Plettenberg Bay a candidate to become a Whale Heritage Site

Plettenberg Bay a candidate to become a Whale Heritage Site
Plettenberg Bay a candidate to become a Whale Heritage Site

Plett Tourism is thrilled to announce Plett's candidacy to become a prestigious Whale Heritage Site. The bay, located on the Garden Route, South Africa has been recognised for supporting rich marine biodiversity and ocean wildlife.

Situated between two Marine Protected Areas, Robberg and Tsitsikamma, Plett is ideally positioned for scientific research and marine tourism activities, including whale and dolphin watching. The Tsitsikamma Mountains and Robberg Nature Reserve provide a dramatic backdrop to the bay which is a popular whale-watching destination along with many other outdoor, adventure activities, including mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, trail running, bungy jumping, skydiving, and much more.

A Whale Heritage Site is an initiative by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) to recognise and accredit destinations across the world that support and demonstrate the importance of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and their ocean habitats. Furthermore, these sites empower communities to care for and protect these magnificent marine mammals while encouraging respect for and celebration of cetaceans through local culture, arts and events, supporting local economic and environmental sustainability; and developing locally based science, research and education - a perfect fit for Plettenberg Bay.

The WCA seems to agree: "Sites like Plettenberg Bay have the potential to lead the way in responsible tourism, research and conservation, helping local communities and visitors alike to celebrate and care for the marine environment," says Elizabeth Cuevas of World Cetacean Alliance. "We look forward to working with the stakeholders at Plettenberg Bay on their journey to become a Whale Heritage Site!"

Those working towards Whale Heritage Site accreditation hope that it will help to bring together different stakeholders in the local community, as well as gaining Plettenberg Bay well-deserved recognition for its sustainability achievements and ecological importance. Southern right whales and humpbacks can be seen here from July to December during their migrations, while Bryde’s whales frequent the bay throughout the year. Bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, and endangered humpback dolphins are also year-round visitors.

The initiative has been spearheaded by passionate local photographer and wildlife enthusiast Rob Smith who, after attending a series of presentations at the Marine Science Symposium held at Plett's first Ocean Festival earlier this year, was inspired to investigate the Whale Heritage Site process. Smith says: " The Ocean Festival organised by Plett Tourism in July this year opened a treasure chest of Plett's marine ecology. It was a moment to acknowledge the unique beauty of our town's marine and coastal systems."

After a presentation by Lloyd Edwards of Raggy Charters, Smith began to engage various stakeholders in the industry, firmly believing that the accreditation was ideal for Plett. "Whale Heritage Site accreditation for Plettenberg Bay will result in international recognition for Plettenberg Bay’s marine and coastal ecology with direct benefits accruing to tourism businesses, significant marine science linkages with international counterparts and the all-important unifying consequence this initiative holds for the town and various communities.” For Plett Tourism, this outcome highlights one of the great successes of the Plett Ocean Festival and Marine Science Symposium.

Plett Tourism Association CEO, Patty Butterworth is elated with the candidacy and recognises its importance for the entire community. "Plettenberg Bay’s reputation as one of South Africa’s favourite playgrounds isn’t just for us, Plett is also a desirable destination for amazing marine life, and in particular, whales and dolphins! This is wonderful news for the future of our local tourism industry and travellers wishing to view these gentle giants that visit our shores,” said Butterworth.

Being recognised as an official Whale Heritage Site ensures that Plett continues to uphold the highest standards of sustainable practices for the whale-watching industry and leads by example in the development of other whale tourism destinations around the world. The title will not only add value to our local tourism industry but will also help shape the future of cetacean conservation while Plett Tourism continues to works to positioning Plett as a global leader in sustainable tourism, conservation and marine research thus attracting ocean lovers from across the world.

To successfully qualify as a Whale Heritage Site, WCA will work with local stakeholders to ensure a series of criteria are met in support of cetaceans through culture, education, research and conservation initiatives. We will keep you informed. In the meantime, in Plettenberg Bay, the sun is shining, the dolphins are cruising the waves and summer is on its way