Tortoise Sanctuary, Prison Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania

GIANTS on Prison Island!

In April we had to leave South Africa because our 90 day tourist visa was up… pretty good excuse to take a vacation if you ask us! We traveled to a small beautiful island off the East coast of Tanzania called Zanzibar. During our stay in Stone Town, Zanzibar we took a short 20 minute boat ride out to Prison Island. Our boat was named Red Monkey. Every little boat had a name. On our way back we were being chased by Facebook

There was a dock with a long staircase that dropped off the island and stopped just shy of the ocean dangling up in the air. When it is high tide the staircase drops right into the water. Our driver stopped a little ways off the island right above a large coral reef and we got to snorkel for a bit! The water surrounding the island was an insanely gorgeous iridescent blue, but the reef below the surface was very dull in color and badly damaged. We did get to see a few beautiful tropical fish, but it was sad to see the condition of the reef. My mask was a little too big and no matter how I tightened it, water kept seeping in. With the salinity of the water, after a while my eyes were burning, so I took my mask off and swam around. Rob was loving every moment underwater. His face lit up every time he saw a brightly colored fish or any sign of life under the water. We love to swim – especially in gorgeous tropical waters! The Indian Ocean is so pretty.

We had a blast swimming and snorkeling, but our favorite part of the island was the tortoise sanctuary! Right as we entered the sanctuary we saw three tortoises walking along the foot path headed in our direction! The tortoises were absolutely ENORMOUS and totally adorable!!! Rob and I were smitten from the moment we saw them. We had never seen tortoises this size before. Seychelles is the only other island in the world that you can find them. Being endangered they are free to walk around the sanctuary as they pleased. We fed them, touched them, and snuggled right up next to them.

These creatures were ancient! They looked like they dated back to the dinosaur era! Their movements were slow and steady; every step seemed to require an immense amount of energy. Their shells were several inches thick and literally rock solid weighing in at over 500 pounds. The oldest one there was sadly marked with paint indicating its old age. It was over 198 years old! Their skin looked and felt like what I would imagine a Triceratops dinosaur would have, being dark, wrinkly, and rough. They loved having their necks rubbed and scratched. Some of them were very shy when we first approached them, but as we fed them and rubbed their necks, they relaxed and warmed up to us. We were entranced by these beautiful fascinating animals. I could see in Rob’s face he was overcome with emotion as we watched them and played with them. We could have spent all day with the tortoises! We fell in love with them the moment we laid eyes on them. In all of our travels, the tortoises are by far one of the most magnificent and beautiful creatures either of us have ever seen.

GIANTS on Prison Island!


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