Conservation project aims to protect dolphins from excessive tourism in Zanzibar

dolphinsA new volunteer project has been launched in Zanzibar to protect against the risk of endangering friendly bottlenose and humpback dolphins.

The mammals have become a major tourist attraction in Zanzibar, and the project by volunteering operator African Impact will monitor the dolphins and human-dolphin interaction, looking at behaviour, feeding, daily habits and their reaction to humans.

Those who volunteer on the project will contribute greatly to work carried out on marine conservation in Zanzibar. Monitoring dolphin-human interaction will also help to inform Government policies on how best to regulate the freedom and access to dolphins that humans currently have in these waters. The focus will be to ensure that the dolphins are not too harassed, as such stress could lead to a reduction in their numbers in the region.

Andrew Procter, operations director at African Impact, said: “Menai Bay is home to an array of beautiful marine life and people come from far and wide to see the dolphins. But of late, these creatures have become a major tourist attraction, with many fishing boats taking tourists out on trips to view them. Many even jump into the water to swim with them.

“The problem is, although friendly, these dolphins can often be surrounded by up to 20 boats chasing after them at any one time which can cause a great deal of stress, particularly if the dolphin is feeding or nursing.”

Volunteers will also spend time on the project getting involved in helping the local community, doing beach clean-ups, village cleans, planting trees, painting and supporting local community groups such as local tour guides and youth initiatives.

Pauline Convent was a recent volunteer on the project. She said: “Being able to see more than 20 dolphins swimming all together was amazing, as was going out on the water to look for whales and getting to see them close up. I also went on several trips to little islands where we observed many different fish.

“Being the second volunteer on this new project made the experience even more special. Going out on the water every morning, watching the behaviour of the dolphins and going to different reefs has made this one of the most memorable experiences of my life by far.”

The project duration is a minimum of two weeks (which costs £1,000 excluding travel expenses) and offers volunteers the opportunity to live on a tropical island in a beautiful destination while learning about a new culture. Snorkelling and diving off Zanzibar Island is also popular. The project is located in Kizimkazi, a small fishing village located in the Menai Bay Conservation Area (MBCA) south-west of Zanzibar. For more information visit www.africanimpact.com