SA Tourism’s lifesaving initiative, assisting the NSRI with saving lives on South African Waters

Hundreds of drownings in South Africa each year are preventable, if only there had been proper prevention initiatives or the right equipment at hand. 

This week the National Sea Rescue Institute officially accepted the donation of 72 Pink Rescue Buoys and launched a collaboration with the Department of Tourism that will see a new lifesaving lifeguard station set up in the Western Cape.

The 72 Pink Rescue Buoys will be placed at strategic drowning hotspots across the country, while the lifeguard station has been erected in a drowning hotspot in St Helena Bay,. 

St Helena Bay is a beautiful small town, and its beaches attract tourists visiting the West Coast as well as local community members. The installation of the new lifeguard station at St Helena Bay, will be used as a response base for surf rescuers & volunteer Lifeguards, and will assist us in creating water safety awareness in the area with locals and visitors as well improve response times and ultimately save lives.

With an increase of drownings reported occurring during the summer months and especially during the festive season, it is our hope that the erection of these life-saving buoys and the lifeguard station will save countless lives in the bay, and around South Africa this summer season and for years to come.

“The proactive initiative on reducing drownings as well as creating awareness about water safety fits well with our commitment to enhance our tourist offerings  and the promotion of responsible tourism in destinations. The idea behind the project is to get emergency flotation to a tourist and anyone who is in danger of drowning as fast as possible while calling for professional help. We believe that through this initiative we will be able to safeguard tourists and the community who engage in water activities and complement our commitment to tourist safety”, said Blessing Manale, Chief Director, Department of Tourism. 

The success of any initiative does however depend on the community.

Without communities standing behind the project and teaching children that the Pink Rescue Buoys should not be taken off their poles except in an emergency, we will not be able to save lives.  

In some areas, many Pink Rescue Buoys which were thought to be stolen have been returned to their poles within days of the community leadership telling people that they must not take these emergency floats. As our Pink Rescue Buoy sign says – ‘Please return me so that we can save another life’. 

We also urge the community to protect the lifeguard station from vandals.

“Drowning prevention and water safety is a key pillar of our work, and our initiatives would not be possible without the generous support of donors and sponsors, and the commitment of our educators and the communities that welcome them” said NSRI CEO, Dr Cleeve Robertson. “We would like to thank SA Tourism for their sponsorship of Pink Rescue Buoys and for extending our drowning prevention initiatives in the St Helena Bay area”, added Robertson.  

The Rescue Buoys are bright pink so that they can be easily spotted on the water by responding emergency services. There is also a unique location number on the signpost so that crucial minutes can be saved for emergency services to help those in danger of drowning. 

Over 800 Pink Rescue Buoys have been installed at strategic areas and in drowning hotspots around South Africa and over 60 lives saved since November 2017. 

Cleeve added, “Our message to water users and anyone who may find themselves in danger of drowning is simple: “Think Pink”.

“If you ever see someone in danger of drowning, think: “pink is for buoys”.

Find the pink rescue buoy, throw it into the water, pull the person to safety, save a life. You’ll find our buoys at beaches along the coast, inland dams and rivers right across South Africa.  But please remember that a stolen buoy could be a stolen life”

He also urged water users to immediately call for help if someone is in danger of drowning.

Our grateful thanks to SA Tourism for their generous sponsorship.

The cost of the Pink Rescue Buoy and the sign is R1 500  –

For more information on this project, you are welcome to contact us on

About the Pink Rescue Buoys:

The NSRI Pink Rescue Buoys which are placed at selected inland dams, rivers, and beaches along the coastline where there is a danger of people drowning or needing rescue have already saved countless lives on South African Waters.

The roll-out of the NSRI Pink Rescue Buoys started in November 2017. This project is made possible by corporate and public donations and is part of an extensive National Drowning Prevention Campaign started by Sea Rescue during 2017. The deployment of the Pink Rescue buoys is done with the cooperation of City Councils, Municipalities and communities in a rapidly growing effort to make our waters safer and to prevent drowning incidents. Part of the initiative follows the World Health Organisation’s principles of empowering community members with peer rescue and CPR skills. When we put Pink Rescue Buoys up in an area, we also target this education at the communities through traditional and social media channels. 

Bandile Mathebula

Award wining writer and Journalist. Founding Editor In Chief at Sibizi News. Managing Director at Sibizi Media. Vice-Chairman at Ignite Young Minds SA. I have worked in the media industry for the past 7 years working across different brands and industries.

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