WATCH | It’s for diving! Cape Town’s ‘Black Mermaid’ shows marginalized youth the beauty of the ocean

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  • Zandile Ndhlovu, also known as “The Black Mermaid”, is South Africa’s first black freediving instructor to qualify.
  • Her mission is to teach underprivileged children about the magical underworld of the ocean.
  • Freediving is when you hold your breath and dive or swim long distances underwater in the sea.

Forget Walt Disney’s Ariel from The Little Mermaid, South Africa now has its own dark mermaid, and she’s out to change the world, one dive at a time.

Simon’s Town Freediving Instructor Zandile Ndhlovu devotes her time and energy to teaching disadvantaged children in Langa about the ocean.

Its goal is to promote diversity in diving and ocean spaces.

She is the first qualified black apnea instructor in the country and is on a mission to share the underwater wonderland through her non-profit organization (NPO), the Black Mermaid Foundation.

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Speaking to News24, Ndhlovu said she was inspired to explore the underwater world after diving for the first time on a trip to Bali in 2016. She ended up, together with the divemaster, picking up seashells on the ocean floor and was hooked.

“My eyes were opened to a different world, my life changed. I couldn’t believe what lived under the ocean. And I wanted people to experience the beauty that I see every day,” he said. she stated.

“There is so much to learn about the ocean and what lies beneath. Thanks to my organization, I teach students how to feel comfortable in the water and in apnea. The main goal is basically to get more black and brown people into ocean-based careers,” Ndlovu said.

Jacki Bruniquel

Freediving is when you hold your breath and dive for long periods of time, without the aid of tanks.

She dives more than 100 feet under the sea and can hold her breath underwater for up to four minutes.

“There is a difference between freediving and scuba diving. With scuba diving you have air that you use in your underwater exploration, whereas in freediving you explore with a only breathing, breathing into your lungs.”

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Ndhlovu says that before any dive, she makes sure to have a light breakfast as she doesn’t want her system to digest heavy breakfasts underwater as this eats away at the body’s oxygen consumption.

“You also want to have enough energy for two to three hours of work in the water, which can be very taxing. The feeling of being weightless and underwater is wonderful,” adds -she.

She describes the ocean as “sacred and spiritual”, and she spends most of her thinking time there.

“I’m going there to reflect, to be real and to be vulnerable. It’s more than a hobby, it’s a career and a lifestyle. It’s a blessing to still be able to do what I absolutely love it.

“I saw tiger sharks, blacktip sharks, gully sharks, bull sharks, raggies, bronze sharks, puffadder shysharks, pajama sharks, moray eels, round ribbon rays, stingrays , Bryde’s whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, all kinds of fish, octopus, squid, whale shark, eagle ray, seal… the list is endless.

ocean

She is the nation’s first qualified black freediving instructor and is dedicated to exposing underprivileged youth to the world of the ocean through her non-profit organization NPO the Black Mermaid.

Jacki Bruniquel

Ndhlovu says she did not have a near-death experience.

“I’ve been around many animals including sharks and it was beautiful. They are some of the most beautiful, majestic and gentle creatures I’ve ever dived with, whales being amazing how amazing they are. are so big and can still sneak up on you. It’s crazy!” she remembers.

She says there was a time in her freediving career when she heard the whales while training at sea. As soon as the person in the diver came out of the water, the whales came closer and blew through their blowholes all around them. It was an incredible moment that she will never forget.

“My second most amazing experience was swimming with a whale shark. They are so big and beautiful, and the detail of their bodies are so amazing to see! I will never forget that day!”

ocean

She describes the ocean as “sacred and spiritual” because she spends most of her thinking time there.

Photo provided

Ndhlovu has been snorkeling for over three years and still enjoying the ocean to the fullest.

“I work in Langa and take the kids on snorkeling trips because when I grew up I didn’t realize there was underwater life that way. And I wanted to let these kids see and experience that.”

According to the ocean advocate, her job is to create access to ocean spaces, especially for marginalized communities, while “recognizing that proximity does not equal access”.

“There is so much to learn about the ocean and what lies beneath. I teach students how to feel comfortable in the water and freediving through my organization.”

The main goal is to bring more black and brown people into careers in the ocean.

“It always starts in terror and ends in great joy”

The organization is currently self-funded by Ndhlovu, but is looking for sponsors to ensure consistency of excursions, longevity and capacity building, so that the NPO can stay for a very long time.

Also a life coach, she says, “Once you’re able to address most people’s fears of the ocean, you’ll change the way they see things, and they’ll start to dream differently.”

She takes four children at a time on excursions where they discover the ocean and then go off to explore the sea.

ocean

“My eyes were opened to a different world, my life changed, I couldn’t believe what lives under the ocean. And I wanted people to experience the beauty of what I see every day,” a- she declared.

Her favorite beach to take the kids to is Long Beach in Simon’s Town.

“It always starts in terror and ends in beautiful joy. I think it’s always bridge work into unknown space, and on the way back I always get asked ‘when are we coming back’! “

When asked why she was called the “black mermaid”, Ndhlovu says the name came about after noticing that there were hardly any black mermaids exploring in the water.

“There is not enough diverse representation in oceanfront activities. I now organize exploration programs for black children across the country through the organization. Many children n have ever seen below the surface of the ocean. It’s fascinating to see the world through their eyes when they first encounter the sea.”

free diving

Simons Towns Freediving Instructor Zandile Ndhlovu devotes her time and energy to teaching underprivileged children in Langa Township about the ocean. Its goal is to promote diversity in diving and ocean spaces.

the black siren

She is the nation’s first qualified black freediving instructor and is dedicated to exposing underprivileged youth to the world of the ocean through her non-profit organization NPO the Black Mermaid.

ocean life

She is the nation’s first qualified black freediving instructor and is dedicated to exposing underprivileged youth to the world of the ocean through her non-profit organization NPO the Black Mermaid.

Ndhlovu adds that as a young child, he was only told to go knee deep in the ocean.

“For many people, the ocean was considered scary in black and brown communities. Many parents couldn’t swim back then.

“Back when slavery was a thing, people were thrown over boats into the ocean. That trauma is passed on to the next generation. And that’s what we’re trying to break away from. sea ​​is a wonderful, soothing place to live.”

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