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Zanzibar Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management

Explore ecology, natural resource management and sustainability in Tanzania-Zanzibar, on the islands of Unguja, Mafia, and Pemba in the Western Indian Ocean, and mainland Tanzania.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework, ability to swim

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Sep 2 – Dec 15

Program Countries


Program Base

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study ecology in Tanzania?

Zanzibar’s extensive shoreline, unique flora and fauna, and tropical climate are ideal for exploring conservation and management of coral reefs, inter-tidal zones, and tropical forests. From your coastal base in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, gain a deeper understanding of biodiversity, conservation areas, and ecotourism projects. Study rare or endemic species, such as the hawksbill sea turtle, Pemba flying fox, and Zanzibar red colobus monkey. Meet officials at Zanzibar’s Department of Forestry and the Institute of Marine Sciences to hear their perspectives on natural resource management. Learn and practice speaking Kiswahili during your homestays in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and on Pemba Island. Understand the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful field research, and partner with experts on an independent study project of your choice. Examine issues in marine and coastal environments through short excursions. Observe wildlife while snorkeling off of Bawe, Chumbe, Kwale, Misali, and Mnemba islands. You’ll also visit Pange Reef and Sandbar.


  • Delve deeply into ecosystems of the Indian Ocean and the islands of Tanzania-Zanzibar.
  • Learn marine and terrestrial field methodologies on Unguja and Pemba islands.
  • Study the sustainability of coral reefs, coastal forests, and vulnerable fauna and flora.
  • Observe rare and endangered wildlife, such as whale sharks and coconut crabs.


Previous college-level coursework and/or background in environmental studies, ecology, biology, wildlife conservation, the blue economy, or related fields or topics, as assessed by SIT. Swimming and snorkeling proficiency is strongly recommended.

program map



Spend eight days on Pemba island, which lies north of Unguja, living in a rural community and speaking with farmers and fisherfolk about local issues. See fruit-bat roosting sites and ecotourism destinations, and the ruins of a 14th-century Swahili town. Other trips typically include 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 agricultural techniques.

Dar es Salaam

In Tanzania’s largest city, you’ll spend a week living in a guesthouse near the University of Dar es Salaam, where you’ll hear lectures and go on a safari at Mikumi National Park, featuring some of Tanzania’s famous wildlife. Learn more about the local animals, while studying urban ecology, engaging in conservation efforts, and exploring the complexities and outcomes of case studies in natural resource management from multiple standpoints, including those of the communities.


Visit Chumbe Island Coral Park, a privately owned marine sanctuary off Zanzibar’s coast that is home to the rare coconut crab and a stunning coral reef. During this one-day excursion, gain a better understanding of low-impact ecotourism and environmental education initiatives. Also see Marine Cultures, which provides extra earning opportunities for members of the community while promoting sustainable use of ocean resources. Zanzibaris farm seaweed and sponges for both the onsite center and international export.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Use Kiswahili to perform tasks, such as self-introductions, appropriate greetings, direction queries, market interactions, and summaries of experiences. 
  • Describe challenges and solutions to the use and management of natural resources in Zanzibar. 
  • Explain field survey techniques and methods used to study coastal, marine, and forest habitats. 
  • Create and present a management plan for coral reefs. 
  • Compare protected and unprotected forest and marine environments in terms of threats to them and innovative solutions to ensure their resilience.
  • Design an ethically sound project with specific natural and social science field methodologies to collect primary data. 
  • Utilize the acquired cross-cultural, interpersonal, field research, and general coping skills to carry out an Independent Study Project. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of 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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • How fragile ecosystems are challenged by tourism and industry
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  • Sustainable management of coastal forests, coral reefs, and fauna
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  • Dynamics of local ecosystems in relation to resident communities
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  • Terrestrial, intertidal, and marine ecosystems
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  • Research on a topic of choice as part of Independent Study Project

Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management Seminar

Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management Seminar – syllabus
(ENVI3000 / 4 credits)

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
(SWAH1004-1504 / 4 credits)

Intermediate Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH2004-2504 / 4 credits)

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 or intermediate classes, with further language practice during homestays, lectures, and excursions.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 4 credits)

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. The course includes an introduction to the Independent Study Project and reviews of environmental field study ethics, and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Topics addressed include research project design, interviewing, conducting surveys, and maintaining a field journal. Specific ecological research methods may include fauna and flora identification, population analysis, animal behavior, biodiversity monitoring, and habitat analysis.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in the Zanzibar Archipelago. 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 on 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.

Sample ISP 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 on Unguja
  • Pesticide use and awareness
  • Survey of coral reef biodiversity
  • Amphibian ecology
  • Butterfly and oyster farming as alternative incomes
  • Sustainable use of natural resources for building materials
  • Changing value of fish in a subsistence economy in relation to tourism
  • Expression of environmental ethics through storytelling

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Stone Town

Spend four weeks with your Swahili homestay family in historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site boasting magnificent Swahili architecture, vibrant markets, winding streets, and mosques and museums. Study and practice the Kiswahili language, both in the classroom and at home, and participate in the day-to-day cultural activities of your family, allowing you to experience Islamic traditions in the Zanzibari context.

Pemba Island

On Pemba Island, the other large island in the Zanzibar Archipelago, you will have an eight-day homestay. Situated approximately 50 kilometers to the north of Zanzibar, Pemba is rural, with ancient forests, abundant agriculture, and a strong cultural identity. Live with a local family in a close-knit community, experiencing only sporadic electricity and, possibly, a rationed water supply. Learn what it’s like to share daily life with a family living close to the environment.

Career Paths

Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Special assistant at the Office of the General Counsel, Washington, DC

  • Research assistant / graduate student (M.A. in marine affairs) at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

  • Assistant field director at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for American Indian Health, AZ

  • Fisheries technician at Normandeu Associates, Inc., Westmoreland, NH

  • Community organizer for the Sierra Club, MO

Faculty & Staff

Tanzania: Zanzibar Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management

J. Richard Walz, PhD bio link
J. Richard Walz, PhD
Academic Director
Chacha Mwita, PhD bio link
Chacha Mwita, PhD
Program Coordinator at the University of Dar es Salaam
Hafida Abdulla Ahmed bio link
Hafida Abdulla Ahmed
Homestay Coordinator
Moza Said Salim bio link
Moza Said Salim
Homestay Coordinator
Narriman Jiddawi, PhD bio link
Narriman Jiddawi, PhD
Program Coordinator
Said Hamad Omar, MSc bio link
Said Hamad Omar, MSc
Program Associate

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown

    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact [email protected] for more information.

    Accessibility Overview
  • Sustainability in Zanzibar

    Here are the steps we take to mitigate our environmental and community impact in Zanzibar.

    Sustainability in Zanzibar
  • Q and A: Jonathan Walz, Academic Director

    Jonathan “Richard” Walz has been academic director of SIT Tanzania-Zanzibar since 2016. We chatted with him to find out more about his work and program.

    Learn More

Alumni Testimonials

Here is what alumni of the Tanzania: Zanzibar—Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management program are saying.

This was an amazing experience. I learned so much and grew as a person. There was a deep connection with the community and critical ecological issues.

Micalea Leaska, St. Michael’s College

Eye-opening and challenging. This program shaped me as a person and provided me with a number of opportunities as a student.

Hannah Turley, University of Virginia