Robben Island

Robben Island, Cape Town, 7400, South Africa

One of South Africa’s most famous sights, Robben Island is located four miles to the west of Cape Town. Its history as a prison is almost as old as the first Dutch settlement on the cape, dating all the way back to the 17th century. Today, the island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and museum, offering guided tours by former prisoners. After visiting the graveyard and maximum-security facility, guests can finish with a stop at the cell of the island’s most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela. The half-hour ferry ride to Robben Island includes breathtaking views of Cape Town and Table Mountain. Just note that the ferry only runs three times a day in the low season; in the spring and summer, there’s an additional departure in the late afternoon. Book your tickets far in advance.

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Table Mountain As Seen From Robben Island

Robben Island is an island in Table Bay, and means “seal island” in Dutch. Initially as a place for the restocking of passing ships, it eventually became a prison (similar to Alcatraz Island) at the end of the 17th century. It’s probably best known as the place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment during the Apartheid regime. Today the island is a World Heritage site and museum, which serves as a poignant reminder to democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom. With daily tours departing from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront, the ferry will take you on a bumpy ride out to the island where guided tour busses will take you around and regale you with stories of the hardships that prisoners were subjected to on the island.

Perspective from Robben Island

No trip to South Africa is complete without the pilgrimage out to Robben Island. Robben Island served as a place of isolation and imprisonment for over four centuries, but today it is a World Heritage Site and museum. As the museum entrance reads, it’s also ‘a poignant reminder to the newly democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom.’ One of the added highlights of this morning or afternoon trip to Robben Island and back, is the breathtaking view of Cape Town and Table Mountain that you have aboard the ferry, each way. It’s glorious. Be sure to book your tickets for the ferry far in advance and know that there are limited departures only at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, (weather permitting), from Nelson Mandela Gateway, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. You’ll be moved by the stories of forgiveness and reconciliation told by the tour guides that are all former prisoners, and have renewed hope in the resiliency of the human spirit. What a perfect backdrop to study on your return trip back to the mainland, while pondering just how lucky we are to have this freedom called travel and the chance to learn from the history before us, in hope of not repeating the struggle.


It brings goose bumps to your arms. Take the trip get on the fast ferry. Start your day early first boat our by 8:30-9:00am. Had the amazing opportunity to go inside Nelson Mandela’s cell in a private tour. I wanted to see the inside of it. EPIC and gives you tons of history to the island. Send a poster card Robben Island has there own mail. Pretty cool. Picture taken with a wide angle lens. 1/125 f/13

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