Plettenberg Bay won the title of Africa’s leading beach destination in the World Travel Awards in 2021. Those who are contentious regarding this opinion (or fact, rather) have obviously not experienced the Ocean Safaris whale-watching boat cruise adventure.
Flanked by the iconic Beacon Island and the inviting Moby Dick restaurant is Ocean Safaris’ office, while in the wide ocean ahead you find the home of the maritime members of the Ocean Safaris household: whales, dolphins, sharks, seals and many others
Lloyd Chapman established Ocean Safaris in 1999 on the 25th of November, making 2022 the 21st anniversary of this maritime enterprise. Its product sells our cordial and welcoming town of Plettenberg Bay by showcasing the richness of our beaches, exposing tourists and avid marine enthusiasts to the wealth of aquatic life that lies just beyond the sands of our seashore.
With beaches open again and summer having made its subtle entrance, the company offers a product and experiences that are not only guaranteed to be memorable but rejuvenating as well. The offering is an exhilarating 2-hour whale, dolphin and seal watching adventure in a purpose-built catamaran-style boat that has been designed to conquer the ocean without compromising comfort and safety.
Former minister of South African tourism, Tokozile Xasa, has previously reported that the coastal and marine tourism sector will contribute about R21.4 billion to the country’s GDP and create around 116 000 jobs by 2026, thus alleviating the scourge of poverty and unemployment. This prediction shows the importance of the marine tourism industry and also forecasts how the locals will grow to be more appreciative of what it has to offer.
Operating from the busy Central Beach in Plett, Ocean Safaris plays one of the leading roles among the businesses that are intent on seeing former Minister Xasa’s prophecy come to fruition. Although the Covid-19 pandemic frustrated the influx of tourists to Plettenberg Bay, it revealed the grand value of the local market. Ocean Safari’s owner, Marlon Baartman made it known that local tourists from the other provinces are now treating themselves to the Ocean Safaris aquatic experience on long weekends and holidays. The lockdown also presented him with an opportunity to meditate upon ways of diversifying his product.
Picture this, you’re bound for the beckoning Indian ocean, the boat gently rocking with the waves, the wake creating artistic trails, hair blowing in the breeze, sea creatures anticipating your ingress, and all this enhanced by the sweet soothing sound of a saxophone.
In collaboration with Plett Tourism and the Plett Arts Festival in October 2021 and in line with their marketing strategy, Ocean Safaris hosted a whale-watching jazz show with saxophonist Marcellus Welman. The audience was breathtakingly bombarded with the beauty of oceanic beings and the mesmerizing cadence of the music.
“There is a need for shows and festivals to draw people into Plett. Since we are sprucing up our marketing this shall be one of the main ways in which we shall do it. I look forward to the Plett Ocean Festival in 2022, and other events like it because they play a valuable role in boosting the Plett marine tourism industry. I believe that art and the ocean and tourism can do wonders when they come together,” expressed Mr. Baartman.
Marlon Baartman is a descendant of the Griqua Settlers, born and bred in Kranshoek where he grew up living with his destitute family of just over 11. He recalls days when he couldn’t attend school because of not having food or appropriate school apparel, indelible days when they witnessed the young women in the family playing midwife because there was no means of going to hospital.
His story, however, is not one of doom and gloom. It is a story about mastering your fate, about taking the reins of destiny, and directing your life where your hopes and dreams await you. Inspiring the populace is Mr Baartman’s cardinal motivation when the going gets tough, living to show that the prize of a materialized dream is not an elusive possibility as the masses believe it to be but a definitely attainable reward.
After much toil as a waiter, he resigned the apron and reconsidered his hopes of being a chef. He was at his lowest with no apparent hope of rising again and ended up working on a casual basis offloading ice and loading fish from the boats on the beach.
Fatefully, his fortune changed when he met Lloyd and Pamela Chapman – the former owners of Ocean Safaris. They offered him an opportunity to demonstrate his dedication and aptitude for proactivity. He started from the ground – fixing tyres and transporting the people to and fro – and worked his way up to being a skipper.
When the Chapmans decided to sell their business in 2015, they couldn’t think of anyone more deserving and capable of keeping it running than Marlon. They overlooked his impecuniosity, lack of entrepreneurial experience and undesirable background- his dedication was his only prolocutor. And today Marlon is a proud, estimable owner of Ocean Safaris. He has been married for 16 years, with two boys and a daughter that he and his wife adopted as a tiny baby.
With only 5 years in the care of Marlon Baartman, Ocean Safaris is yet to exhibit the best it has to offer. Tourists and locals alike are yet to be dazzled by the bright future and eminent prospects of Ocean Safaris and its champion, Marlon Baartman.