Meghan Markle Goes Casual in Denim Jacket for Beach Visit in South Africa with Prince Harry
The royal couple, who spent the first day of their tour in Cape Town, where they gave powerful speeches, danced with locals and toured an historic area that was affected during Apartheid, headed to Monwabisi Beach in South Africa on Tuesday to see the work of Waves for Change, an organization that supports local surf mentors to provide mental health services to vulnerable young people living in under resourced communities.
Meghan dressed casually for the event, sporting a white button-down shirt that resembles an item from her Smart Works capsule collection, black Mother jeans and her go-to Madewell denim jacket — a first for a royal on an official engagement! She paired the look with tan woven leather flats from Brother Vellies and the turquoise Jennifer Meyer ring she’s been wearing in place of her engagement ring.
Asked what it was like being back in Africa — and the first time in South Africa for Meghan, Harry replied: “Yesterday was great and to start in Nyanga was amazing. I think everyone across the world now has probably heard about what’s been happening more recently – that kind of stuff happens all the time, every year, but it really peaked in the last month or so we’ve done our best to keep track of what’s been going on.”
“This Africa tour was always going to be fantastic, been looking forward to Cape Town — her first visit — I love this place,” he continued. “And again meeting the people, the energy, the fun, again the positivity, the optimism and the hope in the face of such incredible adversity.
“There are young people and older people, men and women trying to change what effectively has become the norm.”
Asked what was the most pressing global issue when it came to dealing with the stigma around mental health, Meghan replied: “It’s just getting people to talk about it and talk to each other, right?
“And you see that no matter where you are in the world, if you’re a small community or a township, if you’re in a big city – it’s that everyone is dealing with a different version of the same thing.
“Globally I think there’s a bit of a consciousness crisis, and so the fact we’re able to be here together to see on the ground so much good work that’s being done, just because people are willing to talk to each other about it and someone’s willing to listen is huge.
“And that can apply to being here, certainly can apply to being in London, L.A. – doesn’t matter where you are we’re all sort of trying to power through and find some optimism.”
Ash Heese, training and partnerships manager of Waves for Change, tells PEOPLE: “We are very lucky to bring the kids into the natural environment into the ocean and the beach, which really gives their minds and bodies a break from the communities they are living in where they are constantly exposed to stress and trauma and challenges like poverty and violence. And the beach is almost an opposite space. An opportunity to step away from all of that.”
She praises the couple as “two people who are such positive mental health champions supporting our program and mental health in general. It is so important that people like the Sussexes are promoting healthy mental wellbeing. Even just the fact that they are talking about it’s huge and valuable.”
The Duke, 35, and Duchess of Sussex, 38, received a briefing in the compound before meeting with surf mentors and taking a walk to the beach to participate in a group activity to promote positive thinking.
Waiting to see the couple were two sisters from South Africa who had traveled to Windsor for Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018.
“We grew up with Princess Diana — she was the People’s Princess — and her sons have been really special,” Jenny Perks, 48, told PEOPLE. “Harry has followed in a lot of his mother’s causes — especially here in Africa. And Meghan’s making the royal family more modern and relatable.”
The engagement was similar to when Meghan and Harry visited Bondi Beach during their royal tour Down Under in Oct. 2018. Meghan, a California native, was in her element during the event, kicking off her wedges to go barefoot in the sand and meet with OneWave, a colorfully dressed local surfing community group dedicated to raising awareness for mental health and well-being in an engaging way.
Sam Schumacher told PEOPLE that when the royal couple joined their “anti-bad vibe circle” to discuss the issue, Harry touched on his own struggles.
“Basically he showed us that actually opening up and talking about your emotions is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness,” Schumacher said. “And the sooner you can do that, it actually helps you so much. That was the thing that helped him so much.”
One of the members of the anti bad vibe circle, Charlotte Connell, told The Guardian, “Harry said each and everyone of us will experience poor mental health at some stage in our lives.”
She added, “Harry said, ‘It took me not six months, but 18 months to find the right person to speak to – you’re not going to find the right person to speak to straight away.’ ”
After their beach visit, Harry will travel solo by RIB (rigid inflatable boat) to Seal Island with officers from the City of Cape Town Marine Unit (MPU). During the journey he will be briefed on their role in combatting the poaching of abalone, considered one of South Africa’s most significant illegal wildlife trade concerns. As Captain General of the Royal Marines, the prince will be accompanied by two members of the Royal Marines who have been providing capacity building and skills training to the MPU.
Meghan and Harry’s tour of Africa marks their first royal tour with their son, Archie, who was born on May 6. The couple were spotted early Monday morning leaving their plane with baby Archie in Meghan’s arms.
Meghan will join Harry on visits in South Africa before he heads off solo for engagements in Botswana, Angola and Malawi. The Duchess of Sussex is expected to stay in South Africa with Archie.