Turtles, trees and divers: A week in Kenya devoted to environmentally friendly tourism
IUBH students from Bad Reichenhall and Bad Honnef travelled together with their lecturer Dr David Rempel for a week in Kenya and conducted research on environmentally friendly tourism. As the only undergraduate students, they were invited to present their findings at the “Universities, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development” conference held at the University of Nairobi. A travel report from Kevin Strehlow, an IUBH employee.
We’re off! Fifteen of us started our trip from Munich to Kenya and we will arrive tomorrow morning. Everyone is very excited about our upcoming week in Kenya.
We landed today and the real African feeling grabbed us immediately: We got our first impressions of the country by taking a safari in the Nairobi National Park. The highlight was a rare sighting of a lioness hunting a zebra. Later, we moved our way through heavy Nairobi traffic to Mully Children’s Family, a non-profit organisation dedicated to street children and, among other things, the UN initiative to plant a billion trees (UN Billion Tree Campaign). There we learned about the significance of reforestation for the environment, a topic that is pertinent to the conference we will be attending. One of the topics students will present focuses on planting trees in Kenya as a niche market for so-called eco-tourists who are interested in doing something for the environment while on vacation.
Today we spent the morning at Mully Children’s Family and planted trees with the children – the beginning of the very first “iubh forest” in Africa. Afterwards we went straight to the Nairobi airport to catch our flight to Milindi on the Indian Ocean. Here we were welcomed as the first guests to stay at SRE-Tours’ new resort. As quasi hotel testers, in exchange for low-cost accommodations we shared our perspectives on German tourism and together with our hosts, looked at how to make the resort more attractive to German tourists.
Today we could completely relax. We took a tour of the Watumu National Marine Park on a glass bottom boat and were able to go snorkelling in the world’s third largest coral reef. The grand finale of the day was a BBQ on a sand bank in the middle of the sea.
Today we dedicated the morning to our second conference topic: the Watuma National Marine Park as a travel destination for German divers. We went to a diving school where we talked with specialists about the extent to which the national park could be an attractive travel destination for German tourists. The responsible team had already done some research in Germany and found that, until now, this diving area is relatively unknown to Germans.
In the afternoon, we went to the Watamu Turtle Foundation, an organisation that does research and protects sea turtles. Injured animals are treated and then released back into the wild. In connection to the third and last conference topic – the potential for marketing marine protected areas for environmentally friendly tourism – the organisation informed us about an interesting field of activity for eco-tourists. Everyone used the evening to work on his or her presentation for the conference.
Today started off with a visit to the Gedi Ruins, the oldest Swahili stone settlement on the East coast of Africa, dating back to 800 BC. One of the major highlights was the wild monkeys who climbed on all of us. Next on the agenda was a visit to Mida Butterfly Farm. The Kenyan NGO buys butterfly cocoons from the local people and sends them to zoological facilities in the USA and Europe. The goal is to motivate the local population to preserve the last intact forests on the East coast of Africa. In the evening, we took a flight back to Nairobi.
Today was the big conference day and the students presented their findings about the three topics they investigated. In terms of planting trees, their results indicated that planting trees actual did rank second in popularity among German tourists who are interested in doing ecological work during their vacation. Most, however, are interested in taking care of animals, which is of particular relevance to the results of the marketing potential of protected marine areas. The park is a true mecca for German eco and animal protection tourists due to the park’s sea turtles, coral reefs and dugongs. The local economy could profit enormously from tourism through entrance fees and job creation. In their research on diving, the students could show that German diving tourism can make a big contribution to the local economy in Malindi and at the same time play an important role in preserving the protected marine areas. Important factors are income from entrance fees, increasing awareness of the economic value of the park as protected space and providing opportunity to actively participate in protecting ocean life.
Those attending the conference expressed great interest in the topics the students presented and many professors and international investors congratulated the students and made enquiries about their research – it was a great success. Afterwards, we had a chance to talk with Kenyan students on the university’s roof top terrace overlooking the city of Nairobi.
After a short sightseeing tour of Nairobi, we had a chance to buy local souvenirs for our loved ones at home. In the evening, we went to the airport for our flight back to Germany. Finally, we can look back on a fantastic and eventful week and enjoy positive memories.