Whilst most visitors to the Zanzibar archipelago visit Unguja, commonly known as Zanzibar Island, fewer take advantage of the fact that this is an archipelago, with several other islands and numerous islets.
Also known as Changuu, Prison Island was originally used as a detention centre for disobedient slaves. Later, in 1893, a prison was built here but instead it was used as a quarantine station for the whole of East Africa. There is a large population of giant tortoises, a gift from the Seychelles in the 18th century. The island has a restaurant and small beach for snorkelling and is popular with daytrippers from Stone Town.
Also close to Stone Town, Bawe offers good snorkelling and a nice beach, although it is visited less by tourists. In the 1870’s telegraphic cables connecting Zanzibar with the Seychelles, South Africa and Aden joined here before linking to Stone Town.
Near to Changuu and Bawe, Chapwani is also known as Grave Island because a small part of it has been used as a cemetry since 1879, mainly for British sailors. There is a small beach lodge here and it is not normally visited by daytrippers.
The reefs around Chumbe were gazetted as a Marine National Park in 1994 and the island itself is a Forest Reserve. There is truly excellent snorkelling and a small eco-lodge, which also caters for day visitors, including school children. The island is home to the rare giant coconut crab, able to climb palm trees and eat young coconuts. Chumbe has a lighthouse, built in 1904.
Mnemba is about 3km off Zanzibar’s north-east coast. Encircled by a large coral reef, this small island is sometimes known as Mnemba Atoll. The island is home to a luxury lodge and is only available to guests. The reef surrounding Mnemba is excellent and deservedly popular with divers and snorkellers.
Lying west of Pemba’s Chake Chake town, this small island has some wonderful beaches with great diving and snorkelling just offshore. It is covered with verdant forest, which has several beautiful walking trails. There is also a visitor centre. Misali Island and it’s surrounding reef are now known as the Misali Island Marine Conservation Area. A token entry fee contributes to the management of the island as well as community development.