Chumbe island

24 August, 2008 (08:28) | Life | By: Olivier

Chumbe – a tiny corallian island on the west coast of Zanzibar – is an ecological reserve and a fascinating experiment in sustainable living.

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With the blessing of the government, a non-profit organization runs it in a way that strives to have the smallest possible impact on the surrounding nature. Researchers from around the world come here to assist the project and daytrips are frequently organized to allow children from the local schools to learn from it. There’s even a classroom built in the main house to that purpose.

All energy and light sources on the island are solar powered. The roofs of the housings are very steep, built in a way that helps collect rainwater. The water is then filtered according to its planned usage (drinking or washing).  No used water is released in the environment without having been filtered clean. No water is being imported. Garbage is kept to a minimum and taken to the mainland to be incinerated when it cannot be disposed of in a natural way.

A maximum of 14 guest are allowed on the island at any time to minimize eco-disturbance. The guests live in 7 “eco-bandas”, designed to be fully eco-sustainable – complete with dry toilets and a manual pump to push the collected water to the roof where it is heated with the help of solar panels and can then be used to take nice, short, hot showers. The provided organic soaps are made by a local women’s co-operative and there’s natural lemongrass cream to prevent mosquito bites.

All of this was made to protect Chumbe’s wonderful ecosystem. The coral garden here is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen. The island’s forest is home to rare plants, trees and creatures. The Ader’s Duiker, a smallish antelope, has been successfully introduced in the reserve’s forest in 1995. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to spot one but I did get to see the crabs species who call the island home. Mostly a lot of really big hermit crabs including the Coconut Crab which is the largest land-living arthropod in the world. I crossed path with a couple of specimen who would have fit straight in Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers!

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