AN initiative, which started out as a passion for conservation by a young Durban Girls’ College pupil, has turned into an annual event on Durban’s calendar.
Olivia Taylor is passionate about conservation, business and art. In 2008, when Olivia was 11, she became concerned about the decimation of the bearded vulture. Since then she has raised R200 000 for the species and ocean degradation through her Kilimanjaro climb and the Four Elements Ocean Challenge 2014.
“During my time working for the Bearded Vulture Project I met some amazing people who have inspired me to pursue my dream. This is to open people’s eyes to the beauty of the natural world and the importance of preserving it as well as to teach young people about the power of their voices,” she said.
Olivia established an NPO, Four Elements, and said she was amazed that from just fostering a passion, this has become something bigger than she could ever have dreamed.
She is now planning the 2015 Four Elements Ocean Challenge on 16 May at 6.30am.
“I had ambition but I didn’t think it would get this big! The Four Elements Ocean Challenge is now an established event. The initial idea came when long distance swimmer Rob Resconi asked if he would do a swim in Durban, and I told him I would get back to him in a week as I had an idea,” she said.
Chair of Durban Surf, Olivia’s uncle, Julian Taylor, helped her plan a swim and invited celeb swimmers, like Otto Thanning, the oldest man to swim the English Channel, Carina Bruwer and Roger Finch, who all came up from Cape Town to take part.
“It spiralled from four to five swimmers to 16 incredibly passionate people on the day, and Carina said it was the most beautiful swim she had ever done,” she said.
This year’s event will raise awareness and funds for ocean degredation, but there is a new twist, as it will incorporate people who cannot swim, and who will do a beach clean-up along the route, from Durban Surf to uShaka and back. There will also be a snorkel workshop for LIV Village children at Vetches’ Reef, supported by I AM WATER.
“This year’s challenge will have an emphasis on youth development. Funds raised will go towards the Four Elements Environmental Camp, which will be a four-day adventure in December along the Northern Zululand coast,” she said.
Children between the ages of 10 and 18 will be able to learn essential business skills to start their own environmental initiatives. This will include ideas to action plans, social media skills, how to do sustainable fundraising, and using youth to their advantage, all while walking with rhinos, swimming with sharks and taking birding walks.
Applications open on 8 June, World Oceans Day, and the criteria includes children within this age group who can swim, speak good English, and are passionate about the environment and believe in the future of South Africa.
The Four Elements Ocean Challenge is open to any swimmer who is equipped to tackle the five-kilometre stretch along the Durban beachfront.
Olivia is excited that the 16 swimmers from last year has grown exponentially to more than 50 entrants already.
“It is very cool! This is an official open water swim distance of 5km and I encourage people to take part. I am also still looking to secure a main sponsor,” she said.
The youngest competitor to take part in last year’s challenge was 14-year-old Ayanda Maphumulo, who finished third overall and was the first woman in.
So far, the youngest swimmer to enter is Grade 7 Durban Girls’ College pupil Tia Roodt.
Registration and prize-giving will be at the Durban Lifesaving Club.
To enter, go to http://www.fourelementsconservation.org/ocean-challenge.php. Entries close on 16 April.