In the channel between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam:
A week on Chumbe Island
& in an Eco-Bungalow
| Host: Omari Nyange
Length of tour: One week, but can be shortened to as few as three days, or lengthened indefinitely
All the following activities are offered on Chumbe Island, but not normally as an organised program. Guided snorkelling and nature walks along the forest trails are done almost daily, while excursions to Zanzibar can be booked upon request with one day notice. How much of this you want to do is entirely up to you. You may also choose to only relax, meditate, lying in your hammock and watch the world pass by..
The following itinerary can be altered considerably, depending on the visitor's interests. The sequence of days may be changed to accommodate the weather, tides, interests of our guests etc...
SEVEN DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: Theme: "The Reef Sanctuary"
J.E.N.Veron, Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, Townsville, has called Chumbe Island's coral reef "One of the most spectacular coral gardens found anywhere on the world."
No fishing has been permitted here for the last seven years so the reef could return to a state of pristineness nowadays rare in the world. And, as the reef is shallow (between 1-3 meters, or 3-10 feet, according to the tides), snorkellers can see the wonders of the underwater world that are normally only accessible to divers. However, there is also a drop-off of 16 meters (52 feet) all along the Reef Sanctuary for those who like to go down skin-diving.
As soon as the tide is right, Omari will take you out in a small boat for snorkelling to the most spectacular section of the Reef Sanctuary. If you need instruction, Omari will teach you how to snorkel. He will stay with you throughout. Snorkelling can be learned in half an hour by everybody, and you can do it even wearing a lifevest if that makes it easier for you.
We also have so-called inflatable floating modules with laminated information cards. These can be placed in the reef for people to hang on to as they relax and watch the coral community. Here you will be able to see at least 90% of all stone corals recorded in East Africa, and these will be inhabited by millions of fishes and other sea creatures of all sizes, colours and shapes.
Watch out for:
DAY 2: Theme: "The Forest Reserve"
Omari will invite you to explore the network of nature trails crisscrossing the southern part of the virgin coral rag forest covering the whole of Chumbe, with trees growing out of naked fossilised coral. While appearing lush and green like a rainforest, close inspection reveals that in Chumbe a highly specialised plant community has developed that survives with little water and humus in the soil, with a dense canopy keeping the scorching sun out of the forest, air roots absorbing the moisture from the air, and fleshy waxy leaves folding up during the heat of the day to reduce transpiration. This is the Spiky Euphorbia.
Omari will help you to identify petrified stone corals and giant clams which are 15,000 years old, in the black rocky lunar landscape on the easern side of the island where salt sprays from the sea prevent vegetation.
Listen to the birds hiding in the thicket, watch out for the hermit crabs busying about everywhere, and maybe, even try to spot the extremely shy Aders' Duikers, the rarest antelope in the world. Though facing extinction they have found a large refuge on the island.
In the night, the rangers will take you to a special attraction: the endangered giant Coconut crabs ('the rhino of the invertrebrates'), the largest land crab on earth, roaming about and even able to climb trees to the very top for their food.
DAY 3: Theme: "The Intertidal Zone"
When the tide is out far enough, Omari and his rangers will take you out for a walk along the beach or even all around the island, into the intertidal area. This is an easy way for non-swimmers to learn about sea creatures!
Have a close look into little pools and crevices in the rocks. You will see juvenile fishes and a myriad of crabs, shellfishes, starfishes, oysters and other invertebrates. If the tide is not going out far enough, Omari will instead take you to explore the footpath leading down into a large intertidal cave on the island, where the seawater rises and falls with the tides, overgrown with mangroves and shaded by huge baobabs where many creatures specialised to these conditions can be observed. There is also an illustrated laminated card available that you can take down this path and sit and read on your own, taking in the peaceful athmosphere in this green shady open cave.
DAY 3: Theme: "The Historical Monuments on Chumbe Island"
With its strategic position in the shipping channel between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Chumbe Island always played an important role in navigation in the East African waters. Around the turn of the century, the Sultan of Zanzibar and the British built the massive Chumbe lighthouse from fossil coral rocks. This building still stands solid and imposing up to today, behind the eco-bungalows, as can be seen to the right.
Omari will take you to climb the 131 steps of the historical lighthouse, unchanged since 1904. In 1926 the lighthouse was fixed with a gas light that is still working today. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the turquoise seas between Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar, still plied by dhows unchanged for a thousand years, and learn about the role this lighthouse played during the infamous encounter between the warships 'Koenigsberg' and 'Pegasus' at the beginning of WWI on the 20th of September, 1914.
