Zanzibar (3) – Stone Town and Prison Island

Our holiday has come to an end, and we’re sat at Zanzibar’s little airport, practically hugging a fan, as its so hot and stuffy in here. The airport is small and basic – the check in desks are basically outside and the bags are weighed on old fashioned scales with a pointer.

We had a wonderful last day here, although it got off to a shaky start. We had a city walking tour and a trip out to an island planned, but our driver yesterday didn’t know what time we were to be collected. Eventually, by chance Mum bumped into our guide for the day, whist she was down at the business centre to print off our boarding passes for our flights home.

The city tour was interesting, but I for one was suffering from the heat. Stone Town is made up of many small, mostly dirty streets, very few of which have street signs. It’s known for its attractive wooden doors, but many of them are blighted by electricity cables running through or across them. I found it a little odd that much of the information we were given seemed to focus around pointing out hotels and being told how many stars they had.

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The main focus of the tour was a visit to the old slave market, a place I found very disturbing. We went into one of the slave chambers, a small underground room with very little light or air, where about 75 slaves would have been held for 4-5 days before being taken up to the auction area, the site of which is now the Anglican Cathedral. There’s a very evocative commemoration to the slaves outside the cathedral.

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After the city tour we walked down to the beach and took a boat over to Prison Island. The island is named after a prison that was built there but never used, as it was instead used to quarantine those with infectious diseases such as TB and cholera. Now it’s used as a hotel, and also houses a tortoise sanctuary.

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We heard slightly different stories about the tortoises along the way, but the basic facts were that the origin 2 or 4 tortoises were a gift and came originally from the Seychelles. They’ve now multiplied to 100-200! The oldest tortoises are huge – they can live to around 200, and the original tortoises are still there. Many of them have their age painted on the back of their shell.

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After the tortoises we went back to the boat and headed out to a good snorkeling spot nearby. It was so restful just floating around and watching the fish swim by, and there were even starfish.

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Finally we had to head back to the hotel, where we were able to take a shower and change clothes before heading to the airport, and the long flights back home.

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