Learn About Zanzibar’s Dark Past at Changuu Island

Learn About Zanzibar’s Dark Past at Changuu Island

Welcome to the enchanting world of Zanzibar, a mesmerizing archipelago nestled off the coast of Tanzania. Known for its stunning beaches, rich culture, and vibrant history, Zanzibar is a must-visit destination for any adventurous traveler. While most people are familiar with Zanzibar’s pristine beaches and spice tours, fewer know about the island’s intriguing and, at times, somber past. Today, let’s delve into one of Zanzibar’s lesser-known yet historically significant attractions: Changuu Island, also known as Prison Island.

The Allure of Changuu Island

Changuu Island, located just a short boat ride from Stone Town, the historic heart of Zanzibar, offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and historical depth. The island’s azure waters, lush greenery, and serene ambiance make it an excellent day-trip destination. However, beyond its picturesque facade lies a story that is both harrowing and fascinating.

A Brief History

Changuu Island’s history dates back to the 1860s when it was initially uninhabited. Its name "Changuu," which means "small island" in Swahili, belies the significant role it has played in Zanzibar’s history. In 1864, the island was purchased by the first British Minister to Zanzibar, Lloyd Mathews, who intended to use it as a prison for rebellious slaves. However, the prison was never used for its intended purpose. Instead, it became a quarantine station for yellow fever cases and later housed prisoners from the mainland of Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania).

The Prison That Never Was

One of the most iconic landmarks on Changuu Island is the old prison building, which gives the island its colloquial name, Prison Island. Despite its ominous name, this prison was never fully utilized as such. Instead, it was repurposed as a quarantine station for those afflicted by yellow fever and other contagious diseases—a crucial role during times when such illnesses could easily become epidemics.

The prison building still stands today, a stark reminder of the island’s intended purpose. Visitors can walk through the empty, echoing halls and cells, imagining the lives of those who might have once been confined within these walls. The history is palpable, and the experience is both sobering and enlightening.

The Giant Tortoises: Changuu’s Living Legends

While exploring the island’s historical landmarks, don’t miss the opportunity to meet its most famous inhabitants—the Aldabra giant tortoises. Originally brought to Changuu Island as a gift from the British Governor of Seychelles in the late 19th century, these gentle giants have become a major attraction.

Living Wonders

The giant tortoises are not just a sight to behold; they are a living testament to the island’s diverse history. These majestic creatures, some of which are over 100 years old, wander leisurely around the island, adding to its unique charm. Visitors can interact with the tortoises, feed them, and even take pictures. It’s a delightful experience for adults and children alike.

Conservation Efforts

At Lyimo Expeditions, we are committed to sustainable and ethical tourism. The Aldabra giant tortoises on Changuu Island are part of a conservation effort to protect and preserve these incredible animals. By visiting the island, you are also contributing to the ongoing efforts to ensure their survival for future generations.

Natural Beauty and Activities

Aside from its rich historical tapestry, Changuu Island boasts breathtaking natural beauty. The island’s pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters provide an ideal setting for various activities.

Snorkeling and Diving

The waters surrounding Changuu Island are teeming with marine life, making it a fantastic spot for snorkeling and diving. Explore vibrant coral reefs and encounter an array of colorful fish. The underwater world here is a paradise for marine enthusiasts. Whether you are a seasoned diver or a novice snorkeler, the experience is bound to be unforgettable.

Relaxing on the Beach

For those who prefer to relax, the island’s beaches offer the perfect escape. Lay back on the soft white sands, listen to the gentle waves, and soak up the sun. It’s a wonderful way to unwind and take in the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Guided Tours

Enhance your visit with a guided tour of the island. Our knowledgeable guides at Lyimo Expeditions will provide you with insightful information about Changuu Island’s history, its flora and fauna, and the ongoing conservation efforts. A guided tour ensures that you don’t miss any of the island’s hidden gems and provides a more enriching experience.

Why Choose Lyimo Expeditions?

When it comes to exploring the wonders of Tanzania, including the captivating Changuu Island, Lyimo Expeditions stands out as the premier choice. Here’s why you should book your Tanzania tours and safaris with us:

Expertise and Experience

With years of experience in the travel industry, we have honed our expertise in providing exceptional tours and safaris. Our team of passionate and knowledgeable guides ensures that you receive an enriching and memorable experience.

Personalized Service

At Lyimo Expeditions, we understand that every traveler is unique. That’s why we offer personalized itineraries tailored to your preferences and interests. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, or a nature lover, we have the perfect tour for you.

Commitment to Sustainability

We are dedicated to promoting responsible and sustainable tourism. By choosing us, you are supporting eco-friendly practices and contributing to conservation efforts. We strive to minimize our environmental impact and support local communities.

Hassle-Free Travel

From the moment you contact us, we take care of all the details. Our team handles everything from transportation and accommodation to guided tours and activities. All you need to do is relax and enjoy your adventure.

Excellent Customer Service

Our commitment to customer satisfaction is unwavering. We are always available to assist you, answer your questions, and ensure that your travel experience exceeds your expectations. Your happiness is our top priority.

Plan Your Visit to Changuu Island with Lyimo Expeditions

Ready to embark on a journey through time and nature? Let Lyimo Expeditions be your trusted guide to Changuu Island and beyond. Discover the rich history, natural beauty, and unique experiences that await you in Zanzibar.

Contact Us

To book your Tanzania tours and safaris, reach out to us at:

  • Email: info@lyimoexpeditionskilimanjaro.com
  • Phone: +255718442953

Whether you’re planning a solo adventure, a romantic getaway, or a family vacation, we have the perfect itinerary for you. Don’t miss the chance to explore Changuu Island’s dark past and its vibrant present with Lyimo Expeditions. Let us make your Tanzanian adventure an unforgettable one.


Changuu Island, with its blend of historical significance and natural splendor, is a destination that promises both education and relaxation. As you walk through the remnants of its past and marvel at the beauty of its present, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for Zanzibar’s rich tapestry of history and culture.

At Lyimo Expeditions, we are passionate about sharing the wonders of Tanzania with our guests. From the haunting halls of Prison Island to the majestic giant tortoises and the pristine beaches, Changuu Island offers an experience like no other. Join us on this incredible journey and discover the magic of Zanzibar.

Book your tour today and let the adventure begin!

Disclaimer: This article is a creative and cheerful exploration of Changuu Island’s history and attractions, crafted to entice readers to book their Tanzania tours and safaris with Lyimo Expeditions.