The Amazing Prison Island of Zanzibar

Prison island - turtles

About Prison Island

Prison Island also known as Changuu or Kibandiko Island is an Island located about 5.6 Km Northwest of Stone Town. It is situated three miles to the west of Unguja, the larger of the two Islands in the Zanzibar archipelago. A British Minister of Zanzibar purchased the island in 1893 and constructed a prison to be used as a place where rebellious slaves were detained awaiting their transportation to the Middle East and Europe. It also served as a place of quarantine where people with deadly diseases were kept so as not to spread their illnesses to healthy ones. 

The need for a permanent quarantine station ended in the 1910s. The Island was mainly used as a resort – the Europeans in Zanzibar regularly rented the bungalows or spent afternoons there having picnics. In recent days the island has become a popular holiday destination. Prison Island is a natural reserve and a beautiful place to spend the day during a visit to Stone Town, Zanzibar.

Giant Sea Tortoises

One of the highlights of your visit to the Island is a tortoise sanctuary that contains a large colony of sea tortoises. They are huge and they walk around slowly munching on the greenery. Four specimens of the Aldabra giant tortoises were received as a gift from the British governor of Seychelles in the year 1919, the found nice conditions to breed within the island. 

The giant tortoises have an average weight of 200kgs and many are said to be almost 150 years old. You’ll be able to observe, interact and feed the tortoises in their calm and friendly nature, as they can be fed by hand. Children will especially enjoy this memorable experience!

You can also make small donations to the reservation to protect the giant tortoises of Prison Island Zanzibar.

 Lloyd Mathews Architecture

Lloyd Mathews Architecture refers to the old Prison building. While visiting the Prison Island you can take a short break at the building. It has aged and weathered into an interesting combination of concrete and overgrown vegetation. From there you can have a beautiful view of the sea as you enjoy some drinks.

You will also get to see a colony of colorful peacocks and spot some antelopes grazing around. After that, refresh in the crystal clear waters of the shore of the Island.


Prison Island is landscaped with brick pathways winding around about half of the island while a private hotel takes up the other half. The sand beach on Prison Island Zanzibar is a calm place where nobody will bother you as you peacefully relax and sunbathe.

If you would like to get wet, there is a snorkeling option for you. The boat will take you a few meters offshore where you can get into deeper water. The crystal clear water and great reefs around the sea provide an amazing opportunity to see the colorful tropical fish, coral reefs and huge starfish.

Tour Rates

Motorboats are used to get to the Prison Island from the Stone Town and only takes about 30 minutes. The boat accommodates up to 10 people. Tour companies around Zanzibar offer the basic rates for touring Prison Island. Most of them offer an all-inclusive amount. This will include snorkeling charges, entrance fees, boat ride, mineral water charges, luggage, and the tour guide cost. For those who would like to bargain, the average rates are as below;

  • Boat round trip accommodating 10 people –USD30-USD40
  • Entrance fee USD4
  • Rental for the Snorkel gear USD2.

It is advisable to do some research and also ask around before you start the tour so as to get an idea of what they charge.

Visitors should be aware of the somewhat choppy nature of the Indian Ocean. Seasickness is common. The good news, however, is that the waves calm down as you approach the shores of Prison Island. The color of the water also changes to a magical turquoise blue.

A walk to the end of the wooden bridge that extends up to about 50m into the sea and a look back at the prison Island is a charming and unforgettable view to cherish. For many people, just one day at Prison Island is enough to have some unforgettable experiences and scenery. However, if you want to make the most of your time you can book a room at the only private resort.


Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *