Once ravaged by poachers, Ilha do Fogo is now the centre of conservation on the north-east coast of Mozambique. The stunning island lies in the Primeiras e Segundas archipelago of the Mozambique Channel and recently opened up as an exclusive, luxury retreat, focused on scuba diving and eco-tourism, after 10 years in the making.
A visit to Ilha do Fogo, one of Mother Earth’s rare immaculate sanctuaries, will help you gain insight into how life can thrive without pollution and abuse of resources. The ethos of Earth Legacy Foundation will always be to protect the environment and ensure that its idyllic beauty is not impacted by human activity.
The Birth of Earth Legacy Foundation (Ilha do Fogo)
Earth Legacy Foundation was born when a team with a dream of building a resort-style development on the island discovered that poachers were plundering marine life during their first visit. Sadly, there was substantial evidence of critically endangered hawksbill and endangered green turtles being the main victims of the poaching.
The dream was transformed and a marine conservation action plan was put in place to protect these imperilled species. Instead of a resort, the island now boasts low-impact accommodations and is entirely powered by solar with conservation at the heart of its development, both environmentally and socially.
Ilha do Fogo: Protecting Precious Waters
Ilha do Fogo is a boat ride away from Mozambique’s Zambezia region coastline. This remote region boasts a unique culture, unchanged for centuries with the waters of the archipelago frequented by small rowing boats and dhows, boarded by artisanal fishers. The island itself is not flat upon approach, as you expect from a typical tropical island. There is a pristine sandy beach circumferencing the island, and a thicket of lush forest in the middle, with a lighthouse standing tall over the trees. The forest path that leads to the accommodations resembles something out of a fairy tale and provides welcome shade from the sun.
The pristine reefs off of the island’s southern side are uncharted and gleaming with life. They are populated with countless coral, fish, turtle, and crustacean species and are a diver’s playground. It’s an effortless shore entry for snorkelling or SCUBA from the soft sandy coast to the nearshore reefs, and there are numerous other unexplored deeper reefs a few minute’s boat ride away. In total, the reef extends 150 km. The island’s northern side has seen notable degradation from years of unregulated artisanal fishing activity. Corals are few and far between, however, the remaining seagrasses showcase giant sea cucumbers and provide the perfect cover for possible seahorses.
There have also been some incredibly interesting shipwrecks and artefacts found around the Mozambique Channel due to its location on the Portuguese trading route that was regularly in use between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries. The islands here provided an important stopover and rest point for many ships, including Vasco de Gama’s famous fleets. There is a historical report of a ship that went down at Ilha do Fogo on August 25th, 1644, almost 400 years ago, and if discovered, its treasures could be significant. Ming porcelain, gold, and silver are just some of the discoveries made at shipwrecks in the Channel.
Join the Turtle Guardians
Ilha do Fogo is located in the Mozambique Channel and studies have demonstrated that the northern part of the Mozambique Channel is a major oceanic migration corridor for green and hawksbill turtles. It serves as a significant site for researching these vulnerable animals and ensuring that their nesting activity is unimpeded.
The island is an essential nesting site for both green and hawksbill turtles, and is visited by foraging olive ridley turtles. Nesting season is roughly April to September, however, in 2023 we observed evidence of turtle tracks and nests through to the end of December.
Turtle hatching occurs from around 60 days after the nesting occurrence. Visitors to the island are often lucky to observe turtle tracks, nests, and foraging turtles on the reefs.
There are currently two teams that rotate turtle monitoring patrols on the island to gather images and data on the nesting evidence. Unfortunately, they are not yet officially trained and we are trying to gather vital funding to bring a trainer to the island, or to send the monitors to Maputo National Park for training. They do serve as a deterrent for potential poaching activity.
Empowering Local Communities in Ilha do Fogo
The Earth Legacy Foundation team recognized that addressing the root cause of sea turtle harvesting in local communities was crucial for wildlife protection. Rather than solely focusing on enforcing poaching regulations, they are initiating projects to tackle the underlying issue of insufficient sustenance. These projects aim to empower communities by providing alternative income opportunities to poaching, starting with the establishment of a pottery workshop. The workshop not only creates artisanal products for local and international markets but also serves as a platform for teaching various industry skills, including supply chain management, sales, and marketing.
In addition to the pottery initiative, the NPO is planning to set up apprenticeships in diverse fields, such as woodwork and aquaculture, fostering job skills and offering alternative protein sources. By promoting eco-tourism on Ilha do Fogo and Boror, Earth Legacy Foundation seeks to uplift local communities, creating job opportunities in managing lodgings, kitchens, and transport. Through targeted training programs within communities, they aim to expand locals’ skill sets for positions like dive masters, skippers, chefs, hospitality management, and citizen science data gatherers for research projects.
Nautical Allies: Boaters in Conservation
Ilha do Fogo is not only a private island paradise that provides boaters with a uniquely special stop-off on their journeys, but it also offers travel with a purpose, through carbon offsetting and community upliftment. A percentage of bookings from stays on the island go straight into the conservation and community projects, with the current funding goal focusing on official training for the turtle monitoring teams. This will give them the skills to tag the turtles, with quantifiable data recorded and fed into crucial research.
To keep a low ecological footprint on our eco island, the lodgings are exceptionally comfortable, en-suite, tented accommodations located within the natural clearings of the island’s tree-lined thicket. Guests have all the modern conveniences of electricity, running water, furniture, plush bedding, and Wi-Fi while deepening their engagement with the surrounding environment. The island team has ensured that the existing forest, flora and fauna are safeguarded and that Ilha do Fogo’s natural topography is preserved. Ground vegetation has been protected through the use of ‘floating’ foundations.
The island is run solely through a 120KW solar plant, providing guests with a clean, renewable energy source. They have also created an environmentally-friendly decentralised wastewater treatment system, which uses very little energy, while protecting the land and ocean.
Setting Sail to Ilha do Fogo
Travellers to this remarkable island will be helping the mission to protect marine life and empower the people who reside in this area of Mozambique. Earth Legacy Foundation are striving to establish skills development projects, aquaculture farms, eco-tourism initiatives, and build the area’s blue economy, however, they rely on funding through bookings or direct donations.
Getting these projects fully up and running will not only safeguard precious marine animals but will also improve the lives of impoverished residents. Read more about their projects here!
The Earth Legacy Foundation team have worked tirelessly for a decade to create a little slice of heaven for limited guests and a safe haven for marine inhabitants. A visit to Ilha do Fogo, one of Mother Earth’s rare immaculate sanctuaries, will help you gain insight into how life can thrive without pollution and abuse of resources. The ethos of Earth Legacy Foundation will always be to protect the environment and ensure that its idyllic beauty is not impacted by human activity.
If you are fortunate enough to be one of the exceptional visitors to the island, it must come with the understanding that your footstep has to be negligible and certain amenities that may harm the reefs will have to be forgone in favour of the carefully selected, yet delectably luxurious, Ilha do Fogo products provided. However, this is an insignificant sacrifice for what you get in return… paradise.
Boaters can book a stay at Ilha do Fogo through the dedicated website.