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Wonder what AfriOceans and I got up to during 2013, where your donations and support went to, why I didn’t answer all my emails? Well, phew is all I can say! 2013, what a year! We are in full swing with 2014 already, but before the year rushes away with us I would like to share our monthly highlights achieved last year (i.e. the organization I founded, AfriOceans, my team and I).  Once again reflecting on the year’s successes reminds me to always practice gratitude – nothing we achieved was possible without the support of many individuals, our sponsors, supporters, ambassadors and our primary sponsor, the National Lottery Board of South Africa – to all of you we extend a MASSIVE THANKS!

So, beginning in January we continue to raise awareness with our CATCHES ANYTHING, KILLS EVERYTHING anti-shark net poster campaign which feature in Times Live and in the Examer.com, and we continue lobbying for the protection of South Africa’s sharks through our Wanted? Dead or Alive campaign. The same month our kids are back at school and our wonderful National Lottery sponsored AfriOceans Warriors programme, led by Head of Education, Terry Corr, continues at 16 South Peninsula schools where we visit 300 children weekly throughout 2013.

In February, AfriOceans launches our new website SHARKWARRIOR.COM to raise funds for shark conservation, and we announce our first Ambassadors: Freediving champion, Trevor Hutton, model/actress, Angelika Furstler, Ocean Warrior, Maddie Cranston and muso Roland Albertson. Same month we begin developing Shark Warrior merchandise; my article on  freediving with tiger sharks makes front cover of Divesite magazine and my article on my expedition to Cocos also features. It’s World Wetlands Day and AfriOceans celebrates it with our AfriOceans Warriors cleaning up the Glencairn wetlands.

In March, I launch our new video ‘Freediving with Sharks’ (watch video here) on social media outlets; AfriOceans responds to the stranding and subsequent attempted rescue of 20 False Killer Whales at Noordhoek beach and I land up on national news opposing methods of response – see my blog. I launch my new motivational speaking topic #BeBrave and present the concept at a business conference in Partenoster.  In the meanwhile our AfriOceans Warriors are taken on excursions to Eagle Encounters Raptor Park and to the Iziko Museum; our AfriOceans Warriors promote our project at the Argus Cycle Tour outside Ocean View, and AfriOceans celebrates World Water Week at all our participating schools. And our Shark Warrior Ambassador, Trevor Hutton, runs the DIVE IN THE DARK event to help raise awareness and funds for AfriOceans,

In April, I’m honored to be inducted into the USA Ocean Artists Society; I’m invited to be a Keynote speaker at the Talking Heads event in Cape Town, and I have the good fortune to meet Sylvia Earle for the second time while she’s in Cape Town as part of the SST roadshow. Time to get the kids up close and personal with white sharks and we take our AfriOceans Warrior Ambassadors shark cage diving with African Shark Eco Charters in False Bay.

In May, I am proud to be announced as a finalist in the non-profit organisation sector, selected from thousands of nominations and after a grueling 7-phase selection process for Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards 2013. My freediving with tiger sharks article continues to do the rounds and is featured in Diver Magazine UK, Diver Canada and in Germany’s Diver Magazine and I produce a ‘Freediving in Kelp Forests’ (watch video here) awareness video.  Our AfriOceans Warriors keep busy and take part in the Kirstenhof Fun Run Festival at which we successfully reach 1000 adults & kids.

In June, we launch an innovative awareness campaign ‘Art for Shark Conservation’ with renowned artist Andrew Cooper and the Red Gallery. I have fun taking our new Shark Warrior Ambassador, Johnathan Boynton–Lee diving with sharks as part of the Top Billing TV insert on my work (watch video here), while Shark Warrior Ambassador Roland Albertson launches a new album ‘Only the Brave’ to help raise awareness for shark conservation.  Education continues and our AfriOceans Warriors celebrates World Oceans Day with Surf Shack Outreach programme in Muizenberg, and the AfriOceans Warriors from our 4 Lavender Hill Blue Schools take part in the Paddle for Peace at Princessvlei to highlight the state of Cape Town’s waterways.

