Zanzibar’s Prison Island

by wanderworld
Zanzibar's Prison Island

The 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.

Prison Island

Getting There

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.

Prison Island Tortoise
Prison Island Large Tortoise
Prison Island Baby Tortoise


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.  

Zanzibar's Prison Island

Need more inspiration for your trip to Tanzania? Check out Roaming Nanny’s experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! 

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