iSimangaliso Wetland Park
While in Richards Bay South Africa the Hōkūleʻa crew visited iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, the 820,400-acre park comprises diverse ecosystems that are also of great significance to the native people. As the first landfall in Africa, the crew took this time to honor the indigenous community of the area.
Hōkūleʻa crewmember Billy Richards said, “Why was it necessary to pay respect to the people of this land, well because we are visitors and we expect no less from others who come to our land, it’s mutual. The respect must be mutual. For us it was our opportunity to express to them our intent is positive and it is full of aloha.”
Zulu tribal elders accompanied the crew on a tour of the park and invited them to share in their culture.
Richards said, “It was very nice to be able to share this with the elders and the people of the area that came with us. One of the great things about today was to be able to exchange with other peoples who are bringing back their culture as much as they can and regaining control over their ʻāina, land. You know it’s important that we understand each other and how we both share the same sort of cultural values that tie us to our land.”
Mandisa Nkosi, an intern at iSimangaliso Wetland Park, said, “Within the park there’s lots of diversity. Now we are having tourist who come in to see the nature, the biodiversity and all that. We have many different species. We have the oceans, we have the lake, we have the inland animals. All the stuff like that it’s a kind of diverse area. It’s very special in a way to people who love nature and appreciate it.”
Richards said, “They were given the land back and what they’ve done now is that they’ve taken the cattle off and they’re trying to they’re recreating what was there in the past: the grasslands, bringing in the animals that use to reside there. We saw rhinos, we saw hippopotamuses, we saw crocs, crocodiles, horned animals, baboons, monkeys and all of the above.”
Nkosi said, “The organization strives to to to keep everything in this area at its natural state, to conserve it for people to see how the area is. Even an ant is just as important as a lion as important as an elephant. Every animal has its role in the ecosystem, in the food chain and stuff like that so it’s very important to us that we take care of the environment and we conserve for future generations.”
Richards said, “The important thing for us to do as we go around the world is to recognize people who are doing good for the earth. And they are, and that’s one of the wonderful things about what happened today was to be able to view that.”
To follow Hōkūleʻa and her crew as they travel the world to connect with communities and spread the message of mālama honua, visit Hokulea.com