Zandile Ndhlovu aims to change Africa’s narrative about who belongs in the ocean and to diversify representation in ocean-facing careers, sports, and recreation. Her dream of eradicating the fear of deep waters by exposing kids to the ocean became a reality when she founded The Black Mermaid Foundation to create a space where fear expands into love.

Zandile Ndhlovu

Cape Town, South Africa

Zandile Ndhlovu is South Africa’s first Black Female freediving instructor and the founder of The Black Mermaid Foundation, an organization seeking to create diverse representation in the ocean arena. Her work centers around enabling access to ocean spaces to local ocean facing communities in hope of diversifying ocean spaces recreationally, professionally and in sport while creating a new generation of ocean guardians.

As a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, she can use these skills in her advocacy while working to reshape narratives through storytelling. She has contributed to global topics that include Ocean Conservation, Climate Change, Coastal Justice and capacitating the youth to participate in the Blue Ocean Economy.

Zandile is a change agent, using her voice to create the needed expansion in society through her work in the Foundation, public speaking and film.

What inspired you to become an 11th Hour Racing ambassador?

Seeing the amount of work 11th Hour Racing does to ensure the preservation and protection of our planet is inspiring. To witness the heart with which they do this work is humbling, and so, this was a natural fit, and the perfect home for me as an ocean lover and the dreams that I have for The Black Mermaid Foundation.

When you share a vision for the future, and you partner with people that believe in the same, things change and move at a rate impossible as one. Partnerships are important, and the support beneath your wings matters.

Why are you passionate about ocean conservation?

I believe we have a responsibility to leave the earth in a better state than we found it, I believe the generations to come need to have an opportunity to live in a world that self-sustains, as it has for us, of course, in addition to being able to witness the incredible life that lives within our oceans.

Growing up in Soweto, a land-locked area here in South Africa, so far from the sea, I never in my wildest dreams thought a world like this is possible, the awe and wonder that the ocean stirs inside of me is something I will protect, in all the ways I can, and ensure this same wonder, is accessible to generations to come, and this access is important because structurally, nothing has changed to make the oceans more accessible to lesser resourced communities – oceans are still a distance away, and proximity does not equate to access, and so intentionality is required in expanding the narratives that currently live in the world, that are incomplete. This all matters when we talk about ocean conservation because how do you care for something you have never seen, something that belongs over there, and presumably with ‘them’ and not you. The change starts by creating a connection enough for people to care. Changing the narrative.


Supporting the mission

Project name: The Black Mermaid Foundation

Project mission: Diversify Representation in the Ocean

As an ocean conservationist, and diversity and inclusion specialist, Zandile Ndhlovu is helping Black people find comfort in the world beneath the water’s surface. Photo credit: Sacha Specker/ 11th Hour Racing