and knowledge, who have dedicated their lives to making a difference, one step at a time.
Each individual would have a profound influence on mine.
Secondly, that it was tougher than I thought to walk those 124km from Gansbaai to Boulders Beach in Simons Town, especially with no training and my foot’s injury playing up. This never occurred to me as I packed my minimal requirements bag, camera and the wrong shoes, and I’m okay with that.
It meant that my week unfolded in a cascade of beautiful surprises as I was wholly welcomed into the team. We had conversations about conservation, the environment and sensitive issues surrounding animals in captivity. We talked about the good and the bad of Zoos, how essential the good ones are in keeping species alive. About the threat of poaching on wildlife and the need to rescue the ocean from overfishing and pollution. We debated vegetarianism and how small changes can bring about a difference.
We did show and tell blister care and offered support on the hardest days and stretches of road where putting one foot in front of the other seemed impossible, until it was done. We laughed, we shared, we cared for each other.
All this as we set out as a unit to encourage promises that would create awareness and ideally, help the endangered African Penguin.
Some important African Penguin facts:
‘African penguins are endemic to the South African coast and can live for an average of 10-15 years, however many do not reach their full lifespan, and populations have been steadily decreasing. In 1900, it was estimated that about 1.5-million birds lived on Dassen Island alone. There are now only about 18 000 breeding pairs of African penguins left in the world. The reasons for the rapid decline in the population are due to egg harvesting and guano harvesting (bird droppings) for use as fertilizer, reduction in food supply due to overfishing and oil pollution. As a result, African penguins are now considered endangered by IUCN’s Red List, which means there is a high risk they may become extinct.’
It’s a sad reality and they need our help, after all you can never look at a penguin without smiling.
Before I get to the summary of the week, I want to make the following Penguin Promise.
– To recycle more. I don’t enough because there are no facilities. I promise to make the extra effort.
– To use environmental and animal friendly cleaning and beauty products.
– Keep eating vegetarian and encouraging others to eat less meat and be guided by the WWF SASSI guidelines when ordering fish.
– Limit plastic bag use, avoid straws, pick up litter, not drink bottled water.
Please make your Penguin Promises to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember this isn’t a fundraiser, it’s an environmental action campaign that is alive and well all year, every day.
The #Waddle2015 collection. As we were leaving Gansbaai on the first day.
Walking the Overberg.
Wayne, more than a driver from sponsors African Wildcat Tours. Stopping every 3km it was the bus and Wayne that we looked out for as he waved us in and waited with a giant smile and much warmth with water, a laugh and snacks. Eventually I think we were walking 3km at a time, not 24m. You did that Wayne, thank you!
Collecting penguin promises in Hermanus, Fiona, Hayley and Dawid.
The incredible Fiona, Shanet, Juan, Zama, Londy and Jacinta. Seriously – ROCKSTARS! So much love and respect for you all.
Mr Fikile Sizwenya! Your spirit exudes goodness. ‘Hoot for Penguins’ was brought to life by you. A gift to the campaign and to all of us. You don’t need honey …
Stephen van der Spuy of SANCCOB, who literally cruised through the distance, calmly offering endless support to us all. What a pleasure! Can’t wait to visit SANCCOB and learn even more about the work you do there.
Separation anxiety as we said goodbye to Dawid Möller of Old Mutual Finance, main sponsors and the best support as doctor-on-site for wounded feet. You literally kept me in the game.
The group arriving in Simonstown. The end in sight.
Everywhere we saw plastic bags along the side of the road. A wonderful commitment to the campaign would be to Rethink the Bag, an important initiative by Hayley of the Two Oceans Aquarium, co-founder and logistics behind the Waddle.
Samantha, best hugger and friend to the ‘other’ penguins who greeted all in the towns we walked though.
Here a diary of the six days that we shared, the where and how.
We all met up at the Two Oceans Aquarium and airport, making our way in the beautifully branded vehicle to Gansbaai where we spent the night at the Saxon Lodge. Visiting the newly opened African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary – APSS for a tour of the impressive facilities with Xolani the penguin whisperer. A beautiful dinner and conversation set the tone for the days to come.
Waddle Day 1 – Symbolism, Schools, Samantha, Stanford and Stanford Hills Estate. 24 km down, aching feet but rising spirits and exceptional company.
Waddle Day 2 – Stanford to Hermanus, 24km. Blisters and aches are setting in, but we collected many promises, had a good presentation at the Whale Coast Conservation offices and are very much doing this for the penguins. Tonight we sleep Windsor Hotel Hermanus.
Waddle Day 3 – A good day. There was rain and blisters and many new aches and pains to work through, but by 2.30pm we were at the entrance to Arabella Golf Estate and Spa after 24km for a stretch and replenish before transferring to the Grail Cottages in Kleinmond for the night. Probably the hardest day for me.
Waddle Day 4 – We managed a long and rather tough but lovely 30km today, from the entrance of Arabella to Betty’s Bay where we headed down to the Stony Point Penguin Colony. Nothing like seeing penguins in the wild to bring the cause home. All admiration for the work being done to save them by SANCCOB, who even released some birds today. A rather chilly night was spent at the Hangklip Hotel with dinner at the Red Disa Restaurant at the Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay.
Waddle Day 5 – It was all about Samantha as we walked from Gordon’s Bay to Strand, a 10km stretch with beautiful beaches and a group of wonderful school children to see us on our way. Laughter, interaction and the knowledge that another 10km put us at 112km. One day to go! Our overnight was at the Soul Surfer Backpacker.
Sadly overnight our vehicle was broken into and much taken. A great damper and reality check of the crime we face in this country.
Waddle Day 6 – We walked the last 15km from Muizenberg to Boulder’s Beach in Simonstown, joined on the last stretch by a large group of wonderful supporters, which made all the difference. Arriving to a warm reception as we marked the 124km mark and end of Waddle. After a celebratory glass of bubbly at Boulders Beach Lodge we waddled down the boardwalk to spend some time with the very precious birds themselves …
Boulder’s Beach, the penguins were oblivious to the journey we had taken on their behalf, the commitment we would continue to honour on their behalf. But we knew and that was enough.
Now for the thank you’s. To Hayley, Gabby and Renee who were the driving force behind the campaign, logistics and support, keeping us together as a working and effective unit throughout. Absolute wonders of the heart.
To the sponsors who kept us accommodated, fed and cared for. The list here.
Every child with a poster, school teacher with a lesson, media member and person who hooted and waved. Especially those that went on to make a promise to the penguins.
We did it! Forever imprinted in my heart. Arrival at Boulders Beach.
To my Linda Markovina of Moving Sushi, partner in travel, conservation and all things awesome. Who else but you to share these adventures with. Thank you for being there as ‘we walked the walk’ for sustainable tourism.
Let’s do it again next year!
Now back to that thing about the small print, the greatest lesson I learnt this week is it doesn’t hold relevance in matters of the heart, also not to the African Penguins. Let’s make sure we don’t overthink their endangered status or get caught up in bureaucracy – but rather that we each do what we can to help, right away.
Thanks for the use of your pics Relax with Dax and for joining us on the last stretch, see Dax’s Facebook page here for more. Appreciate your support! Above with Dax and my daughter Lemor on our arrival at Boulder’s Beach.
For more info on the Waddle For A Week or the Penguin Promises campaign, contact Hayley McLellan by mail or on 021 8144532. Also follow the Two Oceans Aquarium on Twitter and Facebook as well as Penguin Promises on Twitter and Facebook too.