If an eco-friendly holiday is on your agenda then you should seriously consider Chumbe Island Coral Park off the coast of Zanzibar. The picture-perfect tropical island, situated about 6 km west off the larger island of Zanzibar and about 30 km off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, has a stunning coral reef sanctuary and coral rag forest.

Their eco-bungalows with handmade furniture and private reserve have won awards for sustainability and zero environmental impact. If you’re looking for a Robinson Crusoe moment, you’re in the right place.


The Chumbe Island Coral Reef Sanctuary

The Chumbe Island Coral Reef Sanctuary is around 33 hectares and protected as a No-Take-Area where fishing and unauthorized anchoring is strictly prohibited.

Thanks to the efforts of dedicated individuals, this reef is untouched, virginal and is now known as one of the most spectacular shallow reefs in the region. Snorkelers can dip into the magical world of the sea without having to go deep sea diving with 200 species of coral and 400 species of fish. The Chumbe Reef Sanctuary is now also a registered marine protected area by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (established by UNEP, WWF and IUCN) in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

You could also go on a guided tour of the island’s coral rag forest – a unique ecosystem  that subsists on nutrients and moisture from the island’s coral foundation.

Chumbe Island Reef

Chumbe Reef is shallow and  a dream site for snorkellers

Eco-friendly travel to spot Rare wildlife

On Chumbe Island, you will spot the Coconut Crab – also known as the Robber crab. This cute crustacean has a unique ability to climb coconut trees and crack open coconuts, all thanks to their powerful claws they can crank open their favorite food and savor its goodness. Unfortunately this crab is hunted for its meat and used as fish bait and are becoming scarce in regions like Zanzibar. A population of more than 300 reported individuals is still found on Chumbe Island. Trained rangers can take you on an adventure in search of these nocturnal creatures.


The Aders’ duiker is a mini-antelope and ranks as one of the most threatened antelope species in the world. Only a small relict population of these amazing animals lives in Zanzibar and their population continues to dwindle due to uncontrolled hunting. An Ader’s duiker sanctuary in the Chumbe Forest Reserve was established in 1995 and monitoring procedures have been put into place. Spotting these shy babies is not easy but guests are part of our observer team and each encounter is recorded.

Marine turtles are also found in the Chumbe Reef Sanctuary. Guests can regularly spot them, they are encouraged not to disturb or touch them. Between 400 and 600 humpback whales are sighted annually between July and October off the Zanzibar coast. August and September is a good time to see humpbacks around Chumbe Island and guests can join the ‘whale watching team’.

Eco-Stay: In Harmony with Nature

The thatched eco-bungalows are designed in harmony with nature using local materials, all within 30 seconds’ walk to the beach. With the turquoise sea lapping at your feet, could you ask for more?


Photo: Craig Zendel

Rainwater Harvesting

Each bungalow collects its own supply of freshwater from the rainwater during the wet season. A highly complicated filtration system stores the rainwater in spacious underground cisterns and then whenever required the water can be hand pumped through a solar heating system into hot and cold water containers for the bathroom.


Composting Toilets

These eco-friendly toilets decompose human waste quickly and reduce it into a nutrient rich dry matter that can be used as fertilizer for the plants. This is a seriously smart toilet where the aerobic composting process is powered by a ventilation system of small wind-wheels fitted on top of long ventilation pipes. This way no sewage enters the sensitive reef and has no effect on the sensitive coral community.


Accommodation. Photo: Oskar Henriksson

Solar Power for Sustainability

The bungalows have also been designed with minimal barriers to the open air so this in turn allows maximum through-draft for cooling of the bungalows; this is actually a natural air conditioner. The light is powered by photovoltaic panels on the roof.


Solid Waste Management

Chumbe controls the number of visitors to the island and completely prevents buying of any non-biodegradable products. Food items like fruits and vegetables are composted on the island and non-biodegradable waste is brought back to Zanzibar where the island is working with a private waste operator to dispose off the waste by recycling and reuse.


Dining with a view. Photo: Jimmy Livefjord

Chumbe Island tries to work in tandem with the local people and the local population can help with the environment conservation efforts and be equally invested in it.

Sibylle Riedmiller who created Chumbe Island Coral Park in 1991 says “I campaigned for protecting the Chumbe Reef, invested into Chumbe Island Coral Park, which then became the first a private marine park in the world, as a not-for profit company where income is spent for park management and a comprehensive environmental education program for local schools.

And projects like Chumbe have become even more important with this year’s massive El Nino event around the world, corals everywhere are dying, there is a global decline of coral reefs that is now reaching catastrophic proportions, 80% even of the famous Great Barrier Reef are bleached. More needs to be done to protect coral reefs, the rain forests of the ocean, and the private sector in particular can and should take the lead here… Most welcome to Chumbe Island, you will love it.”

For more information, visit chumbeisland.com. If you’ve visited and want to leave a review, mail us at [email protected]