Arrested For Protecting Whales

Ocean Passion Series

Welcome to our "Ocean Passion Series" where we are interviewing ordinary people doing extraordinary actions for the ocean. We believe learning from others can help our own life become more engaged and inspired. This week we have an outstanding ocean spirit from South Africa!   


Hello Nikki can you tell us about yourself and where you are in the world ? 

 Nikki Botha Sea Shepherd  There isn’t much to tell about me. I am an ordinary person like everyone else. And like everyone else, I try and do my little bit every day to affect change. Making a difference every day shouldn’t be an exception, it should be the rule.

The best thing about who I am is that I live in the most beautiful city in the world: Cape Town. South Africa has it’s problems, but I am really blessed and proud to live in this incredible city which has SO much to offer!

"But since I woke up to the way people treat animals and this planet, my focus has shifted and it all became about fighting for justice."

Oh wow! Cape Town must go on our #Bucketlist Nikki! The rule you mention is such a great one! Making a difference every day is such an easy thing that if just one thing from every person in the world the positive change would be so grand. So Nikki you have done so much for the ocean with so many active ocean work please tell us what your most amazing and emotional ocean story that you have experienced. 


I have been incredibly fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to experience many very special ocean stories (both negative and positive). Two of the best experiences I had was the first time I cast off on the M/V Farley Mowat as part of Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro to save the highly endangered vaquita. When the bridge started the ship’s engine, it really sunk in that we are about to do everything we can to ensure the survival of this species. The other one happened late at night on Operation Milagro. We were at sea and as it was close to midnight, most of the crew were asleep in their bunks. Our bosun came to my bunk and told me he wanted to show me something. We went out on to the bow of the ship where I saw dolphins bow surfing. They were glowing in the dark and were squeaking away, speaking to us. It took my breath away. The sight was so overwhelming that I started getting emotional. I couldn’t believe that I had the privilege of witnessing and being part of that moment. It felt completely surreal. That is the kind of thing that you see in movies, happening to other people. And there I was, right in the thick of it. Me – an ordinary plane Jane. To this day I find it hard to believe!


Sea Shepherd Global

However, the experience which had the hardest emotional impact on me was when my team mates and I were arrested and thrown in jail in the Faroes. Our only crime was desperately trying to save 33 pilot whales from being stabbed to death. We did everything humanly possible, but failed. Those animals were butchered right in front of us and nothing we did or could do could change that. It haunts me every day. But I use it to inspire and motivate myself to do better and try harder each day to make change and conserve life. 


Faroe Islands Sea Shepherd

Faroe Islands Sea Shepherd

OMG Nikki! Those are completely two different emotions with the same passion to protect the ocean. You have shown us the emotion of unconditional love, selfless actions, and how they impacted your life greatly. To be arrested for standing your ground to stop the killing of whales is a true honor in our Pelagic Love Team eyes and we thank you for such action! We are speechless however we need to continue to find out more about your amazing life journey! Tell us how long have you known your passion for the ocean and can you remember that day or situation that brought it to the surface and led you towards fighting for it? 


Truth be told, I never really had a particular love for the ocean. It was on my 30th birthday that my journey started – unbeknownst to me. We lived in a little coastal, surfing town called Jeffrey’s Bay (known worldwide as a prime surfing spot). Each morning and each evening, dolphins would migrate past the coast line, very close to shore. At that point I have never seen a dolphin in real life. It was one of my greatest wishes to see these animals, but somehow they eluded me for a very, very long time. 


"Making a difference every day shouldn’t be an exception, it should be the rule."~ Nikki Botha


Ocean Drop bracelet

On my 30th birthday I felt so depressed – I felt like my life was over because I was officially “old” and my youth was gone. Lunch time I went to sit on the beach and had a good old self pity sob (oh the folly of youth!) when out of the blue, right in front of me, a large pod of dolphins appeared out of nowhere. They were jumping and playing and putting on the most amazing show. It felt like a birthday gift from the Universe, just for me. Little did I know that years later I would be fighting to save their kind. 


