Category: <span>Blue Flag</span>

28 October 2021 Media Release: Wilderness Beach Awarded Full Blue Flag Status for the 2021/2022 Season

Media Release:  Wilderness Beach Awarded Full Blue Flag Status for the 2021/2022 Season

For Immediate Release
28 October 2021

Yesterday, the Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner, Dr Nina Viljoen, together with the Municipal Manager of the George Municipality, Dr Michelle Gratz, and Nosidima Vumindaba, Manager: Parks and Recreation, George Municipality, accepted a full Blue Flag status award for the Wilderness Beach. This prestigious award was presented to the GRDM and George Municipality by the Deputy Director-General: Tourism (Destination Development), Ms Shamilla Chettiar during the National 2021/22 Blue Flag Season Launch at the Grotto beach in Hermanus, South Africa, hosted by the Overstrand Municipality and Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA).

The Wilderness beach is one of 48 locations that achieved Blue Flag Status for the 2021/22 season nationally. A beach that has been awarded full Blue Flag Status means that it meets the highest standards of environmental management. Although the Blue Flag international award focuses on the environmental management of coastlines and coastal waters that aims to promote tourism and development, it is also a symbol for beach quality, as well as in terms of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management.

Dr Andrew Baxter, Chief Executive Officer of WESSA, Nosidima Vumindaba, Manager of Parks and Recreation at George Municipality, Dr Michelle Gratz, Municipal Manager of George, Shamilla Chettiar, Deputy Director-General: Tourism (Destination Development) and Dr Nina Viljoen, Head: Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner

According to a WESSA spokesperson, “The programme provides an excellent international standard for municipalities and tour operators to strive toward.  Sites flying the Blue Flag are showing their commitment to conserving our fragile marine and coastal environment, raising environmental awareness and increasing sound environmental practices.” A Blue Flag status, according to WESSA, is one of the world’s most acknowledged eco-labels awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. Therefore, to qualify for the Blue Flag Status, a series of strict criteria must be met and maintained. These include:

  • Compliance with the Blue Flag criteria;
  • Information relating to local eco-systems;
  • Environmental management of beaches;
  • Beach facilities such as parking, access points, cleanliness;
  • Access for the physically disabled;
  • Safety services provided on the beaches; and
  • Water quality, environmental education and information.

The Wilderness Blue Flag beach application to WESSA was put on hold for the previous 2020/21 season due to the devastating impacts, and safety risks, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Viljoen said: “It was a difficult road due to the impacts of the virus, but we are excited that we can boast full Blue Flag status once again this coming season – a symbol of quality and excellence”.

The Wilderness beach is managed as a collaborative effort by the following key stakeholders, who all work together to make the full Blue Flag status possible: the Garden Route District Municipality, the George Local Municipality, and the South African National Parks: Wilderness Section, as well as other stakeholders who all play their part to ensure compliance with the strict Blue Flag standards, such as the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Salinas Restaurant, George Law Enforcement, amongst others.

Congratulations to all stakeholders involved!

Wilderness Beach launches Pilot Blue Flag

Wilderness Beach today (3 December 2019) hoisted its Pilot Blue Flag for the 2019/20 season during a short ceremony at the beach in front of Salina’s Restaurant.

The beach incorporates jurisdiction of SANParks, Garden Route District Municipality and George Municipality. The Blue Flag is a joint project of these roleplayers, with major involvement of Salina’s Restaurant, which overlooks Wilderness beach, and with the support of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) that manages the Blue Flag Programme in South Africa. It is the second consecutive year the beach has Pilot Blue Flag status since Garden Route District Municipality re-applied for the accolade. Wilderness had full status in previous years but skipped application in 2017 due to administrative changes at the District Municipality.

