Conservation & Community at Vamizi Island
Conservation has been a strong driver at &Beyond Vamizi Island even before its six luxury villas were opened, with a Conservation Team present on the island from 2005.
&Beyond’s core ethos of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, and Care of the People has become an intuitive part of the way that we operate and has allowed us to positively influence more than 9 million acres of protected wildlife land. With the recent expansion of our island portfolio, the plight of the world’s marine resources and sensitive habitats has broadened the reach of our wildlife conservation initiatives to include the protection and sustainability of our seas with Oceans Without Borders – a call to preserving our marine eco-systems.
The island is situated in a marine sanctuary that was established by the local Fisheries Council and covers much of the eastern side of the island, extending to three
kilometres (almost two miles) out to sea.
Representing a “no-take” fishing zone, this sanctuary is a prime example of cooperation between communities, government and tourism entities, the model that &Beyond was established upon. With the island’s community a long-standing partner in Vamizi’s conservation efforts, the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with them, to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the island, was recognised and the Friends of Vamizi Trust was established in 2012. The trust’s focus is on education and income-generating initiatives; raising funds for key community and conservation projects, with the long-term aim to protect the marine resources of northern Mozambique.
Oceans Without Borders
Building on the incredible influence we have on protected wildlife land, &Beyond is expanding its focus on wildlife conservation to include the preservation and sustainability of our seas with Oceans Without Borders. At the heart of Ocean Without Borders’ marine conservation efforts lies &Beyond Vamizi Island. The permanent team at the island’s Research Centre includes marine and conservation biologists as well as conservation monitors who are passionate about protecting the island’s sensitive eco-systems. Their combined wealth of experience will also be shared with the teams at &Beyond Mnemba and Benguerra Island. The highlighted Oceans Without Borders project at Vamizi is tagging and recording the movements of grey reef sharks - one of the very few congregations of these sharks on the east coast.
&Beyond Vamizi and the surrounding islands represent one of the world’s most important regions of bio-diversity, with over 180 different species of coral and more than 300 species of reef fish recorded to date.
Grey Reef Shark Tagging
Another tagging project run on the island relates to grey reef sharks, large congregations of which are regularly spotted at the Neptune’s Arm dive site, situated within easy reach of the island, at certain times of year. The group is one of the very few known aggregations along the East African coast, where shark populations are severely threatened. As all the sharks in this aggregation are mature females, there is speculation that this behaviour has something to do with reproduction. &Beyond Vamizi has initiated a programme to help research this phenomenon and gain crucial information about the species by tagging the sharks and recording their movements throughout the year.
Green Turtle Breeding Site
Like &Beyond Mnemba Island, &Beyond Vamizi is a significant breeding site for green sea turtles, boasting Mozambique’s largest recorded population of the threatened species. With one of the longest-standing turtle monitoring programmes in East Africa based on the island, Vamizi’s Conservation Monitors patrol the beaches daily to monitor and record new turtle activity. Between December and July, the turtles’ breeding season, the Monitors carefully tag each turtle with a unique number, recording data related to their movements and the number of eggs laid. Once the babies hatch after a period of between 50 and 60 days, the Conservation Monitors keep a close eye on all hatchlings, ensuring their safety until they reach the ocean.
A Woman’s Association has been established to promote equality, empower women and provide business opportunities. The women have built a Cultural Centre on the island where they produce traditional woven handcrafts such as baskets, bags and mats, which may be purchased. The women are also trained in theatre and take part in theatrical education programmes about conservation and health issues.
A primary school was built on the island and was handed over to the community in October 2011. Prior to this, there was no school on Vamizi. Outside of the curriculum, the Vamizi Conservation Team educates the children in environmental issues and the fragile human/nature relationship. Education programs in the wider community are also carried out e.g. health, waste management, social issues and environmental protection.
A Community Clinic, staffed by a government health worker, has been built and capacity building workshops are regularly carried out in the community including HIV, malaria, cholera, hygiene and nutrition education.
Natural Resources and Agriculture
In 2008, an Agricultural Association was created in Olumbe, a village with fresh water on the Mozambican mainland opposite Vamizi. The Association now supplies the private villas and surrounding communities with fruit and vegetables. A Waste Management Group has also been created to collect and burn rubbish on the island.
The first project to build a Vamizi Identity included the creation of four football teams, two lodge teams and two community teams. These teams play regularly in the villages of Kivuri and Aldeia.