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The NSRI’s water-safety initiatives have been given a huge boost by the Department of Tourism with the donation of 72 Pink Rescue Buoys and the sponsorship of a lifeguard station in St Helena Bay on the Cape West Coast. St Helena Bay lies in the heart of the Cape West Coast.

Nicknamed Agterbaai by locals, and situated somewhat off the beaten track, it is nevertheless regarded as a significant tourist destination in the area. There is a steady stream of visitors – from near and far – who enjoy the rustic camping at Dwarskersbos or time away at Cape St Martin Private Game Reserve; surfers, canoeists and anglers have a number of smaller bays to enjoy their sport; and birders and whale watchers can revel in the abundant bird and marine life as the bay lies on a migratory route. St Helena Bay is also a major fishing area, which provides a valuable livelihood for residents. All in all, it’s a busy little place which, like most coastal towns, relies heavily on its surrounding waters for recreation, income and tourism.

Bringing water safety to St Helena Bay

The coastal town, up until December last year, had no formal structures in place to keep local and visiting beachgoers and water users safe in the surf. The reported increase in fatal and near drownings among residents and visitors in the area during the summer months, and particularly over the festive season, highlighted the need for creating water-safety awareness among beachgoers as well as putting preventative measures in place to assist anyone getting into trouble in the water.

Department of Tourism – a partner in water safety

NSRI’s Water Safety programme and Lifeguard Unit provide major resources to address both these issues, the main two initiatives being the deployment of Pink Rescue Buoys to drowning hotspot areas around the country and the establishment of lifeguard stations at previously unlifeguarded beaches. Both initiatives received a major boost in December 2020 – thanks to the Department of Tourism – with the sponsorship of a lifeguard station at Slippers Bay in St Helena Bay, and a generous donation of 72 Pink Rescue Buoys, which are now being deployed in areas of need around the country.

"The proactive initiative to reduce drownings as well as create awareness about water safety fits well with our commitment to enhance our tourist offerings and the promotion of responsible tourism in destinations,” explains Blessing Manale, Chief Director: Department of Tourism. “The idea behind the project is to get emergency flotation to a tourist or anyone who is in danger of drowning as fast as possible while calling for professional help. We believe that through this initiative we will be able to safeguard tourists and the community who engage in water activities and complement our commitment to tourist safety.”

“Please return me so I can save another life”

The success of initiatives like these depends on the communities they serve. The NSRI encourages all water users and community members to safeguard the Pink Rescue Buoys and lifeguard stations, and listen to the lifeguards and beach patrollers who are on duty to keep them safe. In order to save lives, the Pink Rescue Buoys need to be returned to their poles after use.More than 850 Pink Rescue Buoys have been installed at strategic areas around South Africa and more than 68 lives have been saved through their use since the project started in November 2017.

“Drowning prevention and water safety is a key pillar of our work, and our initiatives would not be possible without the generous support of donors and sponsors, and the commitment of our educators and the communities that welcome them,” says NSRI CEO, Dr Cleeve Robertson..

'We would like to thank the Department of Tourism for their sponsorship of Pink Rescue Buoys and for extending our drowning prevention initiatives in the St Helena Bay area," he adds.

The NSRI’s Lifeguard Unit stations serve as response bases for surf rescuers and lifeguards, who patrol the beaches creating water-safety awareness, and assist those who find themselves in difficulty in the water. Covid-19 Level 3 restrictions halted recreational beach activities, but we are all looking forward to the new station at St Helena Bay, as well as other new and existing stations being operational again.

The cost of a Pink Rescue Buoy and the sign is R1 500 - Click to donate hereFor more information on this project, you are welcome to contact us on pinkrescuebuoys@searescue.org.zaTo learn more about NSRI’s Pink Rescue Buoy initiative, go to:https://www.nsri.org.za/2020/10/south32-pink-rescue-buoy-sponsorship-aims-to-save-lives-in-richards-bay/https://www.nsri.org.za/2020/10/pink-rescue-buoy-used-to-save-a-life

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