Changuu Island was used as a penitentiary for rebel slaves by the sultans from the 1860s until the end of the slave trade. After which the British began building a prison on the island under the guidance of First Governor, Lloyd Matthews. This was completed in 1894. However, the ‘prison’ was only ever used as a quarantine centre for possible yellow-fever victims, and even then was hardly used as that. Don’t be deceived by the word ‘prison’ in the island’s English name, the significance of the island, like so many of Zanzibar’s cultural sites, has been made little of and the ‘prison that never was’ now houses a resort and restaurant.
The island is a popular day-trip destination from Stone Town. About 20 minutes from the city by traditional Dhow sailing boat, the island offers excellent snorkelling, a beautiful and quiet white sandy beach, giant turtle sanctuary and coral rag forest.