Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP)






East Atlantic flyway


WLI Africa


Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd. (CHICOP) is a private conservation project established in 1993 in Zanzibar/Tanzania that has developed Chumbe Island into a fully managed no-take conservation area.

Chumbe is a small uninhabited island 8 miles off the coast of Zanzibar, covered by coral rag forest and bordered, on its western shore, by a fringing coral reef of exceptional biodiversity and beauty. Based on the investment proposal of CHICOP, the Government of Zanzibar gazetted this west coast reef of Chumbe Island as a Reef Sanctuary and declared the forest on the island a Closed Forest in 1994. This created probably, the world’s only privately established and managed Marine Protected Area (MPA). For more information, see

Developed with private investment (two thirds) and some donor support (one third) of around 1 million US $ and the help of about 50 volunteers, Chumbe operations are fully sustainable from 2000.

As a privately managed park, Chumbe receives no operational financial support from government or donor agencies and relies on revenue generated through small scale genuine ecotourism that supports the running costs of the MPA, various research projects, conservation and education programmes for local schools.

Over the last years, the expansion of the Education Programme to now cover all secondary schools in Zanzibar was made possible by support of between 5,000-10,000 US $/year from the WWF Marine Education, Awareness and Biodiversity Programme (MEAB), the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) funded by the South African Development Cooperation – Reef Environmental Education Programme (SADC-REEF), the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN).

The island is managed by park rangers, former fishermen from neighbouring communities who were trained by expatriate volunteers in basic reef ecology and marine biology, communication skills with stakeholders, and visitor guidance.

These rangers play a key role in enforcement of park regulations and monitoring, as well as in teaching fellow fishermen of the importance of the no-take protected area as a breeding sanctuary for marine life that restocks adjacent fishing grounds.


The Chumbe Visitors’ Centre was built in 1997-98 as part of the overall CHICOP investment into the park and opened in mid 1998. The marine and terrestrial nature trails were developed between 1995 and 1998.


The massive ruin of the former lighthouse keepers’ house situated on the cliff edge of the western side of the island has been carefully restored and converted into a Visitor Centre that accommodates the island HQ, restaurant and an exhibition and classroom area of about 50 sq m.

Like all buildings on Chumbe, the Visitor Centre was developed with state-of-the-art eco-architecture and technology, such as rainwater catchment, solar water heating, photovoltaic power, composting toilets, vegetative greywater filtration. Only biodegradable detergents and soaps are used. Organic waste is composted, other waste removed and laundry washed off the island.


Almost 40 staff work for CHICOP, almost half on Chumbe Island.

A team of seven rangers undertake all CEPA programmes.

Work Areas

Key species/features

Chumbe Island is a small coral island of c. 22 ha. formed by raised fossilised coral rock and surrounded by coral reefs and intertidal reef flats. There are c. 370 fish species and over 200 species of scleractinian coral, about 90% of all recorded in East Africa (Veron, 1997, pers. com.). The Forest Reserve, covering 80% of the island, is one of the last undisturbed ‘coral rag’ forests in Zanzibar, particularly after successful rat (Rattus rattus) eradication in 1997.

The forest has become a sanctuary for the highly endangered endemic Aders’ Duiker (Cephalophus adersi) threatened by poaching and habitat destruction in Zanzibar. Three breeding pairs were translocated to Chumbe in 2000 with support of the Zoo Munich-Hellabrunn, Gernany, Chicago Zoological Society, USA, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and WWF.

Chumbe also has the world’s largest known population of rare Coconut Crabs (Birgus latro) listed as data-deficient in the IUCN Red Book. Attracted by abundant fish, rare Roseate Terns (Sterna dougalli) bred on Chumbe in 1994.


The objectives of CHICOP are noncommercial, while operations follow commercial principles. The overall aim is to create a model of sustainable conservation area management where ecotourism supports conservation and environmental education for local schoolchildren.

While coastal communities depend on fishing for their survival in Tanzania and Zanzibar, there is little evidence of traditional reef management or awareness about the limitations of the resource. The local language, Kiswahili, has no word for ‘corals’ and fishermen refer to them as lifeless rocks and stones. Therefore, decades of dynamite fishing and other extremely destructive fishing practices caused little government and public concern.

To help improve the situation, the Chumbe Project provides environmental education, information and training to the following groups:

Park rangers the hands-on approach in capacity building and monitoring through inexpensive on-the-job training of local fishers by volunteers has produced very competent and committed park rangers. They manage the Reef Sanctuary with no other means of enforcement than persuasion of their fellow fishers.

Fishers – The rangers educate fishers by stressing the role of the protected area as a breeding ground for fish. This has proved very successful. Village fishers now generally respect the park boundaries. There is clear evidence that catches outside the boundaries have increased since the establishment of the sanctuary, the famous ‘spill-over’ effect.

Government officials – The project has also helped to raise conservation awareness and understanding of the legal and institutional requirements of government officials. Seven Government departments were involved in negotiating the project in the initial phase, followed (among other issues) by discussions on the Management Plan 1995-2005 in the Advisory Committee. This has improved political support and prepared the ground for improvements in the legal framework. Environmental legislation passed in 1996 provides for private management of protected areas.

School children – Island excursions are organised free of charge for local school children when tides are safe for non-swimmers. Many of these children come from schools within fishing communities. In 2003 alone, 778 school children and 111 teachers visited Chumbe under this programme.

Teachers – The school visits are prepared and evaluated through in-service teacher training workshops and the development of teaching aids. The aim is now to introduce coral reef ecology and related themes in the syllabi of teacher training colleges in Zanzibar.

