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Tourism and conservation

Since we started Coastal Guide, we have been happening all along Kenya's amazing coastline and to promote its fantastic parks and reserves. There is so much to see along the coast, including lush green landscapes, mangrove forests teeming with birdlife and a whole underwater world bursting with colour. And the good news? Some tourist activities actively support conservation efforts. In this article we've included a just few ideas

for getting involved.


Tourism and conservation can go hand in hand, with tourism providing an important economic incentive for conserving and protecting natural habitats and wildlife, in addition to all the environmental reasons for doing so. Besides its massive contribution to GDP, tourism raises funds for conservation efforts more directly via the entry fees to national parks and reserves and via eco and community-based tourism initiatives.

According to Watamu Marine Association (www.watamu.biz),

'ecotourism is a fantastic opportunity to bring much needed investment and revenue to [these] poor coastal communities.' Marine ecosystems have been put under huge pressure from population growth and overfishing and tourism can provide alternative income opportunities. For example, fishermen can diversify into offering boat trips, former poachers can use their expertise to become guides and communities more generally can benefit from new job opportunities in the tourism sector.


As we have seen in previous issues of Coastal Guide, Kenya's seas are home to bottlenose and spinner dolphins, humpback whales and even orcas. It is well worth considering adding a whale or dolphin watching boat trip to your itinerary, and the Malindi- Watamu Marine National Reserve is one of the best places for spotting these ocean giants. Just make sure you book with a reputable local company who promotes safe environments for

both tourists and wildlife.


Kenyan waters are also home to at least 5 species of sea turtle and Watamu Turtle Watch work tirelessly to ensure the future these graceful creatures, the protection of the marine environment and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods in the Watamu area. Check out their website to find out more about their work and how you can get involved

(www.watamuturtles.com)


Further south there's the Kisite Marine Park for some great snorkelling, diving and dhow safaris. Here, the REEFolution team are doing amazing work restoring and creating coral reefs together with local fishermen. Healthy reefs are essential to the livelihoods of the fishermen as they help sustain healthy fish stocks. Here too tourism offers a great income diversification strategy, and an extra incentive to look after the reefs and

protect biodiversity (www.reefolution.org; www.pillipipa.com).


Back on dry land, there are plenty of conservation initiatives that also benefit from revenues from tourism. In Diani, for example, there's the Colobus Conservation project where visitors are welcome to take part in a guided walk to meet the resident monkeys and find out about the charity's work and research activities (www.colobusconservation.org).


Tourism and conservation can go hand in hand, with tourism providing an important economic incenve for conserving and protecting natural habitats and wildlife...

On a national scale, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), which manages about 8% of Kenya's landmass, relies heavily on the money paid by tourists to fulfil its long-term conservation and research objectives as well as daily activities such as patrolling the parks against poachers. Shimba Hills National Reserve, managed by the KWS, is just a short drive from both Mombasa and Diani. As one of East Africa's largest coastal forests and boasting the highest density of African Elephants in Kenya, the reserve is also home to the endangered Sable Antelope, over a 100 species of bird and extraordinary plant biodiversity and is well worth a visit (ww.kws.go.ke).


There are plenty more organisations up and down the coast doing great work to ensure that Kenya's natural marvels continue to flourish for many generations to come. Tourism, when managed properly and with the full support and involvement of local populations, can be part of this process.





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