MARINE GARDENS OF THE TANZANIAN COAST
On reading ‘Why are the Italians Not Coming to Mafia’ in the last issue of the Bulletin I was filled with alarm at the idea of Italian tourists, or tourists of any sort Whatsoever, flooding into Mafia. I have never visited the Mafia group of islands myself but know that their beautiful and special marine life is something to be preserved from the pollution and damage experienced further up the coast of Tanzania and Kenya. Dynamiting of fish; collecting for the marine curio trade; the pressure of tourism; and, pollution from sewage have all contributed to reef and marine life destruction.
The main attraction of Mafia is its game fishing and marine life so if any benefit is to be reaped from tourism there, conservation must go hand in hand with development.
I understand there is a modern style Fishing Lodge which possibly needs upgrading but cannot conceive why it should be necessary to enlarge the airport as long as small planes are available. The island is only 152 sq. miles and largely covered by coconut plantations. Is it possible for a tourist to arrive by sea? I feel this would be ideal.
Peter Marshall wrote in ‘Journey Through Tanzania’ (1984) “In the limpid water of the Indian Ocean myriads of brightly coloured fish – such as the damsel, angel and lion fish – sway luminously amongst the delicate coral formations. On the sea-bed, crabs, squirts, starfish, sea cucumbers and shells of all colours and sizes add to the irridescent ballet of underwater life. The extremely rare ‘dugong’ or sea-cow also comes to breed amongst the swaying sea grasses. Ancient mariners believed it was a mermaid … The Mafia Channel, breeding ground for the great white shark, also has a large population of giant turtles which can be seen swimming by. During the north-east monsoon the turtles come to lay their eggs on the white corraline sand of the small uninhabited islands to the east of Mafia. The area is an extremely rich habitat … It would be tragic if these magnificent marine gardens of the Tanzanian coast disappeared.”
Some legal protection has been proposed for the area: Chole Bay and Tutia Island were declared Marine Reserves in 1981 but no regulations have yet been implemented. It has been further recommended that the Rufiji Delta and the entire Mafia area should become a biosphere reserve (U.N.E.P. and I.U.C.N. ‘Coral Reefs of the World’. 1988). The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is responsible. Can we know what is being done about this please?
With reference to ‘Kilimanjaro Centennial’ (Bulletin No 32) I would like to add that another explorer’s anniversary, that of the three-month visit of J.J. Thomson in 1883 to Mangi Mandara at ‘Old’ Moshi and his excursions up the mountain was marked by a re-enactment, based on his journals, in June 1954 performed in the quadrangle of the then ‘Old’ Moshi School by pupils, with one of them, the great great grandson of Mangi Mandara, in the role of his forebear.
It was good to see (Bulletin No. 32) a list of University links between Tanzania and the UK since I suspect that many people are not aware of their range and number. In this regard, I would like also to mention that the Sociology link is co-ordinated from Hull University but also includes links with the Universities of Glasgow and Cambridge. The Cambridge side of the link, is over ten years old. It is focussed on the Cambridge University African Studies Centre and Churchill College, and it has been very valuable for creating and maintaining research and teaching interests on both sides. At present two staff members of the Dar es Salaam Department of Sociology are with us here in Cambridge and we expect a Cambridge visitor to be in Dar quite soon. I will be glad to provide further information for those interested.
Chairman, African Studies Management Committee