The Friends of Shimoni Forest is a non-profit organization focusing on the conservation of Shimoni Forest. It was set up in collaboration with GVI who provided initial funding and training. The aim of the group is raise awareness of the importance of the forest not just in terms of resource use and ecosystem services for local communities, but also in terms of eco-tourism benefits to the village. Their activities include; an indigenous re-forestation program, forest research program, active forest patrols with KWS rangers monitoring for illegal activity, alternative charcoal initiatives, the support and funding of alternative livelihoods, provision of scholarships to local school children and wildlife and conservation education to members of the local community and visiting external parties. Friends of Shimoni Forest have been offering eco-walks into the Shimoni forest’s for tourists for two years now, with support training in biodiversity research techniques from qualified GVI personnel. The Eco-walks involve tourists trekking into the forest visiting the home of endemic and rare plants and animals such as the Angolan Black and White Colobus monkey, the Black and Rufous Elephant Shrew and the critically endangered Spotted Ground Thrush. Tour guides also point out Kaya sites and provide cultural context pertaining to these.
FSF have designed a scheme of tourism activities and a new brochure which is being distributed in hospitality and tourism spots up to Mombasa. The brochure highlights both the significance of Shimoni Forest as well as promoting other local community groups and their activities, including Kisite Marine Park tours, Shimoni Slave Caves and various cultural experiences within Shimoni village. GVI provided computer training in brochure design and production, so in the future the group will be able to update and create new brochures when needed. The group is offering affordable full board home-stay experiences within the village for an authentic Shimoni experience. Alternatively tourists can receive a traditional Swahili style meal whilst learning about coastal culture. GVI staff members helped the group to identify suitable home-stay venues which had basic sanitation infrastructure. Increased tourism revenue will be invested by the group back into their core activities and objectives. The group also hopes that the brochure and organized activities will raise awareness of alternative tourism activities in Shimoni which complement the marine park experience.
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