Epic ocean expedition gets underway

Over the next 30 days, a team of seventeen young marine biologists – most of whom have never been out to sea before – will help leading marine scientists explore rich and diverse deep sea habitats along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

The 2017 Ocean Stewards expedition on board the 72-foot wooden research vessel, the RV Angra Pequena, aims to identify areas for inclusion in an expanded network of Marine Protected Areas.

Previous expeditions on board the Angra Pequena have made science history compliments of video footage of coelacanths discovered in deep under water canyons off Sodwana Bay.

The scientists leading the 2017 Ocean Stewards expedition aim to explore similar canyons off  uThukela Banks at depths never surveyed before.

“We hope to get a clear picture of what’s happening at depths 300m,” said Dr Jean Harris, Angra Pequena skipper and head of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife scientific services division.


Amid threats to the ocean escalating at an unprecedented rate, Harris said the Ocean Stewards programme also aimed to empower a future generation of marine scientists with research experience and skills necessary to ensure effective future governance and protection of the oceans.

Supported by The Blue Fund, the first leg of the expedition will see UKZN marine biology masters’ student, Zodidi Gwayisa, help sceintists with a four-day “shake down” to test run the deployment of state-of-the-art research equipment, including a remote underwater vehicle (ROV).

Zodidi Gwayise

Mounted with a high definition video camera, the ROV connects to the vessel through a series of cables which transmit command and control signals, allowing remote navigation by the ROV pilot, Ryan Palmer from the South African Institute of African Biodiversity.

Researchers will also make use of baited remote underwater video (BRUV) systems which attract fish into the field of view of cameras.

“This is a well-established technique to record fish diversity, abundance and behaviour of species,” said Tamsyn Livingstone, who is among leading Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife marine scientists concerned that less than 0,5% of South Africa’s ocean are protected.

Livingstone said the Ocean Stewards expedition aimed to create awareness, particularly in decision making circles in government and industry, about the need to protect unique ocean habitats and abundant marine life already discovered on previous Ocean Stewards expeditions.

“To do this we need to show people what is actually down there,” said Gwayisa, who no longer fears falling overboard compliments of this week’s survival swimming lesson arranged by the ocean adventure company, Sea Quests.

Over the last few days, Gwayisa and several of her fellow Ocean Stewards have been practising  “Froggie-Y-I” breast stroke kicks as taught to them by Sea Quests project coordinator, Nikki Chapman.

Having now mastered the basics, Gwayisa is keen to take her first plunge into the ocean while far out at sea.

“I have always wanted to swim in the ocean, but never thought an opportunity like this would arise,” said Gwayisa, who departs on the first leg of 2017 Ocean Stewards expedition tomorrow.

Read more  about Zodidi Gwayise.

Click here to watch Roving Reporters YouTube video of Zodidi talking about the Ocean Stewards programme.

Other marine biology students selected for the 2017 Ocean Stewards expedition include:

Samantha Hofmeyr

If it were possible, Samantha Hofmeyer, (21) a keen diver, would like to spend more time underwater than above. She grew up in Richards Bay, where she completed school before enrolling at UKZN to study marine biology. Read more . . .  

Click here to watch Roving Reporters YouTube video of Samantha.


Amy Shurety

As an advanced deep sea diver, Amy Surety, loves turtles in particular and hopes to travel the world promoting marine conservation. Read more…

Click here to watch Roving Reporters YouTube video of Amy talking about the Ocean Stewards programme

ebecca Keshnee Reddy

A trip to uShaka Sea World when she was 9-years-old sparked a passion for the ocean and inspired Rebecca Reddy to become a Marine biologist. Currently a volunteer at Ushaka Sea World’s curatorial department, Rebecca describes becoming an ocean steward as a dream come true. Read more…

Click here to watch Roving Reporters YouTube video of Rebecca talking about being selected to be a 2017 Ocean Steward.

Thamsanqa Nkosi

Thamsanqa Nkosi grew up in a small township outside Pietermaritzburg and is particularly excited about the prospects of educating his own family about life in the oceans. “I always have trouble trying to explain to my parents what I am studying. In taking part in this amazing expedition, I will be able take pictures of what we do. This will enable me  to better explain what my career is,” says Thamsanqa.  Read more…

Click here to watch Roving Reporters YouTube video of Thamsanqa talking about being an Ocean Steward.

Lethiwe Nxumalo

After having spent her days hiking the hills of rural KwaNongoma with her family as a child, Lethiwe Nxumalo became forever captured by nature and its mysteries. Read more…

Click here to watch Roving Reporters YouTube video of Lethiwe talking about the Ocean Stewards experience.

Mandisa Zulu

After matriculating in 2010 at Kharina Secondary School, Mandisa Zulu left her Hammarsdale home to study Zoology and Botany at the University of Zululand where colleagues describe her as a “ball of energy”.

Now 25, Mandisa is completing her honours degree in marine biology and hopes to become a force to be reckoned with in the marine science sector.

Nokwanda Ndlovu

Having grown up in a harsh environment exposed to drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, violence and illiteracy, Nokwanda believes Ocean Stewards progamme will open the door to exciting opportunities for her.  Read more…
Nelisiwe Manukuza

21-year-old Nelisiwe Manukuza is an inquisitive lass from Mseleni not far from Kosi Bay. Mseleni means small axe in isiZulu.  After matriculating from Justice Nxumalo High School in rural Mbazwana Nelisiwe enrolled for a BSc in Botany and Zoology at the University of Zululand. She already considers herself a young scientist is keen to learn how to communicate the world of marine science to a wide audience.

Zanele Ngwazi

Zanele Ngwazi is concerned that humans are destroying the planet. Through the 2017 Ocean Stewards programme she hopes to find out how she can individually play her part in marine conservation. Read more…

Sthokozile Mamba

Cosmi Black model, Sthokozile Mamba is keen to address water pollution and hopes to one day work as researcher at the Department of Water Affairs. Read more…

Njabulo Mdluli

Through the Ocean Stewards programme Njabulo, hopes to educate people in his home village of Hambrook near Bergville that the ocean is not just blue water and salt. “There is so much we can learn from it,” says Njabulo. Read more…

Hloniphile Mvubu

Hloniphile also hopes to show people in her home community of KwaNongoma that there is much to learn from the ocean. Read more…

Melissa Ewels

Mellissa spent many holidays on the Wild Coast where she developed a love for the ocean. After marticulating from Epworth Girls High School ahe became passionate about marine conservation. Read more…

Armstrong Gumbi

Armstrong describes himself as optimistic with a “sense of humour on another level.” Read more…

Shereese Jerusha Govender

Shereese Govender says her research into the damage done to the ocean has heightened her awareness of the need for stronger protection and conservation measures.  Read more…

Nobuhle Mpanza

Nobuhle wants to inspire school children in rural and urban areas to learn more about marine biology. Read more…



Content for this website package was compiled by Zamo Phungula as part of Roving Reporters Ocean Watch training programme supported by the Human Elephant Foundation.


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