Submitted by: Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP)
Implemented country: Tanzania, United Republic of
Title: Saving a Pristine Coral Island
Many years ago, Sibylle Riedmiller went to Tanzania as a development aid worker and fell in love with the clear ocean waters while snorkeling and sailing along the coral reefs. In 1990, Sibylle introduced an environmental education project to Zanzibar. To her amazement she found that most of the local population, even the fishermen, were not aware of the coral reefs‘ importance. The local language, Kiswahili, doesn’t even have a word for “corals”. Instead they are referred to as “rock“ or “stone. This is what gave Sibylle the idea to protect this endangered habitat. However, the government showed no interest in her efforts and so she decided to try it on a private level by starting an eco-tourism center.
After a long search Sibylle found the tiny 0.25 square kilometer island of Chumbe, only a few kilometers south of t Stone Town, Zanzibar. The island used to be a restricted military zone and so its original fauna and flora remained mostly intact. In 1994, the island and its surrounding coral reef was declared a National Park and is since called Chumbe Island Coral Park, Ltd. (CHICOP, www.chumbeisland.com). Its management is under the direction of Sibylle Riedmiller. The park comprises an underwater park, Tanzania’s first coral reef protectorate, as well as a forest-reserve home to extremely rare and endangered animal species. CHICOP,a non-profit organization, has become a showcase model for sustainable park management where eco-tourism simultaneously protects nature. Other attractions are research opportunities and comprehensive environmental education for children, teachers, fishermen and visitors. The park also offers a visitor and education center, a small eco-lodge, nature trails, and historic ruins. Built to state-of-the-art eco-construction standards, all buildings are located on the beach and have no burdening impact whatsoever on the environment.
CHICOP is paid for through the eco-lodge on the island. Visitors are charged a fee that helps pay for coral reef monitoring as well as a number of other research projects that support 500 to 600 school children per year who participate in environmental educational excursions. The 7 exclusive bungalows on the island, made of bamboo wood and palm leaves, offer guests sustainable features such as an innovative room layout with natural ventilation, rainwater showers, solar cells for electricity, solar water heating, compost toilets, and organic graywater filtration. Guests at Chumbe Island are aware of the fact that they are staying eco-buildings without air conditioning or any other special luxury, but in complete peace and quiet and in harmony with their a conscience: Every cent they pay goes directly to nature conservation.