National Marine Week: My Connection with the Ocean
Every year in October South Africa celebrates National Marine Week. Much like other National Days or Holidays, these dates are to celebrate, bring awareness to, or promote the importance of our marine environment.
To celebrate National Marine Week I thought I would share my journey and connection with the ocean. My connection with nature is one that started from an early age. My parents often took my sisters and I to spend time outdoors and in natural spaces as often as they could. These experiences have shaped me into the nature-loving person that I am. I have always been intrigued by the ocean and all the life that blooms within and around it. All my favourite first memories of the ocean often involve me exploring the intertidal zone and looking for as many species as I could find.
When I was in grade 10, my science teacher Mrs Bezuidenhout encouraged me to apply for the Young Biologist Course at the Two Oceans Aquarium. In 2011 I was one of 40 children chosen from around Cape Town to participate in the Young Biologist Course. The course provides the participants with an introduction to the oceans and teaches about the wildlife underwater. This course greatly increased my love and appreciation for the ocean. The Aquarium not only deepened my love for the ocean but also provided me with more opportunities to learn and work within the field from a young age. At the Aquarium I have worked at the front of house, behind the scenes, the education programs and as part of the turtle rehab team. 2022 will be my 10th year of volunteering at the Aquarium.
My first freediving experience had me hooked! I will never forget the first time I put my head underwater, that immediate feeling of calm and peace, is the reason I keep going back. Now I freedive regularly as being in nature and in the ocean allows me to get away from everything and just be completely in awe of the life around me.
This connection extends beyond just a personal level. I am always left with a strong urge to keep sharing my experience with others. This means surrounding myself with friends, old and new, who share this appreciation. It is the backdrop of my social life. Furthermore, and more importantly for me, it means bringing more people, young and old, to the sea and allowing them to experience the overwhelming sense of peace and calm as well as showing them the life that arises from the ocean.
I was blessed with encouraging parents and a constant need to explore so that I can share these experiences with others. Being born in 1994, I am considered a ‘Born-Free’ and thankfully always had the privilege of not being excluded by oppressive laws. However, on weekends you will often find me freediving with a group of amazing women who remind me of the right that we have to be enjoying these spaces, spaces that they were previously not allowed to visit. These women have taught me so much about belonging, being comfortable in my skin and the importance of representation in all spaces. These are messages I firmly stand behind and advocate for on a daily basis.
Now I spend most of my time working and volunteering in environmental education. The quote by Baba Dioum “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught” is one that inspires my love for teaching and sharing environmental and ocean experiences with others so that they form their own connection with nature, as I have experienced this firsthand. When I spend time in nature teaching children and adults about these areas it is so rewarding to see how their mind-sets change completely. Knowing that I have the opportunity to inspire and impact a young mind to help conserve the environment gives me hope for the future of the planet and its people.
About the Author
Megan-Rose Francis is a qualified Marine Conservationist. She is currently the Operations Manager at The Beach Co-op, Lead-Coordinator at I Am Water and she freelances as an Environmental Control Officer.
You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @meganrose_f