Prison Island, known locally as Changuu island gets its name from a species of fish that is very common in the surrounding waters of the Indian ocean. This is a pristine island that is fun to spend the day in and the great thing is that it is only a 20 minutes boat ride from the main island of Zanzibar.
Surrounded by spectacular coral reefs and turquoise blue waters and exquisite sandy beaches, Prison Island is a haven for adventurers.
Getting to Prison Island is easy. When you get to the main island of Zanzibar, simply go to the beach and locate one of the boat owners. Negotiate a price and ask them to get you to Prison Island.
The island is a perfect place for the budget traveler. It has a prison which held slaves from the mainland before they were transported to European countries and Asia. You pay $5 to visit the prison. There is also a tortoise sanctuary where you can see giant tortoises for only $5.
However, if you just want to see the islands flora and swim in its turquoise waters, then you need not pay anything.
The giant tortoises can be fed, but you are not allowed to ride them. The tortoises are not native to Changuu island but were a gift from Seychelles. They could weigh as much as 200 kilograms. The ages of these amazing animals are inscribed on their shells with the oldest being around 192 years. Others are 150 years old.
If you prefer to walk around the island, you can cover its length in an hour. Bird lovers will particularly enjoy the nature walk as there are plenty of different varieties on the island including peacocks and many butterfly species.
Many people will only stay in Prison Island for a day. However, for those who prefer to spend a night on the island they can do so at the private island resort known as Mathews.
The humid temperatures at Prison Island can be quite high. The good thing is that there is a bar where you can sit back, relax and enjoy some cool refreshing drinks.
Changuu island adds to the remarkable history of Zanzibar. Back in the 1860s, it was used to imprison rebellious slaves. It was built to decongest the prisons on the main island of Zanzibar.
Later Changuu island was used to quarantine workers from India that worked on the railways for the Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika territories. This was so due to the plague outbreak in India where the workers came from. Eventually there was no need for quarantine and by 1910 operations on the island begun to change to what we know it as today.