Kiwayu Island is arguably the most beautiful of all the islands along the Kenyan coast. It is also a renowned biodiversity hotspot in the greater Kiunga Marine National Reserve and a priority conservation site in the Western Indian Ocean. The island is a major turtle nesting site. Leatherback and loggerhead turtles use the area as feeding grounds; green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles use the area as both a feeding and nesting site. Shimo la Tewa, on the eastern side of the island, has a rich and diverse coral ecosystem. It is one of the best snorkeling sites for visitors to the island.
Kiwayu’s ecosystems are under threat from human activities such as overfishing, expanding tourism, and development on the island. People also still sometimes kill turtles, or collect eggs, for food. This happens in part because local people haven’t been educated about how turtle populations are vulnerable and need protection. But widespread poverty also drives people to overexploit both the turtles and their habitats. On the island, there is only one school and no clinic. A single water well serves the nearly 4,000 people on the island.
Seacology is funding the construction of an office for the Beach Management Unit, which will be used to coordinate conservation activities. The grant will also fund bandas (traditional huts used as shelters and field meeting sites), and a freshwater well for the Kiwayu community. In exchange, the community will protect turtle nesting sites and conserve 618 acres of coral reef in Shimo la Tewa for 10 years.