Plettenberg Bay, or Plett as it is known to the locals, is probably best known for its beautiful beaches, warm waters and marine life (most prominently whales and dolphins). But I want to take you to a different part of town today. Ocean Blue Adventures, a marine-based operator that offers whale and dolphin encounters as well as other sea-based activities, is passionate about the local township, Qolweni, from where it sources most of its staff. Together with the Qolweni Development Trust, they organise intimate and respectful tours of the township with young locals as guides. All proceeds go towards teacher salaries and maintenance at the local crèche, Siakula Preschool. Having a functioning crèche means that women can leave their children during the day, knowing that they are well looked after and fed, to seek employment. Unemployment in Qolweni is close to 80%… Siakula also creates employment, and currently 7 teachers and 1 principal look after close to 250 children.
The tour visits Siakula, and usually the children will perform a few songs for the visitors. There is also time to look around and interact with the children, who absolutely love to see their pictures on visitor’s digital camera. “Shoot me, shoot me!” can be heard all over. By South African (township) standards, the crèche is extremely well equipped and run, and even has flushing toilets. At Siakula, the children are taught that going to school is fun and that education is important, and this is probably one of the biggest gifts that children of desperately poor townships can be given.
The tour then winds its way through the township, where people are more than happy to invite you to their shacks or sell you a soft drink (or as they say in South Africa: cool drink) or a beer. Wherever you go you are greeted with a smile and kind words, a testimony to the benefits that these tours bring into Qolweni. If you feel like a bit more of an adventure, you can also stay the night in their b&b Ihlengethi.
If you are passing through Plett, as tempting as it may be don’t spend all of your time on the beach or a boat. I have been on many a township tours, and this is by far the best I’ve ever experienced. It is honest, rough around the edges, respectful to the local people and a great deal of fun!