Eco-tourism has demonstrated a great potential in sustaining the long-term future of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Given the rare and unique wildlife in these areas, the potential for income generation from Eco-tourism is high.
ASSETS is promoting Eco-tourism by providing facilities which allow visitors a more in-depth experience of the sites. A hanging mangrove walkway and bird hide has been constructed at Mida Creek and a tree house is located next to the palace at the old ruined swahili city of Gede. All the proceeds from the entrance fee at these facilities go directly into the ASSETS Eco-bursary fund for Secondary School scholarships.
The Mida hanging walkway and bird hide was the first Eco-tourism facility to be constructed by A Rocha Kenya for ASSETS. This is a 260m long walkway hanging on suspended galvanized steel cables with a small structure at the end (the hide) for bird-watching and viewing the creek.
This facility is strategically placed overlooking a high tide roosting site for over 5,000 water birds. A small reception information center is situated at the entrance to the Creek from where the operations are managed. Five highly trained guides are available at the reception for interpretation of the habitat and general guiding of visitors.
Upon paying a minimum entry fee of Ksh350/= (3.5USD) for non residents visitors or Ksh100/= for Kenyan citizens, one is guaranteed a life time memorable experience of the extremely complex Mangrove ecosystem of Mida Creek. This facility whose operation is being managed by A Rocha Kenya through a memorandum of agreement is the property of Muvera wa ASSETS.
GEDE TREE PLATFORM
Until 2005, the Mida Creek Bird hide was the only functioning Eco-tourism undertaking for ASSETS. In 2006, a new facility was put up at Gede National Monument in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya with funds jointly donated by WWF (Netherlands), Tourism Cares for Tomorrow, ICCO Netherlands and the Geneva Global Foundation.
This platform is 6m wide and rests 16m above the ground on a huge baobab tree in the heart of Gede Ruins. The facility which now needs a complete makeover, provides a spectacular bird's eye view of the palace of the 13th century Swahili city. The platform was officially opened on 21st June 2007. Ksh100 is charged to residents and Ksh150 to non residents who use the facility on top of the entry fee being charged by the national Museums of Kenya.
The ticketing at this facility is being done by former beneficiaries of the ASSETS program upon graduation from Secondary School. The Gede Ruins forest is part of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Eco-system and hosts the rare Golden-Rumped elephant shrew as well as the endangered Spotted ground thrush. ASSETS seeks to raise awareness about the ecological importance of this habitat among the communities living adjacent to it.
Unlike other Eco-tourism projects, which provide direct benefits only to those offering visitor services (such as the guides themselves), ASSETS channels the funds from Eco- tourism equitably throughout the communities around the forest and creek. Community projects such as building clinics and schools are of great benefit to the local areas. However, ASSETS will have an even greater impact by spreading benefits throughout all of the secondary schools in the target area. Additionally, because the project is long term, the communities will continually be aware of how they are benefiting from the sites.
More Eco-tourism ventures are being sought to supplement the already existing ones. A feasibility study to establish the viability of a tree canopy cafe at Gede Ruins and self-service Eco-bandas in Arabuko Sokoke Forest is being looked into. A Rocha Kenya and Turtle Bay Beach Club will be conducting conversations to agree on conducting an annual mountain bike race through the forest to Mwangea Hill. Sponsorship is being sought to enable this.