Margate beach open for bikers

2012-04-23 00:00

THE joke doing the rounds in Margate is that as long as the sharks stay out of the pubs, the thousands of bikers at Africa Bike Week will stay out of the water, but for thousands more visitors expected at the weekend’s event, the good news is that the beach is likely to be open for swimming from today.

The beach was closed on Tuesday after a sewage spill in the lagoon, just days ahead of the first bikers’ arrival for the South Coast’s biggest festival on wheels.

The beach lost its blue flag status the following day because the spill was the second in four months.

Hibiscus Coast Municipal manager S’bu Mkhize said: “This spill is a worrying factor for us and Ugu District Municipality. Whether it is a Blue Flag beach or not, it is a cause for concern.”

He added that both municipalities had worked tirelessly to remedy the situation.

Margate is one of the most popular beaches on the South Coast and draws thousands of visitors during peak holiday season.

“The beach has to be ready for the long weekend. We are expecting a lot of visitors to our town,” he added.

Mkhize said that the necessary water testing needed to be done before the beach could be opened.

The main beach will host Africa Bike Week, which kicks off on Friday, the Freedom Day holiday.

On Saturday, Scottburgh’s main beach reopened for bathing after being closed last week when the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board discovered 14 tiger sharks caught in nets.

Tiger sharks are among the deadliest predators in the oceans. They had been attracted to the area by a whale carcass.

The decomposing carcass also caused a slick to appear on the water surface.

The shark board’s Mike Anderson-Reade said: “Our staff flew over the water on Friday. There was no sign of any marine activity or slick in the water.”

Two nets were installed at the beach on Friday but the beach remained closed.

“The gear was serviced yesterday [Saturday] morning and there were no captures,” he said.

A further two nets where installed on Saturday and the beach reopened for bathing.

Back in Margate, Africa Bike Week organiser Vicky Wentzel said that despite the negative publicity the beach had received in the past few days, interest in the event has not dwindled.

“The types of people that are coming here for Africa Bike Week are not here for the beach.

“Margate is not just a beach destination. We have bikers coming here from all parts of South Africa to enjoy the festive, village atmosphere that Margate has to offer.”

Wentzel said the entire province benefited from the bike festival. “There are bikers riding down from all over the country with their clubs.

“They stop over in big groups for breaks in various towns along the way.

“This has a positive economic spinoff on all this places.”

The festival is expected to draw almost 200 000 visitors to the South Coast.

“From the previous Africa Bike weeks, businesses on the South Coast have reported that in this one weekend their turnover is equivalent to the entire busy season in December.”

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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