The national lockdown period in South Africa could be viewed as a tragedy in the eyes of many – financially, emotionally, mentally and physically.
Imposed in March by the South African government to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, the lockdown is being phased out and the country is slowly beginning to reopen many of its economic sectors.
With international travel restrictions imposed during the lockdown, human activity in KwaZulu-Natal’s Indian Ocean has been minimal, to say the least, presenting the once-abundant marine life the chance to draw closer to shore.
When the level 3 lockdown was introduced on June 1, it allowed residents of the coastal towns to make their way back to the waters, and seamen back onto their boats.
Brad Lynski, a Durban skipper with more than 30 years of experience under his hull, has experienced the worst of the national lockdown, but now that businesses are slowly regaining momentum, he says he is positive things will return to normal.
Lynski is a true thalassophile, his scorched pink skin an indicator that he spends most of his time at sea.
Lynski believes that the ocean is a source of life and that it must be protected at all costs. His jovial character highlights his humility and respect for the ocean.
He and a few other Durban businessmen run a charter called Whale and Dolphin Tours, which operates out of the Royal Natal Yacht Club in Durban.
Lynski has noted the increase in the number of whale sightings during the national lockdown period. His boat, The Lynski, has been greeted many times by pods of humpbacks passing through the warm waters of the Bluff and Durban beachfront.
“I have noticed a big difference in the number of whales during the lockdown. Sometimes they even come next to the boat if they feel like it,” Lynski said in an interview with African News Agency (ANA).
Lynski tours around the Durban harbour all the way up north to Umhlanga, as well as parts of the Bluff.
The skipper said that during the lockdown he noticed how much closer the whales had drawn to the shore. He added that they also seemed more curious.
The Bluff, a coastal town just south of the Durban beachfront, has also experienced an increase in whale sightings. Over the past four months, whale jumps around the Bluff have occurred more frequently than prior to the start of the lockdown.
In October 2019, the Bluff was awarded Whale Heritage Site status, an achievement it shares with just one other beach in the world – Hervey Bay, a coastal city in Queensland, Australia.
This monumental achievement came through the efforts of a few hard-working citizens from the Bluff steering committee under the leadership of Helga du Preez and Melissa Lee, Sodurba Community Tourism Association.
Despite the majestic creatures frequenting the port and starboard side of his boat, Lynski also reported a huge number of facial masks finding their way into the sea.
“They’re all over, hey, everywhere. I don’t think it’s a corporation thing any more. I think people just don’t want to throw their stuff in the bin,” Lynski said.
“It’s a bit ironic that something that was meant to protect the humans finds its way into the sea and ends up killing the animals there,” the skipper noted.