In July, I am thrilled to be nominated as one of 14 women on Oprah magazine’s annual Power List: Women of Authentic Power. I produced and launch the Top Billing ‘Behind the Scenes, diving with sharks’ (watch video here) video and at the same time AfriOceans partner with WESSA and establish a new research project, The Cape Town Shark Project, to monitor the new shark exclusion net being trialed in Fish Hoek. Keeping our environment free of litter becomes a focus for us and our AfriOceans Education team conduct a number of Zibi Wastewise performances, reaching nearly 11 000 township kids, in partnership with the City of Cape Town. It’s a very busy month and our AfriOceans Warriors take part in 67 minutes for Mandela in Ocean View; we take our AfriOceans Warriors to meet the lions of the Drakenstein Lion Park, and we conduct a holiday programme which includes 6 different hikes on the peninsula mountain chain as well as run residential programmes in Lavender Hill and Ocean View.

In August, I am honored by the Mail & Guardian as one of 50 women selected out of thousands nominated to feature in the Book of Women of South Africa 2013. It’s this month that a press release with photos of me freediving with sharks goes viral reaching millions of people worldwide, starting in the UK (BBC News, Mail Online, Daily Mail) and spreading to Germany, Spain, Italy (front page of local newspaper with feature article), China, Australia, Mexico, Switzerland, South America, to mention just a few. It’s also the month we are proud to announce Big Wave Surfer Frank Solomon as our latest Shark Warrior Ambassador and I’m awarded for being a Finalist in Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business & Government Awards.

In September I begin training for upcoming campaign work and spreading awareness continues: my work is celebrated in France in the prestigious dive magazine, Apnea, and as a cover story for Scuba Diver Australisia. It’s time to swim with sharks again and Terry and I take new Shark Warrior Ambassador Frank Solomon and two other champion Durban surfers diving with sharks on KZN coast with Walter Bernardis of AFRICAN WATERSPORTS. Meanwhile our AfriOceans Warriors conduct school litter cleanups at all our participating Blue schools. We also launch the Shark Warrior beaded bracelets project with our AfriOceans Warriors Tribes, which encourages skills development and upliftment of communities, helping them raise much needed funds. And we take part in the Heart 107 FM Spring Splash in Muizenberg where I present to more than 3000 beach goers and where we collect hundreds more handprints on our HANDS UP FOR SHARKS scroll. Rolling up our sleeves for International Coastal Cleanup Week AfriOceans, in partnership with the UCT Dive Club, do an underwater cleanup at Simonstown Yacht club, collecting huge piles of ocean litter.

In October, I am humbled in being honored at the Cradle of Humankind where I receive the Johnny Walker & Sunday Times Nation’s Greatest Award – I’m the winner in the Nation’s Greatest Challenger category, one of 7 categories and a winner from thousands nominated and narrowed down to a shortlist of 360 people. I’m also honored at the Top 100 Companies Business Awards held in Johannesburg and get to meet Trevor Manuel. It’s Festival time again and AfriOceans participates in the Simonstown Penguin Festival plus we promote shark awareness at the BOS Earthwave Festival in Muizenberg. It’s also National Marine Week, which we celebrate at our participating Blue schools while my article, ‘Save Our Priceless Oceans’ makes a full page of the Cape Times Newspaper.

In November, I appear on the CBS News programme Omg! Insider (watch video here) reaching 6 million viewers.  Since summer is here and the white sharks have moved closer to shore, we launch our #BeSharkWise and #LoveSharks online shark awareness campaign on social media, which our new team member Hollyann Duggan-Jones leads for us. Then I’m off on a 2 week Photographic Expedition to Bahamas on the Dolphin Dream in the Bahamas as part of our Rethink the Shark campaign series. While I’m surrounded by sharks, our 16 AfriOceans Warriors Tribes compete for the Final Year Trophy in our AfriOceans Warriors Challenge Event at Cape Point. Maddie Cranston, our international AfriOceans Ambassador, delivers an online inspiring talk for our kids (watch video here), and Terry then heads for Johannesburg to present to St. Andrews School for Girls.

Finally, in December, I return from a very successful photographic expedition to the Bahamas, and we add up our reach for the year, an AWESOME 37 120 children by end of 2013 and 104 240 people (adults and kids) since inception in July 2011! And with a feeling of achievement and some exhaustion we lock the AfriOceans office door for a short break after successfully completing Year 2 of our National Lottery Board sponsored AfriOceans Warriors Environmental Education Programme, gathering our energy for an even busier year ahead.

Whew! Watch my space!