Why I’m walking 124km for African Penguins in this year’s #PenguinPromises Waddle.

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Penguin Promises – A few months ago a friend, much-respected travel writer and often travel buddy of mine Linda of Moving Sushi, introduced me to the idea of joining her on this year’s Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week campaign. You see, she knows me.

How much I love the ocean, the environment and all the creatures of this world. How in the quiet moments I wish I was making much more of a difference. Here was an opportunity to be a part of something that mattered and I jumped at it, contacting Hayley and the organisers with a bid to be involved.

The announcement of my actual inclusion as a media partner followed in early March and the arrangements were set in motion. This is the 5th Annual Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week, supported by Old Mutual Finance and taking place from the 13th to 18th of April. The annual Waddle started in 2011 as an AKA _ Animal Keepers of Africa initiative to create awareness of the plight of the African Penguin, whilst encouraging people to make behavioural changes that bring a positive impact on the environment.

Problem is that 100 years ago there were more than 1.5-million African penguins, today there are only 18 000 breeding pairs left to sustain the whole population. These cute iconic birds face extinction in the wild as their numbers continue to decline dramatically. Loss of food due to overfishing, climate change and habitat destruction are just some of the factors taking their toll. Actually, I was told recently on a boat trip to Dyer Island, that unless there’s intervention, they will be gone within 15 years. I can’t imagine a world without them.

This year’s Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week will allow me to contribute in some small way. I will be joining a group of 16 animal keepers, penguin enthusiasts and environmental supporters from around the country as we tackle the 123km walk alongside the False Bay coastline spreading the ocean-loving word. Yet Penguin Promise is more than this week of walking. It’s about all of us making a commitment to the environment.

It’s quite easy to become involved by simply making a promise of change in your daily lives. These promises are funnelled through the Penguin Promises campaign and can be submitted to ipromise@penguinpromises.com. Promises should be simple and manageable. Little things can have an immensely positive impact on the environment. The Waddle for a Week and Penguin Promises campaign is not a fund-raiser but rather there to encourage long-term behaviour change in all of us.

These are my initial penguin promises:

– Not drinking bottled water, we are one of few countries in the world where our water comes out fresh and good from the tap.

– To always pick up litter, however it got there.
– To refuse plastic straws.
– Buy local and not imported goods where possible, striving to eat fruit and veg only in season.
– To continue the journey of health on my vegetarian diet. I’m not entirely animal-free, yet I try to make conscious choices about where the occasional eggs and cheese come from. A meat-free diet has countless benefits, but for me, it’s about the animals.
– To recycle more and move away from plastic bags where possible.
– To tread ever gently on the earth, with respect and appreciation for nature.
– To adopt a NO STYROFOAM | POLYSTYRENE approach to the world. Takeaways, doggy bags, coffee cups, if not offered in cardboard or tinfoil, say no. This is death to the ocean and its birds and creatures.
– To encourage others to make promises too.

Personally, I don’t eat anything out of the ocean and haven’t for years. I can’t bring myself to do so given the struggle it faces daily for survival against overfishing, methods of fishing and pollution. This is a personal choice I try not to be too militant about, often failing. This love of mine for the ocean and it’s creatures is probably closest of all to my heart and one of the main reasons I’m doing the walk.

Here my most valuable lessons are gained from The Black Fish. Although if anybody is going to be eating fish, make sure you follow the WWF SASSI guidelines. Back to the walk, which will have us moving and thinking about all these important things and spreading the word as we go. The routing is as below:

Sunday 12th – As a group we head out to Gansbaai with all of our kit and overnight at Saxon Lodge, getting a much needed night of rest. Although the excitement will be palpable.
Monday 13th – Walk 20km (5hrs) – departing Gansbaai at 9am, arriving in Stanford at about 2pm for an overnight at Stanford Hills in Stanford.
Tuesday 14th – Walk 24km (6hrs) – depart Stanford 9am, arrive Hermanus 3pm, staying at the Windsor Hotel in Hermanus.
Wednesday 15th  – Walk 24km (6hrs) – depart Hermanus 9am, arrive/end Arabella before Kleinmond 3.30pm, staying at Grail Cottages in Kleinmond.
Thursday 16th – Walk 30km (7.5hrs) – depart Arabella 8am – arrive Stony Point (Betty’s Bay) 3.30pm, staying at Hangklip Chalets in Pringle Bay.
Friday  17th –  Walk 11km (2.5hrs) – depart Bikini beach 10am in Gordon’s Bay, arrive Strand at 12.30 and transfer to Muizenberg (Soul Surfer Backpackers in Muizenberg).
Saturday 18th – Walk 15km (4hrs) – depart Muizenberg Surfer’s Corner 9am, arrive in Boulders beach (Simonstown) 1pm.

Things I’m going to need on the walk include my big floppy hat, sunblock, music and podcasts, camera and phone as well as my GoPro. Good shoes and seamless socks. There’ll be much walking which is always therapeutic and contemplative. But not without a serious level of exertion. Best thing is we will engage with people and spread the word as we go!

All in the company of active inspiring people! One of them, my friend Linda.

I haven’t trained. With all the wonderful travel I’ve been doing, fitness has fallen by the wayside, but daily farm walks and the occasional spin on the stationary bike are not nothing. I am nervous though. Have an injury to one foot after dislocating a toe last year (and putting it back badly myself) and have a tendency to clumsy.

I’m completely excited and bursting with a sense of purpose and have realised that taking one small step forward at a time can make a difference. Just in the preparation, there’s been much to think about and learn.

** If you can’t join in on any of the days please follow along and commit to your own Penguin Promises. We will need all the encouragement and support you can muster.


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