Just do it - RIGHT!
Wilfred Chivell is a complex, versatile man with a quest for knowledge and perfection aptly summarised in his favourite Nike-adapted quote: just do it . . . RIGHT!
The owner of Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises and founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust knows what he wants and is prepared to work and fight hard to get it. Failure and inferior quality is never an option. He expects the same drive and dedication from his 30 odd staff members. Tough but fair - with a surprisingly soft spot for the vulnerable ones in nature - Wilfred believes in sweating the small, but special stuff. The specially designed Slashfin is unique and the first aluminium boat of its kind and also the most comfortable boat for shark cage diving in the country. Passengers are always guaranteed of freshly-washed, dry wetsuits, booties and towels as well as separate, spotless toilets for women and men on board.
“It is small, but crucial stuff that makes the difference. We have five student marine biologists, a divemaster captain, a bait master, a videographer and three well-trained guides to inform, educate and spoil our guests onboard. Marine Dynamics is primarily about discovering and protecting our precious marine life in an enjoyable manner and people should know their choice (of company) does make a difference.”
It is this drive and dedication to detail and perfection that have earned Wilfred and his companies several awards through the years - amongst which the prestigious International First Choice Responsible Tourism Award in 2006 for Best in a Marine Environment, as well as the Regional Winner of Entrepreneurs 2005. His African penguin nest project has also been recognised by various national and international awards.
A native of Gansbaai, Wilfred knows the reefs, rocks and wrecks along the Gansbaai coastline like the inside of his home. His passion for conservation has placed the greater Dyer Island region on the international map and he has presented numerous talks and interviews on marine conservation.
Wilfred's career took many twists and turns, but consistently revolved around discovering new things and protecting nature and the vulnerable. He lives the words of the slogan that he created: “Discover and Protect". After school, he joined the Police Force, but the calling of the sea eventually lured him to the excitement of shipwreck and diamond diving. A highlight of this era was when Wilfred and a diving buddy in 1987 happened upon the wreck of the Nicobar, a Danish ship with an enormous cargo of copper-plate money that went down near Quoin Point in 1783. It took them 4 months to salvage what turned out to be the biggest find of copper-plate money in the world. Today, Wilfred is still a trustee of the Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum.
In the 1980's he also tried his hand at the construction business and built a multi-million rand concrete business from scratch. When the industry hit a low in the 1990s, he started a boat-based marine tourism business Eco Tours in 1998 and became involved in the rescue of penguins from oil spills for CapeNature. The success of his Eco Tours lead to the first boat-based whale watching business in the Dyer Island area when he started Dyer Island Cruises in 2000. In 2005 he bought the shark cage diving company Marine Dynamics Tours (CC) and turned it into a private company. Both are BEE Level 1 companies and certified by Fair Trade in Tourism. Dyer Island Cruises has also been used as a case study for sustainable eco-tourism. It was Wilfred who coined the term Marine Big Five that has become an international buzzword in the trade and refers to Gansbaai’s prolific populations of whales, sharks, dolphins, penguins and seals.
"Make no mistake, the business is about making money in the first place, but at the same time, it provides a powerful vehicle to study and conserve our marine life and to empower entrepreneurs to make a living out of marine conservation and eco-tourism. The Great White is the ambassador species for all other marine animals. We use the Great White as an icon to create greater understanding and empathy for these endangered predators, as well as for the other marine animals.”
Beneath a tough, no-nonsense outer facade, Wilfred sports a huge Achilles heel which is undeniably the welfare and survival of all vulnerable species. "I have enormous respect for the storm petrel. Those little birds weigh less than 18 grams - they are just a bunch of feathers - and yet they fly across continents - thousands of kilometres on end!”
In the Gansbaai area, Wilfred and his crew are the people to call for animals in distress. He is a member of the South African Whale Disentanglement Network and has vast active experience in disentanglements. He is also a founding member of the Klipgat Trust, which is actively involved in archaeological research.
Apart from his love and concern for nature, Wilfred is also a devoted father and family man and an active member of the Gansbaai community supporting various projects. He is a founding member of Gansbaai Tourism and served five years on the town council.
But it is the ocean and its treasure chest of rare and remarkable species that truly charge his batteries.
“People think Great Whites are these man-eating monsters. They come for the thrill to face their fears, but meanwhile, these animals are incredible survivors that have been around for millions of years. It is outrageous to think that they outlasted aeons of natural disasters and even glaciers, but that people have the power to kill them all. Today, there are probably less than 5 000 Great Whites left in the world.
”We want people to experience that ultimate WOW magic and thrills, but when they leave, they must know these magnificent creatures are not ruthless man-eating machines, but a superior prehistoric species in dire danger of being wiped out by mankind.”