Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Eco-Tourism In Shimoni

Hello again!

I felt it was necessary to follow up on the recent blog post about our visit to the ancient Kaya's (sacred shrines) in Shimoni forest and the potential for eco-tourism guided walks through Shimoni forest.

It was a while ago that the idea of guided forest walks was first raised. The idea came at a stage when destruction and deforestation in the forest was increasing dramatically. Friends of Shimoni Forest, the community-based organisation that GVI helped found, were discussing ways to tackle this when the subject of Shimoni's slave caves came up;

One of the success stories of community-based tourism projects in the area is the guided tours of Shimoni's Slave Caves, which date back to a time when the slave trade in Kenya was emerging. The caves are huge underground caverns that were used as a holding pen for thousands upon thousands of slaves before they were shipped to the market in Zanzibar. Today the caves are much smaller due to siltation raising the floor and blocking access to deeper chambers, but they still offer an incredible, if not markedly sombre reminder of a thankfully long-passed chapter in Shimoni and Kenya's history.

On a visit to Shimoni's slave caves, you are taken down by a local guide who talks you through the geographical origins and human history of the caves; you can even see the rusted iron rings in the walls where slaves were chained. You also get excellent close up views of the local bat population!

The Shimoni Slave Cave Committee use the caves to benefit their local communities. The flow of tourists through the caves end up paying for teachers, secondary school scholarships and medicines for the dispensary through the proceeds of their visits.

Friends of Shimoni Forest have realised that harnessing the economic benefit of tourism is the next logical step. It seems crazy after all that sitting 10 minutes walk away is a part of one of the 25 original global biodiversity hotspots, home to was is likely to be Kenya's second largest population of Angolan black and white colobus, and no one gets to see it!

The guided walks will see trained members of Friends of Shimoni Forest guide tourists on a route through the forest, firstly visiting the sacred Kaya's and then walking on through the heart of the forest to soak in the beauty of 'Mbuyu Tundu' (the forest's traditional Kiswahili name). Visitors will get to watch the charismatic colobus and energetic Syke's monkeys run through the canopy and if they're lucky, a glimpse of the Zanj elephant shrew.

All Friends of Shimoni Forest need is time and money to invest, and they will have an income generating scheme from the forest that doesn't require its destruction. And people from all over the world will have the opportunity to share in this exquisite marvel of nature. If you want to give a helping hand to this community conservation then donations can be made through the Just Giving page, linked to this blog!