Prison Island, Zanzibar

Prison Island, Zanzibar
There are many activities in Zanzibar and places to visit and one of top spots and nearest would be the Prison Island. As you tour around Stone town, a lot of local guides and boatmen would offer you a tour in the Island but group tour packages are available in most hotels/hostels. Prices may vary so you have to ask a lot of people and make economical bargains.
Changuu Island (also known as Kibandiko, Prison or Quarantine Island) is a small island 5.6 km northwest of Stone Town, Unguja, Zanzibar. The island is around 800m long and 230m wide at its broadest point. The island saw use as a prison for rebellious slaves in 1860s and also functioned as a coral mine.
One of the “iconic” boats roaming around in Prison Island containing tourists visiting the Island.

The British First Minister of Zanzibar, Lloyd Mathews, purchased the island in 1893 and constructed a prison complex there. No prisoners were ever housed on the island and instead it became a quarantine station for yellow fever cases.

More recently, the island has become a government-owned tourist resort and houses a collection of endangered Aldabra giant tortoises. These tortoises were originally a gift from the British governor of the Seychelles.


The pick-up are where boatmen are busy preparing for tourists embarking from Stone town to Prison Island and various islands in the area for site seeing and snorkeling.
The pick-up are where boatmen are busy preparing for tourists embarking from Stone town to Prison Island and various islands in the area for site seeing and snorkeling.
Before finally setting foot on the island, you have an option to snorkel first or do it later. Snorkeling is part of the package in going in the island, they also provide snorkeling materials. Given that there are many visitors who go there, you better bring your own gear.
Prison holding cells are still present in the island. Some were converted to be restaurants, houses and bathrooms and some were left as it was.

In 1919 the British governor of Seychelles sent a gift of four Aldabra giant tortoises to Changuu from the island of Aldabra. These tortoises bred quickly and by 1955 they numbered around 200 animals. However people began to steal the tortoises for sale abroad as pets or for food and their numbers dropped rapidly. By 1988 there were around 100 tortoises, fifty in 1990 and just seven by 1996.


The species is now considered vulnerable and has been placed on the IUCN Red List by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

This blog is a part of the Tanzania and Zanzibar series.
More: Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania | Download Zanzibar Itinerary
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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Prison Island is such an interesting name. The vibes of the island is one of a kind. It is sad that people interfered with the tortoise population. Hope you still enjoyed your trip!

    Nancy ♥

    1. Very much enjoyed the trip! Thanks for checking Nancy!

  2. Everything’s so gorgeous. Sad about the turtles though. 🙁

    1. Yes, but i’m glad that the government is taking action of it. Better late than never.

  3. This is such an interesting post, I’d never heard of Prison Island before. It’s definitely devastating that human interference has resulted in messing with the tortoises – I recently visited a famously pink beach, only to find that it’s no longer pink as so many tourists had stolen the sand. It was very sad.

    Happy holidays! 🙂

    Amy x Wandering Everywhere

    1. That’s really sad! True monster of this earth are us humans.

  4. You really have a gift in taking stunning photographs Steve!!! Wish I can also visit Tanzania someday. Africa is such a dream!


    1. Thanks Steven! Glad that through this ics i can convey the beauty of Zanzi. Zanzi, Kilimanjaro is a must in Tanzania!

  5. Interesting to learn of this place.

  6. Never heard of this island. Beautiful place and the water is so clean and clear.

    1. It’s def a place to visit! Glad we came.

  7. Looks like a great place, absolutely beautiful!

    1. Thanks Denise! It’s truly beautiful.

Hi, I wanna know your thoughts!

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