Dawn Jorgensen from The Incidental Tourist shares her experience of walking124 km from Gansbaai to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town with no training and a foot injury for Penguins. A special thanks to Dax Villanueva for the pictures.
I never read the small print.
If I had, I would have known two things prior to joining the Penguin Promises #Waddle2015. 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.
Secondly, that it is much tougher than I thought to walk the 124 km from Gansbaai to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town with no training and a foot injury. Yet this never occurred to me as I packed my minimal requirements bag, camera, and the wrong shoes to join the Waddle.
It had all begun a few months prior when friend, much respected travel writer, and oft’ travel buddy Linda Markovina of Moving Sushi, introduced me to the idea of joining her on this year’s ‘Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week’ campaign.
You see Linda knows how much I love the ocean, the environment, and all the creatures of this world. How in my quiet moments I wish I was making much more of a difference. Here was an opportunity to be a part of something that mattered, to walk the talk and I jumped at it, contacting the organisers in a bid to be involved.
This was the 5th Annual Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week, supported by Old Mutual Finance and took place from the 13-18 April 2015. The initial idea was formed 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 positive impacts on the environment.
Some important African Penguin facts
The African penguin is 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 steadily decreased. In 1900, an estimated 1.5 million birds lived on Dassen Island alone and now only about 18,000 breeding pairs are left in the world.
The reasons for this rapid population decline include egg and guano (for fertilizer) harvesting, reduction in food supply due to overfishing, and oil pollution. The African penguin is now listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and on a boat trip to Dyer Island I was told that without intervention this iconic bird may be extinct in 15 years time.
The penguins needs our help: after all you can never look at a penguin without smiling and I can’t imagine a world without them …
A week of walking
Unprepared and on my way, the week unfolded in a cascade of beautiful surprises, as I was welcomed into the Penguin Promises team of 16 animal keepers, penguin enthusiasts, and environmental supporters from around the country.
We had conversations about conservation, the environment and sensitive issues surrounding animals in captivity. We talked about the good and the bad of zoos, and how essential the good ones are in keeping species from becoming extinct. About the threats of poaching on wildlife and the dire 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 stretches of road, where putting one foot in front of the other seemed impossible, until it was done.
We laughed, we shared and we cared for each other as we tackled the 124 km walk alongside the False Bay coastline, spreading ocean-loving words to school children, motorists, and pedestrians as we went.
Six days of waddling started in Gansbaai at the newly opened African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary with a tour of the impressive facilities with Xolani, the penguin whisperer, and finished at The Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town. Many hours of walking along our beautiful coastline in rain and sunshine, lots of laughter and exceptional company, and daily aching feet and blisters. However, we always waddled in high spirits while collecting Penguin Promises along the way. Many great people made sure we regained our strength with a good night’s sleep – thank you Saxon Lodge, Stanford Hills Estate, Windsor Hotel, Grail Cottages, Hangklip Hotel, and African Soul Surfer Backpacker for your hospitality.
The Waddle for a Week and Penguin Promises campaign is not a fund-raiser, but strives to raise awareness and encourage long-term behavioural change in all of us. You can make a Penguin Promise to email@example.com and help keep this environmental action campaign alive and well all year round.
These are my penguin promises and examples of what you could do:
- Not to drink bottled water; our water comes out fresh and good from the tap.
- To always pick up litter, how ever it got there.
- To refuse plastic straws.
- To buy local and avoid imported goods where possible, and striving to eat fruit and veg only in season.
- To continue the journey of health on my vegetarian diet. I am 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 is about the animals.
- To recycle more and move away from plastic bags, where possible.
- 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 have not for years, but if you do please use the WWF SASSI list.
Everywhere we saw plastic bags along the side of the road. A wonderful commitment to the campaign is the Rethink the Bag initiative by Hayley of the Two Oceans Aquarium, co-founder and logistics behind the Waddle.
Let’s make sure that we don’t overlook the penguin’s endangered status or get caught up in bureaucracy. Let’s rather all do what we can to help, right away.