Six-day 'waddle' for penguins

A TOUGH journey lies ahead for a group of penguin lovers who have embarked on a 120km coastal hike to raise awareness about the dwindling numbers of African penguins.

The group of eight "waddlers" left Bayworld in Port Elizabeth yesterday on their way to Cape St Francis. They are expected to cover the distance in six days.

"Everyone is still in high spirits. We've got a great group of people with us, and we look forward to the next couple of days," Greg Hofmeyr from Bayworld said. Hofmeyr, who is leading the core group of hikers, said the weather forecasts were not in their favour, but they were still looking forward to completing the hike.

"I, for one, am actually looking forward to the terrible weather. It will just show our commitment to the important cause we represent."

The group is made up of officials and volunteers from the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds at Cape St Francis and Cape Recife's SA Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (Samrec).

African penguin numbers at the St Croix islands have dropped from 50000 to just 7000 in the last decade.

Samrec educator Eddie Molekoa said: "Campaigns like this walk are unbelievably important."

The group left Bayworld and spent last night at The Willows. They will spend the other nights at Bushy Park, Van Stadens, Gamtoos, Jeffreys Bay and hopefully arrive at the 2014 Nautical Festival at Port St Francis on day six.

There they will complete the last 5km with a large following, to form part of the conservation focus of the festival. - Riaan Marais