How does tourism impact on local communities? Sometimes it has a beneficial influence, sometimes I feel it has a diluting impact on local traditions and behaviours. But for today, we will focus on the positive impact.

fLet’s take a look now at how the Shark Cage Diving Industry has influenced the local community of Masekhane in Gansbaai, Western Cape. Masekhane has grown from a mere 360 seasonal workers, employed by the local fisheries, to a bustling community of 15 000 residents. This is mostly due to the growth in the local tourism sector, as the fish stocks have gone into a steady and rapid decline over the years.

White Shark Projects has been running shark diving excursions since 1992, and as the demand for this niche product has increased, so too has the need for crew. White Shark Projects currently employs 21 people from the area, which means that at least 21 families can now rely on a regular income. But it’s not just the money that’s improving people’s living conditions, the continuous training which the crew receives also plays a major role in uplifting the community. One of White Shark Projects’ videographers is such an inspiration for his family, that he is now paying for his younger brother to complete his education in order to one day improve his own situation too.

mandlaAnd then there’s Mandla Ngazini who has been working for White Shark Projects since 1994. Mandla had no training when he started at White Shark Projects, but now he is a registered tour guide, an Open Water 1 diver, he has PDP driver’s license, he has completed a computer course and numerous life-saving and fire-fighting courses, he was also the first Black skipper trained for a commercial vessel. He proudly provides for his family and Mandla is an esteemed member of his community. Thanks to him, there are now educational and upliftment projects running in Masekhane. White Shark Projects backed him and these projects to ensure its sustainability. Mandla took it upon himself to take children from his community on explorative trips to the tidal pools on his off days. Teaching them about the ocean and its creatures, how to conserve them and that they shouldn’t just take from the ocean, but that they should also give something back.

MJB 0514White Shark Projects runs a Recycle Swop Shop in Masekhane, and it has been running like a well-oiled recycling machine for 9 years. Children from the community were educated on all things recycling – how it works, why we do it and what can be done with the recyclables. Children now collect recyclables and hand it in at the White Shark Projects’ Recycle Swop Shop. Here they receive points for their efforts, and these points in turn can then be swopped for school stationery, second hand clothing or basic food needs. So not only does the Recycle Swop Shop teach children to take responsibility for and take pride in their environment, it also gives them access to what they need.

These are just a handful of ways in which one company has made a difference in one community, all thanks to the influence of tourism. There is so much more than can be achieved… so watch this space!