Ilha do Fogo
Ilha do Fogo, or Fire Island, is a remote, 3.5km circumference island off northern Mozambique. It forms part of the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago, within Africa’s largest coastal marine protected area. The island and coast lie in the rainshadow of Madagascar, protected from tropical storms and occasional seasonal cyclones.
The land base for the island operations is in Pebane, with Quelimane being the closest airport. To get to Pebane, visitors can fly into Quelimane and then transfer by road (362km). Groups of four or less will be collected from Quelimane with a vehicle and trailer, while bigger groups will be transferred by air-conditioned minibus. Due to its remoteness, the road and weather conditions have a big influence on the time that it takes to make the trip.
At present, there is one flight a day from Maputo, which lands either late afternoon or early evening, leaving too little daylight for a journey to Pebane. We use two hotels in Quelimane: Millennium and Flamingo. The layover allows visitors to acclimatise, and shop for luxuries that are not available in Pebane, or on the island.
Since then, the islands became an important stopping-off point for Portuguese trading fleets. The islands were colonies of Portugal until Mozambican independence in 1975. In November 2012, the Mozambique government declared Primeiras e Segunda the country’s first Environmental Protection Area.
Robert Koski purchased Ilha do Fogo several years ago, with a plan to build a boutique resort. He engaged Jan van Deventer to establish the infrastructure on the island, due to his logistics experience with remote locations for the film industry.
After spending time on the island, Robert soon realised there was a massive problem with the harvesting of sea turtles. The area’s status as an Environmental Protection Area had no impact, as the island and its neighbouring town of Pebane are so remote, that law enforcement is almost impossible.
While researching for a documentary about the island and the threats to turtles, Robert and the crew uncovered many underlying issues. They realised that there were numerous other species in grave danger of becoming extinct; the main issues being over-harvesting, the general depletion of natural resources, and the destruction of habitat.
Miguel Gonçalves took charge of Maputo Special Reserve Marine Conservation, eight years ago, and since then, they’ve had considerable success challenging the problems with poaching of turtles and other threatened species in the area.
Miguel realised that to successfully overcome these issues, he needed to educate and involve the local communities. Instead of enforcing the laws, his team empowered community members to become conservation leaders and turtle monitors, providing an alternative income opportunity to poaching.
The MSR now has a highly successful marine and terrestrial conservation program, that involves the local community in monitoring the nesting areas, tagging the turtles, and offering guided turtle walks during the nesting and hatching seasons.
Further north in Ilha do Fogo and the Pebane district, our goal is to turn the archipelago into a safe haven for marine species, particularly for endangered hawksbill and green turtles nesting in the area.