One of the many victims was the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, and another, was the endangered green turtle. They came across several discarded turtle shells, upon which, there were markings that were evidently from harpoon points. What made this discovery even more alarming was that, unlike many locals who harvest turtles purely for sustenance, these poachers were selling the turtle meat to a Chinese buyer. They were also catching and smoking hundreds of fish to sell as food, with no regard for sustainable species.
From when we first laid eyes on the island, back in 2009, you would not think anything has changed on approach by boat 13 years later. It still looks untouched, with its circumferencing beach and a central thicket of leafy trees. It is only the small floating docks and beached kayaks that give away the fact that there is human presence. We still have a conservation-focused team overseeing the development, to ensure that Ilha do Fogo’s awe-inspiring ecosystem is not affected, and the surrounding environment is minimally impacted. This will always be our top priority with any activity on the island. In fact, we barely wanted to open the island to visitors at all.
It is only to ensure the protection of our incredible marine life that we began the construction of the eco-resort, which will fund the conservation projects and uplift the local communities. This is the only reason that select visitors will get to share the experience of this breathtaking paradise with the few of us who have already been there.
Recently, scientists from Sea Search were invited to the island, and its unique ecosystem left them stunned. As bioacoustic experts, they came armed with multiple AudioMoths. These are low-cost acoustic recorders that record up to high frequencies. Some of the audiomoths were outfitted with waterproof casings, and these hydromoths were deployed around the various reef systems we have at the island to record the underwater soundscape. Sea Search’s recordings are still being analysed, but point to abundant biodiversity from the variations of the fish chatter.
The scientists, Tess and Sasha, were equally astounded by the vast difference in the reef systems. Ilha do Fogo boasts 150kms of unexplored coral reefs, with over 450 species of corals that we know of. However, our island also exhibits seagrasses on its North side, which we are confident will reveal the presence of pipefishes and seahorses. With many of Southern Africa’s syngnathidae being classed as endangered, vulnerable or data deficient, we are thrilled at the possibility of finding another species we can focus our protections on.
The purpose of our conservation projects has mainly been for the preservation of turtles. On Ilha do Fogo, we are often blessed with the presence of green and hawksbill turtles around our reefs, which also come onto our beaches to nest. It is important that Ilha do Fogo will continuously provide a safe haven for these endangered animals and their hatchlings, and our top priority will be to minimise the impact on their environment. This brings us to how we are progressing with the retreat development.
Previously, we were going to build prefabricated units made from timber, waste sand, steel and glazing. However, due to our remoteness and the rugged roads we travel to get to our boat launch site, we realised that this type of construction would be a particularly problematic undertaking.
It would also create a far larger ecological footprint than we had initially anticipated. Instead, we have opted to build only four timber units, and the rest will be exceptionally comfortable, ensuite, tented accommodation.
We have kept the locations of the accommodation the same, within the natural clearings of the tree-lined thicket. We are insistent on ensuring that the existing forest, flora and fauna are safeguarded, and that Ilha do Fogo’s natural topography is preserved. Ground vegetation will still be protected using ‘floating’ foundations.
The best thing about this ‘glamping’ type of stay, is that you are truly immersed in nature. Guests have all the modern conveniences of electricity, running water, furniture, and plush bedding, while deepening their engagement with the surrounding environment.
We have begun construction of the four timber units, which will be fabricated from sustainable Msasa (Brachystegia spiciformis) wood, sourced from Mozambique’s Miombo forest, through the company LevasFlor.
This is the only FSC certified company in the Mozambican natural timber industry, and we aim to exclusively use their products across our Southern African eco retreat properties, should we require any timber, flooring or furniture.
Firepits are synonymous with unity and our boma provides a welcoming social area. We have almost completed the construction of a bar and lounge area, offering a unique and relaxed space for guests to unwind in.
We are also busy with the expansion of the kitchen. Our head chef, Hannibal, is eagerly awaiting the new space, where he can hone his craft, creating amazing, delicious and eco-conscious dishes. He recently underwent training with renowned chef, Francois Ferreira, of the Francois Ferreira Academy, and will be utilising his newfound techniques.
Suffice to say, each of these developments is being carried out under the watchful eyes of our project managers and our COO, to ensure that the impact on the island habitat is always kept light. The island will run solely on solar power, providing our guests with a clean, renewable energy source. We have also created an environmentally-friendly decentralised wastewater treatment system, which uses very little energy, while protecting the land and ocean.
We are envisioning the completion of the retreat in June 2022, at which point, guests will be able to exclusively book SCUBA trips here on this blissful, private island, described by all who visit as “the best island in Mozambique”.
If you’d like to be one of the first to experience this bucket-list adventure to Ilha do Fogo, or need any more reasons to visit Mozambique, please get in touch.