15 beach operators among hundreds might sound too few to bring a real difference. But what if each of them influenced one more by demonstrating the benefits of responsible tourism.
“Beach boys”; the term is synonymous with everything negative in the society. Drugs, prostitution, theft and tourist harassment are just few among a long list of ills associated with them. Confrontation has for years been the main approach to counter all these ills; prompting the government to initiate the “Tourist Police Unit” in the 90s. Various attempts to harmonise operations between them and hotel owners have been made with very little success due to among other factors, a very hostile attitude from the beach operators and a poor undignified perception of the beach operators on the part of the hoteliers.
ARK seeks to empower and challenge these young men and women to improve their attitudes and income through environmental action. By improving their knowledge of the marine ecosystem and the biodiversity of the rock pools of Watamu, beach operators can improve their earnings through leading guided beach excursions whilst taking part in their conservation.
Mwamba Field Study Center hosted a group of 15 beach operators commonly known as ‘beach boys’ for a two day (June 19th and 20th ) interaction and sharing of ideas on how to care for our oceans and improve visitor experience.
Different topics were handled by different speakers each challenging them to be “the change they want to see”.
Briefs from the topics covered;
- Plastics and the oceans. Stanley Baya our community conservation coordinator took them through the effects of plastics in the oceans, and together they went through ways that they could help combat this menace. Why buy soda in a plastic bottle while you can buy a glass bottle that can be recycled. By that you will have reduced on the use of plastic. Take home from the session was Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle! And probably “refuse”.
- Tour Guiding. Wellington Kombe, a well-seasoned guide at Arabuko-Sokoke Forest who has been in the tourist business for 20 years gave them insights on “Rudiments of Tour Guiding” with the hope of improving their skills in leading guided tours to the marine park. Dignity as he pointed out is key to successful tour guiding.
- Corals. Though some the beach operators are involved in safaris to terrestrial parks inland, many of them operate along the beach. Peter Musembi (our Marine conservationist) and Sam Freeman (a Marine Biology major student volunteering with ARK) helped them to see the intricate relationship between Corals and fish in the marine park. They took participants through the different kinds of fish and corals and especially those found in the Watamu Marine National Park, not leaving out a reminder on best practice in snorkeling. “Do not stand on coral” is the first and foremost rule in snorkeling.
15 beach operators among hundreds might sound too few to bring a real difference. But what if each of them influenced one more by demonstrating the benefits of responsible tourism. If corals can create a livelihood, then they are worth protecting. This is the core of the trainings and ultimately the ingredient that can bring lasting harmony on our beaches.