Jambiani Beach and Watersports Festival – Responsible and Sustainable Tourism in Zanzibar

Have you ever seen a sea so turquoise that it seems to be illuminated? Well that’s what it looks like in Jambiani. And within that beautiful scenery there is a festival every year. This year’s Jambiani Beach and Watersports Festival took place last weekend and we went to see the activities and information they offered.

The festival is a no profit event mainly organised by Red Monkey Lodge and Coral Rock Hotel, together with many other voluntary groups, and is located on the beach section between the two hotels.

One big pavilion was called food court, where, as the name implies, you could find various food stalls offering Swahili food, paella, falafel, kebab but also temptingly sweet cakes. People could sit on beanbags and enjoy their meal together with a cold drink.

Practical Permaculture Institute offered soil, seedlings and worm juice at their stall

A second pavilion right next to the first was called the Eco Hub. This is where different NGOs were invited to gain the visitors’ interests on their missions and activities. The Practical Permaculture Institute which we visited just last week (see the blogpost on their composting workshop here) had a stall here –  selling seedlings and worm juice!

Throughout the day people of Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) performed incredible drumming sessions

DCMA (Dhow Countries Music Academy), a music school based in Stone Town, played an incredible Taarab performance on the beach and also offered a drumming and dancing workshop, Taarab is the traditional music of Zanzibar, and the young musicians play traditional and contemporary sounds. UWAMWIMA, an association of local farmers informed people about their mission to promote sustainable and organic farming in the Zanzibar Archipelago.  A rubbish collection business called Zanrec built toys out of plastic together with children to introduce them to the subject of waste management and recycling and a German travel organisation, World Unite!, offered information about their volunteering programs.

Throughout the day you could participate in sports activities like yoga, football, beach volleyball and many more. We took part in Yoga on the sandbank at low tide – an amazing experience we won’t forget. Various groups showed off their skills in breakdance and capoeira and in the evening Red Monkey Lodge offered live music while Coral Rock Hotel opened up their dancefloor.

The children could not wait to have a go down the huge bouncy slide

The local community as well as tourists and visitors from further afield seemed to enjoy the free daytime program. The dancing shows attracted huge crowds of people cheering at the performers’ risky movements. The volleyball field filled up right after being built, however we would have appreciated, if they’d kept it standing throughout the whole day so everyone could have gathered a team and played at any time. When the bouncy slide had reached its full size, there was already a long queue of children eagerly waiting for it to open.

Eric Wainaina and his Band from Kenya gave a wonderful live concert at Red Monkey Lodge

Attending the evening program, in contrast to the rest of the festival, required an entry fee and this led to the fact that only a few local people went to see the amazing live bands.

So now you might be wondering: What does all of this have to do with sustainability?

Well, first of all, the Red Monkey Lodge is a member of Responsible Tourism Tanzania (RTTZ). RTTZ is a non-profit organisation which encourages the tourism sector across Tanzania to do business in a sustainable manner. They stand for protecting and caring for the diverse cultures of the country, as well as its natural environment. To support progress they have a set of four standards which you, as a member, can achieve step by step. SEED is the first level. It “plants the seed for a responsible business future”. This is the framework for responsible management and prepares the members to plan their overall impact. The second step is called SAPLING. It has been achieved by the Red Monkey Lodge and proves that they have taken on RTTZ’s approach and now start to incorporate it, for example by training their employers accordingly. The goal is to achieve the FRUIT-level. It can demonstrate a full state of role-model and sustainable actions. As well as an ultimate change in their surrounding environment. The member then also promotes to suppliers and partners to adopt similarly responsible practices.

Local men and women tried to catch a glimpse of the artistic performances on the beach

The festival, being attended by such a wide range of people, is not only a great weekend out, but also an opportunity for all of the organisations taking part to reach out to that diverse audience and raise awareness. Also, it’s possible to see that Zanzibar’s events can tie in to a Responsible Tourism approach, and to see how Zanzibar’s society, culture and nature can benefit from the growing tourism.
Visitors and local community together can see, that whilst the beaches of Zanzibar are indeed truly beautiful, it is a delicate balance, and protecting that environment and culture is an important and complex task and that many players togethercan positively be involved.

Thanks to the organisers for an amazing event!