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Changuu Island: Previously Prison Island, is a piece of heaven

#Zanzibar #Tanzania #Islands #Tortoises #islands #snorkeling #aldabra #prison

My trip to Changuu Island started when Alawi, Wanderich friend from Zanzibar greeted me at the reception of Kisiwa House. He walked me through the old town to get to the harbor. It took us 10 minutes, as the Jumbo Jumbo echoed through the air from the children we passed by.

We stopped off at the back of a truck to get snorkeling gear. It was a dusty and dirty old truck with piles of masks and fins, I wish I had brought my own with me, but at this point I had no choice. At the end of the day what could be worse than getting malaria and I already feel like I had it. Isn’t that what Malaria tablets do anyway?! The weekly ones made me feel just terrible!

Changuu Island Only An hour From Stone Town

Alawi and I, along with two other local boat drivers hopped on a wooden boat and left to Changuu Island. The view of the island and surrounding waters were breathtaking. The clouds that formed a canvas in the sky were mind blowing.

beautiful sky and waters on Changuu Island - Zanzibar

The Tortoises Of Changuu Island

We went straight to the turtles soon as we arrived to the island. Did I mention the island was home to the endangered gigantic Aldabra turtosorouses that looked like they were from Jurassic park? (by the way I made up Turtosorusous in case you’re thinking of looking it up later). Some of those turtles were 192 years old. They have seen so many lifetimes go by it’s incredible.

Unfortunately every couple of years some Aldabra tortoises are stolen and sold, so their numbers are deceasing.

The Prison

The prison wasn’t much to look at, but knowing what it was and its history makes it worthwhile the visit. The island was used for rebellious slaves up until the first British Minister of Zanzibar Lloyd Mathews bought the island and turned it into a quarantine for yellow fever cases. This was before they would be able to go to Zanzibar island. There was also a paper of some of the vessels that were quarantined dating back to 1923.

Vessels quarantined from 1922 on Changuu Island formerly known as prison island.
The entrance to the prison on Changuu Island - Zanzibar


The snorkeling part of the tour was a little uncomfortable since there were 3 men and myself on the boat and I needed to get in and out of the water with them staring. I did it and was disappointing as where we stopped off there were only sea urchins and star fish with no coral life.

Crystal clear waters of Changuu island - zanzibar

How I would do it better next time

For Better Planning I would go straight to the harbor early morning so there's enough time to negotiate being taken to a spot where sea-life and coral life is more visible. The boat itself shouldn't cost more than $20 return, however, if there are others getting on a boat, I would definitely join them. It's always more fun and safer snorkeling with others.

If you're in Zanzibar, check out our other blogs on amazing experiences on the island:

  • Cheetah’s Rock If you’re an animal lover, and wish to step out of your comfort zone

  • Jozani National Forest If you wish to see the red colobus monkeys up close and personal (coming soon)

  • Life of the villages in Zanzibar and how it grounded me


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