Zanzibar Prison Island, also known as the Changuu Island, lies about 30 minutes by boat from the Zanzibar Island. The prison thereon was never used to house prisoners. This part of your holiday mainly focuses on a tour to the island. The island was once used by an Arab slave trader to contain the more troublesome slaves he had brought from the African mainland to prevent their escape before shipping them to the Arabian purchasers, or for auctioning on Zanzibar’s slave market. The slaves were dumped on the island.
In 1893, Lloyd Mathews built the prison. The prison idea was to send violent criminals from the Tanganyika mainland to the Prison Island. The Prison Island ended up being used as a quarantine center, instead of a prison, for yellow fever epidemics that once raged through the region. The old prison’s crumbling cells can still be seen on the island and provide occasional shelter for the giant tortoises which are conserved upon the Prison Island.
Prison Island is presently home to giant land tortoises that were imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century. Now it is more commonly known as a home of Zanzibar’s Giant Aldabran Tortoise colony, some of which are over a hundred years old! This endangered species came to Zanzibar as a gift from the government of the Seychelles.
Once on the island, you have the opportunity to feed and pet the tortoises. If you have time you may also like to take a stroll through the forested interior where you will see a wide variety of birds, colorful peacocks, bats, and beautiful butterflies. Keep your eyes peeled too for the shy and elusive Duikers – an unusual tiny antelope species.
The island is fringed with a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkeling, and has a lovely white beach for sunbathing. This tour is a great way to see some history and wildlife, and also to see Stone Town from the sea as many old maritime legends would have done.