As an MSc Ecotourism student from the University of Portsmouth I set out to come to Kenya to do my dissertation on community involvement in turtle conservation. I found out about the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust (LAMCOT) through Tusk Trust. The decision to visit LAMCOT was based on their achievement to involve the community and to link ecotourism with conservation. My aim was to find out more how the community benefits and what is being done to involve the community with turtle conservation.
My experience at LAMCOT was beyond expectation. The pioneer Carol Korshen has set up a conservation group that links tourism with conservation and which has resulted in benefits both for the community and for the wildlife. The hard work that is being done by the coordinator Atwaa Salim, the field officer Famau and the project assistant Hasanaat is very impressive. The benefits seem to extend to a large group of the community members, and there is a focus on education and awareness amongst children and adults which has made a difference in changing people’s perception of conservation. There is an extended network of people involved from tourism stakeholders, community members and local fisherman in the area who all work together to protect the turtles, which seems to be the key to success. The team has managed to build the trust and relationship with community members and as a result the benefits have extended to a large group.
One of the days spent at LAMCOT was particularly special as I got to adopt a turtle which was brought to Peponi Hotel by a group of fishermen. The whole procedure was fascinating, from measuring, tagging and releasing the turtles safely back into the sea. I could sense the excitement from the guests at Peponi Hotel and it is truly a unique experience for the guests to encounter and be part of. I also took a trip through the mangroves to Manda Island where I saw one of the nesting sites and met with the patrollers. It was amazing to see how untouched and beautiful the area is, a peaceful and natural sanctuary for the turtles to lay their eggs. As an Ecotourism student I was very pleased to witness the first hand benefit of ecotourism and community conservation, it is an experience which I highly recommend. I would like to say thank you to the people involved at LAMCOT for the unforgettable experience and their warm hospitality. My research was a huge success as LAMCOT seems to be a leader in involving the community to benefit from turtle conservation.