African Reserves

Who is Zandile Ndhlovuis? Meet the fearless Great White Shark Fighter nicknamed the Black Mermaid

South Africa‘s first black freediving instructor, Zandile Ndhlovu, is dedicated to exposing underprivileged youth to the ocean world. Nicknamed the Black Mermaid, Ndhlovu says she wants to diversify ocean spaces because they have historically excluded black people, Indigenous people and people of color. Through the Black Mermaid Foundation, she organizes snorkeling trips for children living in Langa. She’s also part of a powerful, all-female, all-around team that gives the male-dominated macho shark “wranglers” a hard time.

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The 33-year-old, holding her breath underwater for four minutes at a time, bravely closes in on menacing great white sharks to embark on a treacherous, turbocharged investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the endangered species. Alongside shark biologists Alison Towner, 37, and Leigh de Necker, 31, sporting stunning thigh-grazing blue braids, Zandile isn’t just snorkeling with the sharks in the murky depths of their habitats. feed. She also single-handedly fights sharks to hold them on “bait ropes” to tag them and observe their new migration patterns.

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Zandile told Cape Talk: “I work in Langa and I take the kids on snorkeling trips and it comes down to the fact that when I grew up I didn’t realize there was life. that existed underwater that way. My whole is to create access to ocean spaces, especially for marginalized communities, recognizing that proximity does not equal access and what does that mean to bridge the gap I grew up in Soweto, we grew up far from the ocean. 2016 was actually my first experience at sea and seeing below the surface.”

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Entering the great white capital of the world, Shark Alley in South Africa, known as the “McDonald’s drive-through” for sharks, would be a nightmare for most. But as a new TV documentary part of Discovery’s “Shark Week” reveals, this perilous dive is an exciting challenge. His mission is to retrieve an acoustic receiver from the bottom of Shark Alley that has collected data on all tagged sharks passing by. According to Daily Mail, Zandile explains, “When you’re underwater, there are no words to describe how massive great white sharks are. It’s not child’s play. Anything can happen. and if it’s your moment, you’ll know it”. “I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I’ve never been so nervous. People think that kelp forests keep great white sharks out of space. But that’s not true and i was terrified because you are in this place with an abundance of food and you don’t want to be right next to the food truck when there is one i came face to face with pajama sharks and sharks leopard. But every moment when that big swell passes, you don’t know. I recognize every time I enter the ocean that I’m on borrowed time,” she continued. One of the best ways to find an apex predator like the great white is to follow its prey, so Zandile takes a perilous dive into the kelp forest where the great whites regularly patrol. It’s peak hunting season and the waters are murky. She describes her “superpower” as being able to hold her breath for four minutes underwater.

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“It’s called free diving and it allows you to get closer to nature, quietly and without bubbles and without the distraction of shiny scuba gear for marine life. You have to find a way to react if something dangerous is approaching because the sharks taste with their teeth,” Zandile explains. “So you have to be able to manage your heart rate because as soon as your heart races, you’re burning up valuable stores of energy and energy. oxygen. So whatever happens that scares you, you need to pause, calm down and get out of it safely, often with a slow ascent so you don’t alarm the sharks.”

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For 15 years, her colleague Alison, born in Lancashire in the UK, has studied, tagged and written about hundreds of great white sharks. She has a special connection with the sighting of six of them, but in 2017 the great whites began to mysteriously disappear off the coast of Gansbaai, a place world famous for spotting this legendary shark. As such, she is determined to find her murderous missing family, so the team attempts to implant a satellite tag on a passing great great white shark to provide invaluable information about its movements in real time, which could potentially lead them to others. After some time, the women’s team struck gold and scored a huge female shark, weighing about two tons. Leigh takes responsibility for working the bait line and luring a great white to the boat, while Zandile is in the sharks’ diving cage taking search shots while Alison uses all her strength to get the satellite tag in a female white shark.

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Great whites usually congregate in the waters around South Africa due to the large population of Cape fur seals which are the predator’s main food source. However, what was up to 900 sharks has decreased to no more than 522 and that is because this predator has become the prey. News broke in 2019 that great whites had mysteriously disappeared from Cape Town, South Africa, and all evidence pointed to the migration of killer whales into the area. Between 2010 and 2016, shark watchers recorded an average of 205 white shark sightings per year in a 600 square mile section of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2018 there were only 50 and so far this year none of the feared great white sharks have been spotted.

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