Stone Town continued, Prison Island

At our hostel, we started off each morning with a complimentary breakfast. First they brought out a glass of fresh tropical juice, a plate with a little serving of fruit (usually plantain or pineapple), a thermos of hot water alongside tea and coffee fixings, and finally a plate with toast, chapati, and an egg. We ate leisurely and at 9am, one of the hostel employees walked us down to the ocean where we hopped into one of the narrow wooden boats for a tour of the nearby Prison Island. We pulled up in our boat and there were dozens of starfish and sea urchins in the shallows. You could stand on the beach and pluck the starfish right out.

Prison Island isn’t what you’d expect it to be based off the name. It’s home to a turtle sanctuary where you can learn about the enormous and ancient turtles, watch them eat, and give them neck rubs which they enjoy very much. The oldest turtle there is 189 years old. Surprisingly, it was one of the more spry turtles and relished being pet and hand-fed lettuce. The older turtles were big enough for people to ride on their backs, but obviously there were signs telling people not to subject the turtles to that treatment.
We moved onto the other part of the island which explained the reasoning behind the name “Prison Island,” which is a little misleading. When there were outbreaks of certain diseases, the British designated the island as a place to keep people who were sick and in transit to Zanzibar. So “Quarantine Island” might be a better name.
We finished the tour and snorkeled at a coral reef right near the island. There were a ton of sea urchins, but I saw quite a few interesting and colorful fish and plants. Also, I hadn’t been snorkeling in quite a while so it was fun.
For lunch we found a little restaurant/hostel near Lazuli. I tried the spiced coffee, which I would’ve liked more if the cardamom hasn’t made it so bitter, but everyone else loved it.
After freshening up at the hostel, we headed to an outdoor market we had gone to the day before – the name escapes me right now. My friend Christina was on the hunt for several kilos of wholesale coffee to bring back home, but all the places we found had the coffee prepackaged, already ground (so it might not be all coffee), or much higher than the price she wanted. This market was a little gnarly. Before we even reached it, the smell rolled over us like a wave. I think the meat and fish were primarily to blame. The stalls and tables were squeezed together and piled with fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, whole spices, and cloth. Some tables had the prepackaged ground spices we had seen all over the city and we had been warned that sometimes sellers would cut the more sought after spices with fillers. For saffron, it could be brick powder. There was a room designated for meat and in the heavy Tanzanian heat, it absolutely stunk. On the way in, I saw a crumpled cow skin lying on a cart. It was gross, as if someone had magically extricated the entire cow out of the skin and tossed it aside. We moved outside quickly to where there was mostly fruit. We passed a man carrying a hunk of cow meat over his shoulder; it was huge. My friend Jess bought a bag of passion fruits and we gave up on the coffee, passing buckets of raw chicken swarming with flies as we left.

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