Nonhlanhla feeds back on Marine and Coastal Educators' Network conference
uShaka Sea World senior education guide Nonhlanhla Ngwabe was delighted at the opportunity to attend the recently held 2017 Marine and Coastal Educators' Network (MCEN) National Conference. She shares her experience below:
As 15 January approached, I was both excited and anxious about the upcoming Marine and Coastal Educators' Network (MCEN) conference. I had attended the same conference two years before and had learned a great deal from the passionate delegates who attended and made learning and sharing so easy.
This year the conference was hosted in KwaZulu-Natal and it started at uShaka Sea World. Upon arrival the delegates collected litter along a street next to uShaka as an introductory activity before enjoying snorkelling among the beautiful fish in the Aquarium’s Snorkel Lagoon. Delegates came from organisations around the country and for some it was their first snorkelling experience, which made it even more exciting for me.
Our main activity for the evening, before preparing to sleep among the fish tanks in the Aquarium, was the making of papier-mâché marine creature masks which we would use for the gala dinner later in the week. I enjoyed this child-appropriate activity despite my non-existent artistic skills as it offered a networking opportunity.
Waking up in the Aquarium was very exciting for some of the delegates, but since I had done it on numerous occasions before, I woke early to prepare for the day’s presentations before our journey to iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
On the way we stopped at Mthunzini for a tour of the mangroves, albeit in the rain, before arriving at St Lucia in the late afternoon. We spent the next three days at Cape Vidal enjoying each others’ presentations and planned activities.
We were able to explore the rocky shores, went for a boat ride on the St Lucia estuary and enjoyed being surrounded by nature. We learned about the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which has magnificent Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and we were most privileged to explore and gain a greater understanding of its functioning and significance.
As Thursday came and we started approaching the end of our conference, we made our way back to Durban, stopping off at Salt Rock before finally arriving home on Friday morning.
Strategies have been put in place to further strengthen and enhance our network and its functions. This is to ensure that future generations will benefit greatly and have fun when learning about our marine ecosystems, how they are interlinked and how humans benefit. The time I spent with these individuals, with their different expertise and experiences, just reminded me that as a country we are very rich in terms of our flora and fauna.
I was delighted to be nominated as KwaZulu-Natal’s Marine and Coastal Educators' regional representative and am looking forward to playing a vital role in ensuring the protection and sustainable use of our natural resources.
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