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Prison Island

Prison Island: Our most recommended tours and activities

Prison Island: Private Half-Day Tour

1. Prison Island: Private Half-Day Tour

This private guided half day tour can begin any time from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. Meet your well-trained guide and boatman as your board your steam-engine wooden boat. Head to the prestigious island and enjoy the 30-minute journey.  Listen to the history of the island and discover the past centuries through the historical buildings, which have served many purposes over the years including a prison, chapel, and hiding place for slaves after the abolition.  Enjoy a swim or snorkel around the colorful coral rocks and turquoise waters. Play with giant tortoises and you may take photographs with these old precious creatures. If you do not have much experience or confidence in the water, you will be provided with a life jacket. 

Zanzibar: Prison Island Tour with Lunch on the Sandbank

2. Zanzibar: Prison Island Tour with Lunch on the Sandbank

Your Zanzibar adventure begins with a visit to Prison Island, purchased in 1893 by Lloyd Mathews, the British First Minister of Zanzibar at the time. Mathews constructed a prison complex on the island which is still visible today, however no prisoners were ever housed on the island and instead it became a quarantine station for yellow fever sufferers. On the island, spend some time exploring the area and discover the collection of over 50 tortoises that live here, some of which are more than 100 years old. Learn about why the tortoises call the island their home, as well as taking photos and feeding them too. The island is also home to peacocks and small antelope too. Once you’ve explored the island, enjoy the opportunity to cool off from the hot weather with a refreshing dip in the surrounding crystal clear waters. Spend some time snorkeling in the water just off the island and search for colorful tropical fish and vibrant coral reef. After you’ve worked up an appetite from swimming, relax on the sandbank with a delicious lunch including a seafood BBQ, Swahili cuisine, cheese, tropical fruit, and more.

Stone Town: Stone Town and Prison Island Private Day Trip

3. Stone Town: Stone Town and Prison Island Private Day Trip

See the National Museum of Zanzibar (rebuilt in 1883) and the Arab fort while passing along bazaar streets towards the famous Freddie Mercury house. See the old slave market, fruit market, and spice market — don’t miss the classic Zanzibar curved doors decorating the stone town.  After you have explored Stone Town, you’ll have an opportunity to take a short break before heading to Prison Island. Prison Island is also known as Changuu Island, the nickname came from the island being used by some sultans of Zanzibar to detain enslaved people. While you are on this island, you can swim and take pictures with giant tortoises. 

From Stone Town: Private Tour to Prison Island

4. From Stone Town: Private Tour to Prison Island

Visit Prison Island on a private 3-hour tour, and discover the rich history and beautiful natural surroundings of this location. Meet your guide in Zanzibar, or select the option including hotel pickup, then enjoy the ride to the island on a traditional dhow. Learn how this small island gained its name and explore the place that is now home to more than 50 tortoises, some over 100 years old.   Feed the tortoises and take up-close pictures with them, as you keep a look out for the peacocks and antelope that also live there. After discovering the island and its history, take the opportunity to snorkel in the clear waters off the coast amongst tropical fish and colorful coral. At the end of your tour, return to Zanzibar, where you’ll be dropped off in the city center, or at your hotel.

Zanzibar: Changuu Island and Stone Town Tour with Lunch

5. Zanzibar: Changuu Island and Stone Town Tour with Lunch

The tour begins with a private boat trip to Changuu Island, also known as Prison Island or Turtle Island. The island earned its name after it was purchased in 1893 by the British First Minister of Zanzibar who constructed a prison complex here. Although no prisoners were ever housed on the island, it was eventually used as a quarantine station for yellow fever sufferers, and later became home to more than 50 tortoises who still live there today. On the island, enjoy some free time to explore the beauty of this wild paradise, and get up close to the tortoises that roam freely. Some of the tortoises here are more than 100 years old, and you can even get close enough to feed them and take photos. You can also find peacocks and antelope on the island, then cool off in the crystal clear waters during a snorkel session in search of marine life, colorful fish, and coral reef. After your visit to Changuu Island, head towards one of the most historically prominent and artistic destinations in East Africa, Stone Town. Upon arrival, admire the fascinating architecture of the town, which dates back to the 19th century, and reflects the diverse influences of Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European cultures. Learn about how the town earned its UNESCO World Heritage status, and then visit the Old Slave Market and the City Market. Here you can shop for almost anything whilst soaking up the authentic East African atmosphere and meeting the locals. Once you’ve wandered through the market it’s time to visit the Palace Museum, the local House of Wonder, and of course Freddie Mercury’s former home. There’s also time for a trip to the Peace Memorial and the Natural History Museum before ending the tour with a delicious local lunch at a traditional restaurant.

Zanzibar City: Prison Island and Stone Town Walking Tour

6. Zanzibar City: Prison Island and Stone Town Walking Tour

Ride by boat to Prison Island, famous for its population of Aldabra giant tortoises. Experience the turtles up close and spot the local peacocks. Move along to a walking tour of Stone Town and learn the Swahili culture and its important historical role in the slave trade. Begin with a beautiful boat ride to Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island. View the local wildlife and learn of the slave rebellion that occurred in the 1860s. Start the walking tour of Stone Town at Forodhani Park. Explore the area and visit important sites such as the House of Wonder, Old Fort, the house of Freddy Mercury, and end at the Darajani market before returning to the city.

Other Sightseeing Options in Prison Island

Want to discover all there is to do in Prison Island? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Prison Island

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 150 reviews

Haij was the best tour guide! He was knowledgeable and explained everything so perfectly to us. He tailor made this private tour to suit our needs and was prompt, honest and was excellent value for money. We would recommend Upendo tours and Haij when visiting Zanzibar!

Very nice visit, the guide was perfect. We learned a lot of things. Prison Islands is a must do. His story marks us. The stown town tour was amazing. We are inhabited by the history of slavery that impregnates us forever! We recommend.

Hamdu was the perfect guide. He is very polite social and has a lot of knowledge of Zanzibar history to share, and made my day very enjoyable. Very much recommended.

Hamdu was really helpful. He took his time when taking us round town and was very patient when we wanted to stop for pictures or for more information.

Good experience to know the prison island and to know the city. Our very nice guide Ahmed took us to all the places that could interest us the most.