Sea Shepherd Volunteers

That is such a funny and then beautiful story. We believe the universe did bring your desire to the surface and give you the gift of not one but a pod of dolphins! So since your 30th birthday how has your passion for the ocean changed your thinking and your life? 


Ocean conservation alerted me and woke me up to the fact that animals (both land and ocean) are in need of our help. I was introduced to Sea Shepherd and it was after speaking to the crew on the original Farley Mowat that I realised that I had a compulsion and obligation to change the way my own species treat others. From that day forward, my life path was set. I finally found my purpose in life.


Animal Care

Its amazing to see that after you turned 30 yrs old your life became filled with passion and changed 180 degrees. Some people never find their purpose in life Nikki and we here believe that it has to do with giving to other lives that truly brings meaning within your own. Creating your life journey with the ocean in parallel did it help build a strong character and skills within you? Can you describe? 


Before I became an activist, I was a wreck. I had a myriad of insecurities and if someone so much as looked at me the wrong way, I would cry in private because I thought they hated me and there was something wrong with me. My entire life revolved around seeking the approval of others. I basically had zero self worth. In retrospect, I now realised that that made me a very self absorbed person. But since I woke up to the way people treat animals and this planet, my focus has shifted and it all became about fighting for justice. I created my own motto: no matter how bad you have it, the animals have it a billion times worse. This motto has given me a thick skin and made me so much less selfish. It also gave me the resolve and strength to become the person I needed and wanted to be. Being part of a cause takes you outside of yourself and once you’ve reached that point, you’re learning many, many things about yourself that you did not know before. You truly become who you are meant to be. 


Protecting the ocean

Absolute strength Nikki! You have removed so much from within to focus on what is around you. Passion has such a powerful inner strength that changes you without a fight. You don't fight it because it feels so good to listen to the path it shows you and you want to follow it. We love your honest sharing of your emotions Nikki.

What ocean conservation organization is your favorite and why? 


My blood runs pirate. Sea Shepherd is where my heart is at. This organisation engages in direct action and I see on a daily basis, the tangible difference this organisation makes. It is an unbelievable feeling to be part of Sea Shepherd. I have met people from all over the world who have become family to me: brothers and sisters in arms. These are people who inspire me each day to become a better human being. I will always, always be grateful to them for that. 

Sea Shepherd Global

California Kai

Sea Shepherd is definitely a love for a lot of people. To meet people from around the world that have the same drive and passion you do for protecting the ocean and life is motivating and definitely family. With all of your ocean work now are you also a diver? 


I don’t dive unfortunately. Here is a little known fact: I am deathly afraid of water (oh the irony!). I only learnt how to swim in 2013. I kind of had to – I was going to join one of Sea Shepherd’s ships. So I sucked it up, put my big girl undies on, suppressed my fear and did it for the cause! 


Sea Shepherd Global

Deathly afraid of water! How incredible is that! Wow Nikki we would have never guessed that from a person doing so much for the ocean would be afraid to swim. However you have shown us another intricate part of the complexity of passion and how its removes the fears you have created and makes you think of the big picture that is not you. Passion can be so beautifully intoxicating that there is not a wall in the world that can stop what you are completely dedicated to accomplish.

Well we know swimming won't be your favorite thing about the ocean so tell us what is?  

My favourite thing about the ocean is the majesty of it all, the life it gives, the secrets it holds. I love sitting on the beach and watching the ocean. It humbles me and reminds me not only of my place in the world, but the duty of care I have towards it.


South Africa


You are a  beautiful blue soul Nikki! We love how the pod of dolphins came into your life at that specific time and gave you an entirely new world. The world that has you traveling around the earth and fighting for the species that need our help greatly like the vaquita! You are doing such honorable work and we are so happy to have had you on our Ocean Passion Series! Your passion is so inspiring that we know will help others take action. Until we speak again keep up the fight Nikki and thank you! 


Check back next week on the Ocean Passion Series to find out who our next ocean passionate guest will be and you will never be disappointed! Check out our past guests here >>Ocean Passion Series<<

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