If you decide to spend a vacation in Zanzibar, it is worth spending half a day to get to know this small island. Changuu functioned as a prison and as a quarantine centre, where they located all the yellow fever patients so they did not infect the healthy population. The island is only 800 meters long by 230 meters at its widest point. The British Prime Minister of Zanzibar, Lloyd Mathews, bought the island in 1893 and built a prison complex to send rebellious prisoners and slaves.
The island also functioned as a coral mine, which was highly sought after due to its solidity. Corals are part plant, part animal, and part rock. The plant component of coral (algae) needs to photosynthesize like all the plants to generate oxygen and transform inorganic into organic, so if pollution reduces light levels on the reef, this process will be affected. The animal part of the coral breathes, feeds on organisms and generates waste, like all animals. There is a symbiosis between both parts since the animal part uses the oxygen generated by the algae and feeds on it while the plant part consumes the nutrients obtained from the animal’s waste. The coral animal also generates a calcium carbonate skeleton, a mineral similar to cement, this structure is produced by the calcification of the molecules present in seawater. Currently coral mines are prohibited, corals are protected since marine life needs them for their oxygen, to feed and as a refuge, however, in the past, corals were extracted and exploited without any type of control, affecting thousands of species.
Currently the island is a refuge for hundreds of beautiful Aldabra giant tortoises that were gifted by the British Governor of Seychelles in 1919. During your visit to the island you will be able to feed these animals with fruits and vegetables, some of them have more than 190 years. In this centre they are in charge of protecting them and promoting their reproduction because there are only a few places in the world where these turtles can still be found: Seychelles and Galapagos also have a representative population.
You can get to Changuu in small boats that leave from Stone Town, the trip takes about 20/30 minutes. You will be able to visit the ruins of the prison, where tortures were carried out in the past but which today, with the setting of the ocean, are very beautiful. You can snorkel in its waters, take a sea bath and if you wish, you can also spend a few nights there. Not in prison … but at Bawe Tropical Island Lodge or Bawe Island Resort.
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