The Chumbe Island Coral Park is a unique privately managed nature reserve developed and managed by the Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd. (CHICOP). It is a rare example of a still pristine coral island ecosystem in an otherwise heavily over fished and over-exploited area.
The reserve includes a reef sanctuary, which has become the first gazetted marine park in Tanzania, and a forest reserve.Forest Reserve
Approximately 90% of Chumbe Island is covered by one of the last remaining pristine 'coral rag' forests in Zanzibar. The Government of Zanzibar declared it a closed forest in 1994, and the management was entrusted to Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd.
Chumbe hosts a highly specialised plant community that has developed to survive without any groundwater, instead depending on capturing the moisture from the humid air and storing the rainfall during the rainy seasons. The bedrock of the island is made up of an impressive substrate of fossilized coral. You can still see the skeletal structures of corals and giant clams - a gentle reminder of the passage of time. More staggering still is the coral-rag forest. The density of the forest is spectacular, as adventitious roots thrust out in all directions and epiphytic species cling to life by wrapping themselves around all available surfaces. Researchers have taken up to four hours to transverse the 1 km stretch through the central forest reserve and the crags and caves hidden underfoot as remnant of the reef structure of this fossilized coral habitat, makes studying this environment both challenging and consistently rewarding as new discoveries are constantly uncovered. For guests the nature trails provided allow for an insight into this otherwise virtually impenetrable habitat.Coconut Crab
The rare Robber or Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) - the largest land crab on earth - is common on Chumbe Island while it is threatened elsewhere in the Indian Ocean as it is widely eaten and used in fish traps. With a carapace diameter of up to 45 cm they can climb up to the top of coconut trees and easily crack coconuts with their powerful claws. These crabs have evolved to live on land but begin their life in the sea, later adopting shells as houses for protection until they grow large enough to manage with just their hardened carapace alone.Eco Operations
Other features of operations on Chumbe that ensure minimal disturbance to the environment include:
Organic soaps produced by a local women's co-operative in Zanzibar are provided for guests.
In the process of purchasing supplies, non-organic products are avoided (i.e., plastic bags) and any unavoidable non-organic waste produced by the island is removed and incinerated in a specialised incinerator constructed by the project on the main island Unguja.
Drinking water is provided by advanced filters (made in Switzerland) located on the island. These effectively clean readily available tap water from Unguja, avoiding the need for mineral water in plastic bottles (which are still available for purchase, but are not readily encouraged, as plastic bottles are a problematic environmental hazard recently introduced into Zanzibar).
The walkways, nature trails and beach areas are not artificially illuminated at night. This protects feeding and breeding patters of nocturnal animals, and also helps preserve and view one of the most stunning attractions of Chumbe Island: the rare giant Coconut Crabs (Birgus latro). Instead, individual solar powered torches are provided for all guests that recharge each day for use each night.