Tanzania: Zanzibar--Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management

Tanzania: Zanzibar--Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management

Examine coastal ecology and natural resource management in one of the most remarkable areas of the world: the Zanzibar islands of the western Indian Ocean.

This program utilizes Zanzibar’s unique ecological context to explore specific environmental topics, including coral reef conservation, tropical forest management, and resource management. Through thematic coursework and direct field experience, you will examine issues arising from the tense juxtaposition of seasonal population growth and economic development with conservation of the local environment. You will learn to reframe notions of ecological sustainability in relation to local population needs, perspectives, and values.

Major topics of study include:

  • The challenges to the region's fragile ecosystems posed by tourism and other industries
  • Sustainable management of the region's coastal forests, coral reefs, and vulnerable fauna
  • The complex dynamics of local ecosystems in relation to resident communities
  • Terrestrial, intertidal, and marine ecosystems
This program was a life-changing experience for me, and the Independent Study Project (ISP) proved to be the most rewarding. During the ISP, I was able to live and travel safely on my own for three weeks in rural areas of Zanzibar as I studied beliefs in spirits and sacred sites. I was forced to put myself out of my comfort zone, but in doing so I realized that I had learned much more of the culture and language than I had realized throughout the semester.

Julie Bardenwerper, Gustavus Adolphus College

Marine ResearchZanzibar's geographic and ecological assets, including its extensive coastline, flora, fauna, and tropical climate, create an optimal environment to examine coastal ecology and natural resource management. The area also provides you with an exceptional opportunity to conduct research on rare endemic species such as the Pemba flying fox, the largest fruit bat in the world, and the coconut crab, the world’s largest land crab. Through thematic seminars and hands-on learning with academic and professional experts, you will explore the diversity and natural resources of Zanzibar (known locally as Unguja), Pemba, and coastal Tanzania, challenging yourself to understand the larger questions of conservation practice in the region.

The program consists of the following main phases:

  • Orientation followed by a four-week homestay in Stone Town, during which time you will take Kiswahili language classes and attend lectures at the Institute of Marine Sciences
  • A four-week period in which you will participate in seminars and conduct field assignments as part of the Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management Seminar and the Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course (including time on Pemba Island, on Chumbe Island, and in Jozani Forest)
  • One week at the University of Dar es Salaam on Tanzania’s mainland for lectures at the university and a brief safari to Mikumi National Park
  • A four-week period when you will undertake an Independent Study Project, which may focus on marine biodiversity, terrestrial ecology, issues in resource consumption, or socioeconomic factors in natural resource management.

Each program phase exposes you to different perspectives on natural resource management and development through interactions with a variety of stakeholders.

Program highlights include:

  • Lectures and excursions in conjunction with the University of Dar es Salaam and its affiliate, the Institute of Marine Sciences, in Zanzibar
  • A marine biodiversity module focused on field methodology at two marine reserves (Mbudya Island and Sinda Island) and one unprotected reef (Pange Reef)
  • Kiswahili language study and the opportunity to practice the language during two homestays: one in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and the other on Pemba Island
  • Wildlife exposure during visits to the new Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, Jozani Forest to view rare birds and endemic red colobus monkeys, and Mikumi National Park on the Tanzanian mainland, among other places
  • Excursions to Pemba Island, Misali Island Conservation Area, Chumbe Island Coral Park Ecotourism Project and Reserve, and the Kidike Flying Fox Ecotourism Project
  • Snorkeling off Bawe, Changuu, Misali, Mbudya, and Sinda Islands

By utilizing SIT's extensive regional networks, you will have the opportunity to learn through a wide array of academic, professional, and community experts. Collaboration with both government and nongovernmental agencies, as well as with the Institute of Marine Sciences, provides outstanding experiential components to the program.

Major partners include:

Stone Town

The program is based in the remarkable city of Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, distinguished for its impressive cultural and architectural legacies. The city boasts magnificent Arab architecture, bustling markets, narrow streets and alleyways, mosques, and museums. From the program’s base in Stone Town, you will examine issues in marine and coastal environments through lectures and short excursions arranged through the Institute of Marine Sciences. Additionally, you will begin Kiswahili language classes and have the opportunity to live with a host family, ensuring further immersion in the local language and culture. 

