The Contribution of Ecotourism to the Conservation of Natural Sacred Sites

A Case Study from Coastal Kenya


  • Celia Nyamweru Department of Anthropology, St. Lawrence University
  • Elias Kimaru WWF



Sacred sites, ecotourism


The sacred kaya forests of coastal Kenya are sites of biological and cultural significance currently threatened with degradation and destruction. Conservation efforts over the last fifteen years have had some positive results but the prospects for survival of these forests in areas of acute rural poverty and rapid cultural change remain doubtful. Appropriate cultural tourism and ecotourism projects can generate income for the local communities and thus enhance the forests’ chances of survival. One such project was initiated in 2001 at Kaya Kinondo, a sacred forest of the Digo sub-group of the Mijikenda people on the south Kenya coast. The context of this project is outlined, and a discussion of its history is given with particular attention to environmental, socio-cultural, and economic issues. Information drawn from the experiences of the authors and from interviews with local people and visitors is used to evaluate consequences of the project. After seven years of operation, the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project can be seen as a qualified success, and provides some guidelines for the successful implementation of ecotourism projects to enhance the conservation of threatened, natural, sacred sites in other parts of the world.

Author Biographies

Celia Nyamweru, Department of Anthropology, St. Lawrence University

Professor of Anthropology

Elias Kimaru, WWF

Project Executant, WWF-Kwale, Kenya


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How to Cite

Nyamweru, C., & Kimaru, E. (2008). The Contribution of Ecotourism to the Conservation of Natural Sacred Sites: A Case Study from Coastal Kenya. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2(3), 327–350.