Yesterday, the Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner, Dr Nina Viljoen, together with the Municipal Manager of the George Municipality, Dr Michelle Gratz, and Nosidima Vumindaba, Manager: Parks and Recreation, George Municipality, accepted a full Blue Flag status award for the Wilderness Beach. This prestigious award was presented to the GRDM and George Municipality by the Deputy Director-General: Tourism (Destination Development), Ms Shamilla Chettiar during the National 2021/22 Blue Flag Season Launch at the Grotto beach in Hermanus, South Africa, hosted by the Overstrand Municipality and Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA).
The Wilderness beach is one of 48 locations that achieved Blue Flag Status for the 2021/22 season nationally. A beach that has been awarded full Blue Flag Status means that it meets the highest standards of environmental management. Although the Blue Flag international award focuses on the environmental management of coastlines and coastal waters that aims to promote tourism and development, it is also a symbol for beach quality, as well as in terms of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management.
Dr Andrew Baxter, Chief Executive Officer of WESSA, Nosidima Vumindaba, Manager of Parks and Recreation at George Municipality, Dr Michelle Gratz, Municipal Manager of George, Shamilla Chettiar, Deputy Director-General: Tourism (Destination Development) and Dr Nina Viljoen, Head: Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner
According to a WESSA spokesperson, “The programme provides an excellent international standard for municipalities and tour operators to strive toward. Sites flying the Blue Flag are showing their commitment to conserving our fragile marine and coastal environment, raising environmental awareness and increasing sound environmental practices.” A Blue Flag status, according to WESSA, is one of the world’s most acknowledged eco-labels awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. Therefore, to qualify for the Blue Flag Status, a series of strict criteria must be met and maintained. These include:
Compliance with the Blue Flag criteria;
Information relating to local eco-systems;
Environmental management of beaches;
Beach facilities such as parking, access points, cleanliness;
Access for the physically disabled;
Safety services provided on the beaches; and
Water quality, environmental education and information.
The Wilderness Blue Flag beach application to WESSA was put on hold for the previous 2020/21 season due to the devastating impacts, and safety risks, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Viljoen said: “It was a difficult road due to the impacts of the virus, but we are excited that we can boast full Blue Flag status once again this coming season – a symbol of quality and excellence”.
The Wilderness beach is managed as a collaborative effort by the following key stakeholders, who all work together to make the full Blue Flag status possible: the Garden Route District Municipality, the George Local Municipality, and the South African National Parks: Wilderness Section, as well as other stakeholders who all play their part to ensure compliance with the strict Blue Flag standards, such as the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Salinas Restaurant, George Law Enforcement, amongst others.
Congratulations to all stakeholders involved!