Photo Essay | Comfort in an old Cape favourite

As 2020 came to an end, residents of the Cape Flats attempted to carve out some fun within the everyday chaos of the pandemic by visiting the Sea Point swimming pool.

The strikingly located Sea Point Pavilion Swimming Pool is separated from the cold Atlantic waters of Table Bay by nothing more than a seawall. Its location, the four pools of varying depths catering to people of all abilities, an adequate number of lifeguards on duty, ample space for picnics and two tuck shops make it an ideal destination for people looking for an all-day outing. For years it has been a popular destination for people living in the Cape Flats, offering them a welcome break from the realities of daily life. During the festive season, it is common to see queues of people, sometimes reaching 120m long, waiting to get into the facility. 

This year, however, things were different. According to the facility manager, Sonwabo Ndandani, during lockdown level one, their capacity was reduced to 450 from the regular figure of 2 700, and on 14 December 2020 it was further reduced to 250 to comply with new Covid-19 regulations. Maintenance delays because of the lockdown left the facility with only two of its nine pumps in working order, thus opening times were shortened. Normally open from 7am to 7pm, its hours changed to 8am to 4pm.

20 November 2020: A lifeguard sanitises the railings in the morning, before the public swimming pool in Sea Point opens.

The reduced numbers meant that most of the usually crowded picnic spaces were empty, and the smaller number of water users in the large 50m by 28m pool meant that serious swimmers were able to do laps alongside them. Lifeguards and staff wore masks at all times, railings and toilets were sanitised at regular intervals, and staff did their best to ensure that people not in swimming pools wore their masks.

Despite the ever-present reminders of the pandemic, the shorter opening times and smaller crowds, which all led to an atmosphere that was not as festive as other years, Sea Point Pavillion Swimming Pool offered visitors some respite from the reality outside. 

13 December 2020: Visitors from Mannenberg. It’s common for entire families to visit the pool. They arrive early and stay for the day.

On 29 December, the facility closed its doors to the public in compliance with the adjusted level three disaster regulations. 

For those who managed to visit the pool this festive season, what may have been their last swim for a while would have been a beautiful one.

13 December 2020: A man gets ready to jump off the high diving board into the 5m-deep diving pool.
13 December 2020: Sea Point Pavilion Tuck Shop owner Malikah Behardien says the Covid-19 lockdown has ‘killed’ her. When the initial lockdown was implemented, she had to give away her excess stock, and fewer people are buying food from her this summer.
20 December 2020: The reflection of a lifeguard in the undisturbed waters of the 5m-deep diving pool on a quiet day at the Sea Point Pavilion Swimming Pool.
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