11 January 2012

Xolela Batayi: Swimming with sharks is all in a day’s work

Renée Leeuwner
Photo by Two Oceans Aquarium

During September 2011, the Aquarium ran a joint marketing, education and awareness campaign known as the “People’s Campaign”. The aim of the campaign was to raise awareness about the Aquarium in general, as well as our education and conservation efforts in Khayelitsha.

The campaign included articles in City Vision newspaper, bi-weekly slots on Radio Zibonele and an amazing day promoting the Aquarium at the Khayelitsha Mall. Staff from the curatorial, education, finance and visitor services departments, as well as from Shoreline Café, featured in articles in City Vision.

Xolela Batayi, one of our diving aquarists, featured in such an article:

Xolela Batayi was born in King William’s Town in 1975. He moved to Cape Town in 1995, looking for permanent employment. He is married and has a baby daughter. In 2008, while working night-shift at a local restaurant, he started helping out during the day in the fish preparation kitchen of the Two Oceans Aquarium. Here he assisted with the preparation of the daily food for the animals in the Aquarium. Later that year, he was permanently employed as the food preparation supervisor.

In December 2010, Xolela applied for an aquarist position in the curatorial department. Soon after, he was appointed as Aquarist 1, responsible for feeding the animals, overseeing their health and welfare, and being responsible for a number of exhibits. He is currently responsible for exhibits such as the cold reef, skates and rays and hagfish.

In June 2010, Xolela joined two of his colleagues during their lunch-time swimming lessons. He quickly realised how much the waterworld had to offer and quite confidently says that he was never worried or scared. He also realised that swimming is just the start and that what lies beneath the waves of the sea can only really be explored by qualified scuba divers. With this in mind and his swimming exam passed, he started training for a Padi Open Water One qualification through Iain’s Scuba School.

In June 2011, Xolela passed his practical and theoretical exams and qualified as an Open Water One scuba diver. As part of the course, he had the opportunity to dive in the I&J Predator Exhibit – an experience he says was one of the highlights of learning to dive.

Asked why he decided that he wanted to learn to swim and ultimately dive, Xolela said that not only does it have to do with the fact that if one can swim, being around water is much safer, but also he really enjoyed spending time in the water and when he dives; he is exploring a whole different world.

Asked why he enjoys working at the Aquarium: He likes the fact that he gets to work with the animals and he enjoys working with water. He experiences many interesting things and enjoys the working environment. Furthermore, the Aquarium has offered him many opportunities to grow through training like computer courses, the swimming lessons and the dive course.

Best thing about diving: Breathing under water, exploring a completely different environment, but number one is diving with the sharks!

Favourite animal in the Aquarium: Xolela loved the South African fur seals that used to be at the Aquarium. Currently he really likes the baby eagle rays.

Other City Vision articles

Two Oceans Aquarium Teacher works his magic

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