Eco Tourism and its Role in Protecting Zanzibar’s Dolphin Population

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In July 2018, we welcomed Germany’s International Broadcaster Deutsche Welle and film and television company Afrika Live to our Dolphin Research and Marine Conservation Project in Zanzibar. During their short stay, they filmed an exciting piece on how the African Impact team is implementing Eco Tourism practices to protect the island’s resident dolphin population.

The Impact of Tourism on Dolphin Behavior

African Impact’s Dolphin Conservation Volunteer Program was established in 2013 in the fishing village of Kizimkazi in Zanzibar, with the goal of investigating the impact of marine tourism on the dolphin population. Carried out in partnership with the Dar Es Salaam University, the research collected by our volunteers is used to provide reliable and longitudinal data to support the implementation of tourism policies that will protect the dolphin population for future generations.

There is a vital need for this project as Zanzibar is one of the last remaining areas in the world with a dolphin population that is not governed by guidelines that limit the impact of tourism on their behavior. And dolphin tourism is booming. Many tourists flock to the area for the chance to swim with dolphins, with many operators offering these experiences. Unfortunately, a lot of these encounters are highly unethical, causing stress to the dolphins and ultimately, can push them out of their natural feeding areas and deplete the population.

However, marine tourism underpins Zanzibar’s economy and is one of the key income sources for local people, so it’s not quite as easy as simply stopping these tours. Aside from the boat drivers, local hotels, restaurants and other tourism operators also benefit from this income.

How Eco Tourism Can Help

While the main goal of our project is to investigate the impact of marine tourism on dolphin behavior and provide accurate, reliable data to support tourism policies that will protect the species, we also promote other Eco Tourism practices that can have a more immediate impact on the dolphins. This important work addresses a multitude of different stakeholders in the community, all whom are ultimately responsible for conserving their marine ecosystem.

One of our most successful Eco Tourism initiatives is our ethical boat driver training that we provide to local boat operators who offer dolphin tours to tourists. Through this, we are teaching ethical and responsible practices that will help protect the dolphin population while also offering an exceptional experience for guests on the boat. This is a win-win for all, and most importantly, ensures a sustainable source of income for the boat drivers. To-date, African Impact, volunteers, and interns have trained 16 boat drivers who now offer their own ethical dolphin tours to tourists visiting nearby hotels.

However, offering this type of Eco Tourism tour is useless if hotels, guests and tourists are not made aware of the options available to them. To engage local hotels and ensure their guests understand the importance of ethical interactions with dolphins in the Bay, our volunteers provide information boards containing the research we’ve collected to-date, empowering them to make responsible tourism choices.

By delivering our established and highly successful ethical dolphin tourism training to local boat drivers, we’re actively changing the behavior of tourism boats and how they interact with the dolphin population. This, coupled with the demand from tourists for ethical encounters, ensures a future for both the dolphins and the local community.

Launching an Exciting Marine Eco Tourism Internship

To grow our impact in Zanzibar and promote sustainable Eco Tourism practices further, we need help. That’s why we launched a brand new Marine Eco Tourism Internship that tackles this issue head-on. Interns on this project will be responsible for extending our reach within the community, networking with new partners and developing exciting Eco Tourism practices that will continue to benefit both the dolphin population and the community.

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