Changuu Private Island Paradise is a beautiful secluded hotel reachable by a 20 minute boat ride from Zanzibar's Stone Town. Changuu Island is also called Prison Island, and during the day part of the island is open to day trippers who come to view the old prison ruins, the giant tortoises that live there and to snorkel in the crystal blue waters. Day trippers are confined to a small section of the island, but the majority of the island is accessible only to hotel guests.
We booked our stay through a travel agent, who arranged for us to take a traditional Zanzibar Dhow boat to the island.
When the boat pulled up to a sand bar to let us off, I saw dozens of beautiful crimson red starfish in the water.
We were immediately greeted by the hotel
managers, a friendly German couple who have lived in Africa for over a decade,
and who are very knowledgeable about activities and the history of the island.
The hotel has two classes of accommodations. Deluxe cottages and standard rooms. We reserved a standard room, which is in the former quarantine area of the prison.
The room was painted and decorated with bright colors and local handicrafts. Each room has a small sundeck with chairs, and lounge chairs overlooking the water.
It was a beautiful setting, and the room itself was very clean and inviting. The bathrooms were quite large, with two sinks and lots of counter space.
There is no air-conditioning, so we left the windows open at night (the windows had screens on them).
We didn’t find there to be any problem with the temperature in our room, at night a cool breeze from the ocean did a good job to cool it down.
The doors do have a lock, but we never
bothered to use it. We felt perfectly safe doing so, and this is coming from a
manhattanite who always double bolts her apartment door before going to sleep.
Breakfast and dinner and afternoon tea are included in the rate, and the food was delicious.
Breakfast always included fresh local fruits, some of which I had never seen before. Dinner was four courses and always included a seafood course.
The hotel managers and chef were always on hand to speak to the guests, answer any questions, and take any special food requests. A
t night it was necessary to take the
flashlight that was provided in the room to dinner, because there is not very
much lighting and walking back to the room after dinner is very dark.
While this hotel is considered a luxury class hotel, it was also eco-friendly, which I really appreciated.
It would be a shame to damage such a beautiful environment.
The only electricity on the island comes via generator, which is turned on for a few hours in the morning, and from sunset until about 11pm at night.
That being said, this is not a place to visit if you are looking for lots of nightlife and entertainment, as there is none.
I heard complaints from some of the guests about lack of things to do, but I feel that what makes this place so special and unique is the fact that you are completely in its beautiful natural environment without any cheesey distractions.
I think this island is perfect for the traveller who would like to spend a few days just relaxing in a beautiful environment.
There is snorkelling available at the resort, a tennis court, and a nice pool and beach, but if you want a deluxe resort with activities and watersports available all day long, this is not the place for you.
We took several excursions for a tour of Stone Town and a spice tour, and another day for shopping in the amazing antique shops in Stone Town, which I would highly recommend for unique souveniers.
We had to pay a local boat owner to take us back and forth to the island, which ended up costing about $60 round-trip, so if you want to take a spice tour, a dolphin tour, etc, it is best to plan it all in one day, so you can save money on transportation.
The second time we went to Stone Town for shopping, we were able to hitch a ride on the boat that a group of daytrippers had come over to the island, so all we had to pay for that time was a tip for the boat driver.
These boats are traditional Dhow boats, and do
not have lights, so make sure to go back to the island before sunset. Otherwise
you might have difficulty finding someone who will take you back.
I really enjoyed my stay at Changuu, and I would highly recommend it. I think it is probably best for couples who want to spend some quality time together. I don’t think it would be very good for families with children or anyone looking for nightlife.