Dhow cruising has become very popular in Zanzibar. A dhow is a traditional wooden sailing boat: although most dhows have inboard or outboard engines for safety should the wind drop. Cruising around the small islands on a dhow is a fantastic and memorable experience. The sunsets viewed from the dhow are evocative and timeless. Lunch and refreshments served on the dhow are usually part of package.
Surrounding the main island of Unguja are several small islands. Each island has its own merit and one can choose according to ones needs and desires. The following short summary of each will help visitors choose which is best for them.
Tumbatu Island lies off the north-west coast of Zanzibar. There are several 14th Century mosque ruins and some 40 stone houses of the Shiraz people, built in the 12th Century. Sightseeing, sports fishing and SCUBA diving, are among some of the water- based recreations that can be organised on Tumbatu Island. The villages guard closely their culture and natural resources, however, and it is strictly prohibited to visit the island without a permit from the village elders. Therefore advance notice must be given to your tour operator so that the permit can be applied for.
This Island was formerly known as French Island and contains a cemetery, which was reserved in 1879 by Sultan Barghash for the burial of English people, most of whom were officers and men of the Royal and Merchant Navies. Amongst them are those of some British sailors who were killed in the action between HMS Pegasus and the German cruiser, Konigsberg, in 1914. There is a tourist resort on the island.
About 30 minutes by boat from Forodhani area lies Changuu, also known as Prison Island. A slight misnomer, as the ruined buildings thereon were never used to house prisoners, as was the original intention of the architects. The island was, however, once used by an Arab slave trader to contain the more feisty and troublesome slaves he had brought from the African mainland. To prevent their escape before shipping them to the Arabian purchasers, or for auctioning in Zanzibar’s slave market, the slaves were dumped on Changuu, from where they were unlikely to attempt escape. In 1893, a Mr. Lloyd Mathews, under the orders of the British administrators built a prison. The idea was to send violent and recidivist criminals from the Tanganyika mainland to be detained there, but the concept never became a reality. In fact, it ended up being used as a quarantine center for yellow fever epidemics that once raged through the region. The old prison’s crumbling cells can still be seen today and provide occasional shelter for the giant tortoises which are conserved upon the Island.