Robben Island is the most historic location in South Africa. Located in the middle of Table Bay in Cape Town, it has mostly been used by the nation as a place to house prisoners. It was famously the place where future president was incarcerated during his 18 years in prison. Today, it is a historical landmark that is visited regularly by tourists and locals with some interesting attractions.
There a number of different prison buildings on this island, none more infamous that Prison No. 7, the home of Nelson Mandela during his incarceration. It was his home for 18 years after he was arrested for being anti-apartheid. Visitors will be surprised by how small his actual prison cell is. It has been cleaned and restored since he spent time in it. For those interested, photography is allowed in the cell.
The guide will show you around his cell. They will describe how Mandela spent his time on a daily basis while he was in jail. They will show you where he exercised and read books. It is said that he was a voracious reader while on the island. His commitment to keeping sharp while he was in prison is a huge reason that he was such an effective president when the nation became a democracy later on in his life.
The prison isn’t the only attraction on the island. Wildlife enthusiasts will get a kick out of the penguin sanctuary. These birds are permanently grounded are members of one of the most quirky species on Earth. You can observe them in their natural surroundings at the Robben Island penguin sanctuary. Where else can you watch penguins go about their day?
This site might be a bit morbid for some, but the leper graveyard is one of the most visited attractions on the island. The island was originated as a leper colony four centuries ago. Many of the tombstones in the graveyard still stand today.
The Prison Museum
The prison museum is the primary reason that people visit Robben Island. There is a guided tour that takes about three hours. Visitors buy their tickets at the gateway and take a ferry ride (about half an hour) to the island for the tour. One tip when taking one of the bus tours around the island is to sit as close to the front of the bus as possible during the ride. This is because the guide speaks from there and will be much easier to hear when you are in close proximity.
It can sometimes be difficult to hear them from the back. Sometimes, the tour guide is an individual who was in prison on the island, many of them were contemporaries of Mandela himself. Who better to give you a prison tour that someone who experienced it from the inside?
Editor’s Note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about things to do on Robben Island.