Your Eco Contribution in Zanzibar
The great news is that you as a traveler have the possibility to support the principles of ecotourism with each of your actions. Whereas one could believe that the contribution from only one person might be small, think about the bigger picture and the change a large number of people can have towards responsible travel and ecotourism if everyone follows a couple of simple guidelines. The following guidelines are specially adapted to Zanzibar taking into account its challenges and limits of being an island.
Travel with the essentials
Try to pack light and think twice about the things which you are likely to dispose of during your holiday in Zanzibar such as magazines, batteries which are almost empty or any form of plastic. Zanzibar does not count with a waste management system which is comparable to most western countries where many households separate their waste. Much of the non-separated waste is disposed of in official and non-official landfills where it contributes to soil, air and water pollution.
Choose your tourism facilities wisely
You are the one having the biggest power – the power of choice. When choosing your tourism facility such as accommodation or a day-tour operator ask beforehand what practices they apply in terms of waste management, energy and water efficiency, local community involvement and environmental protection activities just to name a few. The more the customers request such information the more the companies in Zanzibar are rethinking about what’s important to their customers and what needs to be done in order to sustain tourism.
Use energy and water with care
Consume water and energy wisely and try to limit the use of the air conditioning whenever you can. Check if the hotel has an on-request towel and linen change policy and make use of it to only have them changed when necessary keeping in mind that at home you most likely do not change your linen and towels on a daily basis.
Photograph with respect
Ask permission if you take pictures of close-ups of persons and restrain from posting pictures to social media without their consent. Try to think if you would like to be added to the internet without permission and keep in mind that the right of privacy applies to the Zanzibaris as much as it applies to anyone.
Buy local and haggle responsibly
Among others, ecotourism aims at benefiting the local communities in an economical way. You can contribute to the economical well-being of the locals by buying at the local market in Darajani and Mwanakwerekwe, from street food stands and local restaurants. Nine times out of ten the prices which are not fixed by a menu or price tag you are not being told the final price – this is just part of the Zanzibari culture and is done with locals and foreigners alike.
Whereas haggling is common when it comes to buying clothes the food and produces on the market and food stands usually follow a fixed (although invisible) price scheme. Try to get a feeling for the local prices with the help of your accommodation or guide and try to haggle in a responsible way, meaning it is ok to want to pay the local price but it is questionable if this has to be done up until the last shilling or even below. Prices for public transport in Zanzibar are fixed by the government and should neither be haggled nor should you pay a higher price for it.
Interact & respect local culture
Zanzibaris are very friendly, peaceful and tolerating people. They love to greet foreigners and are always up for a chat with them. Try to read and learn about their culture and culture norms before arriving in Zanzibar and make yourself familiar with the dress code.
Zanzibar is clearly a muslin region where women cover their head and wear colorful clothes wrapped around their body from neck to toe. Whereas this is not expected from tourists it is considered as very offensive and disrespectful if tourists wear bikinis, miniskirts, mini shorts and tops showing their belly bottom in the city or villages.
The way you dress is one aspect which is immediately perceived by the locals and contributes to either a favoring or not-so-favoring image of the foreigners.
Give with reason
Zanzibar is no exception to many regions in the world where the income between the tourists and locals differ greatly hence there is a chance you might come across children especially at some beaches who ask for money. Keep in mind that you only foster the image of the always giving (white) person further when handing out money or supplies feeding into the perception that it is more lucrative to beg than to go to school and earn a living with an actual job. Randomly giving out money or supplies does not improve their well-being in a sustainable way as they can not rely on this source of income on a constant basis.
We advise you to search for local organizations and donation possibilities which know the exact needs of the local communities. Many hotels work together with the local schools and hospitals and know exactly what is needed.
Conserve the environment
Although Zanzibaris might not have the same understanding when it comes to waste management be a leading example and do not through waste away where it does not belong. Keep also in mind that the greatest contributor to the waste on the island is the hospitality industry.
Try to eliminate plastic as much as you can, for example through refilling the same water bottle again and again. Try to avoid plastic soda bottles and rather opt for the glass bottles as they are taken back by the beverage company.
When you are snorkeling keep your distance from coral reefs and when swimming with dolphins restrain from petting the wild animals. Avoid at all means to buy crafts from endangered animals or plants.