Prison Island Zanzibar History


Prison Island Zanzibar History:

Changuu Island in Zanzibar goes by numerous different aliases – Kibandiko, Quarantine or more popularly, Prison Island. The Island, which is just a stone’s throw off the coast of Stone Town, has had many uses. Whilst originally being used to house rebellious slaves, it soon transformed into a quarantine station, and now a government-owned tourist destination.

Getting to Prison Island Zanzibar

A short boat ride from Stone Town, about 20-30 minutes, is the best way to get to the Island. A return boat journey costs about $30-$40 per boat, and can accommodate up to 10 people. As the Island is government-owned, there is a $4 entrance fee, but this is a small price to pay for such an incredible experience.

If you’re a solo traveller or don’t wish to negotiate with boat owners, there are numerous tourist offices in central Stone Town – although this may be a far more costly alternative. The packages often include the boat fee, entrance fee and snorkelling gear; and you’re likely to get a better bargain if you book as a group.

Be warned though, the Indian Ocean can be fairly rough, so the boat ride won’t be the smoothest – it will however, be totally worth it.

Prison Island’s Best Bits

Giant Tortoises

One of the main attractions of the Island is a Giant Tortoise Sanctuary. The tortoises were a gift from the British Governor for the Seychelles in 1919. Some of the tortoises are said to be over 150 years old and are truly humungous – it’s the closest thing to a dinosaur I’ve ever seen.

You can feed and touch the tortoises, from the huge 200kg ones to the small babies. It’s a fascinating experience and one of the highlights of Prison Island.


The serene sandy beach of Prison Island is a perfect place to relax. The beach is very peaceful as there is only one small hotel on the island, making it ideal to sunbathe.

If you’re a fan of snorkelling, you can take the boat into deeper water and explore a small coral area. You can rent snorkelling equipment for $2.  Although beware, on my visit there were numerous sea urchins, so be careful when paddling and stick to avoid the ocean floor when snorkelling.  

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