Environmental Field Study and Research

beach classroomThroughout the program, you will participate in educational excursions that complement and enhance classroom learning. One of the first is a ten-day excursion to Unguja's sister island of Pemba. Pemba, a more rural community, is the base for addressing issues affecting villagers and local fishermen. You will typically take field trips to locations such as salt farms, an essential oils distillery, a rubber plantation, a forest reserve, the Misali Island Marine Reserve, and a farmer's field school that teaches local farmers about improved agricultural techniques. Later in the program, you will spend ten days in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. You will live in a guest house near the University of Dar es Salaam, where thematic lectures and educational excursions are presented by relevant professors from different departments at the University.

Excursions relate directly to the program's Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course, which will instruct you on the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful field research. Throughout this section of the program, you will establish ideas for your Independent Study Project (ISP) and learn to properly develop your research topics.

Independent Study Project

You will spend the final part of the semester focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP provides you with an opportunity to critically examine a topic relating to the coastal ecology and natural resource management in the region. Research on certain topics can only be done in Zanzibar, as some of the examined species are unique to Zanzibar.

Past ISP topics have included examining a variety of conservation, social, and ecological issues such as pesticide use and awareness, coral reef biodiversity, amphibian ecology, alternative income projects such as butterfly farming and oyster farming, sustainable use of natural resources for building materials, the changing value of fish in a subsistence economy in relation to tourism, and the expression of environmental ethics through storytelling. Past research conducted by students on this program has served as a valuable resource to the Zanzibari government and other organizations in the region.


Previous college-level coursework and/or other significant preparation in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields, as assessed by SIT. Swimming and snorkeling proficiency is strongly recommended.

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Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

The interdisciplinary coursework in the Tanzania: Zanzibar — Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management program focuses on coastal ecology and natural resource management in the context of coastal Tanzania. Students examine the impact of human activity on the environment and the ways in which thoughtful and sustainable management of natural resources can serve both human and environmental interests. Students participate in a variety of research and cultural activities throughout the semester and learn from researchers, professionals, practitioners, and other development and conservation specialists. During the final month of the semester, students leverage their field study experience and research skills to conduct an Independent Study Project (ISP).

Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management Seminar – syllabus
(ENVI3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, examining coastal ecology and natural resource management in Zanzibar, Pemba, and coastal Tanzania. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as the University of Dar es Salaam and its affiliate, the Institute of Marine Sciences in Zanzibar.
Beginning Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH1000-1500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
Intermediate Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH2000-2500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
Emphasis is on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive beginning classes, with further language practice during homestays, lectures, and excursions.
Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
A course in environmental research methods and ethics concerning both the social and natural sciences. The main focus is on learning how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and ecological data in order to critically understand and evaluate program-related environmental issues. Topics include an introduction to the Independent Study Project; environmental field study ethics; and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Environmental research topics include designing a portfolio research project, interviewing, conducting surveys, and maintaining a field journal. Specific ecological research methods may include micro- and macrohabitat analysis, fauna and flora identification, biodiversity monitoring, population analysis, and animal behavior.
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
Conducted on the Zanzibar Archipelago or in another approved Tanzanian coastal location. Sample topic areas: turtle conservation on Misali Island; oral histories of a Zanzibari fishing village; a survey of invasive species in Jozani Forest; environmental impact of hotels in Unguja; a survey of coral genera on Chumbe Island; a survey of red colobus monkey migration corridors; ecological impacts of salt farming; environmental education in local schools; urban water use in Pemba; feasibility and impacts of seasonal closure of an octopus fishery; an assessment of community-based ecological monitoring.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

group in Tanzania

Educational excursions give you an unparalleled opportunity to examine directly the consequences of ecotourism on coastal forests and ecosystems. Excursions are carefully chosen and integrated into the overall coursework.

Many of the excursions on the program will take you directly into the water to explore marine habitats and coastal ecology. Through snorkeling, you will gain a far better appreciation of what is occurring in the Indian Ocean by examining it firsthand under the guidance of local experts. You will begin to recognize what healthy coral looks like in comparison to unhealthy coral and what types of marine life live in sea grass and the intertidal zone. Biodiversity surveys using transects and quadrats allow for practice with methodology, which you may use for your Independent Study Project. These hands-on learning experiences help you appreciate the interconnectedness of coastal ecology and a healthy biotic system.