Wilderness Blue Flag beach
From left are SANParks Wilderness representative Carel van der Merwe, Executive Deputy Mayor Charlotte Clarke and Garden Route District Municipality Executive Mayor Alderman Memory Booysen

Addressing roleplayers at the ceremony this morning, Garden Route District Municipality Head of Disaster Management Gerhard Otto said the roleplayers had hoped that Wilderness Beach would earn full Blue Flag status this year, but new changes in the WESSA Blue Flag Beach requirements had not made it impossible on short notice. “Salina’s had in the past made its disabled toilets available to disabled beachgoers, which was sufficient in the past to qualify, but this is no longer the case. The George Municipality has already allocated funding for such upgrades at the public toilets located in the parking area at the beach, but the implementation of these upgrades was unfortunately outside the Blue Flag application timeframe. We believe this will be resolved next year and expect that Wilderness will have full Blue Flag status for the 2020/21 season,” said Mr Otto.

Garden Route District Mayor Alderman Memory Booysen said the Pilot Blue Fag certificate ensured close scrutiny of beach management standards such as water quality, public safety, facility management, the provision of quality services, environmental management and commitment towards environmental education and information. “I am confident we can attain full Blue Flag status and together reap the fruits of the programme’s inherent benefits for many years to come,” said Mr Booysen.

George Municipality Ward Councillor for Wilderness, Marlene Barnardt thanked the many roleplayers and complimented by name Salina’s Restaurant owner Massimo Mariotti for his involvement and sited his role as a stellar example of the private sector working with local government and others for the greater good of the community. “

Selina’s Restaurant owner Massimo Mariotti said patrons often commented on the presence of a Blue Flag. “National and international tourists recognise the benefits associated with the Blue Flag and we believe it is very important for tourism in our village and on the Garden Route to have this accolade,” said Mr Mariotti.

The Blue Flag season in Wilderness runs from 1 December 2019 to 31 January 2020. Compliance includes high standards of water quality monitoring, public safety and lifeguard services, and well-maintained coastal amenities.

South Africa has participated in the Blue Flag programme since 2001. Blue Flag is an international coastal management programme that accredits beaches that meet standards of excellence in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information as well as safety and services. The Blue Flag programme offers many benefits: improved tourism facilities, enhanced management of coastal ecosystems, increased awareness of the coast and capacity building of coastal municipalities. In South Africa, the programme is implemented by the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA).

Wilderness beach awarded “Pilot Blue Flag” certification

The Garden Routers, more specifically residents of the George municipal area, can be proud of their beach in Wilderness after the beach was awarded a certificate as “Pilot Blue Flag Beach” for this year 2018/2019. Executive Mayor of George, Cllr Melvin Naik, proudly hoisted the Wilderness Pilot Blue Flag on 3 December 2018, during an official ceremony in celebration of this prestigious symbol of quality.

GRDM Portfolio Chairperson for Community Services, Cllr Khayalethu Lose (left), and Executive Mayor of George, Cllr Melvin Naik (right), after the flag has been hoisted.

“Blue Flag’ recognition is regarded by the World Tourism Organisation as the most well-known international eco-label and gives local and foreign visitors the assurance that beaches are clean, environmentally sound and adhere to international safety, as well as other tourism standards. The voluntary eco-label is given to beaches that meet strict criteria, spanning four aspects of coastal management:

  • water quality;
  • environmental education and information;
  • environmental management; and
  • safety and services.

Furthermore it includes excellent life-saving standards, top-rate parking, facilities for the disabled as well as sparkling ablution facilities. A “Blue Flag” status will ensure that the Wilderness beach achieves effective coastal management and improved service delivery through tourism-generated job creation, education and development opportunities.

Portfolio Chairperson of Community Services at GRDM, Cllr Khayalethu Lose, addressed all stakeholders soon after the “Pilot Blue Flag” was hoisted.

In his keynote address Portfolio Chairperson for Community Services at Garden Route District Municipality, Cllr Khayalethu Lose, said:  “One of the ways in which we are working hard to improve the overall quality of our beaches, is by achieving the standards required for the “Blue Flag” eco-label. Striving to achieve this status will also provides us with an added incentive for the safeguarding of the environment of our beaches and for the safety of all those who make use of them.” Cllr Lose continued by saying that he is confident that the beach can achieve the full Blue Flag status, however, “all relevant organisations and officials must work together to make a success of it.  This would require commitment to the environmental sustainability and to further raise the quality of services at the Wilderness beach”.

