The Peninsula Paddle: Covid-19 Edition was a raging success! Held on the 4th of October 2020 by the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) and UCT’s Future Water Institute, in partnership with Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Friends of the Liesbeeck, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town. The paddlers made their way through Cape Town’s waterways travelling from Zandvlei Estuary mouth to Milnerton Lagoon, surveying the water along the way.

A select group of paddlers was chosen for their dedication to environmental justice and passion for doing work that makes Cape Town and South Africa a better place for everyone. We had: Dr Kevin Winter, senior lecturer at UCT; Ryan Stramrood, extreme swimmer and motivational speaker; Siyanda and Akhona Sopangisa, founders of the Khayelitsha Canoe Club with their co-founders Lwazi Mdingana and Tshepo Ramuthokang; Dr Eleanor Yeld Hutchings, People and Conservation Coordinator at the City of Cape Town; and Shamier Magmoet, co-founder of Sea the Bigger Picture. We had a drone and drone operator generously donated by Quemic Africa, and James Mathew as our videographer.

Three clean-ups happened along the route, at Sybrand Park, Berkeley road, and Milnerton Lagoon, conducted by CTEET staff, our River Ambassadors, the learners from the Conservation Leadership Programme, and Zoë Prinsloo, founder of Save a Fishie.

Starting at 7:30am the group paddled from Zandvlei Estuary mouth to Princess Vlei. There was coffee and breakfast halfway in Marina de Gama, surrounded by the welcome sounds of loud croaking leopard toads. The group then dodged solid waste and trash in the canals between Zandvlei and Princess Vlei, ending the first leg with a nice paddle across Princess Vlei. Ryan Stramrood said, “Walking through the ‘veins’ of our beautiful city’s water circulation system, it was both uplifting to see the wonderful potential of what these canals could be providing for all her citizens, while at the same time disheartening, yet understandable, to see first-hand the pollution and total disregard for their health in some areas. All in all a great experience.”

Dr Hutchings said, “It was an absolutely beautiful day – but also a day of eye-opening contrasts. From the spectacular Zandvlei Nature Reserve, one of False Bay’s last remaining functioning estuaries, to the trash-filled and polluted urban canals that feed into the vlei. From the people paddling their recreational watercraft, to the children begging for a ride on the canoes that we were pulling along through debris in the canal. Raising awareness around the plight of our waterways – but also learning about the incredible work that is being done by the City, the Khayelitsha Canoe Club, and CTEET’s River Ambassadors. I feel very privileged to have been part of the Peninsula Paddle today.”

Natasia van Binsbergen of the Water Institute of South Africa (WISA) joined in with the clean-up at Sybrand Park and generously offered to analyse all water samples from the day at Abbots Laboratories.

In the second half of the day the paddlers managed to traverse the Black River quite easily compared to last year, and Siyanda Sopangisa told us, “This year I saw less litter than last year, for me that means the awareness created by the Peninsula Paddle is working”. According to Shamier Magmoet, “Even though our rivers and oceans can’t talk, we will be their voice, and we will be their defenders.”

They then went out the Salt River Mouth into the ocean, travelled up the coast and entered the Milnerton Lagoon mouth ending at Woodbridge Island. After a successful paddle Kevin Winter said, “We are all connected to these waterways and it was wonderful to work with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. From well-known celebrities to the humble paddler… we are all trying to do the same thing… to raise awareness about the state of our water and to see the opportunity for using these waterways for recreation and making [them] more liveable.”

“Ultimately there is a message of hope. As the paddlers journeyed through the waterways they found not all of it was pretty, but the work is being done and the Paddle achieved the goal of raising awareness of the state of the rivers. Thank you to the partners and volunteers who helped out on the day,” said Vicky Johnson, Events and Social Media Officer at CTEET.