As an oceanographer, Lebogang Matlakala says what she loves about her job is seeing the real impact it has of improving our oceans and making a difference in people’s lives.
“I get to apply science to influence policy or management decisions,” she says.
She manages projects that do marine monitoring research to improve the protection of the ocean and community development projects in island and coastal areas. She works for Africa Foundation on Oceans Without Borders, which is a collaboration between the Africa Foundation (an NGO) & andBeyond (a travel company).
*Scuba diving isn’t a common skill for oceanographers because they study ocean processes rather than marine life and animals*
For Lebogang though, scuba has made her grow a real love for the ocean.
As she puts it, “Scuba diving has made me a better ocean advocate because now it is precious lives and a home for marine creatures not just science and numbers.”
*So, how did Lebo start diving?*
“I was always scared of water from a young age, scuba wasn’t something I was ever interested in doing. Then I got a really great opportunity through a NEWF programme and I just couldn’t pass up the offer. It was scary at first, because I was learning how to swim and dive all at the same time!”
This woman clearly has nerves of steel — finishing swimming lessons and six days later, taking up scuba? My hat is off to her 🎩.
*Now, what about that so-memorable moment, her first dive?*
Lucky for Lebo, her first dive experience was in the warm and clear waters of Sodwana Bay, KZN (which happens to be my personal happiest place in the whole world).
“The visibility and conditions were great but I didn’t see much of the marine life because I still couldn’t believe I was breathing fine underwater.
I was so scared that I held on to my instructor together with my buddy 😂. At the end of it I was very emotional because I got to conquer my fear of water.”
*Lebogang says that scuba diving has taught her that staying calm solves half of any problem. She’s noticed that things go smoothly when she’s calm underwater… and on land. *
Her advice to a newbie is to stay calm and be patient.
“Buoyancy takes time but you eventually get a hang of it,” she says. “Be a responsible diver. Try your best not to touch, take [from] or leave something in the ocean.”
*So, was an oceanographer, what does she wish all knew about the sea?*
Lebogang wishes more people could realise how important the ocean is, not just for the food and pleasure we get from it but for how it plays a role in regulating our weather and giving us oxygen.
“I also wish more people would see the ocean as a home for other creatures. I think that would make us more cautious about our actions that can potentially cause harm to it.”
Thanks Lebo for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about your diving journey so far and the importance of our beautiful oceans, for the future of all humanity.
When you visit Cape Town we’d love to take you diving, so please stay in touch!
*Links to the various organisations mentioned in Lebogang’s story:*
Oceans without Borders: https://www.oceanswb.org
Africa Foundation: https://www.africafoundation.org.za
And Beyond Travel: https://www.andbeyond.com
NEWF (Nature Environment and Wildlife Filmmakers) https://www.newf.co.za