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South Africa's First Black “Free Dive” Instructor Turns Tide on Apartheid

INTERNATIONAL: South Africa has first-ever black “free dive” instructor. Whilst trying snorkeling on holiday to Bali back in 2016, Zandile Ndlovu fell in love with the ocean. She swiftly got her scuba diving certificate the following year, and now has her instructor's certificate in what’s known as “free diving”, with no equipment.

Ndlovu is South Africa's first Black diving coach, turning the tide on decades of apartheid history in which water sports were reserved for wealthy whites. Every month during Summer, she takes youth from Cape Town's Langa township for snorkelling lessons, as part of an initiative under her Black Mermaid Foundation. It aims to introduce the ocean to the country's black youth, millions of whom live in impoverished townships, where beach trips are a luxury and swimming skills in short supply:

"The Black Mermaid Foundation does work to take kids from local facing communities to come on a snorkel trip and explore the water, get past the fear and connect with the water in a way that allows us to believe that these oceans belong to us too and ultimately when we believe that we belong and when we believe that certain things belong to us then we will protect them."

The kids in her care are loving it, saying, “I learnt that I don't be scared, that I can learn to be brave." Others say how Zandi (as they call her) has taught them to swim and to know everything about the sea. They’ve seen octopus, fish and sharks.

Ndlovu says her project is only just getting started:

"I want everyone to be able to experience this as early as possible and recognize that the ocean is not a place that we need to fear but a place that we could come at and enjoy and revisit the stories that we grow up with that keep us away from these oceans as well. And my joy, my joy is the moment when one of the kids say, 'Oh look it's a fish, oh look it's a starfish,' because it means that they have transcended the fear space to actually look beneath the surface."

Established in 2020, the Foundation currently pays for lessons, but is looking for funders to ensure it survives.


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