Mr Clive Africa, Executive Manager for Community Services at GRDM, extended a word of appreciation to all stakeholders who contributed to this achievement and that he looks forward to the continued support from all parties to ensure that the next level as full “Blue Flag” status for the beach, is accomplished.

From left are: Mr Johan Compion (GRDM), Ms Nina Viljoen (GRDM), Mr Clive Africa (GRDM), Cllr Khayalethu Lose (GRDM), Executive Mayor Melvin Naik (George Municipality), Deputy Mayor Charlotte Clarke (George Municipality), Mr Neels Barnard (George Municipality), Mr Walter Hendrikz (George Municipality), Mr Radie Loubser (George Municipality) and Mr Jonathan Britton (SANParks).

Wilderness beach was awarded the full “Blue Flag” status during the 2016/17 season, and with the commitment and true dedication of all the stakeholders, including the Garden Route District Municipality, George Municipality, the South African National Parks (SANParks), the Salinas Restaurant, and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), as well as members of the  community and visiting tourists, it is possible for the beach to again achieve full “Blue Flag” status for the coming season.

What does a Pilot Blue Flag Beach certification mean?

A pilot Blue Flag beach status is proof to the World Tourism Organisation that the beach is striving towards the highest quality of service, and if achieved, the beach will be awarded full “Blue Flag” status for the next 2019/20 season. Some of the strict standards to comply with is the water quality of the swimming area, which is monitored by the Garden Route District Municipality’s environmental health practitioners. All the authorities and stakeholders are committed to stand together to ensure that the strict Blue Flag standards are achieved in order to once again have a full “Blue Flag” status beach next year.

Prestigious Wilderness Blue Flag Once Again to Fly during the 2018/19 Blue Flag Season 

Prestigious Wilderness Blue Flag Once Again to Fly during the 2018/19 Blue Flag Season 

The Garden Route District Municipality is proud to announce that the Wilderness Blue Flag beach has been awarded Pilot Status and will be flying its flag once again during the 2018/19 Blue Flag season. The Garden Route District Municipality, George Municipality and the South African National Parks (SANParks) are committed to the Blue Flag programme, and have put resources together to work towards the goal of achieving compliance of the Wilderness beach with the strict WESSA Blue Flag criteria, and together ensured the successful Pilot status achieved by the beach.

The official Wilderness season period will be running from the 1st of December 2018 to the 31st of January 2019. 

For the coming Blue Flag season, a total of 66 Blue Flags were awarded by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) nationally, consisting of 46 beaches, eight marinas and 12 sustainable tourism boats. Within the Garden Route District, the beaches that were awarded Blue Flag status were the Natures Valley, Singing Kettle, the Waves, the Dunes, the Lookout beach, Robberg 5 (Bitou area), Buffalo Bay, Brenton on Sea (Knysna area), De Bakke, Little Brak, Hartenbos, Santos (Mossel Bay area), and the Lappiesbaai,  Preekstoel, Gouritsmond and Witsand (Hessequa area) beaches, as well as the Wilderness (George), Glentana (Mossel Bay), Jongensfontein and Still Bay west (Hessequa) beaches which were awarded Pilot Blue flag status.

During the coming 2018/19 season, the Wilderness beach will be in full compliance with the Blue Flag criteria by ensuring high standards of water quality monitoring, public safety and lifeguard services, and well maintained coastal amenities, amongst others. The Blue Flag recognition is regarded by the World Tourism Organisation as the most well-known international eco-label and gives local and foreign visitors the knowledge that these beaches are clean, environmentally sound, and adhering to international safety and other tourist standards.

The voluntary Blue Flag eco-label is given to beaches that meet 33 main criteria which is spanning four aspects of coastal management, such as water quality; environmental education and information, environmental management as well as safety and services. The Garden Route District Municipality is continuously striving to provide top quality services to its community and is proud to assure a world class Wilderness beach. Through its commitment to the Blue Flag programme, the Municipality demonstrates a clear coastal vision to conserve our coastal resources and heritage.