Explore Robben Island

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Robben Island is tiny island found off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.  The name is dutch and loosely translates to “Seal Island”. Robben Island is both a South African Heritage Site as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though the island’s usage has changed numerous times, it is most known as the place where former South African President Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison.

The History of Robben Island

Robben Island has served many purposes through out its history. In the mid 1800’s the island was used a leper colony. Initially lepers could voluntarily relocate to the island but after the introduction of the Leprosy Repression Act in May 1892 admission was no longer voluntary and their movements were restricted.

Did you know that during World War Two the island was fortified and BL 9.2 inch guns were installed as part of the defences for Cape Town. – Tweet This

From 1961 until 1991 Robben Island served as a maximum security prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals. The medium security prison for criminal prisoners was only closed in 1996. Some of the most well known prisoners imprisoned on the island include former South African presidents Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and current president Jacob Zuma.


Robben Island Today

Today the island is popular tourist destination. The island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. A ferry from the V & A Waterfront takes visitors to the island throughout the year, weather permitting. The Robben Island Museum operates as a living museum.

Visitors to the island experience a guided tour of the island. There are three tours to choose from: the general tour which happens Monday to Sunday, the educational tour which are available Monday to Friday only and the specialised tour which can be arranged for any day of the week.


Robben Island is a unique symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice. Make sure that you visit this historical island on your next holiday in South Africa. Book a guided tour with eAfrica Safari Tours today.


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