At the beginning of this century, lighthouses had to be tended by permanent lighthouse keepers, and accommodation was built for them. Today, the historical lighthouse keeper's house has been converted into a visitor's center (shown at the left) of the Chumbe Island Nature Reserve, with a classroom for school children visiting the park. Colourful information boards about the reef and the forest help you learn more about the many creatures you saw over the last couple of days.
And you will also dine under the huge thatched-palm roof stretching over this historical building, right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Reef Sanctuary, and enjoy your sundowner in the evenings...
The lighthouse keepers employed by the Sultan were Muslims, so there is another historical building on the island. Ask the rangers for a visit to the beautiful small mosque, built for the lighthouse keepers around the turn of the century. As the lighthouse keepers were Indians, this is probably the only Indian-style mosque in Zanzibar, and still used by the staff on the island. The many other mosques in Zanzibar town are arabic in style.
DAY 5: Theme: "Zanzibar Stone Town" (Optional, extra cost)
Today Omari takes you ashore for a day excursion to explore Zanzibar stone town.
A famous world heritage site, Zanzibar Stone Town was built over the last couple of centuries, and up to today evokes images of '1001 nights'. When the then sultan of Oman Said Seyid transferred his court to Zanzibar during the middle of the last century the island became an important trading center -- it was the world's largest producer of cloves, as well as the largest slaving entrepot on the whole of the African east coast. Zanzibar Stone Town is honeycombed with narrow, winding streets lined with whitewashed Arabic houses famous for their beautifully carved doors. A colourful market, little shops and artisans' workshops, bazaars, mosques, an historical fort and several sultan's palaces make a stroll through the stone town a most interesting adventure. Unless you take a guide, we guarantee you will get lost, but do not worry: everybody is very helpful in guiding you back to the beach where the rangers' boat will be waiting for you, to take you back to peaceful Chumbe Island.
DAY 6: Theme: "The Spice Gardens of Zanzibar" (Optional, extra cost)
Today Omari takes you ashore for a day excursion through the famous spice gardens outside of Zanzibar Stone Town.
For this you typically join a group of people to take a ride on the famous 'dalla-dalla,' open pickup cars with wooden benches fixed on the back. A local guide accompanies you out of town to visit farms with an incredible variety of spice plants, bushes and trees. You will be shown most of the known tropical spices in their natural state -- pepper, cloves, vanilla, cardamon, and others you never heard about!
DAY 7: Theme: "The Endemic Red colobus Monkeys in Jozani Forest" (Optional, extra cost)
Today Omari takes you ashore for a day excursion to visit the protected Jozani forest, the last remaining rain forest in Zanzibar. This is the home of the endemic Red Colobus Monkeys, which are so easy to see as they have become very accostumed to humans and let them come close (too close for their own safety, to be honest!).
After a ride of about an hour out of town you will enter a pleasantly cool forest with huge shady trees, shrubs and undergrowth, and lots of monkeys. Large family groups of these colourful red/black/white monkeys normally play around fruit trees, nibbling on fruits and even throwing the kernels at you! Resist the temptation to feed them, as this exposes them to the risk of contact with humans that may infect them with diseases that may kill them and wipe out a species!
In the evening return to Chumbe Island for a candlelight dinner on the cliff...
Special Note on the Eco-Bungalows
Most people find our Eco-Bungalows, one of them shown at the left, to be romantic. They offer you both privacy and the feeling of living in the open. All bungalows overlook the sea and it's just a 30 second walk to the beach and reef. They are all equipped with:
Since there are only seven bungalows (and there are not going to be more!), it will never get crowded, even if we're fully booked.
There is no fresh water source in the rocky ground of the island, so we collect rainwater from the roof during the rainy season, pass it through a natural filter and store it in spacious underground cisterns (under the living room). The water is then pumped up through a solar-powered heating system into hot & cold water containers for the shower. A view from the bungalow's bedroom is shown at the right, below.
To economize water, we have also installed Compost toilets. These eco-toilets prevent sewage (from septic tanks) seeping through the porous ground into the Reef Sanctuary, as this would lead to pollution of the fragile reef ecosystem, encourage algae growth and finally kill coral communities and organisms depending on them. Compost toilets need no flush water at all. Instead, human waste is quickly decomposed to natural fertiliser when mixed with compost (aerobic composting) in the compost chamber.
Water from the showers is recycled through plant beds so that no polluted water seeps into the Reef Sanctuary. These beds are planted with species that are demanding in water and nutrients, and therefore welcome the shower water rich in nitrates and phosphates.
Lights are powered by photovoltaic panels on the roof which should provide enough energy for normal usage.
These technologies are well known and tried out in some more advanced parts of the world where they are available 'of-the-shelf.' Here, we have to import, adapt and maintain everything ourselves, which makes managing Chumbe Island quite an expensive 'hobby' for a non-profit organisation like us!
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