Coast KZN

25 Apr 2020

Lockdown in Durban harbour: Lanner falcons return and you can see the fish

Tanya Waterworth (Independent on Saturday: IOL)


Durban – The fish eagle’s call, a pair of Lanner falcons and tropical fish. Those have been welcome sights and sounds at Durban’s Yacht Mole since the start of lockdown.

There are a number of vessels moored in the yacht basin, including some foreign yachts, and all have to remain where they are until lockdown is over. No yacht is allowed to move from its mooring and water sports, such as kayaking, are banned.

Skipper Brandon Walsh, who grew up in Alveston, just outside Durban, said they were ready to leave for the Mozambican coast when the lockdown was announced.

“We are here to do repairs, but we have to import rigging from Italy and so have to wait until everything is back to normal before we can order the rigging which is not available anywhere in SA. Then we will have to wait at least another eight weeks for delivery. We could still be here towards the end of the year,” said Walsh.

He added that the yachting season ran from April to December, ahead of the cyclone season and that the yachting cruise and charter industry “was totally dead” in tourist hot spots such as Vilancoulos (Mozambique) and Madagascar because of Covid-19. On the positive side, he said staying in the Durban Yacht Mole was safe and quiet, while the water was far cleaner with far less sewerage and very little rubbish compared with what had been happening for a number of years.

The sewerage and litter in the yacht basin had been in the news over the last couple of years, particularly after bad storms when the city’s sewerage flowed through pipes known as “lavender creek” into the small craft harbour.

“There are only about 10 to 12 people staying on their yachts, including some French and Argentinians. Before the lockdown, it sometimes felt as though we lived in a fish bowl because so many people would stand and take selfies next to the yacht. It’s much quieter now,” said Walsh.

“And there are definitely more birds. I have heard fish eagles here for the first time in years and there are a pair of Lanner falcons who have been hunting the pigeons.”

Another South African family staying in the yacht mole are Tom, Carin and Milan Cilliers from Newcastle, along with their whippet, Lily, and Italian greyhound, Violet.

Carin and Milan exercise the two lean dogs up and down the jetty, where their boat is moored, a couple of times a day.

“We bought the boat about a year ago and moved to Durban permanently at the beginning of the year as we are still getting the boat ready.

“It’s so nice here and since the lockdown, the water has been much cleaner and I have seen some tropical fish which we didn’t see before.

“We all (yachties) know each other and there’s a high police presence at the gate which makes us feel safe,” said Carin.

Milan, 15, who home-schools, agreed saying: “It’s so much cleaner and much less noise around, especially over the weekends, since the lockdown.

“I run the dogs along the jetty and we have made ourselves a gym, including some oil cans for biceps,” he said.