Voyaging for the Future
iSimangaliso and Hokulea connecting across Earth’s oceans
The Following is a Press Release from iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s Authority.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority recently hosted crew members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society in the Lake St Lucia section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park – a marine and terrestrial UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Voyaging Society, which is endorsed by UNESCO, is using a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe to sail across the world to grow the global movement toward a more sustainable future, spreading their message of hope and realisation that we are ONE Earth. This historic voyage is the first time the crew is sailing to the African continent, using ancient mariner skills of wind power and navigation by the stars.
UNESCO and the Polynesian Voyaging Society signed a partnership agreement that will strengthen the visibility of marine World Heritage sites, the local people who live and work in these sites and the challenges these unique ocean places face. Scientists, educators and documentation teams are on board the voyage to help tell the stories of ocean conservation, stressing the importance and value of these World Heritage Sites. Their findings will be transmitted via satellite and their stories will be shared globally through publications such as National Geographic and Huffington Post. Through UNESCO, iSimangaliso and Hokulea are connecting across the Earth’s oceans to share indigenous and local wisdom to further the message of sustainability, and to help create a future that includes healthy oceans.
Upon arrival, the Hokulea team were given a South African welcome by the local ingoma group (a traditional isiZulu dance group) and local isiZulu elders, Induna Phillip Mkhwanazi and Mr Ephraim Mfeka, Chairperson of the Bhangazi Land Claimant Group. As part of the welcoming process, the Hokulea crew were invited to participate in the song and dance, giving us enthusiastic performances. Master Navigator, Kālepa Baybayan, from the Hokulea crew offered his own version of the dance which was part-Haka and part-isiZulu inspired.
After the rousing welcome, the Hokulea crew discovered the wonders and miracles of iSimangaliso with communities and staff. An estuary boat cruise on the Advantage Cruiser treated them to close-up views of hippos and crocodiles. This was followed by a game drive into the Eastern Shores section of the Park where they saw rhinos, zebras, buffalos, baboons and a host of other big game for the first time.
Many of the Hokulea crew members commented that this was their first time seeing these animals in the wild and how lucky South Africans are to live in Africa and have iSimangaliso with these natural wonders on their doorstep!
Commenting on the structure of the visit, iSimangaliso Authority CEO, Andrew Zaloumis said that “iSimangaliso saw this as an opportunity for our staff to learn from global partners and in turn, throughout the mobile tour the Hokulea crew had opportunities to engage with local leadership, community and iSimangaliso staff so that they could share stories and reflect on community heritage, indigenous knowledge and empowerment within a natural World Heritage Site. iSimangaliso was inscribed as a World Heritage Site for outstanding universal values including superlative natural beauty, shaped by thousands of years of inhabitation by indigenous people. Heritage, culture and local knowledge continue to shape natural World Heritage Sites such as iSimangaliso. Our Park represents a new model for conservation that balances biodiversity protection and ecosystems rehabilitation on the one hand with a genuine commitment to social equity and regional economic development on the other. This integrated approach, which recognises the value of our natural assets and our people, is uniquely appropriate to South African conditions. It relies on active partnership between all of those with an interest in the region to promote both conservation and development”.
The day ended with a delicious lunch provided by a local community caterer where the team was treated to ujeqe (traditional steamed bread), chakalaka (a spicy tomato, pepper and onion dish that originated in the townships of South Africa), curry and imfino (traditionally cooked spinach). The Hokulea crew presented gifts to the local leadership and iSimangaliso to show their appreciation, followed by a traditional Hawaiian song.
iSimangaliso feels particularly humbled by the recognition bestowed upon the Park by the Hokulea crew members who have written iSimangaliso into the African Chapter of the Mālama genealogy, forever honouring the cultural exchange between the Polynesian Voyaging Society and iSimangaliso. “This cultural, spiritual and indigenous knowledge sharing was mutually beneficial to iSimangaliso, local leadership and the Hokulea crew. We are creating a network of partnerships to better care for our Earth’s marine resources” said iSimangaliso’s Research and Development Manager, Nerosha Govender, who hosted the crew in the Park.
In a letter of thanks from crew member Daniel Lin, he wrote: “Aloha UNESCO team, I just want to reiterate how grateful we are for the amazing engagement we had at iSimangaliso Wetland Park earlier this week. Our crew members are still talking about the sights, the sounds, and the tastes that we experienced. It was certainly a highlight for us and we cannot thank you enough…Mahalo (thank you) from all of us at Polynesian Voyaging Society.”