An island incubator – Ilha Blue is hatching new local businesses.

Its always been our dream to incubate new tourism ideas on Ilha. Thats why this new initiative with Samira is so exciting. Hopefully its the first of many such initiatives.

A long time ago Ilha Blue identified an opportunity for a snorkelling activity at the pontáo. Its the one site that everyone visits when they come to Ilha. Most people simply walk the boardwalk, swim from the steps or have a drink at sunset. But if you look beneath the surface a wonderful aquatic world unfolds and once people experience this they cant stop talking about it.

Here at the pontáo the conditions are perfect with steps to get in and out of the sea, a huge diversity of marine life concentrated in a very small area and its already a site where visitors gather – what more could you ask for? We decided to use the pandemic ‘down-time’ to make this idea a reality. We began by speaking with local people who had an interest in diving, good interpersonal skills and the commitment and ‘smarts’ required to create their own tourism business. We worked with a number of very capable local people but decided that Samira was the perfect candidate for the job.

Samira has been training with CAIRIM, this is where she gained her open water diving license and a knowledge of underwater archeology in the new museum. She’s currently doing her bachelors degree in Local development and international relations at University Lurio, and has worked casually in different tourism businesses. She’s a local woman from a prominent Ilha family. Most importantly she’s very smart, energetic, heaps of enthusiasm and loves being with people – the perfect guide.

Samira learning more about the diversity of underwater life from Abdul, Ilha Blue’s aquatic activities coordinator.

Ilha blue have paired Samira up with Abdul our aquatic activities coordinator to develop the tour which includes building up her knowledge of the local marine environment, timing and safety. We’ve also assisted her to apply for funding to buy necessary equipment such as snorkels, masks and fins, as well as buoys, ropes and educational props. In addition we’ve been able to bring people to her (willing guinea pigs) to participate in trial tours so she can test the assumptions about what visitors really want.

“Snorkeling with Samira was a highlight of our holiday. She was very engaging and friendly, easily switching between English and Portuguese as needed. Kids can sometimes be challenging but Samira provided the right combination of support, supervision, encouragement and fun to make it a great outing for everyone. We loved being able to experience the ocean around Ilha in this way and will be back again one day.” Scott and Bek.

 

Going forward

The idea is that Samira will register her business and tours will be available in December this year. In the 12 months we expect Samira to focus on fine tuning her tours, building her reputation and generally getting more professional in every aspect, she may even look at expanding to different, more technical sites. We’ve agreed that she will operate her snorkelling tours using Ilha Blue’s shop as her base; we will do most promotion, take bookings and handle a lot of the admin, similar to a joint venture. But the business is 100% hers, the relationship will be dynamic meaning she’s free to  change things as the business evolves and as her skills and confidence grow. This is the beauty of this arrangement.

Steps into clear water. Perfect snorkelling conditions

Looking further forward (the future and beyond?)

Because of the pandemic the future of tourism is clouded in uncertainty and destinations all around the world are worried.  But Ilha de Mozambique is different; it’s such a special place, a world class destination with so many experiences yet to be developed that we know its future is assured.  Enabling local people with their distinctive Swahili culture to be central to all new tourism offerings is the key, and so we will continue to incubate more local businesses. Once Samira is up-and-running we will start looking for the next business to grow.