The sun is out and lifeguards are on duty at all Kouga’s official swimming beaches.
The swimming beaches officially opened on 15 November this year, a whole month earlier than usual.
Executive Mayor Horatio Hendricks said the municipality had arranged for lifeguards to be in place earlier than usual so as to accommodate the throngs of students and matric pupils who visit Kouga after their year-end exams.
“In the past the only beach that was manned by lifeguards in November was Dolphin Beach at Jeffreys Bay, as per the requirements of the Blue Flag programme.
“The lifeguards at the other beaches took up their places in mid-December. This meant that there was no-one keeping an eye on the safety of students and matric pupils swimming at these spots.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to change this. We want our young visitors to have a safe and memorable experience in Kouga, so that they will return for more and one day bring their children here for the holidays as well,” he said.
A total of 50 lifeguards, led by senior lifeguards Zweli Mafutha and Paul Makupula, and two shark spotters will be stationed at the beaches this summer.
They will be on duty at Dolphin Beach until 30 April 2019, when the Blue Flag season ends, and at the other swimming beaches till 31 January 2019.
The swimming beaches are: Dolphin, Pellsrus, Kabeljous, Aston Bay, Paradise Beach, the Paradise picnic area, St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay, with red and yellow flags marking the designated bathing areas.
Arrangements will also be made for lifeguards to be on duty at the Gamtoos River Mouth beach and Yellowwoods at Hankey on peak days.
The Mayor said the municipal lifeguards would be working closely with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), whose Jeffreys Bay Station 37 has also been handling their training.
Rieghard Janse van Rensburg, station commander of NSRI Station 37, said the Kouga region was one of few places in South Africa where the municipality and NSRI had such a close working relationship.
“We recently became only the second NSRI base in the country to establish a lifeguard unit.
“This means that even though the lifeguards are employed by the municipality, they are also part of the NSRI, which makes it possible for us to approach sea safety as a united front,” he said.
The NSRI’s award-winning pink torpedo buoy programme was also rolled out to Jeffreys Bay last year.
“Eighteen buoys have been placed at beaches in Jeffreys Bay where it is dangerous to swim. The idea is that, if anyone gets into trouble in the water, bystanders can help them by getting the torpedo buoy to them.
“It is a very basic rescue tool but has already helped to save 15 people from drowning in South Africa since the programme’s launch last year,” he said.