Prison Island, It Never Was A Prison
What do you think when you hear the name of the island? That must be a place with full of prisoners, but it is not. Prison island or Quarantine island or in local name known as Changuu or Kibandiko, is a small island that is situated around five kilometers northwest of capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town. In 1860, the island with 800 meters of length and 230 meters of width was used as a prison for rebellious slaves during Arab’s occupancy. Later on, the British First Minister of Zanzibar bought the island in 1893 from the Arab owners to construct a complex of prison purposed for criminals from African mainland. However, no prisoners were ever sent there. Instead, the island became a place to quarantine people due to yellow fever epidemic affecting Stone Town. To combat the disease, the British authorities converted the prison into hospital. The hospital could accommodate 904 people all at once.
Nonetheless, it took only half year to occupy the island as a quarantine place. The rest of year, it became popular holiday destination and home for Aldabra giant tortoise which were gifted by British governor of Seychelles. These tortoise proliferated quickly, and the number reached 200 animals in 1995. But, people started to steal them which later to be sold for pet and food. Therefore, later on, the government of Zanzibar built the large compound used for tortoise protection. The species now is considered as one of vulnerable species and a dedicated foundation is placed there to look after the tortoise.
Today, the island is under the ownership of government of Zanzibar. The government had converted the quarantine hospital into a guesthouses. There are some cottages spread throughout the island, equipped with tennis courts and swimming pools. The place is opened for visitors to see and feed the tortoise. Some fees are required that would be used for place’s maintenance and support the tortoise conservation.
During my vacation to Zanzibar in 2011, I managed to visit the unique Prison island, a prison that never was. To get there, I hired a guide from my hotel. Actually, the price for the guide included a half day walking tour in Stone Town, half day to Prison island, the boat fee, and the entrance fee to the island (I believed that it would not be more than $5 for each person). The journey itself took approximately 30 minutes from Stone Town. The clear water was extremely blue that made the trip became more interesting. Since it is just a small island, self-walking safari to discover the island could be done in one hour. Besides visiting tortoise conservation, the island offers travelers a chance to sunbathe and swim in the clear blue water. Walking track is also available, so it is pleasure to securely walk while enjoy the nature at the same time.
This week, Amy challenged us to share something unique for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. And this unique island is my contribution for this week.