Additional excursions may include: 

butterfly center in Zanzibar

  • The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre. The center was established to provide extra income earning opportunities for the local community while promoting conservation and sustainable use of resources. Zanzibaris farm butterflies at the center for both the onsite enclosure and international export. Opportunities for study projects include how women farmers integrate their business and family life, how Zanzibari farmers manage time constraints with butterfly production, biodiversity of butterflies in the area, management and marketing plans, and environmental education for local children.
  • The Pemba Essential Oils Distillery. Local farmers and schools are involved in the production of clove oil as a cottage industry, using the leaves rather than the more expensive buds of the clove tree. Until recently, the leaves were considered waste, but now are being distilled for their oil content and then recycled into the furnaces for the distillation process. Opportunities for projects include chemical assay and analysis of oils produced in the distillery itself compared to the field stills (clove oil and lemon grass oil), assessment of management and efficiency of the field stills, and current socioeconomic status as compared to a study done in 2007 to see where improvements need to be made.
  • The Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary. A local community on Pemba Island has turned this fruit-bat roosting site into an ecotourism destination featuring guided tours, a lookout tower, and a visit to the ruins of a fourteenth-century Arab-Swahili town. SIT students on their Independent Study Projects have assisted the village committee in developing and promoting ecotourism and conservation of this endangered species. There are opportunities for future studies focusing on marketing, management, training of guides, and biology and behavior of the bats to provide baseline data for the management of increasing numbers of visitors to the colony.
  • Travel to Pemba Chumbe Island Coral Park. A privately owned marine sanctuary on an island off the southeast coast of Zanzibar, Chumbe Island Coral Park is home to the rare coconut crab and a stunning coral reef. During a one-day excursion, you will be introduced to low-impact tourism and environmental education. The park also hosts Zanzibari school groups for special educational field trips, providing the first exposure ever to coral reefs and marine resources for some of these students. Opportunities for projects include monitoring the coconut crab (population dynamics and distribution), as it is currently listed as 'data deficient' with the IUCN.
  • Mikumi National Park. A visit to this national park is a chance to see some of Tanzania's famous wildlife in their natural environment and to learn more about mammals, birds, and reptiles and their habitats.


Excursions will give you hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to further illuminate thematic coursework and other classroom learning.

The SIT staff worked tirelessly to help me have a great semester. They were ready to assist me with any issue or answer any question I had but also didn’t hold my hand or stop me from trying new things. They didn’t shelter me from the difficult realities of developing nations. I felt that the SIT staff beautifully balanced supporting us with challenging us, and I hope that they understand how large an impact they have on the lucky students who arrive on the program each semester.

Tyler Plante, Franklin and Marshall College

Jonathan Walz, Academic Director

Jonathan Walz’s expertise concerns the anthropology and historical ecology of eastern Africa and the western Indian Ocean. He has conducted multiple research projects in Tanzania, Uganda, and India and has many publications, including refereed journal articles and book chapters. Jonathan’s scholarship emphasizes long-term human settlement and ecological change as well as issues related to Africans’ use of contemporary landscapes, seascapes, fauna, and medicinal plants.

As a short-term graduate student at the University of Dar es Salaam, Jonathan studied Swahili language and East African history and ecology. Eventually, he completed his PhD at the University of Florida as a foreign language and area studies fellow at the Center for African Studies. Funded by Fulbright-Hays, his doctoral research produced a history of human settlement and environment for the region between the Swahili Coast and the Eastern Arc Mountains of northeastern Tanzania.

Previously, Jonathan taught for three years in the Interdisciplinary Honors Program at the University of Florida and, then, for five years at a liberal arts college, where he won multiple teaching awards and internal and external research funding for projects in the Indian Ocean region. He is the co-founder of the Institute for Indian Ocean Heritage and serves as a research associate at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Jonathan aspires to be an active and critically minded teacher and learner. He and his scholarship engage African communities and their natural and cultural heritages and futures in an era of rapid social and environmental change.

