Nosy Be is the single largest tourist destination in Madagascar and it is the only location with all-inclusive resorts (boasting over 10). The activities it offers include not only the usual sights, sounds and smells (at one point being called 'Nosy Manitra', or 'Island of Smells') of somewhere exotic but also snorkelling, whale-watching, sailing and fishing. Of course, another highlight is hiking through nature reserves to catch glimpses of its rich flora and fauna, with the famous ring-tailed lemur at the top of many lists.
The largest sector of the economy in Nosy Be is tourism, followed by the expansive plantations of ylang-ylang (there is one such small plantation near to the camp site on-route to a survey line), plus sugar and rum. Vanilla, the famously-Madagascan crop, is more often grown on the mainland.
But how can somewhere as small and rural as Nosy Be accommodate the number of tourists that come through each year? There is only one large town, and little in the way of Western- infrastructure. Plus, while there is money to be made from tourism, this often doesn't find its way to the locals, many of whom are still subsistence farmers of crops and zebu.
One of the largest issues created by tourists is that of rubbish and waste disposal; there are bins available for tourists to put their consumable waste in, but there is no system in place to actually deal with this waste, and it gets put out of sight and mind. If walking from the town centre to the Petit Port you will pass by a 'port of rubbish' and can see the results of it being dumped, due to a lack of anywhere else for it all to go. But as with most local issues arising from tourism, tourists will stay briefly enough to not notice the issues that they cause, and so there is no real motivation to change and improve.
One way the community project tried to combat this issue is the creation of 'eco-bins', where large bottles are filled with any rubbish that can't decompose, and when full these bottles are tied together to form larger bins. This created a place to store rubbish until a use or solution could be found for it, and the bin itself is one way to turn the rubbish into something of use.
However, this is not a permanent solution, and plastic breaks down over time, particularly is exposed to high temperatures and lots of sunlight, which there is no shortage of when you are off the coast of East Africa. This means that these bins will eventually themselves still break down and decompose, releasing the various harmful chemicals and micro-plastic particles that they would have if left in landfill. Therefore, having volunteers from different walks of life and with different knowledge is valuable, to try and think up creative ways to help implement a system that is sound for the future.