Ecotourists – Visitors to the island are offered a wide range of nature experiences, such as guided snorkelling along marine trails in the forest sanctuary, guided walks in the intertidal zone, mangrove cave and forest trails, accompanied by environmental exhibits and information in the Visitor Centre. Accommodation is in so-called ‘eco-bungalows’ that demonstrate state-of-the-art technologies of water and waste management and energy provision.

Interpretation and exhibitry

The Visitor Centre has a classroom with display boards in English and Kiswahili about the island ecology and eco-architecture and a large mural depicting the pressures on coral reefs. In addition, there are numerous display boards around the Visitor Centre, a library containing many resources including educational files on marine life, the forest reserve, birds, bats, and Cumbe creatures in general that are found on the nature trails.

Formal (school and university) learning

Coral reefs around Zanzibar are under serious threat. Overfishing, destructive fishing practices, pollution and sedimentation have led to a decline of fish landings and increased bio-physical destruction of formerly pristine reefs. There is an urgent need to create public awareness about the need for sustainable management of these precious resources.
Formal education is not yet contributing to this. As elsewhere in the region, school education in Zanzibar is based on rote learning of extremely academic syllabi that have little relationship with the surrounding world.

Though Zanzibar is a coral island, coral reef ecology is insufficiently covered in school syllabi. Also extra-curricular activities, such as field excursions, are rarely organised, and very few children have a chance to ever visit coral reefs and coral rag forests. This is also partly due to the fact that school children and particularly girls do not normally learn how to swim and snorkel.

To help improve this situation, CHICOP has over the years conducted school excursions for secondary students and their teachers to Chumbe Island. Guided by park rangers along the nature trails in the reef and the forest, the participating children benefit greatly from the insight they gain in marine biology, forest ecology and environmental protection.
The excursions were in cooperation with secondary schools inZanzibar and consisted of one day school excursions to Chumbe Island that provided hands-on environmental education for school children, ad at the same time gave accompanying teachers a first insight in how to teach practical field based environmental education.
Though these excursions were extremely popular, it was noted that teachers did little to prepare excursions in the classroom, and to exploit this valuable learning experience for the benefit of their students after the field trip. The reasons given were that syllabi are not explicit about topics of coral reef ecology, and that teachers have not been trained for linking classroom teaching to field excursions.

So, a new phase of Chumbe Education Programmes began in 2001. This continues with development of a course programme and teaching units for these excursions, and provides teachers on-the-job training for linking these excursions to syllabi and their classroom teaching. In addition, a ‘Coral Reef Module’ has been developed for teachers to use in preparation for their trip to Chumbe.

Feedback has been extremely positive and CHICOP is now being approached by numerous schools throughout Zanzibar. The local teacher training college incorporates classes on Chumbe for all trainee teachers in Zanzibar each year, and representative from the Ministry of Education encourage teachers to introduce environmental education through field work.

Working with the Ministry, CHICOP is developig supplementary environmental education booklets following the initial format of ‘The Coral Reef Module’ for subjects ranging from ecotourism to deforestation, ecotechnology and conservation of natural resources.

These booklets will be used as a teaching resource, available for all secondary school teachers and students in Zanzibar, to advise and provide information about field based education with the ultimate aim to produce a Course Manual of exemplar teaching modules. This will give teachers and students a concrete model on how to make classroom teaching more relevant to the environment, and create awareness of coral reefs and coral island ecology that is badly needed in Zanzibar.

Since 2004 CHICOP has also increased its outreach work within schools, which has so far proven to be very successful. Not only have schools fully participated in the field excursions but have also shown great enthusiasm to undertake more field based, hands on, extra curricular learning back at the schools. One school in particular, Chukwani School (located directly opposite Chumbe Island), has developed an Environment and Coral Reed Club as part of their participation in the Chumbe Island Education Programme.
The school has created an ‘environment day’ which takes place every Monday where students participate in environment related activities such as litter picking, tree planting, composing songs and poems, designing posters etc. CHICOP and the Ministry of Education will work together to promote the development of Environment and Coral Clubs in all schools involved in the Chumbe programme, using Chukwani School as an excellent example.

Informal (general public) learning

The establishment of the Chumbe MPA would not have been possible without the Rangers ‘educating’ hundreds of fishermen on the reasons for totally closing the reef sanctuary and the forest, a very successful enforcement strategy as noted above.
In addition, various forms of educational materials have been developed for students, researchers and tourists. Biological reference literature and laminated fish guides for underwater use are available, and numerous reports have been commissioned and produced on the island fauna and flora, both marine and forest.

‘Floating Underwater Information Modules’ have been developed to aid all visitors to the MPA, accompanied by laminated information cards and identification guides depicting fishes, invertebrates and molluscs found in the reef. Nature trails and educational material are open to school children, ecotourists and local people alike.
Another important aspect of visitor education is that access to the island is limited to a maximum 14 overnight visitors. Day visitor numbers are also restricted and regulated by tides to avoid damage to corals by boats passing over in low waters.

Information folders in the ecobungalows explain features and handling of the ecotechnology, such as the compost toilet, solar water heating, solar lights. CHICOP also provides solar torches at night to avoid light pollution and protect feeding and breeding patterns of nocturnal animals. However, the most powerful environmental lesson is living these technologies that allow man to live in harmony with nature !


Peers and professional colleagues are more than welcome. Over the years numerous colleges, local and international, have participated in educational visits to Chumbe Island.

Numerous workshops with the Ministry of Education and local teachers have been held, along with training days and exchange programmes run with other educational institutions and marine/forest reserve areas.

Many of the professional volunteers working with the Chumbe Project in different fields from the early nineties have been recruited through this cooperation.


Helen Peeks, Project Manager

Phone and email numbers as above