Additional Staff

Said OmarSaid Hamad Omar, Program Assistant

Said has served as program assistant with SIT Study Abroad for more than a decade. His responsibilities include helping to coordinate the students’ daily activities, academic schedule, and excursions; assisting the academic director; and advising students on Zanzibari culture.

Said received a diploma in fisheries science from Kunduchi Fisheries in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He holds a BSc (Hon) in zoology and botany from the Open University of Tanzania 2011 and is currently working toward a master’s degree in environmental studies (MES) from the Open University of Tanzania. The title of his thesis is “Abundance and species composition of crabs in undisturbed and disturbed mangroves caused by salt pans in the eastern coast of Pemba.” Previously, Said worked with fishermen and coastal villagers both in Pemba and Unguja. He has a long history of working to increase conservation awareness of both marine and terrestrial natural resources in conjunction with forest and fisheries departments in Tanzania.

Zuleikha Makame and Ali Said, Office Managers

Zuleikha became the office manager at SIT after completing her degree in public administration from the University of Zanzibar in 2012. Her responsibilities involve administration and overseeing the library in both physical and electronic form.

Ali has been with the program since 2007 and has a background in business. He helps coordinate logistics for students and the program.

AbdullahBiAsia Abdullah, Swahili Language Coordinator

BiAsia is the coordinator of the program’s Kiswahili language course. She is a trained teacher from Zanzibar who has taught with the SIT Tanzania-Zanzibar program since 1998. She has been a language teacher for more than forty years.

MukriAnuna Mukri, Homestay Coordinator

Anuna Mukri joined SIT in 2009 as a homestay mother. She was recently appointed homestay coordinator. Anuna studied professional beauty care and hairdressing in Canada for two years and is also a successful business woman. She has traveled to India, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada. Anuna enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures. She is also an excellent cook.

Moza Said Salim, Homestay Coordinator

Moza Said Salim has more than 30 years of teaching experience. She has worked in the Zanzibar English Language Improvement Project as an English Language Training (ELT) teacher trainer and at a teacher center in Zanzibar as a primary-level teacher trainer. She is a women’s coordinator in the Zanzibar Teachers Union and serves as a chairperson at the NGO Community Development and Environmental Conservation of Zanzibar. In 2009, Moza established STAR, a nursery school designed to support the community in her home island Pemba as it implements Zanzibar’s newly adopted government education policy. In 2007, Moza joined SIT Study Abroad as a homestay coordinator for the Tanzania-Zanzibar program.

JiddawaiNarriman Jiddawi, Program Coordinator

Ms. Jiddawi is a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam's Institute of Marine Sciences. She has been program coordinator of the SIT Tanzania-Zanzibar program since its inception. Ms. Jiddawi has a PhD in marine biology from the University of Dar es Salaam (2000); her thesis was a study on the age, growth, reproductive biology, and fishery of Indian mackerel (rastrelliger kanagurta) in Zanzibar. Dr. Jiddawi also holds an MS in fisheries biology and management from the University of North Wales and a BS in zoology/botany/education from the University of Dar es Salaam. For a comprehensive outline of Ms. Jiddawi's research and teaching experience, as well as a listing of her publications, please click here.

Lecturers for this program typically include:

RichmondMatthew Richmond, PhD

Matt Richmond is a marine biologist with a PhD from the University of Wales, Bangor. His doctoral thesis focused on the biodiversity and biogeography of shallow-water flora and fauna of the Western Indian Ocean. Mr. Richmond edited A Field Guide to the Seashores of Eastern Africa and the Western Indian Ocean Islands (now in its third edition), which is the textbook for SIT’s Zanzibar coastal ecology program.

Dr. Richmond has over 20 years of professional experience with diverse tropical marine environmental issues (mainly in East Africa), including oil/gas exploration, artisanal fisheries, environmental education, and taxonomy. He has extensive consultancy experience involving environmental impact assessments (EIAs), coastal zone management, and conservation. Dr. Richmond has worked with diverse international NGOs, the World Bank, BBC, and the Tanzanian government, among other entities. His field research includes surveys of crown-of-thorns starfish and coral spawning on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, fisheries data collection on the Falkland Islands, and crustacean taxonomy for Operation Raleigh’s “Pacific Island Crossing” expedition.

