Walking the coastline for conservation

Dean Swart plans to end his expedition on the border of Tanzania.

A man on a two-year-long solo trek along the southern African coastline spoke to the Rotary club of Century City last week about his campaign to raise public awareness about what plastic pollution is doing to marine life.

Dean Swart, 47, started his 5 700km walk, called the 500 Sunsets Expedition, on Wednesday January 31 in Alexander Bay, Namibia.

Mr Swart said he had worked previously in construction and the slowdown in his industry had given him time to “get out and do something to conserve our planet”.

Originally from Zimbabwe, he moved to the UK after his farm was seized in Zimbabwe’s land grabs in 2004. A few years ago, he moved to Johannesburg. He says for the next two years he will be living as a “beach bum”.

Mr Swart said he hopes to start a “conversation” about conservation in general.

“I want to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean and shark conservation. Those are my two main principals but it’s not exclusively about marine life.”

He also plans to highlight the plight of wildlife such as the leopard on his expedition.

Since he started walking he has already visited five schools along his route to talk about his cause.

Last week he also spoke to the Rotary club of Century City in Century City after he had arrived at the V&A Waterfront earlier in the week.

Mr Swart buys supplies and food as he goes and carries all his belongings on his back.

He said it took a year to prepare for the expedition which included finding the correct equipment, including a custom-made tent that doubles as a hammock, and months of survival training.

He also carries a fresh-water desalination tank he had imported from Switzerland for the expedition. The tank uses his urine to produce fresh water.

“I only carry about a litre of water on me at a time. In total I’m carrying about 30kg on my back,” he said.

His training included, among other things, learning how to make a fire with sticks, building a shelter and hypothermic survival training.

“I learned what kinds of foods were safe to eat and what happens to the body when it starts to starve.”

He also learned some medical procedures he can perform on himself if he gets injured. Asked if he gets lonely while walking, he said: “I don’t really suffer from acute loneliness. I quite enjoy the solitude.”

Mr Swart captures every step of his journey on his Facebook page 500 Sunsets with posts and pictures. One picture was taken of a shotgun shell found on the beach and Mr Swart wrote: “These litter the shore line. When I asked why, a fisherman told me in Dwarskersbos that they had declared war on the seals for destroying their nets.”

In the next few days, Mr Swart will continue his walk where he left off at the V&A Waterfront.

The expedition ends on the border of Tanzania.

“My philosophy is simple,” he said. “If I keep the sea on the right hand side, I must be going in the right direction”.

Follow Mr Swart’s journey at 500sunsets.co.za, search 500 Sunsets on Facebook or follow his journey on Twitter@500sunsets