Third Africa Marine & Leisure Expo delivers a fun-filled weekend with a strong conservation message
November 1 and 2 saw the much-anticipated return of the Africa Marine & Leisure Expo to the beaches of Scottburgh and Rocky Bay, marking the third year of this UGU South Coast Tourism sponsored event. Previously, the Africa Marine & Leisure Expo has not only celebrated the beach lifestyle for which the South Coast is so famous, but also shone a spotlight on marine conservation groups acting to safeguard coastal environments both in the province and throughout South Africa. This year’s event was no different, focusing equally on informing and inspiring the crowds about conservation issues, and making sure everyone that attended had a fantastic, fun-filled day out.
For the sport enthusiasts, the main event of this year’s Africa Marine & Leisure Expo was without a doubt the inaugural South Coast Rocky Bay Resorts Strongman off-road duathlon, which saw contestants battle it out over a gruelling 3 kilometre trail run/ 19 kilometre mountain bike/ 2 kilometre trail run course. The competition drew both amateur and professional athletes alike, who delighted the crowds with their sporting prowess. In the wake of the event’s success, organiser Glen Gore is already predicting that the duathlon “will become an annual undertaking on the South Coast as trail runners and mountain bikers flock to the area to take on the fantastic off-road tracks that the Scottburgh region has to offer”. The men’s duathlon was won by Travers Pellew, who maintained his lead over fellow competitors for the duration of the event. Pellew was joined on the podium by Jean Lens and Julian Pearce, who took second and third place respectively. In the women’s event, Durbanite Lucy Pearce claimed victory with Teegan Parker Demison and Samantha Potgieter taking home the silver and bronze.
The organisers of the duathlon also held a development clinic for children in association with the KwaZulu-Natal Triathlon Association, encouraging youngsters to try their hand at trail running and mountain biking. Perhaps those youngsters that were introduced to the discipline of duathlon at this year’s Africa Marine & Leisure Expo will become the sport’s future rising stars- certainly, a lot of fun was had by all on Rocky Bay’s beautiful coastal trails this weekend.
There was plenty on offer for the Expo’s young guests at Scottburgh’s beaches- from the adrenalin-fuelled attractions of the Coca Cola Fun Zone and the Africa Marine Games Play Park to the Family Fun Catch & Release fishing competition. With prizes for the best fish handling practices, the Catch & Release competition aimed to promote environmentally-friendly angling to the younger generation, with event organiser Dean Pretorius (Port Edward) commenting that “it is imperative that we as anglers promote this format of fishing in order to ensure the future sustainability of our sport”. 20 children ranging in age from four to fifteen took part in the competition, catching and releasing a total of 48 fish. The prize for top angler went to Revashan Naidu, who caught 12 fish, narrowly beating runner up Kelsey Pretorius’ total of 11 fish. The biggest catch of the day went to Harmjeet Ramkisson, who landed a 40 centimetre stonebream.
The Expo offered visitors the chance to try a new hobby, thanks to the Learn How To Breathe Underwater clinics held in the Scottburgh Beach Pool on both days by Two Oceans Scuba Academy. The exhibition area of the Africa Marine & Leisure Expo also housed a series of conservation stalls, manned by representatives from local, national and even international research groups, conservation initiatives and NGOs. Those organisations present at the Expo included the Aliwal Shoal Honorary Officers, the Greenpoint Surfriders Foundation, Clansthal Conservancy, Shark Angels, NSRI, WESSA Blue Flag and the WESSA National Coastal Programme. Thanks to the dedication and passion of those volunteers operating the conservation stalls, many visitors will have left the event better informed about the issues that face our marine environment- and better equipped to do something to help conserve it.
The Expo also acted as a platform for various conservational speakers, who presented fascinating talks about the work of their respective organisations. On the Saturday, Jacqui McAllister from NSRI spoke about water safety and Nigel Eady talked about the work of the Aliwal Shoal Honorary Offficers Group, which is dedicated to enforcing the rules and regulations of the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, and to increasing awareness of bag limits and size restrictions amongst the local fishing community. On the Sunday, Sheivine Datadin from WESSA got the ball rolling by speaking about her organisation’s Blue Flag and National Coastal programmes, highlighting the importance of maintaining South Africa’s exceptionally beautiful, and uniquely diverse coastline. In the afternoon, Sihle Zulu of the Shark Conservancy gave a fascinating presentation about the conservation of the South Coast’s most famous finned residents. One of the event highlights for this year’s Africa Marine & Leisure Expo was the appearance of East Coast Radio DJ Darren Maule on the Saturday in support of Shark Angels. He took to the stage to speak about the importance of shark conservation, and was welcomed to the show ground by the Durban Chapter of the Harley Owners Group, who also rode to Scottburgh en masse to show their support for sharks.
Fashionistas were also catered for by this year’s Africa Marine & Leisure Expo, with the return of last year’s Miss Africa Marine Queen beauty pageant as well as a variety of stage entertainment.
The sheer diversity of the Africa Marine & Leisure Expo continues to be the key to its success, with conservation and family fun being the overriding themes of the 2014 event. Justin Mackrory, the CEO of UGU South Coast Tourism, summed up the event’s role, saying “the significance of the Africa Marine & Leisure Expo is that we show off what the South Coast has to offer and bring the message across that it’s essential that we support the marine environment and conserve it for future generations”. By catering to everyone from fishermen to divers, and from conservationists to beauty queens, this event continues to unify the South Coast community whilst helping to safeguard all that makes this region so very special.