Ecotourism in Buturi/Lake Victoria- A Voyage of Discovery: Ecotourism in Buturi, Rorya District, Mara Region is almost non-existent. However, although Buturi is remote and isolated, it can be easily accessed via a flight from London to Dar-es-Salaam or via Nairobi. Buturi is only 22 miles from the Kenyan/Tanzanian border. Buturi is set in the middle of an area of outstanding natural beauty that stretches for more than 300km and is incredibly rich in diverse and unique natural phenomena. The geology and geomorphology of Buturi mountain and Lake Victoria are simply breathtaking, with so many formations of beautiful, granular igneous plutonic rock and stone that are millions of years old. The rock formations common to the area known as the Rock Zone (normally associated with Mwanza on Lake Victoria) are also to be found in the whole area between Buturi and Mwanza.

The Amboni caves are also close enough to Buturi for a visit to be practical. With its widely varying geological structure and multiple rivers and estuaries, Tanzania offers ideal habitats to a vast and widely varied range of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and plants. The plant life in particular merits special study in a world where water shortages are becoming increasingly common place. Most indigenous plants are geared towards optimising scarce water resources, with trees such as the neem tree, the baobab tree and the maringa tree being of particular interest. The Tanzanian national check list of birds covers 1100 species and is the 3rd highest in Africa, constituting 10% of the world avian population. Bird-watching is therefore good throughout the year, with the prime season being September-April when resident populations are boosted by European migrants over-wintering in Africa.

Tanzania contains some of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world including the Olduvai Gorge. It was here that Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the hominid fossils examined by Sir David Attenborough in his ‘Life of Mammals’ series. With more than 120 different ethnic groups, Tanzania has a vast and rich cultural diversity providing opportunities to study and encounter the indigenous tribes. This is key to development of ecotourism in Buturi/Tanzania.

Is a form of tourism focussed primarily on visiting relatively undisturbed natural areas. It is generally considered a small scale alternative to mainstream tourism and has at its heart the ethos of creating as little impact as possible on the local environment. Generally, the purpose behind ecotourism is to not only educate the traveller but also to provide funds which will directly benefit and empower local communities and environment, and to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Ecotourism is a socially responsible form of travel and usually has local flora, fauna and cultural heritage as its main attractions with the aim to encourage a lasting appreciation of our natural habitats and cultural diversity.

One of our main aims is to promote preservation and conservation in the area by educating the local people as well as the tourists who visit the region. This will be achieved by demonstrating, encouraging and practising sustainable principles, linking with other tourist agencies in Tanzania and also by working with local cooperatives.

Tanzania is rich in bio-diversity, being close to Lake Victoria and the Serengeti National Park. It is therefore one of the most sought after destinations for the tourist who wants to view or indeed study African wildlife. Tanzania has a total of 16 National Parks, covering a total of 42,000 sq. km. Each park is unique. With the area being so rich in wildlife, education, especially in preservation and conservation is essential. So our aim is to attract tourists and students to Buturi and the Mara Region firstly to learn about the biodiversity in the area and secondly to learn how to protect and maintain it.

Mainland Tanzania has 31 regions and over 120 distinct ethnic groups and tribes. The main ethnic group in Rorya district, (Ecotourism Buturi’s main focal area) is Luo. Kiswahili is the national and most used language for both mainland Tanzania, and the island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is itself divided into three regions, North Region: Mkokotoni, South Region: Koani and Urban West Region: Zanzibar City. Being an island Zanzibar has its own ecology that is quite fragile and very different from the mainland. This would be an especially fascinating study area for anyone interested in the principles of evolution, as founded by Charles Darwin.

The Economic Potential of Ecotourism in Buturi/Tanzania:

Our research has shown that Tanzania and in particular Buturi in Rorya District, Mara region is bypassed by the tourist as it is not on the tourist trail. This is due to a number of factors. The area is extremely underdeveloped, no employment, no infrastructure, no tourist hotels, only local shanty hotels and above all there is no clean water available. With the long term drought resulting from climate change, agriculture is a challenge and is sporadic even in areas where it is possible.

Buturi is set in the middle of an area of outstanding natural beauty that stretches for more than 300 kilometres, but with no infrastructure or tourist hotels no one actually stays in the area, they just pass by driving along the road that divides Lake Victoria from the mountain. There is now a huge opportunity for Government intervention here to bring in the tourists to this part of the country, and thereby lay the foundations to build infrastructure, create employment and greatly improve the lives of the people who live in the area.