He is an accomplished diver and underwater photographer, as well as writer, speaker, and lecturer. He is equally at home teaching intertidal biodiversity to students in the field and working as an expert witness for governmental EIA proceedings.

Dr. Richmond teaches a module on coral reef research and serves as an ISP advisor for the SIT Zanzibar program.

Professor Charles Lugomela, PhD,  SIT Lecturer and Program Coordinator at the University of Dar es Salaam

Professor Lugomela holds a PhD in plant physiology from Stockholm University, obtained in 2002; an MSc in marine biology and BSc. in zoology and marine biology from the University of Dar Es Salaam, obtained in 1996 and 1993, respectively. Today, he is an associate professor at the University of Dar es Salaam as well as the university’s director of Knowledge Exchange. Previously, he served as head of the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries (December 2010–March 2015).

Prof. Lugomela’s ongoing research projects include:

  • Knowledge Sharing, Research Dissemination, and Communication: A Case of Integrated Aquaculture and Agriculture (IAA). This two-year (2014–2015) outreach project aims to support the efforts of universities to contribute to solving major societal challenges through communication and dissemination of research findings at all stakeholder levels.
  • Projections of Climate Change Effects on Lake Tanganyika (CLEAT). This is a five-year (2015–2019) project that aims at improving regional knowledge about climate-driven changes in water quality and fisheries in Lake Tanganyika.

His numerous publications include articles in refereed journals, books chapters, conference proceedings, and consultancy reports.


The program offers you two distinct homestay experiences to enable you to experience both urban and rural environments. Families typically tend to be middle-class, but the middle-class standard of living varies considerably between urban and rural settings.

Your Zanzibar homestay families will welcome you into their family and involve you in many aspects of family life. You will share responsibilities such as cooking, attending religious celebrations, and visiting family friends and relatives. Typically, a student's absorption into a local family facilitates their acceptance and integration into the larger community.

Stone Town

homestayYou will have a four-week homestay with a Swahili family in historic Stone Town, a remarkable city and UNESCO World Heritage site. During your stay in Stone Town, you will study and practice Kiswahili in the classroom and at home with your family. Throughout the homestay experience, you will participate in and learn more about the day-to-day cultural activities of your family, allowing you to experience Islamic traditions in the Zanzibari context. Your homestay family can help you make contacts for your Independent Study Project. Many students stay in touch with their Zanzibari families long after their return to the US.

Pemba Island

You will have a one-week homestay with a family on Pemba Island, the other large island in the Zanzibar Archipelago in addition to Unguja. Situated approximately 50 kilometers to the north of Zanzibar, Pemba is rural, with ancient forests, abundant agriculture, and a strong cultural identity. During this homestay, you will be immersed in a close-knit community and experience only sporadic electricity and, possibly, a rationed water supply. Sharing daily life with a family living close to the environment will give you a chance to experience how local people use natural resources.

Other accommodations during the program include guest houses, small hotels, and university housing. In some semesters, the group may do some camping where permitted.

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Special Assistant, Office of the General Counsel, Washington, DC
  • Research Assistant / Grad Student (MA in marine affairs), School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • Assistant Field Director, Center for American Indian Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Arizona
  • Fisheries Technician, Normandeu Associates, Inc., Westmoreland, New Hampshire
  • Community Organizer, Sierra Club, Missouri

Program Dates: Fall 2016

Program Arrival Date:  Aug 20, 2016

Program Departure Date:    Dec 2, 2016

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Jun 1, 2016


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $15,185

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Zanzibari culture and society
    • Coastal resource management
    • Coral reef conservation
  • Environmental Field Study Seminar on research methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in Swahili
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Pemba Island, Jozani and Ngezi Forests, Mikumi National Park, Misali Island Conservation Area, Chumbe Island Coral Park Ecotourism Project and Reserve, and the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $2,790

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Stone Town, Zanzibar), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
  • All homestays (four weeks in Stone Town and one week on Pemba Island)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 100

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 100

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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