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Prison Island

Duration: Half Day

prison island

Although often regarded as one island, Zanzibar is actually an archipelago comprising two main islands – Unguja and Pemba – as well as several small offshore islands which are ideal for day trips. Unguja is the larger of the two main islands, and is more commonly known simply as Zanzibar. Located off the mainland of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, the allure of this idyllic holiday destination is its powdery white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters, but the laid back lifestyle and fascinating culture and history draws many a traveller to its shores. If you are seeking a combination of all these factors, a tour of Prison Island is a must.

No holiday in Zanzibar would be complete without a trip to one of its most historic islands – Prison Island. Situated just off the coast of Stone Town, this is a popular excursion for visitors as it is only a short boat ride from the Zanzibar waterfront. Also known as Changu Island, this small offshore island was alternatively named Prison Island when it was used to detain unruly slaves from the African mainland hundreds of years ago. They were imprisoned here by Arabian slave merchants to prevent them escaping before shipping them to off purchasers. A prison was eventually built by the British at the end of the 19th century, the remains of which can still be seen today, although this was actually used as a quarantine station for the yellow fever epidemic instead. The prison ruins have now been converted and many musical and cultural events are hosted here throughout the year. As you explore the island, you will notice 19th century colonial buildings which have also been restored.

Prison Island is blessed with glorious palm-fringed beaches, sparkling aquamarine waters and a small coral reef, which provides excellent opportunities for snorkeling. Spend time sunbathing on pristine white sands, swimming in the Indian Ocean or looking out for birds and other native wildlife amongst lush jungle and tropical flora. You can also enjoy wonderful views of Stone Town in the distance.

Despite the island’s outstanding beauty and fascinating history, the main attraction is its large colony of Giant Aldabra Tortoises, some of which are over 100 years old.  The tortoises were imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century in an effort to conserve these beautiful creatures, which are unfortunately endangered. They can be found nowhere else in East Africa. Visitors can support the cause by purchasing food to feed the tortoises, which helps raise money for ongoing projects. On a positive note, it would be difficult to find a more beautiful and peaceful sanctuary than this one. Prison Island is a small piece of paradise just waiting to be explored.

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