Fred has not gone bananas after all!
How a Facebook dare sparked The Wild Swim
Described by colleagues as a breed of journalist so rare in South Africa, they should be listed by CITES, Roving Reporters founding director, Fred Kockott was the catalyst behind The Wild Swim.
It all started when the 56-year-old award winning journalist, accepted a tongue-in-cheek dare after completing eight back-to-back, one-mile swims at the recent annual aQuellé Midmar Mile. Kockott did this to raise funds for WildOceans – the marine conservation arm of the WildTrust.
Kockott’s Facebook profile pinged with congratulatory messages from many who had doubted the ‘washed up hack’ would complete the feat. Then came the flippant challenge to swim an expanse of Wild Coast waters for a paltry sponsorship of 50c per kilometre. “R1 for the first shark,” responded a Facebook friend, Inga Molzen.
Undeterred, Kockott rose to the bait, inspired by the idea of raising funds for eco-tourism and marine conservation along a 22km stretch of the Wild Coast earmarked for heavy minerals mining by the Australian company, Mineral Resource Commodities. For over a decade people have campaigned against these plans, arguing that it will cause unmitigated environmental damage and destroy vast eco-tourism potential of this pristine section of the Wild Coast.
This part of the coastline also falls within one of South Africa’s few Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and comprises a host of pristine estuaries and unique coastal habitats – home to many people whose lives could be adversely affected heavy minerals mining.
At first, many colleagues thought Fred had gone bananas. But his endeavour was soon endorsed by the 8 Mile Club and the Kydrin Foundation which had raised more R4 million for various charities at the 2019 aQuellé Midmar Mile in February. Since then, support for The Wild Swim has snowballed, engaging a growing number of organisations in the associated fundraising drive for the chosen charities: Africa!Ignite and Sustaining the Wild Coast (eco-tourism); WildOceans an the Pondoland MPA (marine conservation) and Roving Reporters’ associated environmental journalism training programme.
The Wild Swim is scheduled to take place in five stages between April 26 – May 2, with swimming only taking place in favourable and clear sea conditions. Accommodation is to be provided to the swimmers and the safety team at community-owned homestays along the route.
“And it is no coincidence that The Wild Swim coincides with important dates on South Africa’s calendar – Freedom Day on April 27 and Workers Day on May 1,” adds Kockott, who held a celebratory music festival on the eve of the first democratic elections – April 26 1994.
“So many good things have happened all over in South Africa since then, but in Pondoland people have been caught up in this bitter dispute over mining for more than a decade without any viable eco-tourism taking root. Sustainable and eco-friendly development has taken a complete back seat,” says Kockott.
He hopes The Wild Swim will act as a catalyst in addressing this by raising R250,000 for eco-tourism in the area, marine conservation and associated environmental journalism training.
To help The Wild Swimmers reach this target DONATE HERE.
A growing number of organisations are supporting the fundraising drive. Click here to see who they are.
Other businesses, groups of friends and clubs can also create a fundraising page in support of The Wild Swim by clicking here >> Start Fundraising.