Natures Valley and Wilderness Valley Beaches have been awarded Blue Flag Status for the next year.
No other beaches on South Africa’s Blue flag list, which includes 45 beaches, are situated in National Parks. “This is a proud distinction and important responsibility. It recognises the Garden Route’s role in the local economy,” says Jonathan Britton, section ranger at the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park.
Blue Flag is an international annual accreditation managed by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and is given to beaches that comply with strict criteria over four aspects of coastal management. These include high standards of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management. The international Blue Flag, which is recognised in 40 countries around the world, is one of the most well-known eco-label of its kind.
In order to achieve this status, many partners were involved in ensuring the beaches meet quality standards. Regular water quality testing takes place to ensure that the water around these beaches is safe for recreational use.
The ablution facilities and beaches are cleaned regularly, and maintained. Life guard and safety monitors are on regular duty, and teams run beach safety and awareness campaigns.
Blue Flag Ambassadors have also been appointed at these beaches to assist visitors with information on the area and enhance the overall experience for visitors.
The achievement reflects on the effective partnership between SANParks, local municipalities and residents associations. “A large part of the Garden Route is open access and people are very much part of this ecosystem,” says Britton.
Nature’s Valley Beach is perched along the Tsitsikamma Section of the park, near the Groot River, where unspoilt sands and surf delight visitors. Wilderness Beach, with its long expanses of sand, is also a coastal eden, situated next to the town of Wiilderness.
“Wilderness is a beautiful long stretch of coastline where even when it is very busy, one can be away from the hive of activity to find some peace and quiet,” says Britton.
A boost to tourism of this magnitude will enhance the experience and install a vote of confidence in our visitors to the Park, says Britton. Proceeds generated by visitors to the park fund the conservation management of the natural resources in the Garden Route.
But other than boosting tourism, Blue Flag status will also help educate visitors to the area. Blue Flag beaches encourage a strong education and awareness element in the management of beaches.
“If someone leaves the beach and learns something about respecting the environment, and passes this onto friends and family, we have achieved something important,” says Britton.
Written by Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld– SANParks Times Editor
Pictures: Nandi Mgwadlamba
Content courtesy of SANParks Times: www.sanparkstimes.co.za
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